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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of  October 10 - 16, 2001

  Opinion Column

In praise of Wayne Morse and Barbara Lee

Commentary by DICK DORWORTH

"Hatred is the vice of narrow souls; they feed it with all their littlenesses, and make it the pretext of base tyrannies."

- Honoré de Balzac

Remember Wayne Morse? Or, rather, remember Wayne Morse!

In August 1964, Sen. Wayne Morse of Oregon was one of two members of Congress to oppose the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which effectively gave President Lyndon Johnson carte blanche control and freedom to wage war in Vietnam. Morse predicted that "history will record that we have made a grave mistake" in Vietnam.

History did so record.

At the time, the outspoken Morse was reviled by the media in his home state of Oregon and in the nation and by much, but certainly not all, of the American public. His was a lonely stand, one he said his conscience required him to take, and by taking it he made many political enemies, including Lyndon Johnson. Morse said he "did not intend to put the blood of this war on his hands." Heresy always has a price, and in the 1968 election he lost the Senate seat he had held for 24 years to a slick politician named Robert Packwood. (Remember Bob Packwood and what his conscience required him to do?) Morse was a media pariah for the remaining 25 years of his life, rarely mentioned, little remembered, but those years were productive, vital and active, and he lived them with a clear conscience and clean hands.

Morse was the first candle of light in the dark night of Vietnam War fever. He was not the last, and many Americans were grateful to and inspired by him for his stand, his integrity and his light.

Interestingly enough, Johnson’s political career was also ended by his stand on Vietnam, and he was damaged as a man for the remainder of his life by it.

On Sept. 14, 2001, Rep. Barbara Lee of California was the only member of Congress to vote against H.J. Res. 64, which ceded Congress’ future authority to President Bush regarding the use of military force against terrorists.

She explained her dissent as a call for restraint, a lonely stand to take in the wake of the passions aroused by the horrors inflicted on the United States on Sept. 11. On the House floor she said, "There must be some of us who say, let’s step back for a moment and think through the implications of our actions today—let us more fully understand its consequences. Far too many innocent people have already died."

Remember those words: "Far too many innocent people have already died."

I find her stand both courageous and practical and a healthy antidote to the vitriolic drum beating of people like Lance Morrow who wrote in Time magazine, "America needs to relearn a lost discipline, self-confident relentlessness—and to relearn why human nature has equipped us all with a weapon (abhorred in decent peacetime societies) called hatred."

Morrow’s sentiment calls to mind these words of Balzac, "Hatred is the vice of narrow souls; they feed it with all their littlenesses, and make it the pretext of base tyrannies."

Lest Rep. Lee’s stand be misunderstood, it is worth reminding ourselves that on Sept. 12 she voted in favor of H.J. Res. 61, which, among other things, condemns the terrorist attacks and supports the President in punishing the perpetrators of the attacks. The next day she voted for H. Con. Res. 225, which provides financial relief to victims of the attacks and safety officers killed or injured in the attacks. On Sept. 14 she voted in favor of H.R. 2888, which provides $40 billion in emergency funding for increased public safety, anti-terrorism activities, disaster recovery efforts, and assistance for the victims of the terrorist attacks.

Also on Sept. 14, in Lee’s own words, "I voted against H. J. Res. 64, which ceded Congress’s future authority to the President regarding the use of military force in response to the terrorist attacks. Our Constitution provides for checks and balances between our branches of government. This resolution does not obligate the President to report back to Congress after 60 days, as was required by Congress during the Gulf War, about the actions our military will take. Additionally, this resolution authorizes an open-ended action and significantly reduces Congress’s authority in this matter. We must bring the perpetrators of this horrific action to justice. But during this period of grief, mourning, and anger, the U.S. Congress has a responsibility to urge the use of restraint so that the violence does not spiral out of control and to consider all of the implications of our actions."

History will write that Congress, fumbling blindly in the dark night of terrorist war fever, has made a grave mistake in giving George W. Bush unchecked power to use the military power of this country as he chooses.

Lee lit the first candle of light in that darkness.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.