On a bright, sunny fall Monday, November 23, in downtown Oakland, Congresswoman Lee emerged from the Federal Building to a big pink greeting committee, as codepinkers from the East Bay waved "Barbara Lee Still Speaks for Me!" signs and called out, "Welcome home! We love you!" Inge of Berkeley rushed forward to present the 9th district rep with three red roses, which Lee accepted with a radiant smile.
A crowd of about 200, including many longtime peace activists, clergymembers, community organizers and indy media reporters filled in the Federal Building courtyard off Clay Street.
Before Lee's speech, Sharon Cornu, the Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Alameda Labor Council, welcomed the gathering, talked about labor support for ending the wars, and briefly introduced three distinguished men: Paul Cox of Veterans for Peace and Agent Orange Response organizer; Tom Hayden, author, SDS founder and former 20-year member of the California state legislature; and actor-activist-philanthropist Danny Glover.
Cox's remarks were focused on the comparisons between Vietnam and Afghanistan. He began with a history review, saying just as Vietnam did not begin with Johnson, the president most identified with that war, but with Eisenhower, so the US war in Afghanistan did not begin with Obama or even Bush, but with Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's National Security Advisor, who pushed the funding the Afghan mujahideen ("now our enemies"). Cox continued, "The war is widening, and immoral" Our economy is in the toilet, more people are behind on their mortgages, healthcare costs are going up!" He offered a brief critique of HR 3699 [http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111-3699], which has no timeline for exit, no controls over the CIA, and no reparations for the Afghan people. However, it is a place to start and he praised the Congresswoman for her courage.
"Barbara Lee represents the noble district of Oakland and Berkeley," Tom Hayden said with a grin, adding, "She was right [on the wars] ahead of time" HR 3699 does have teeth"" [as it would cut off funding, not just register objection to the escalation.] Hayden called for Obama to reject "the long war doctrine of 50 years," which "imagines voters not yet born supporting it!" If the US escalates in Afghanistan, the projected US troop fatalities would be 1100 or more, and wars will be paid for by future generations. He mentioned the outrage of the 32% tuition and fee increase in the University of California system to boos. Barbara Lee nodded as Hayden said that she and others in Congress can pull Obama, "who represents the center," toward the progressive direction, countering the pull to the right.
To loud applause, Danny Glover said in his distinctive baritone: "We're talking about a war that destabilizes a region forever." He praised the continuity between Congresswoman Lee's antiwar stand and her record of supporting social justice movements as a citizen as well as an elected officeholder. She continues Martin Luther King's message of transforming values, which Glover said must start with citizens, "but especially with those who represent us in the Congress and elsewhere." We must have a transformation of American values, Glover emphasized.
As the audience clapped, cheered, waved our pink signs and called out support, Lee took the podium and thanked all of us: "Thank you for keeping hope alive" this is the most diverse and progressive district in the country!" Turning to Paul Cox, she said, "I'm a daughter of a vet" I love the troops and we must take care of them!"
Looking out over the crowd, Lee continued: "I stand here, as you do, to bring the era of open-ended war to a close. I knew then, three days after the 9/11 attack, that the Authorization for Use of Military Force [click here would be used as a blank check for war." She advocated for "smart national security, including nuclear disarmament" as specified in the bill by her close colleague Lynn Woolsey [http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.RES.363:].