The world is watching as the American government makes a decision about the use of military force against Syria. More accurately, the world waits as President Obama makes one of the most difficult and potentially far-reaching decisions of his presidency: whether to use military force against Syria.
A major question remains unanswered: Did the Syrian government of Bassar al-Assad use chemical weapons on its people on August 21st? In the attack, more than a thousand people were killed or injured. Many of them were children. The sad images were shown around the world. It is difficult remain unmoved by the sometimes gruesome photos. Sarin is a chemical nerve agent (classified by the UN as a weapon of mass destruction) that strikes fear in every man, woman, and child. Its use is an international, absolute “no-no”.
Most Americans have an opinion about whether the U.S should use military force against Syria in retaliation for using the deadly agent against its population. The good people of Oakland are among the most vocal about controversial issues.
Oaklanders have a long history of expressing their opinions through demonstrations, marches, and rallies. Another way in which Oaklanders express their viewpoints about Syria (and many other issues) is through contacting or even meeting with their congressional representative.
The local representative for the 13th district, which includes Oakland, is Barbara Lee (D-CA). And Oaklanders are very lucky to have such a courageous and outspoken representative, particularly on issues such as war and security.
Ms. Lee was first elected to congress in 1998. She was a social worker, but began her political career as an intern for democrat Ron Dellums. Since that time, she has made a strong name for herself in foreign policy matters.
In 2001, Congresswoman Lee was the only member of congress to vote against the Authorization of Use of Military Force. She opposed giving a “blank check” to any president to engage in war without the input and discussion with Congress. Although she was strongly moved by the September 11th attacks in 2001, she believed that the balance of power in the American government should be maintained. The Authorization for Use of Military Force would upset this delicate balance, strip the Congress of its power, and diminish the voice of the American people in such important decisions.
This effect was displayed in the Iraq War, which Congresswoman Lee opposed. And it is confronted again as President Obama approaches the matter of using force against Syria. Congresswoman Lee wants this Authorization repealed and she has continued to fight against it for the past ten years.
In a press release on September 6, Congresswoman Lee noted,
The United States has compelling evidence that the Assad regime did use chemical weapons against his own people, and we must respond to this heinous act. However, I reject the idea that a military response is the only action we can take.
That is why I will be voting “no” on any authorization for the use of force and precisely why I am working to advance non-military alternatives.
Congresswoman Lee also has a strong presence on domestic issues. Her voting record shows:
- Support for tax cuts for middle and low income families.
- Support for extending unemployment assistance for long-term unemployed persons.
- Support to maximize student achievement and close “disparate learning gaps”.
- Support for criminal justice reform and reintegration of former offenders into their communities.
- Support for access to affordable, quality heath care as a basic human right.
Oakland remains a strong voice in the expression of both popular and alternative viewpoints. Besides demonstrations and marches (that are important), the people of Oakland have a powerful and committed voice through Congresswoman Barbara Lee. With military action against Syria looming over the world, Oaklanders have the ability to make their voices heard—and to change the world.
Learn more about Congresswoman Barbara Lee at lee.house.gov where you can find her biography, voting record, calendar of speaking engagements, and videos of her speeches to Congress.
Constituents can also send her a message or even request her help to meet the president! You can find her page on Facebook and Twitter. She can also be contacted by phone at 510-763-0370.