"Barbara Lee Speaks for Me!": Rally against escalation in Afghanistan

 In Afghanistan

Yesterday I joined an enthusiastic crowd on a sunny afternoon in the courtyard of the Federal Building in Oakland to join Rep. Barbara Lee’s rally and press conference to build support for her bill to stop escalation in Afghanistan. I can’t imagine there are many members of Congress who have as devoted a following as Rep. Lee—throughout the event you saw signs and heard chants of “Barbara Lee Speaks for Me!” As we keep up the tough fight of pushing our government to support an alternative strategy in Afghanistan, I am inspired and heartened to hear the passion and commitment from politicians like Barbara Lee, and proud to have such a principled and courageous woman representing me in Congress.

Rep. Lee’s staff lined up a great list of speakers on short notice. The MC for the event was Sharon Cornu of the Alameda County Labor Central Committee, and the first speech came from Vietnam Veteran Paul Cox of Veterans for Peace, who spoke about learning the lessons of Vietnam and ensuring our government doesn’t continue to make the same mistakes in Afghanistan.

Renowned activist Tom Hayden took the stage to make the case for supporting congressional vehicles for ending the war in Afghanistan. He expressed his hope that President Obama will reject the “long war” doctrine embraced by some in the Pentagon who have talked about a 50-year war that spans several countries. He said that by his calculations, another two years of war at the current rates would mean 1,100 more US soldiers would die in Afghanistan, and said he believes these are “unsustainable policies.” Hayden noted the need for us to “define a progressive alternative” to the current plan in Afghanistan, which he emphasized should include an exit strategy, and urged us to help pressure people to become cosponsors of Rep. Lee’s HR 3699. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take video of the event, but you can listen to the audio of Hayden’s speech here:

Rep. Lee was introduced by actor and activist Danny Glover, who pointed out that she is special not just for her lone opposition to the war in Afghanistan in 2001 but for her ongoing work to support social justice. In discussing the need to oppose the war in Afghanistan, he evoked Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight against militarism, racism and materialism. Glover said that Barbara Lee is about “transforming values,” and that our country needs a transformation of values, starting with all of us as citizens, but especially with our representatives in the White House and Congress.  Listen to Danny Glover’s speech here:

Rep. Lee started out by thanking the crowd for “keeping hope alive.” She said that she stands “resolved to bring this chapter of American history that has been characterized by open-ended war once and for all to a close.” She encouraged us, in the words of her House colleague John Lewis, to “make some noise” in this country and said we need the “street heat,” and she laid out what she and others in Congress have done to “stir the pot” in the House of Representatives and push for an alternative in Afghanistan.

Lee outlined several letters that she signed to the President, including one with her “sisters in the triad” Lynn Woolsey (D-CA-6) and Maxine Waters (D-CA-35); one with the Congressional Black Caucus; and another with 53 other members of Congress urging President Obama to reject a request for more troops. She also cited the vote on an exit strategy in June that gained 138 votes, and her introduction of HR 3699 to prohibit funds for increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan. It’s important that we are publicizing these efforts and magnifying their impact by making sure the public is aware that there are members of Congress who are working to move the debate forward.

Rep. Lee told the cheering crowd, “We all know there is no military solution to the war in Afghanistan.” She said her legislation sends a “clear and unequivocal” message and urged us to help build support for the bill. She asked the crowd to “make some noise” and be “the wind beneath our wings” and help push Congress to speak out for a new approach in Afghanistan. You can listen to Rep. Lee’s speech here:

This is absolutely a critical time to “make some noise.” Reports today indicate that President Obama is going to announce a plan on Tuesday that will include sending around 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. Join thousands of others around the country as part of our campaign to flood the White House with calls. Call 1-202-456-1111 to tell President Obama to support an alternative plan that doesn’t include an increase in troops. Click here to urge your representative to cosponsor Rep. Lee’s bill to prohibit funding for sending additional troops to Afghanistan.

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