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by Aaron Glantz

House Votes to Frown on Bush Iraq Plans

(IPS) SAN FRANCISCO -- Peace activists entered their 10th day camped outside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco home March 21, the latest in an almost daily barrage of demonstrations, vigils and local government votes designed to convince Pelosi to refuse President Bush's 100-billion-dollar war funding request.

The speaker says she will support the request with conditions.

Pelosi originally voted against the war four years ago and says she wants it to end. But that rhetoric is not enough for liberal San Franciscans, including elected officials like City Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who spoke at a rally in front of her office Monday.

"I did not and will not accept the excuses of even the most pragmatic, prudent, or progressive sounding representative in Congress in explaining to us that this war abroad is such a quagmire that there is no reason no we can pull out," Mirkarimi told a crowd of hundreds.

"They should be unelected," he said. "They should be taken out of office."

As Mirkarimi spoke, 11 activists -- including a San Francisco mother whose son served 3 tours in Iraq -- were arrested as they staged a sit-in in Pelosi's office. Across the city, 57 protesters were arrested, many blocking traffic while pretending to die on Market Street, the city's main drag.

Demonstrators said Pelosi, who represents the city in the House of Representatives, is out of line with a majority of her constituents. Last November, city voters approved by 58 percent a measure calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

"Nancy Pelosi some time ago made a conscious decision that she was going to stop representing San Francisco and start trying to be a national figure," said Tim Redmond, the editor of the city's progressive Bay Guardian news weekly.

The speaker of the House disagrees and released a statement to demonstrators outside her office "thanking" them for their "opposition to the war in Iraq."

"I agree that the war must end and am working within Congress to achieve that goal," she said.

Still, Redmond believes it will be difficult for locals to change the speaker's mind on the question of war funding.

"When she began moving towards becoming speaker of the House, she left behind San Francisco values and went with a more mainstream approach that will help her court Democrats in swing districts," he added.

While a liberal by national standards, Pelosi has staked out a more centrist position on Iraq than other Congresspersons from the San Francisco Bay area. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who represents Oakland, and Lynn Woolsey, who represents the suburbs north of San Francisco, have introduced legislation requiring all U.S. troops to leave Iraq within six months.

The bill, HR 508, has 49 co-sponsors, including most members of the Bay Area's Congressional delegation. As speaker, Pelosi has buried the bill in the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, and Border Security.

Redmond is heartened, however, by a vote by the local Democratic Party Central Committee urging Congress to revoke President Bush's authority to wage war in Iraq and cut off all funding for the war -- except as "necessary to provide for the safe and orderly withdrawal" of the troops.

Howard Wallace, the vice president of the San Francisco Labour Council, part of the national union confederation AFL-CIO, says Pelosi fought the measure, but couldn't stop it from passing.

"We turned out a crowd," he said, "and everyone was on our side. We had some very good people on the committee and we could see things shifting before our eyes, and then we found out that they had a substitute motion -- and that was to water down the whole bill. They put in some glittering generalities that said really nothing and it was aimed at just getting us out of the way," he said.

"It didn't say anything," Wallace said. "It was insider talk, which is always full of stuff like that, and we can't take that kind of crap anymore."

In the end, almost all of San Francisco's city supervisors and state legislators voted for the antiwar measure. A few abstained. Pelosi's representative was the only central committee member to vote no.

"All this adds up and puts pressure on her and in a sense embarrasses her," said Bay Guardian editor Tim Redomond. "It says 'look, you're not making your constituents happy'. It also in a way gives her political cover because when she's in Washington she can say: 'Look at my constituents. My voters are way to the left of me.' It lets her push that edge a little more if she wants to."

If Pelosi doesn't respond to community pressure, Redmond says, a primary challenge or third party candidacy is possible. Such a challenger would likely lose, he says, put would serve to further increase pressure on the House speaker.

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Albion Monitor   March 21, 2007   (

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