Nancy Pelosi: A Hawk in Donkey's Clothing?
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Congressional approval to continue funding of the ongoing war in Iraq, a major segment of the $90 billion supplemental appropriate package, passed on Tuesday thanks to heavy-handed pressure by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., against anti-war Democrats.
This has led to great consternation here in her home district in San Francisco, where anti-war sentiment remains stronger than ever. The timing of the measure is particularly upsetting given that California's record budget deficit has resulting in the layoffs of tens of thousands of teachers, the incipient closure of almost all of our state parks and draconian cuts in health care, housing, public transportation,the environment, social services and other critical programs. While unwilling or unable to get Congress to provide some financial support for the crisis here at home, our most powerful member of Congress was quite willing to work hard to insure continued financial support for war.
What few people outside of San Francisco realize is that despite representing one of the most liberal congressional districts in the country, Pelosi has been a strong supporter of the Iraq war for most of past seven years.
In 2002, public opinion polls showed that the only reason most Americans would support a U.S. invasion of Iraq was if they were convinced that Iraq was somehow a threat to the United States, such as possessing "weapons of mass destruction." Unfortunately for those supporting a U.S. takeover of that oil-rich country, independent strategic analysts were arguing that the evidence strongly suggested that Iraq had rid itself of its chemical and biological weapons some years earlier.
In an apparent effort to discredit those of us who -- correctly, as it turned out -- were insisting that Iraq had in all likelihood already disarmed, Pelosi categorically declared on NBC's Meet the Press in December 2002 that "Saddam Hussein certainly has chemical and biological weapons. There's no question about that."
By giving bipartisan credence to the Bush administration's unprincipled use of such scare tactics to gain support for the U.S. takeover of that oil-rich country, she negated a potential advantage the Democrats would have otherwise had in the 2004 campaign. After it became apparent that administration claims about Iraq's alleged military threat were false, the Democrats were unable to attack the Republicans for misleading the American public since their congressional leadership had also falsely claimed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
During the first twelve weeks of 2003, there were a series of large demonstrations against the war here in Pelosi's district, including one on Feb. 16 that brought out a half-million people. While Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee -- congresswomen from a neighboring districts -- spoke at the rally, Pelosi was notably absent.
On the day the war began the following month, San Francisco's downtown business district was shut down by thousands of anti-war protesters in a spontaneous act of massive civil disobedience. In response, Pelosi denounced the protesters and rushed to the defense of President George W. Bush, voting in favor of a resolution declaring the House of Representatives' "unequivocal support and appreciation to the president ... for his firm leadership and decisive action." She personally pressed a number of skeptical Democratic lawmakers to support the resolution as well.
Pelosi also sought to discredit those who argued that Iraq was not a threat to the United States and that United Nations inspectors -- which had returned to Iraq a couple of months earlier and were engaged in unfettered inspections -- should have been allowed to complete their mission to confirm that Iraq had disarmed as required. She joined her Republican colleagues going on record claiming that "reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone" could not "adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq."