As congressional debate on whether to strike Syria begins, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) spoke at a press conference today at the D.C. War Memorial, with D.C. veterans, Mayor Vincent Gray, and DC Vote Executive Director Kimberly Perry.
Norton, in her remarks, said, "More than at other times, the call to war is when D.C. must be heard about our distinctive inequality The outcry that the President not strike Syria without a vote from Congress only spotlights the denial of democratic rights that our citizens have faced in every war the nation has fought except the Revolutionary War."
Norton's remarks, as prepared for delivery, follow.
Remarks of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton
Press Conference with D.C. Veterans, Without a Vote, as Debate on Syria Begins
September 9, 2013, D.C. War Memorial
Since I have been a member of Congress, there have been votes on whether to go to war in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. The taxes of D.C. residents at home have helped pay for those wars, D.C. residents in the military have fought in those wars, and I have gone to the Arlington Cemetery to comfort bereaved D.C. families whose sons and daughters have died in those wars. The tragic irony is that the District's members of the Armed Forces who died in those wars and those who came home from those wars secured the vote for the citizens of Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan, but came home as they went -- with no vote in Congress on war or on any other matter.
More than at other times, the call to war is when D.C. must be heard about our distinctive inequality. Our service in wars and the use of our taxes to fund wars, where our residents put their lives on the line, are in a unique category among offenses to our democratic values. In matters of war, the continuing inequality of the citizens of the nation's capital stands out starkly, even as we make strides toward equal treatment, with the budget autonomy referendum, still undisturbed by Congress, the legislative language for budget autonomy, as requested by the President, currently in the Senate appropriations bill, the law that now requires the D.C. flag to fly alongside the flags of the states at military ceremonies, the statue of Frederick Douglass, the first in the Capitol to represent D.C. alongside the statues from the 50 states, and even the new law that kept the D.C. War Memorial, where we assemble today, from being taken to memorialize other soldiers.
The outcry that the President not strike Syria without a vote from Congress only spotlights the denial of democratic rights that our citizens have faced in every war the nation has fought except the Revolutionary War. I, too, called for the President to come to Congress before striking Syria. Yet, if there is a vote, D.C. residents will have no vote in either the House or the Senate. If the vote fails and the President proceeds anyway, the citizens of the 50 states will have a taste of what the residents of this city have experienced for more than two centuries. For us, it is taxation without representation every time there is a vote in the House and a vote in the Senate, but no vote for the District. For us, the slogan of the Revolutionary War has perverse meaning -- give your country your money and prepare to give your life, but do not expect to have a say on either. That is a description of tyranny.
Today, we join those who say a vote in the Congress is necessary to legitimize war. But there can be no legitimate vote unless all who pay taxes to fund the war are counted. Let the debate on Syria, therefore, be remembered for more than the "red line" that was crossed or the deep division in the Congress on a strike. Let this debate be remembered as the last time in our history that our country went to war without a vote cast in the name of every American who pays taxes, finally fulfilling the slogan, "no taxation without representation' that led the founders to establish the United States of America.