Nancy Pelosi

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks during her weekly press briefing in July 29, 2022 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Pelosi, Biden, and the Spectacular Solipsism of Our Nation's Political Leaders

A spectacular level of obliviousness pervades the upper echelons of Capital Hill. And the people of the world pay the price.

When Nancy Pelosi relinquished her position as Speaker of the House at the end of the last congressional session much of the country may have assumed that she retired from Congress entirely. In fact, until recently the less diligent among her own district’s political observers might have been forgiven for thinking the same, given that she appeared to have entered into a type of still-in-office retirement—adopting the title of Speaker Emerita while serving on no congressional committees.

No more, though. Her recent outburst against opponents of Israel’s ongoing devastation of Gaza that has followed upon Hamas’s October assault left no doubt that—for better or worse, she’s still at it. What particularly raised eyebrows was her call for an FBI investigation into whether the people disrupting President Joe Biden’s speaking engagements by shouting out demands to support a Gaza ceasefire were funded by Russia. To wit: “What we have to do is try to stop the suffering in Gaza … But for them to call for a ceasefire is Mr. Putin’s message.”

Putin’s message is it? This is a spectacular level of obliviousness—for anyone, really, much less for someone who within the past two years ranked second in order of succession to the presidency of the United States. In a statement defending her call for an investigation of the funding of opponents of the Biden Administration’s pro-war policies, her office referred to her being “Informed by three decades on the House Intelligence Committee.” Perhaps if she had kept her committee membership current she’d have been cognizant of the December 12, 2023 United Nations General Assembly vote calling for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in the Israel-Hamas war, and in particular the 153–10 margin (with 23 abstentions) of its passage. So, were those153 countries delivering Putin’s message?

And wait, it gets worse—NATO! Our government went all out not only in maintaining NATO—a Cold War era organization—into the post-Cold War era, but pushed its expansion all the way to the Russian border. And whether or not you think this was a provocation that contributed significantly to Russia’s current actions, there’s little arguing but that NATO is currently reckoned as an explicitly anti-Putin alliance. So what to make of the fact that NATO’s member states backed the ceasefire resolution by a 20-2 margin (and 9 abstentions), with only the Czech Republic joining the U.S. in opposition? Is NATO too dominated by nations intent on delivering Putin’s message? Should we get the CIA out there investigating that one, Madam Speaker Emerita? (As if they’re not already.)

Of course it would be one thing if this were just an instance of cluelessness on the part of a single member of Congress, but the degree to which our government is out of sync with the rest of the world goes far beyond that. Consider the matter of another UN resolution, this one recurrent: Last November the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly against the US’s economic and trade embargo against Cuba, declaring it to be in violation of the Charter of the United Nations and of international law.

It would be one thing if this were just an instance of cluelessness on the part of a single member of Congress, but the degree to which our government is out of sync with the rest of the world goes far beyond that.

Although few Americans will be aware of this vote due to the scant attention accorded it by our newsmedia, our press corp might reasonably defend their minuscule reporting on the grounds that a resolution against the U.S. embargo – in place since 1960 – didn’t much qualify as news, in that this was the 31st such vote, one having occurred in every year since 1992, with the exception of the 2020 Covid year, and each one resulting in the policy’s condemnation. The outcome of this most recent vote, by the way, was 187-2 (U.S. and Israel), with one abstention (Ukraine).

Now, as to the matter of Pelosi’s concern for stopping the suffering in Gaza: One hopes that she is sufficiently up to date to realize that, upon hearing Israel’s January 26 claim that some United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) employees were involved in the Hamas attack that precipitated Israel’s ongoing invasion, Biden immediately halted American funding of the agency. UNRWA currently operates schools and centers estimated to be sheltering more than half of the entire population of Gaza and is the territory’s principal source of food. Without the funding cut off by the U.S. and ,a number of other nations, it will not be able to operate and will be unable to pay its 30,000 Palestine-based employees, 13,000 of whom are in Gaza. (The Israeli charges that are currently crippling the agency were leveled against 12 UNRWA employees, less than one-tenth of one percent of its total Gaza workforce.)

And the funding cutoff is not the only deadly obstacle UNRWA faces. On February 5, the head of the agency’s Gaza operations reported that “a food convoy waiting to move into Northern Gaza was hit by Israeli naval gunfire.” In fact, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs writes that “By the agency’s count, at least 154 UNRWA staff had been killed during the fighting in Gaza as of February 8. UNRWA also reported that its facilities have been hit at least 290 times during the hostilities, which have now claimed the lives of over 27,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.”

Nor is UNRWA the only agency under attack. On February 1, the Gaza offices of Belgium’s development agency were bombed and completely destroyed. (Belgium was one of the countries that did not suspend UNRWA funding in response to the Israeli charges.) Any of these attacks may well have been launched using weapons the Biden Administration has been providing in abundance, bypassing Congress as needed. Is Pelosi actually aware of any of this? It seems inconceivable that she isn’t, but then the beauty of being a member of Congress is that the job doesn’t really require knowing what goes on in the rest of the world—and certainly doesn’t require caring about what the rest of the world thinks.

None of this solipsism should in any way be confused with any kind of “isolationist” impulses, mind you. Just to keep our place in the world in perspective, there are some other numbers that might also take the average American aback. According to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, as of September 2022, there were 171,736 of our active-duty military troops stationed across 178 foreign countries, the lion’s share—115,126—in Japan, Germany, and South Korea, where they are stationed at one of the 312 bases our military maintains in those three countries. The total number of U.S. foreign military bases is estimated to be more than 800. (I will not hazard a guess as to the exact number, lest I land on the correct number by chance, thereby risking arrest since that exact number is a military secret.) American troops in 178 foreign countries, nine of which agree with our Gaza policy and one of which agrees with our Cuba policy! Those kind of numbers seem strange to anyone else?

Pelosi, by the way, is running for reelection. Unfortunately, however, the depths of her apparent disinterest in the actual events occurring in Gaza—and who knows where else in the world—are unlikely to be plumbed during the course of the upcoming campaign season. None of her opponents are given the remotest chance of unseating her and her presence is not anticipated at any candidate events.

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