Congresswoman Barbara Lee recognized as only vote against war with Afghanistan 20 years ago

by Erika DuBose
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With the Biden administration struggling to withdraw United States troops and help civilians get out of Afghanistan, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), the lone vote against military force in Afghanistan nearly 20 years ago, has finally been vindicated.

The woman once called treasonous and a traitor for voting with her conscience, was not among the politicians who later had to explain their votes. At the time, every other member of Congress voted for a military response against Afghanistan following the 9-11 attacks on American soil. 

In the years that followed, many politicians regretted their votes. Senator Bernie Sanders became a critic of the “war on terror.” Representative John Lewis, who passed away in 2020, also voted for action at the time and later spoke out against the war. 

barbara lee afghanistan

FILE – In this April 23, 2020, file image from video, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., speaks on the floor of the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. The Democratic-led House, with the backing of President Joe Biden, is expected to approve legislation Thursday, June 17, 2021, to repeal the 2002 authorization for use of military force in Iraq. (House Television via AP)

Rep. Barbara Lee has never wavered from her convictions

But back in 2001, Representative Lee stood strong. In a speech on the House floor, she said, “However difficult this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint. Our country is in a state of mourning. Some of us must say, ‘Let’s step back for a moment, let’s just pause, just for a minute, and think through the implications of our actions today, so that this does not spiral out of control.’ ”

Her words were prescient, and after 20 years of occupation, the United States, under the leadership of President Joe Biden, is working overtime to withdraw military troops and civilians in a way some politicians call a disorganized mess as the Taliban claims power. 

Yet Representative Lee has never wavered, and has spent years continuing to vote against bills that give broad power to the military to stay in Afghanistan. She has also won over the voters in her district, who continue to decisively vote for her presence in Congress. 

“I wish I had been wrong”

While Representative Lee has been vindicated, she eschews credit for her vote, and instead is focused on continuing to support citizens across the country — and in Afghanistan. She is concerned about the abrupt nature of the withdrawal and its effects on the people living and working in Afghanistan.

Of the current crisis to get people out of Afghanistan, Representative Lee has said “I was very sad, upset, angry and anxious about the evacuation. In many ways I felt really sad, almost like after 9/11, to see all of this human tragedy take place in front of our eyes.” 

Representative Lee also wished for a different outcome from her lone no vote in 2001. Noting that the 20 years of military occupation ended with the Taliban emerging to claim control over the citizens of Afghanistan, she said of her vote in 2001, “I wish I had been wrong.” 

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