How Barbara Lee ‘Spoke For Me’ 12 Years Ago in the Aftermath of 9-11

BarbaraLeeofficial-225We can’t talk about the events around 9-11 in 2001 without looking at the historic lone vote taken by Oakland Congresswoman Barbara Lee on September 14 2001 against then President George Bush‘s blank check to fight the War on Terror..Two days after she cast that vote we did an interview with her where she explained why she made her decision.

It came at a time when folks were attacking her, calling her un-Patriotic and threatening her life to the point that she needed Secret Service for protection..

Even the local NAACP chapter head at the time Shannon Reed penned an Op-Ed that ran in newspapers around the country bashing on Lee and basically calling her un-patriotic.. Complicating her situation was her chief of staff at the time Sandre Swanson had lost his cousin on one of the flights en route to San Francisco.. Flight 93..Her voting against Bush was seen as act of treason. The desire for revenge was high, but Lee stood her ground..

Below are her remarks from the floor 3 days after the Attacks

It wasn’t too long after when folks realized that Lee was right.. Below is the interview we did with her that initially ran on KMEL that Sunday Night and later Hard Knock Radio on KPFA that Monday.. as well as Op-Ed piece that ran in Black that talked about the importance of defending Lee

Click the link below to download or listen to the HKR Intv

Click the link below to download or listen to the HKR Intv

HKR-Barbara Lee Interview from 2001

In Defense Of Representative Barbara Lee

by Cedric Muhammad

The more unlikely an event, the more information it yields, the maxim goes. That is our reaction to Rep. Barbara Lee’s (D-Ca.) decision to vote against the resolution authorizing President Bush’s use of “all necessary and appropriate force” – military action plus – in response to last week’s terrorist attack against the U.S.

Unfortunately, Rep. Lee’s vote has not been viewed in a similar light by many political observers, media professionals and American citizens across the country.

But Rep. Lee’s position was not only reasonable, it was appropriate and logical considering the political context out of which Rep. Lee operates.

The Congresswoman sits in the seat of former Black Caucus member Ron Dellums. Dellums, who served California’s 9th district for almost 3 decades, was a pacifist and an outspoken critic of U.S. military action, as were many of his constituents who live in both Oakland and Berkeley. Rep. Lee was Congressman Dellums’ chief of staff and succeeded him.

True to that tradition, Rep. Lee has made a political statement regarding not just her own personal beliefs but the political tradition of her constituency which was both reflected and shaped by Rep. Dellums. The Dellums legacy alone justifies and explains the Congresswoman’s vote, not to mention the fact that Rep. Lee was reelected last year with 85% of the vote.

A source within the Black Caucus told yesterday, “Rep. Lee does have a mandate by sitting in her seat – Congressman Dellums’ old seat. She represents her district well, whose sentiments have traditionally leaned toward diplomacy. Her constituents definitely support her”

But nationally the story has been different. The Congresswoman has received fierce opposition from many across the country. In addition, Rep. Lee has received death threats as a result of her vote and is currently carrying out her legislative duties in Washington D.C. under the watchful eye of a personal bodyguard and police protection.

Those who oppose her action in our estimation are not weighing the context and rationale for her decision but even more importantly, are not considering the enormous value of this Black Congresswoman. At a time when the country is grieving over the tremendous loss of life and angry over the effects of the terrorist attack on this country, Rep. Lee, fully aware of the consequences of her position, decided to vote her conscience and use whatever influence she has in a manner that promotes clear thinking and reasoning at a time when it would be just as easy to jump on a bandwagon without knowing why the majority was correct.

This is not to say that the 420 who voted in the opposite direction of Rep. Lee are necessarily wrong. And that is our point, which also reveals the inestimable value of Rep. Lee’s position. No one in Congress really knows the details of what happened on September 11th or what led up to it. Even the supposed link to Ussama Bin laden, though suspected, has not been proven yet. This is not a mere inconvenience but a critical aspect to the search for justice and peace and the effort to win international support against the perpetrators of the WTC and Pentagon attacks. As the Wall St. Journal wrote yesterday in a front-page article:

By the standards of the Old West, President Bush has good reason to declare Osama bin Laden wanted in last week’s terrorist attacks, “dead or alive.”

But by 21st-century Western standards of law and international relations, how much actual evidence do investigators have of Mr. bin Laden’s involvement? The answer so far — based on what can be gleaned from public statements and U.S. officials willing to discuss the matter — is not enough.

The Congresswoman’s vote represents the most visible symbol of patience, caution, critical thinking, and we dare say, investigation and diplomacy in the U.S. Congress. Her action speaks louder than words; and the statistic of a 420 – 1 vote is more articulate than any speech that Rep. Lee could have made because it causes one to wonder why 1 person out of 421 has decided to lean against the wind.

She is actually a majority of 1 – a tangible factor of power – who really represents a broad but not yet visible coalition of Americans: Liberals, Conservatives, Progressives, Libertarians, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Confucianists, Buddhists, and Atheists who privately hold serious reservations about the rapid movement toward war in this country led by the American political, military, economic and cultural establishmentarians.

That Rep. Lee is not alone in the U.S. Congress is no big secret. Privately, we have learned of several members of Congress, including other members of the Congressional Black Caucus who agree with Rep. Lee but were not willing to publicly demonstrate that fact. For various reasons other members of Congress could not muster the courage to rally to Rep. Lee’s side and vote their beliefs.

Had the vote been 421-0 as it easily could have been, the story would have been written that this was another great display of national unity at a time of crisis. The media which has been a patriotic cheerleader as much as it has provided news, would have comfortably tucked the unanimous vote, had it occurred, in its newly-created “unprecedented unity” file and everyone would have gone about their business. But because Rep. Lee placed a comma where a period would have went, we all have had to pause as a result of the fact that someone disagreed with the popular view.

We have been told by those within the Congressional Black Caucus that no one should expect to see Rep. Lee on Meet The Press, 20/20 or 60 Minutes. Her personality and principles do not encourage her to seek lights, camera and action in order to promote her dissidence. We have been told that she realizes that any mainstream media appearance in the current political atmosphere would lend itself to polarization and her own political “demonization” (she is already being referred to as a communist by many). Some may think that Rep. Lee’s low profile is unfortunate but the more we consider it, we realize the wisdom and benefit from such a disposition.

Rep. Lee’s vote speaks louder than words that could only be diminished by those who would either unintentionally or maliciously misinterpret her vote as a sign of treason or even more ridiculously, as a statement of support for terrorism. By voting and quietly explaining her vote Rep. Lee has ensured that the political establishment of this country did not shut the door on an open, frank and reflective discussion of the who, what, where, when and why of September 11.

We all owe her a debt of gratitude for that, although some may realize it later than others…

Cedric Muhammad
September 20, 2001

Somebody Blew Up America: Amiri Baraka’s Hard Questions About 9-11

Amiri_BarakaHere are some powerful words from author, poet Amiri Baraka about the September 11th Attacks. It was poem called Somebody Blew Up America that was written several months after the attacks where Baraka raised a lot of hard questions about US foreign policy which he felt created a climate fomented terrorism. He stepped on a lot of toes and made many feel uncomfortable including than NJ Governor Jim McGreevey.

McGreevy tried to remove Baraka from his post of Poet Laureate of New Jersey to which he had been appointed and soon learned that there no legal way to remove him. As a result legislation was introduced in the State Senate to abolish the post.  This was signed into law by Governor McGreevey and on July 2, 2003, Baraka ceased being poet laureate. He in turned sued McGreevy and in response the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that state officials were immune from such suits.

In November 2007 the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear an appeal of the case.

Somebody Blew Up America

They say its some terrorist,
some barbaric
A Rab,
in Afghanistan
It wasn’t our American terrorists
It wasn’t the Klan or the Skin heads
Or the them that blows up nigger
Churches, or reincarnates us on Death Row
It wasn’t Trent Lott
Or David Duke or Giuliani
Or Schundler, Helms retiring

It wasn’t
The gonorrhea in costume
The white sheet diseases
That have murdered black people
Terrorized reason and sanity
Most of humanity, as they pleases

They say (who say?)
Who do the saying
Who is them paying
Who tell the lies
Who in disguise
Who had the slaves
Who got the bux out the Bucks

Who got fat from plantations
Who genocided Indians
Tried to waste the Black nation

Who live on Wall Street
The first plantation
Who cut your nuts off
Who rape your ma
Who lynched your pa

Who got the tar, who got the feathers
Who had the match, who set the fires
Who killed and hired
Who say they God & still be the Devil

Who the biggest only
Who the most goodest
Who do Jesus resemble

Who created everything
Who the smartest
Who the greatest
Who the richest
Who say you ugly and they the goodlookingest

Who define art
Who define science

Who made the bombs
Who made the guns

Who bought the slaves, who sold them

Who called you them names
Who say Dahmer wasn’t insane

Who? Who? Who?

Who stole Puerto Rico
Who stole the Indies, the Philipines, Manhattan
Australia & The Hebrides
Who forced opium on the Chinese

Who own them buildings
Who got the money
Who think you funny
Who locked you up
Who own the papers

Who owned the slave ship
Who run the army

Who the fake president
Who the ruler
Who the banker

Who? Who? Who?

Who own the mine
Who twist your mind
Who got bread
Who need peace
Who you think need war

Who own the oil
Who do no toil
Who own the soil
Who is not a nigger
Who is so great ain’t nobody bigger

Who own this city

Who own the air
Who own the water

Who own your crib
Who rob and steal and cheat and murder
and make lies the truth
Who call you uncouth

Who live in the biggest house
Who do the biggest crime
Who go on vacation anytime

Who killed the most niggers
Who killed the most Jews
Who killed the most Italians
Who killed the most Irish
Who killed the most Africans
Who killed the most Japanese
Who killed the most Latinos

Who? Who? Who?

Who own the ocean

Who own the airplanes
Who own the malls
Who own television
Who own radio

Who own what ain’t even known to be owned
Who own the owners that ain’t the real owners

Who own the suburbs
Who suck the cities
Who make the laws

Who made Bush president
Who believe the confederate flag need to be flying
Who talk about democracy and be lying

Who the Beast in Revelations
Who 666
Who know who decide
Jesus get crucified

Who the Devil on the real side
Who got rich from Armenian genocide

Who the biggest terrorist
Who change the bible
Who killed the most people
Who do the most evil
Who don’t worry about survival

Who have the colonies
Who stole the most land
Who rule the world
Who say they good but only do evil
Who the biggest executioner

Who? Who? Who?

Who own the oil
Who want more oil
Who told you what you think that later you find out a lie

Who? Who? Who?

Who found Bin Laden, maybe they Satan
Who pay the CIA,
Who knew the bomb was gonna blow
Who know why the terrorists
Learned to fly in Florida, San Diego

Who know why Five Israelis was filming the explosion
And cracking they sides at the notion

Who need fossil fuel when the sun ain’t goin’ nowhere

Who make the credit cards
Who get the biggest tax cut
Who walked out of the Conference
Against Racism
Who killed Malcolm, Kennedy & his Brother
Who killed Dr King, Who would want such a thing?
Are they linked to the murder of Lincoln?

Who invaded Grenada
Who made money from apartheid
Who keep the Irish a colony
Who overthrow Chile and Nicaragua later

Who killed David Sibeko, Chris Hani,
the same ones who killed Biko, Cabral,
Neruda, Allende, Che Guevara, Sandino,

Who killed Kabila, the ones who wasted Lumumba, Mondlane,
Betty Shabazz, Die, Princess Di, Ralph Featherstone,
Little Bobby

Who locked up Mandela, Dhoruba, Geronimo,
Assata, Mumia, Garvey, Dashiell Hammett, Alphaeus Hutton

Who killed Huey Newton, Fred Hampton,
Medgar Evers, Mikey Smith, Walter Rodney,
Was it the ones who tried to poison Fidel
Who tried to keep the Vietnamese Oppressed

Who put a price on Lenin’s head

Who put the Jews in ovens,
and who helped them do it
Who said “America First”
and ok’d the yellow stars

Who killed Rosa Luxembourg, Liebneckt
Who murdered the Rosenbergs
And all the good people iced,
tortured, assassinated, vanished

Who got rich from Algeria, Libya, Haiti,
Iran, Iraq, Saudi, Kuwait, Lebanon,
Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine,

Who cut off peoples hands in the Congo
Who invented Aids
Who put the germs
In the Indians’ blankets
Who thought up “The Trail of Tears”

Who blew up the Maine
& started the Spanish American War
Who got Sharon back in Power
Who backed Batista, Hitler, Bilbo,
Chiang kai Chek

Who decided Affirmative Action had to go
Reconstruction, The New Deal,
The New Frontier, The Great Society,

Who do Tom Ass Clarence Work for
Who doo doo come out the Colon’s mouth
Who know what kind of Skeeza is a Condoleeza
Who pay Connelly to be a wooden negro
Who give Genius Awards to Homo Locus

Who overthrew Nkrumah, Bishop,
Who poison Robeson,
who try to put DuBois in Jail
Who frame Rap Jamil al Amin, Who frame the Rosenbergs,
The Scottsboro Boys,
The Hollywood Ten

Who set the Reichstag Fire

Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed
Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers
To stay home that day
Why did Sharon stay away?

Who? Who? Who?

Explosion of Owl the newspaper say
The devil face cd be seen

Who make money from war
Who make dough from fear and lies
Who want the world like it is
Who want the world to be ruled by imperialism and national
oppression and terror violence, and hunger and poverty.

Who is the ruler of Hell?
Who is the most powerful

Who you know ever
Seen God?

But everybody seen
The Devil

Like an Owl exploding
In your life in your brain in your self
Like an Owl who know the devil
All night, all day if you listen, Like an Owl
Exploding in fire. We hear the questions rise
In terrible flame like the whistle of a crazy dog

Like the acid vomit of the fire of Hell
Who and Who and WHO who who
Whoooo and Whooooooooooooooooooooo!

12 Years After the 9-11 Attacks Have We Lost Our Way?

Davey-D-brown-frameToday is the 12th anniversary of the 9-11 tragedies (September 11th 2001 )where two planes flew into the World Trade Towers, another flew into the Pentagon and another crashed into a field in Pennsylvania resulting in the loss of over 3000 lives.

I recall the horrors of that day. I recall waking up seeing the first plane stuck near the top of the first tower of the World Trade and like many initially thinking to myself, ‘How did a small two-seater  hit that building?…

I recall how surreal it was to see that second plane hit the other tower and one of the announcers on TV shouting;  ‘I think we’re under attack’..At the time, the gravity of his words didn’t really sink in.. Like many, I thought what I had just saw was another horrific accident.

When I got the news of the two other planes crashing my immediate thoughts were; is there some sort of mechanical failure with all our planes and will each and every one of them would come crashing down from the skies?

9-11areialviewI stayed glued to the TV.. I was in shock and didn’t wanna be by myself. I wanted to do was be around family and friends. I was also concerned about family many of who live in NY. Eventually all would check in but my beloved Godmother who was fortunately out of the country but at the time we had no idea and hence we all wondered if she was one of the victims..Hence we were on pins and needles worried.

I recall how sickening it was hearing about folks who were stuck on those top floors of the tower  who had two choices either get burnt alive or jump 100 stories to their death..Many jumped..The networks didn’t show it while Spanish language TV did.. People jumping from those towers is what has remained on my mind over the past 12 years..

Today folks will do as they have always done for the past 12 years. They’ll gather around the sights of the plane crashes and will listen to all the names read off one at a time. The mood will be somber. For those who were directly impacted the horrors of that day will remain etched forever. For many others I’m not so sure.

The sense of community and compassion that was displayed in the aftermath of those plane crashes is long gone. 12 years after the 9-11 attacks what brought us together and ideally should’ve kept us together is a distant memory.

12 years after the 9-11 attacks Fear and Intolerance are main drivers for political, social and economic actions with the specter of 9-11 being a political prop. The homage paid to it by many of our leaders are empty gestures. It’s a photo-op, where everyone says they wanna honor the dead..but that honor shows up not in us upholding one’s humanity with peace as a first and foremost goal, but in us continuing a never-ending War on Terror with Revenge as a first and foremost goal.

Osama Bin Laden

Osama Bin Laden

12 years after 9-11, the Taliban is gone, Osama Bin Laden is dead, Saddam Hussein who had nothing to do with 9-11, he’s dead as well and we got all sorts of folks lingering in Guantanamo Bay as enemy combatants,  yet we are still seeking revenge. Like many, I’m not sure who else are supposed to be tracking down and at what point in time will we be able to say ‘justice has been served‘.

12 years after 9-11 instead of building community and uplifting humanity, we have been taught to see everyone both here at home and abroad as potential enemies. No one is to be trusted. This has resulted in us putting all sorts of intrusive laws on the books that has led to mass surveillance and mass detainment. It’s resulted in us putting together a Department of Homeland Security that has spent trillions of dollars  fueling the military industrial complex to fight the War on Terror.

Dennis Kucinich pushed for a dept of peace after 9-11

Dennis Kucinich pushed for a Dept of peace after 9-11

12 years later we still don’t have a Department of Peace which was has been proposed in Congress initially by Dennis Kucinich in 2001 as a Cabinet level position. That proposal has been reintroduced every year since the 9-11 attacks.

In the aftermath of 9-11 we were supposed to make solid institutional commitments to think outside the box and explore ways to ease people’s fears, find ways non militaristic ways to end violence and go all out to build bridges and bring people together. That has yet to happen even after 72 co-sponsors came together to push for this in 2009 when there were big majorities of Democrats in both the House and Senate and President Obama had just taken office. Could you imagine there was a vigorous push for that in the same way we had a push to Bomb Syria?

Today there’s a lot for us to think about in terms of what road do we really wanna travel. Shortly after 9-11 there emerged a fork in the road. One for War and Revenge.. the other was for Peace…I think we traveled down the road of War and Revenge looking for Peace. We lost our way and need to come back.. You wanna pay tribute to those who died on 9-11? How about pushing for us to take bold steps in a new direction?