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San Francisco Congressional Watchdog Group Keeps Up Pressure on Pelosi

by Robert B. Livingston (gruaudemais [at]
Activists met again today at the Federal Building in San Francisco to plead for a sensible and moral end to the war in Iraq. Some later joined other activists from Code Pink who were maintaining a camp and peace vigil outside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's home in Pacific Heights.
San Francisco
March 14, 2007

At 11:30 this morning activists met in the Federal Building in San Francisco for the third time in three weeks to ask questions and seek answers from Nancy Pelosi's office. Their concern was ending the war in Iraq.

After grouping in the building's cafeteria, they met with Pelosi's local representative, Dan Bernal, who escorted them to a conference room because the side room to Pelosi's office was too small to accommodate them.

After taking names, Bernal listened to activists voice their increasing frustration with Nancy Pelosi's failure to oppose the war in Iraq more strongly. The activists believed that Pelosi was failing to represent her constituents and also failing to assume real leadership among her colleagues in Congress. All wanted to see U.S. troops brought home now. They offered suggestions and support for Nancy Pelosi if only she would make stronger demands to cut off funding for the war.

Bernal mostly responded with the following trite talking points: That the House of Representatives has too slim a Democratic majority to make immediate headway, that Bush ultimately has veto power, that the perfect is the enemy of the good, that defunding the war is a false choice, and that the only realistic way to set a certain date for withdrawal in the future is dependent upon approving supplemental funds now to ensure troop "readiness."

Here are some of the voices Bernal listened to:

A San Francisco veteran and local leader in the Green Party spoke first.

He apologized that he had to leave early. He said that he would like to stay and fully participate because he believed that a citizen's duties should come before other concerns. He said he had go back to work to "make some more dollars-- partially," he said, "because a lot of money is going to this war. My Social Security is robbed... as they take money out of our trust funds and Social Security in order to pay for things like this war. It's all connected. Nothing is isolated; it's not like this war is over in the corner... it affects my life personally at this moment because I would like to stay and take part in this very important discussion. I am opposed to funding anything but withdrawal. The [San Francisco City] Board of Supervisors yesterday passed a resolution in support of funding only the immediate withdrawal of troops and not funding any kind of continuation of the war. I think that speaks for San Francisco."

Next to speak was a local US Navy veteran who was responsible for the idea of hanging 3000 neckties on trees in front of City Hall at the end of last year to commemorate the 3000 US soldiers who had been killed in Iraq by that time.

He told Bernal that he had not voted for the mayor in power, the president in power or the governor in power, but that he had voted for Nancy Pelosi.

He pointed out that over 70% of Americans are opposed to the Iraq war and that over 70% would like the troops to come home. "Sadly," he said,"if you were to poll the over 3,100+ servicemen and woman who have passed away I am sure 100% of those people would want the troops home as well."

A woman spoke next. "The longer we stay in Iraq," she said, "the worse it gets because we are making people hate us more." She read statistics compiled by Phyllis Beniss of the Institute for Policy Studies describing how most Iraqis believe the U.S. presence in their country is making life worse. She read aloud other statistics which described how the trillions of dollars that are expected to be spent to pay for the war could be better spent at home. She said that the cost to every US citizen as of January this year was estimated as $1264.

The next speaker was a man who described himself as a local senior citizen and veteran. He stated that Nancy Pelosi needs the support of the millions of people across the the nation who are against the war. He said that the government is controlled by the contractors and the Pentagon who "can remove Nancy Pelosi" if they want to. "They've done it before," he warned, "I was a guard for President Kennedy when I was in the military. I have a different perspective on America [from most Americans]." He said that Kennedy lacked mass support. He said he would like to see mass support for Nancy Pelosi so she can move our country out of Iraq.

The man then invited Dan Bernal to witness the peace march planned to take place in San Francisco on March 18th and to report to Nancy Pelosi about it for the purpose of helping her understand how many people will be voting with "their feet in the streets."

Bernal replied that he will be "around the city" at that time so that he would likely see it. He described how there is "no chance" that Congress will pass a bill to cut off funds entirely for the war. He said that the only choices for representatives in Congress are either supporting Bush's open-ended commitment to a war without end or the Democrats' proposals that provide for the readiness of our troops and sets a certain date for the war in Iraq to be over.

The former Kennedy guard replied that his organization, Veterans for Peace, wants the cutting-off of funds for the war.

"Where are votes?" Bernal flippantly asked.

"Come count the votes on the street," he was answered, "If the veterans are calling for the cutting off of funds, why shouldn't Nancy Pelosi?"

Several activists suggested alternative strategies that would stop war funding or at least put it off to which Dan Bernal replied: "We will not be in a situation in which a supplemental funding authorization is not going to be passed." He then passed around photocopies of a statement from Nancy Pelosi.

Someone asked, "Don't people [in Washington] realize that there is money in the budget now to bring home the troops?

Bernal said there is no money for that because of the need for "troop readiness." He said our troops would be in dire straights without supplemental funding.

One person retorted, "They won't need any protection if they are home!"

The former Kennedy guard pointed out that Congressman Murtha wants the troops home now rather than funding more war and that Murtha says there is already enough money "in the pipeline."

Numerous activists spoke proudly about "San Francisco values" and how Nancy Pelosi is slighting them by pandering more to a national audience. They inquired about voting positions among other representatives in Congress. One complained about how Pelosi is over-relying on information coming from the White House. "Bush is not a reliable source about information in Iraq," she said.

A man mentioned how the cost of the war is significantly impacting San Franciscans. He worried that Pelosi might fail to address the war's local impact by focusing on less related concerns.

A woman gave Dan Bernal some letters from constituents and showed him a PowerPoint presentation which she asked him to share with Pelosi. The presentation showed news photos of the dramatic impact of war on Iraqi children: the real face of war and the reason why she said, "we can't accept further appropriations for a failed military strategy."

"It is why we are here again, and [why] we will be back again, and why we are camping out at Nancy Pelosi's home now."

Dan Bernal's eyes glazed over as he looked at the pictures.

He finally responded by saying that those opposed to the war should not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the "barely obtainable good." Paraphrasing: "So long as the majority of votes against the war are so narrow and with Bush in the White House, the best Nancy can do is initiate numerous congressional votes and increase confrontations with Bush to build support to end America's involvement in Iraq."

Bernal described Pelosi's hope that, over time, some Republicans will side with Democrats-- or conversely more Democrats who will want to end the war will be elected to Congress in the next election if Republicans stubbornly stick with Bush's policies.

"It is not a thing of beauty," he said of her strategy, "but is the most realistic."

Bernal's comments elicited hoots of exasperation from the activists. "That is a lot of negative thinking!" said one. Several expressed concern that Pelosi was more concerned with the 2008 elections than with ending the war.

One woman demanded to know how hard Pelosi is actually pushing her colleagues to oppose the war. Bernal insisted that she is so and he then passed around a press release that described proposals which included a need to redirect war resources against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

"She wants the troops to go to Afghanistan!" exclaimed an activist in disbelief.

"It's to finish the job..." said Bernal. He said that Pelosi believes that America had been diverted from addressing the problems of the Taliban and al-Qaeda when "the president" took us to Iraq. He added that troops would also be needed "to protect diplomatic installations."

One activist mentioned a policy dating from the U.S. Civil war which Congressman Dennis Kucinich had become concerned about and which she had only just heard about: "The Food and Forage Act of 1861." She requested that Pelosi investigate it and find out if it could be revived by Bush to forgo or "make moot" any war-funding restrictions which might be placed on him in the future.

Another activist asked that Pelosi do more to restrict the privatizing of military activities and the price-gouging methods of corporations like Halliburton which are capitalizing off the war. She insisted that the government needs to cut money to these corporations especially because they are failing to accomplish what they promised to do for our government.

At one point, Dan Bernal had mentioned that Pelosi's roots had been in political activism, to which he was asked by one why Pelosi appeared so dismissive, or abrupt when it came to meeting with San Francisco activists.

Numerous points were made about how the Vietnam war ceased after funding for it was cut. "When the funds stop and we leave-- the conflict will end," said one.

Close to the end of the day's discussions, a woman representing Code Pink (referring to Pelosi's goal of ending the war before the next presidential election) declared:

"2008 is too late. It is too late for all of us here, too late for millions of people in this country, too late for millions of Iraqis, and too late for my nephew."

Suddenly choking with sadness and struggling to hold back tears, she read an invitation card she had recently received from friends of her nephew:

"The United States Marine Corps cordially invites you to attend the commissioning of Officer Candidate [...] on the 31st of March... and then following that formal ceremony: 'Party like a Devil Dog! Send our Jarhead off right! Party all night!'"

She said she would not be attending, "for obvious reasons."

"This is the kind of gleeful drunken delusional giddiness that young men are sent off to war with," she said. "That's the Marines' culture particularly, but [also] the military culture."

"I am already worried about how much my nephew drinks," she continued. "Among other things, the Marine Corps is an efficient institution in taking impressionable young people and turning them into alcoholics-- which is a pretty minor concern when [my nephew] might be killed. But it is certainly weighing on my heart very much."

"[Even] if the war can be stopped this year and the troops can be brought home by Christmas 2007, hundreds more young American men and woman will still die. Thousands more will still be injured and badly damaged for life. Thousands of Iraqis will still be murdered and raped. We could at least have the conclusion of this fearful suffering by the end of this year and perhaps my nephew might escape... a terrible fate. And that is what I beg you. Thank you for conveying this to Congresswoman Pelosi."

Dumbfounded, Nancy Pelosi's local representative Dan Bernal meekly responded, "Thank you for sharing that. I, I, just.... Thank you...."

Stirring himself back to his duty, he then repeated some of his main talking points and brought this week's session to a close.
§Camp Pelosi
by Robert B. Livingston
§Representing CodePink: Toby Blome, Leslie Angeline, and Barbara Briggis
by Robert B. Livingston
§Loving Peace
by Robert B. Livingston
§Nancy Pelosi's husband, Paul.
by Robert B. Livingston
"He was much friendlier today," said one protester.
§Supporters and curious linger to chat and encourage the protesters.
by Robert B. Livingston
At the top of a very steep hill in Pacific Heights, very few people passed by in the afternoon save neighbors walking dogs, a mailman, and a few wayward tourists. One man who stopped by (not pictured) was a Swiss tourist who declared without prodding: "You do not have a Democracy in America. You have only two parties. You have no choice but to vote for one or the other." He continued, "I hope you buy gold; you are printing so much currency that is becoming worthless."

Plenty of expensive cars wizzed by. Some drivers tooted and flashed peace signs but few wanted to pause long enough to sign a petition. One man drove by and flipped "the bird"-- the first one after days according to one protester. Meanwhile, the only sounds in the neighborhood were the occasional drone of a plane or the hammering and tooling of industrious immigrant construction workers, busy as elves, making improvements and repairs on every second or third mansion in the neighborhood.
§Alex Perotti of Berkeley
by Robert B. Livingston
Alex had attended the morning teach-in at the Federal Building and came with others to visit Camp Pelosi and offer encouragement.
§One of CodePink's Dedicated
by Robert B. Livingston
Spirits were high at Camp Pelosi, although fatigue was showing. Janet Rosen rests momentarily and nibbles on a snack outside the Pelosi home. Protesters were grateful for bottles of water others had brought because it was easy to get dehydrated in the sun (nights are very cold however).
§Toby Blome plays a curious but beautiful sounding instrument.
by Robert B. Livingston
It is a Swedish instrument called a nyckelharpa. It has a very melodious but haunting sound.
§Another view of Toby playing her instrument.
by Robert B. Livingston
§And another.
by Robert B. Livingston
Dana and Leslie listen with admiration.
§Mp3 of the song called "Andachten"
by Robert B. Livingston
Listen now:
Copy the code below to embed this audio into a web page:
Andachten means "devotions." (Very suitable for the activists who are devoted to ending war.)
§Short video clip of Toby playing
by Robert B. Livingston
Copy the code below to embed this movie into a web page:
(about 15 seconds of low quality video.)
§The World Is Watching!
by Robert B. Livingston
CODEPINK has been camped outside of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi's house since last weekend (otherwise known as "Camp Pelosi") to encourage the speaker to be a leader and stop funding Bush's war. They hope to keep this vigil going until the vote on the war funds takes place.

What will Nancy Pelosi do?
§An invitation to come join Camp Pelosi
by Robert B. Livingston (gruaudemais [at]
Listen now:
Copy the code below to embed this audio into a web page:
What to bring-- how to survive!

Add Your Comments
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Robert B. Livingston
Mon, Aug 13, 2007 3:21PM
Robert B. Livingston
Mon, Jul 2, 2007 12:53AM
March 16 Pelosi Press Release
Fri, Mar 16, 2007 6:23PM
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