Sunday, August 19, 2007

Getting to know . . . Pelosi

Four years ago on Monday, our nation launched an ill-conceived war of choice in Iraq. The war has claimed the lives of nearly 3,200 American troops; wounded tens of thousands more, thousands of them grievously. It has brought our military’s readiness to the lowest levels since the Vietnam war, cost billions of dollars; and significantly damaged the standing of the United States in the eyes of the world.
The American people made clear in last fall’s election, however, that they have lost confidence in the President's ability to bring the war to an end. They want a new direction on Iraq. Next week, the full House will debate legislation that presents a clear choice: either we continue with an open-ended war or we have tough accountability leading to the responsible redeployment of our troops.

So said Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, March 19, 2007. And no, Nancy, it wasn't "ill-conceived," it was illegal. As the National Lawyers Guild president Marjorie Cohn explained to Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!, August 6, 2007):

The war was a premeditated, deliberate violation of the law. The UN Charter, also a treaty, also part of US law, says the only two instances where a country can use force against another is in self-defense or when the Security Council agrees. And there was never any evidence that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to us or to any other country. He hadn't invaded any country for twelve years, since Kuwait, and he had really been -- his military had been neutered by the Gulf War, by the punishing sanctions, by the bombings in the no-fly zones. And the Bush administration knew that. They knew that, and yet they sold this war. They sold this war. . . . But I think that it's very important not to say "the war was a mistake, the war is being fought incompetently." The war is illegal, and it's also immoral. It's killing thousands of US soldiers. It's killing tens of thousands of Iraqis, and it's draining our National Treasury. And the majority of American people know this, but Congress has not caught on yet.

But Pelosi is correct that in the November 2006 elections, the voters made clear that they wanted "a new direction in Iraq" and that direction was Out of Iraq. Pelosi knew that prior to the 2006 elections. She told Marc Sandalow (San Francisco Chronicle), "This election is about Iraq. . . . If indeed it turns out the way that people expect it to turn out, the American people will have spoken, and they will have rejected the course of action the president is on." In the same interview, she spoke of the failure to prevent the illegal war (which, of course, she didn't call illegal) as "her gravest disappointment in public life."

Now we don't know about her but tend to think a true "gravest disappointment" is something you work to immediately rectify, not toss it on your low priority list. In her first 100 days summation, we give her credit for noting that the 'benchmarks' were Bully Boy's (not the Iraqi people's, nor the US Congress' 'benchmarks', "meet the President's benchmarks for progress," she declared). But we're failing how to see the her bragging that the House she leads adopting the Bully Boy's own benchmarks qualifies as "a new direction in Iraq"? Nor do we see anything other 'symbolic' measures undertaken by the Congress. In her 100 days brag list she takes credit for "calling for responsible redeployment of most U.S. troops by August 31, 2008." If it happens (and there's no indication it will) that will be just in time for the November 2008 elections and people didn't vote for change in November 2006 to wait around for it to possibly happen right before the next election.

On May 10th, she inflated reality and played a con game on the American people by declaring, "This legislation ends the blank check for the President’s war without end. It provides a path to stability in the Middle East by changing our mission in Iraq, and enables us to focus on the threat of terrorism." Was the mission changed? No. It did, however, credit where it's due, take away Bully Boy's blank check for the illegal war. Instead, the Congress provided him with a debit card -- less paperwork and more environmental friendly.

July 12th, Pelosi was citing the Bully Boy's report to Congress on 'progress' in Iraq and declaring, "The report describes a policy badly in need of a New Direction." Again with the new direction (but this time first letters in caps), but where's the action on that? Two days prior to that she was decrying the escalation that she didn't pass any plan to prevent, though a symbolic measure expressing displeasure was rammed through, and she was noting the "strategy has failed before and is failing now." So exactly what does she intend to do about it and when?

There doesn't seem to be much urgency on the part of Pelosi and, to point it out again, she said (November 2006) that not being able to prevent the illegal war from starting was one of the "gravest disappointments" she had experienced in public life.

Can we take Nancy Pelosi at her word?

Here's what she said on March 19, 2007 in her official statement: "Americans stand united behind our men and women in uniform. We pray for the swift and successful disarmament of Iraq with the least possible loss of life among our forces and the civilians of Iraq. Congress will ensure our armed forces have the support they need to prevail in the difficult and dangerous mission in which they are now engaged. God bless our courageous forces and their brave families. God bless the President of the United States. God bless America." Woah there, Sister Nancy, not sure everyone in the back of the pews heard you, but it doesn't sound to us like someone opposed to the illegal war. Sister Nancy was in prayer mode and sending up hosannas while giving shout outs to a "successful disarmament of Iraq" but Iraq had no WMDs. It's a cute little prayer meant to make her sound good but from what she said in November 2006, it's hardly an honest statement.

So exactly when is Nancy Pelosi telling it like it is?

The following day, she did note "I disagree with the policy that took us to this war. I dispute some of the arguments used in favor of this resolution, and I am disappointed in some of the provisions in this resolution. But even those objections cannot overcome the pride and appreciation that I have in our troops. And the message I want them to hear from us tonight of our support for them." And she was in rah-rah mode non-stop, noting the "first" causalities -- Americans and the British. Apprarently Pelosi knew of no Iraqis dying from the falling bombs which is rather surprising for a member of Congress whom you'd expect to be well informed. But she had the religious fever ("GOD BLESS AMERICA!" . . . okay, but just because you said so, Nancy).

In April 2003, accepting a peace award (no, we didn't make that up, the Alan J. Cranston Peace Award) she was still pushing the myth of WMDs, "Like many of my constituents, like many Americans, I did not believe that going to war at this time was the best way to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. That is why I voted against the resolution that brought us into this war." There were no WMDs to get rid of, Pelosi. Knight-Ridder knew it, why didn't a member of Congress?

The first anniversary of the illegal war must have slipped her mind so it took her office a month (April 14, 2004) to get a statement together: "From the outset, the President’s Iraq policy has had little basis in reality. In a country supposedly brimming with weapons of mass destruction, none has been found. Our troops continue to be met with rockets, not roses as the Bush Administration claimed, and we have lost more than 670 lives." No, there weren't WMDs, it was a lie. It's a shame it took Pelosi so long to grasp that very basic fact.

Yet she still wasn't calling for troops to be pulled. It was, after all, an election year.

The second anniversary of the illegal war passed without a peep from "Peace" awardee Nancy Pelosi. In May, she gave a commencement address in Baltimore but apparently didn't want to 'trouble' graduates by noting the illegal war. Finally, in June of 2005, she got around to mentioning what she termed "a war of choice" (but still didn't call it illegal) and also pushed what may actually be her hallmark soundbyte on the illegal war, "Specifically, my amendment would require that the President, within 30 days of the enactment of the defense appropriations bill, submit to Congress a report identifying the criteria that will be used to determine when it is appropriate to begin to bring our troops home from Iraq. It does not require the troops to be brought home by a particular date; it requires only that the means for judging when they can be brought home be shared with the Congress." Did she get a peace award in 2003 or an award for being meek? She stood on the floor of Congress and called not for withdrawal but for 'means for judging' and hasn't that been at the heart of everything's that come to pass since she assumed the Speaker of the House post in January of this year?

Later in June, she echoed herself but added that the war was "a grotesque mistake". As noted, by her own office, in a caption to a photo of her meeting Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan in September 2005, "Rep. Pelosi has repeatedly called for the Bush Administration to provide Congress with a plan providing benchmarks for determining when U.S. troops in Iraq could be brought home." That is what she repeatedly did publicly. She accepted, publicly, the administration's lies and repeated them, she noted WMD repeatedly. Iraq had no WMD. She repeatedly failed to call for an end to the illegal war, just some reports on 'progress,' if you please.

November 30, 2005 she was urging everyone to follow Jack Murtha (because she had no leadership to offer?) and noted of the Bully Boy's speech, "Instead, he suggested that we send more troops and spend more money in Iraq. This is not what the American people want." That was November 2005 so why did she push a symbolic measure on the escalation that began last February, while she was Speaker of the House, instead of fighting it head on? In November 2005, she was saying more troops and more money weren't "what the American people want." So why did she go along with it?

Having missed the first and second anniversaries of the illegal war, Pelosi must have decided to get a jump on the third by issuing an issuing a statement on March 13, 2006 where she declared, "Instead of launching yet another public relations campaign, President Bush should use his speeches this week to provide a strategy to bring our brave men and women home safely and soon." She was still shoveling it though -- pushing that the illegal war suffered from "poor planning" -- but she did (finally) seem to realize the troops needed to come home.

In June of 2006, while giving shout outs to Blue Dog 'Democrats,' Pelosi noted Iraq for a bit: "Nowhere is the need for a New Direction for America more obvious than in Iraq. Certainly, the most important is the loss of life; we passed 2,500 lives lost, and nearly 20,00 have been injured, half of them permanently." But you don't get to rise to Minority Leader (as she then was) without addressing the really 'important' issue and Pelosi got to what mattered (to her): "But, what about the money?"

In October of 2006, she sat down for the now infamous interview conducted by Lesley Stahl (CBS' 60 Minutes) where she declared impeachment was "off the table." Stahl noted of Pelosi,

"The Democrats think Iraq is a winning issue for them, and so Pelosi fires away as she campaigns for different candidates almost every day, from toney towns in Connecticut to Minnesota's farm country." Yes, she was very, very happy to campaign on that issue. She wasn't eager to do anything about once Democrats gained control of the House and she was sworn in as Speaker of the House. Before that took place, on December 6, 2006, she declared that Bully Boy's Iraq 'policies' had failed and she called for "a bipartisan fashion to find a way to end the war as quickly as possible." She's provided no leadership on the Iraq issue. She has cried, "Follow Jack Murtha!" The eighth Congressional district of California did not wake up yesterday or last year opposed to the illegal war. They have consistently opposed the illegal war. But, whether she was Minority Leader or Speaker of the House, she has consistently refused to represent her own constituents.

That can be traced to many other issues. Pelosi had time to fly to the MCI Center to introduce the Dahli Lama but what has she really done for gay rights? That is another huge issue in the Bay Area. Pelosi loves to release statements of congratulations from time to time but she didn't include any reference to gays and lesbians in her statements on the First 100 Days under her leadership. From the 60 Minutes interview:

Pelosi doubts the attacks will work since most Americans have no idea who she is. Besides, at the urging of her colleagues, she has downplayed her pro-abortion rights, anti-gun positions since becoming leader, instead promoting more centrist issues like raising the minimum wage and energy independence.

"You don't talk about those big liberal issues you used to fight for up here," Stahl remarks.

"I've never walked away from any of my positions. I take pride in them," the congresswoman replies.

Asked about gay marriage, Pelosi says, "Well, that's an issue that is not an issue that we're fighting about here."

If you live in the Bay Area (and seven of us writing this feature do), it may be time to ask yourself exactly what you thought you were getting when you sent Nancy Pelosi to Congress? Did you send her there to break "the marble ceiling"? If so, she has broken it. And now what's she's going to do? The Bay Area is overwhelming opposed to the illegal war, overwhelming wants the Bully Boy impeached, is extremely pro-choice and has led the nation on gay rights. So why is that the Congress member they have sent to DC is unwilling to represent them?

Exactly when is she going to be held accountable. New Yorker Katha Pollitt who (unless she intends to carpetbag in as she did for the Ned Lamont race in Conn.) announced recently that Cindy Sheehan should drop out of the race. Apparently that passes for 'feminism' at The Nation. But Pollitt doesn't live in the Bay Area (and really should avoid advising the area after she ticked off so many feminists in the area last month). she doesn't know the first thing she's talking about.

Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan is running against Pelosi. Good. At best, the area might get a Congress member who actually represented them in DC. At worst, Pelosi's going to have to stop moving to the center for 'the national stage' and start representing the people back home. There is no 'lose' in Sheehan running. Pelosi has gone unchecked and unchallenged for far too long (and she's consistently refused to debate any opponent in a public forum). At a minimum, Sheehan's race announces the free ride is over for Nancy Pelosi. She'll either start representing her district or she won't. It's put up or shut time for Pelosi and the hand maidens of The Nation should probably keep their large noses out of a local race. They don't live there and they repeatedly fail to represent the area or its values.

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Pelosi Buys the War" captured the Pelosi the Bay Area has had to live with back in March.

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