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Code Pink Puts Pressure on Nancy Pelosi
Anti-war demonstrators protest compromises with Bush
Benjamin Terrall (bterrall)     Print Article 
Published 2007-04-06 17:14 (KST)   
On March 23, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced to the U.S. House of Representatives: "Today is an historic day. The new Congress will vote to end the war in Iraq."

The object of her enthusiasm was a $124 billion bill that provides money for the war through to Sept. 30, 2007, and advances a timetable that would bring some American troops home by September 2008.

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But Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the anti-war group Code Pink, has a different take on the legislation. In a speech to the Progressive Democrats of America the same week, Benjamin noted: "every single day from now until, in their vision, 18 months from now, three American soldiers will be killed every single day. For nothing."

Benjamin added, "you know, it breaks my heart how little we talk about the Iraqi people. It just breaks my heart [...] And how many more Iraqis are going to be consigned to die in the next 12 months, 15 months, 18 months, because of this bill? How many of them? 50,000 of them? 60,000? 70,000? Lots of them."

Addressing the question of which troops would stay on in Iraq after September 2008, she told the assembled progressives, "look at all the exceptions that were made there, fighting counter-terrorism, fighting al-Qaeda. Well, according to a lot of people in this government, everybody that fights against us is al-Qaeda. So tens of thousands of soldiers could stay there fighting al-Qaeda.

"And so we can have tens of thousands of more troops staying [...] And it's not just protection of U.S. embassy people, diplomats. It says protection of U.S. citizens. Well, how many citizens are there? There are tens of thousands of U.S. mercenaries who are there, mercenaries who are fighting with guns totally unaccountable, and mercenaries working for every single one of these corporations that are war profiteers, that should be behind bars for profiting from this illegal war. And then we are supposed to have our soldiers there to protect them. That is what this bill says."

On April Fool's Day, San Francisco activists sent out a press release claiming to be from Pelosi's office. It quoted Pelosi as saying: "For the past few weeks, women from the peace group Code Pink have been camped out in front of my house. Now I am inviting them inside for a tete-a-tete about the war. I greatly appreciate the sacrifice they have made, sleeping out in the cold as a constant reminder of how passionately my constituents want the war to end. They were not happy with our vote on the supplemental spending bill, but I want a chance to explain to them how this was a first small step, and to share the next steps I have in mind to bring the troops home by the holidays."

In reality, Pelosi was out of the country and in late March had greeted protestors in front of her house by saying "you're not my constituents!" But an activist stand-in for the Congresswoman in an oversized Pelosi mask was present to take criticisms from protestors holding signs saying "S.F. Says Not One More Dime For War," "WE'RE COUNTING ON YOUR LEADERSHIP, NANCY, NO MORE WAR $!" and "No $$ For War."

Standing in front of Pelosi's Pacific Heights home, Medea Benjamin spoke to reporters, following the cue of a group of activists chanting for Pelosi to change her position on impeachment: "The polls show that over 50 percent of the people think we were misled into war, that impeachment is a legitimate process for holding the president and vice president accountable. We say impeachment is in the constitution for a reason and that, if indeed we were misled into this war, that is a high crime and misdemeanor that fits the definition of impeachment."

Last year Pelosi's San Francisco constituents passed a resolution making it "City policy to call for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney," but Pelosi has been instrumental in squelching calls for congressional support for such action.

On the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives Congressman Dennis Kucinich recently provided further reason for supporting impeachment:

"This week the House Appropriations committee removed language from the Iraq war funding bill requiring the Administration, under Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution, to seek permission before it launched an attack against Iran.

"Since war with Iran is an option of this Administration and since such war is patently illegal, then impeachment may well be the only remedy which remains to stop a war of aggression against Iran."

Pelosi removed the language requiring Bush to seek permission from Congress before attacking Iran after sustained pressure from the influential right wing lobby group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and from AIPAC's allies among the conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats.

Benjamin told me: "Pelosi doesn't want to be blamed for soldiers dying...but the Democratic leadership accepts Bush's ground rules on 'supporting the troops'...the majority of the public supports funding troops because Democrats have not stood up and said 'no, defunding war is not undercutting support for troops.'"

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Toby Blome, a peace activist who was one of the original "Camp Pelosi" stalwarts who stayed for days in front of the Congresswoman's residence, said "I was tired of lobbying, I'd been in her office several times and I'd been getting the same line from her staff." Blome told me she had received overwhelmingly positive responses from neighborhood residents about the encampment's goal of pushing Pelosi to more strongly oppose the Iraq war. Code Pink will continue organizing weekend protests outside Pelosi's residence until the congresswoman responds to the group's requests for public meetings in San Francisco on Iran, impeachment, and Afghanistan.

Benjamin said the only reason that the supplemental bill, "as bad as it is," even mentioned a timeline to leave Iraq is because of sustained activist pressure on elected representatives. Sympathetic members of Congress repeatedly told her that keeping constituent anti-war pressure on the House and Senate will be key to ending U.S. participation in the war.

In her speech to the anti-war Democrats in Washington, Benjamin also made it clear that in addition to continuing to lobby the conference committee process (which reconciles House and Senate bills) on the Iraq funding bill, activist pressure would have to be exerted on other fronts as well:

"The Democrats want to show 'O.K., we want to lighten up a little bit on Iraq, but we are tough and we're going to throw another billion dollars in there to fight Afghanistan, which is the good war.' You know what? There is no good war. And the fight in Afghanistan is not getting us any closer to bringing to justice whoever attacked us on Sept. 11. And we have to catch up to our friends in Canada, our friends in Europe who are building a strong opposition to their country's stepping up the war in Afghanistan and are actually calling, like we are calling for in the case of in Iraq, for negotiations, for international community to step in, for the rule of law and not to try to solve the problems through military action. So we can't let Afghanistan be off the table of us as a progressive movement."
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Benjamin Terrall

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