Views of a
Leader of the Black Radical Congress
“Barbara Lee Speaks for Me”
by Frances M. Beal
[This article was posted on the Internet on September
18. The author is a political
columnist for the San Francisco Bayview newspaper and National Secretary of the
Black Radical Congress. The views and opinions expressed in this article are her
own. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com]
With grief, horror, and anger over the World Trade
Center and Pentagon carnage gripping the nation, the drums of war beat ever
faster and louder from the highest office in the land to street corner apostles
shouting, “Bomb them back to the Stone Age.” Amid this emotional milieu, it
takes a lot of political courage to stand up against a precipitous rush toward
military vengeance, and only one member of Congress found the temerity to do so.
That person is the House representative from the Ninth District of California,
the Honorable Barbara Lee.
In opposing the resolution that literally gave the
President carte blanche to go anywhere and do anything militarily with a $40
billion budget in hand, Barbara Lee was speaking for me and for thousands if not
millions here in the U.S. who do not believe that indiscriminate slaughter of
civilian men, women, and children abroad is an appropriate response to the
terrorist attacks in the U.S. Will it make us more secure and safe from future
assaults of this kind? Do we really know what group is responsible? Is there an
alternative approach? Addressing the military option earlier this year, Lee
articulates a global justice option that is shared by many: “To be secure in
this world,” Lee writes, “we must educate our children, house the homeless,
and feed the
African Americans should have no problem understanding
this link between justice and national security. It is the same argument we use
domestically in the fight against racist criminal justice policies when we
demand a switch from the criminalization of social ills and the incarceration of
Blacks and other people of color to the provision of education, jobs, health,
and welfare services.
Even more pertinent to coming to grips with the
terrorist assault on the U.S., unfortunately, is a review of recent U.S. foreign
policy, which Lee also proposes. The most prominent suspect (he categorically
denies culpability), Osama bin Laden, for example, is a creation of U.S.
intelligence forces that recruited and armed right wing Islamic fundamentalists
in the Cold War zeal to defeat a Soviet-backed democratic regime in Afghanistan.
And it was the almighty dollar that supported Pakistani dictator Gen. Zia-ul Haq
in creating thousands of religious schools from which the seeds of the fanatics
now in power in Afghanistan blossomed — the Taliban.
People have suffered greatly from this U.S. policy,
particularly women. In condemning the assault on U.S. targets, the Women's
Alliance for Peace and Human Rights in Afghanistan (WAPHA) notes, “The tragedy
that has hit the innocent American people is deeply felt by the suffering people
of Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan have been tortured, terrorized, and
massacred on a daily base by the international terrorists such as Osama bin
Laden, his followers, the Taliban, the Pakistani ISI, the Pakistani religious
extremist groups, and other foreign extremists. Hundreds of thousands of
innocent Afghan people have lost their lives at the hands of these brutal
criminals. The people of the United States, the people of Afghanistan, and the
world community must join together to uproot and eradicate from the world these
vicious criminals who are the enemies of humanity and civilizations.”
These are the people we are proposing to punish? Should
we allow our country to turn into savages like the terrorists and kill thousands
of innocent people, probably in Afghanistan, for the crimes allegedly committed
by Osama bin Laden or possibly the Taliban? The justified feelings of
African Americans who are currently rattling their
American sabers should stop and think for a moment. Collective guilt is a racist
concept, one that we have suffered for years. In this atmosphere of Anti-Arab
racism and anti-Muslim xenophobia, we can see evidence all around that America's
racialist psyche is being brought into play to whip us into a warmongering
frenzy. Vigilantism, and state-sponsored terrorism in the form of slave catchers
of yore or today’s police murderers unleashed in our communities, are
experiences we know well. Indiscriminate massive bombing in search of elusive
terrorists will itself be a form of state-sponsored terrorism.
As grief-ridden as we are, African Americans cannot
afford a case of collective amnesia right now. Can we really give unrestrained
support to a hawkish President who only sits in the Oval Office because his
political party helped to disenfranchise the Black electorate in Florida? What
kind of trust does a president deserve from us when he exhibits complete
contempt for the global racial justice movement and U.S. Blacks most
particularly by ordering a walkout of the U.S. delegation at the recent World
Conference Against Racism?
Phyllis and Orlando Rodriguez, whose son is missing and
presumed dead in the rubble of the World Trade Center, write: “Our son died a
victim of an inhuman ideology. Our actions should not serve the same purpose.
Let us grieve. Let us reflect and pray. Let us think about a rational response
that brings real peace and justice to our world. But let us not as a nation add
to the inhumanity of our times.”
Yes. Barbara Lee speaks for me.