‘Think Through the Implications of Our Actions’: An Open Letter to Rep. Barbara Lee From Norman Solomon

More than a decade and a half ago, your eloquent words and courageous vote set a high bar as you stood up against a war frenzy on the House floor. Three days after 9/11, you implemented the kind of brave wisdom that we desperately need in a world beset by the massive violence of warfare and the overarching dangers of nuclear holocaust.

Since then, like many other people opposed to perpetual war, I’ve deeply appreciated your leadership in advocating for diplomacy instead of reckless confrontation in international relations. Year after year, following your lone vote against a blank check for war on Sept. 14, 2001, you’ve been a steadfast voice for the necessity of diplomatic initiatives.

Until now.

Your longtime wisdom is antithetical to the tweet that you sent out after the meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin from your official “Rep. Barbara Lee” Twitter account: “Outraged by President Trump’s 2 hr meeting w/Putin, the man who orchestrated attacks on our democracy. Where do his loyalties lie?”

In mid-September 2001, when you implored the Congress and the country to “think through the implications of our actions today, so that this does not spiral out of control,” the words of your speech were beacons of sanity in a propaganda storm for war. But now, as I watch a video of those two transcendent minutes, some of your old words echo in a newly haunting way.

Now it falls to peace advocates who read your new words to urge you to “think through the implications” of the political line you’ve just taken, “so that this does not spiral out of control.”

And now, peace advocates must remind you of other insightful words from your historically prescient speech nearly 16 years ago: “Some of us must urge the use of restraint.”

Your declaration on Friday that you are “outraged” by a meeting between the presidents of the world’s two nuclear-weapons superpowers is the opposite of restraint. Likewise, your baiting of Trump with the question “Where do his loyalties lie?” echoes the accusations of treason hurled at you for years.

Such rhetoric is far beneath you – and beneath any leader with a responsibility to encourage diplomatic discourse, especially between two nations brandishing huge arsenals of nuclear weapons.

Let’s not forget that past top-level diplomacy between Russia and the United States was hardly led by saints. Fifty years ago, Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin was the leader of a government far more repressive than the one headed by Vladimir Putin today, while President Lyndon Johnson was in the midst of escalating a mass-murderous war in Vietnam. Yet their Glassboro Summit was notable diplomacy that reduced tensions between the two countries and reduced the dangers of nuclear war.

Now, for whatever reasons, you have opted to participate in a profoundly irresponsible meme that castigates instead of encourages diplomatic discourse between the highest levels of the American and Russian governments.

To use a word from your historic 2001 speech, it’s essential that we think through the “implications” of such a political line of attack. They include increasing the likelihood that escalated tensions between Russia and the United States could “spiral out of control.”

I’ve long thought of you as a heroic champion of pursuing alternatives to war and, quite possibly, helping to prevent a nuclear holocaust that scientists believe would render the Earth “virtually uninhabitable.” But now, you seem to have lost your way.

To counteract what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism,” we must get off a partisan bandwagon when it is heading toward military catastrophe. That requires – as you so wisely urged in 2001 – supporting diplomacy, urging restraint and thinking through the implications of our actions today.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

  • Thank you, Norman.

  • Daniel Shea

    I too am a fan of Barbara Lee, because of that heroic vote against against Iraq.

    We all need to be reminded to maintain our principles, even if we are a lone voice. Barbara, you are not alone, many of us Veterans who have seen how partisan rhetoric is often not so partisan, especially when it plays into the hands of the warmongers and the military industrial complex.
    Veterans have seen the horrors of war, come home with images that cannot be unseen, some with broken bodies and minds, all are wounded in some way and this contagion affects families and society.

    We combat Veterans want peace, not just for ourselves but for all the people of the world.

    Even bad guys can want peace, rather than pushing them to be at each others throats, let’s encourage them to find common ground, in order to find peaceful solutions.

    Don’t we all want a better future for our children and grandchildren?

    Thank You Norman Solomon for this important open letter to Rep. Barbara Lee.

    Sincerely

    Daniel Shea
    USMC – Vietnam 1968
    Board of Directors
    Veterans For Peace

  • As best I can determine anti-war is a small sideline in the Barbara Lee political complex. Would that it were a burning front line issue for her and her organization.

  • ThorsteinVeblen2012

    Why are we not talking about a voting system that can’t be hacked

    instead of pointing fingers at the Russians?

    At Putin’s worst he should be expected to do what is in his country’s interest not our’s. If we can be hacked by the Russians then why not any other state or interest group?

    It would seems our leaders want the system to be hackable, they’re just upset about who’s walking on their grass.

  • oceancrossing@sbcglobal.net

    Outside of our domestic needs, which are many and urgent, nothing is of greater value to our country than for Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin, to meet face to face often, talk as long as they need to to discuss what they need to discuss, and in doing this protect both of our countries from catastrophic disaster. The warmongers, in both parties, who feed their moral cancers in our nation’s capital should be ignored and dismissed with the contempt that they totally deserve. Our greatest enemy, by far, is in our own nation’s capital, nourished by egomania and ignorance..