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San Franciscans Oppose the War. Why Don't Their Representatives?

Tom Gallagher

Given San Francisco's well deserved reputation as a center of the movement against the war against Iraq, many people outside the city may be surprised to learn that it does not have an antiwar representative in Congress, that is, one who supports withdrawing our troops now – not at some indeterminate time in the future, as Donald Rumsfield assures us we will do.  And given that one of its representatives, Nancy Pelosi, is the House Democratic leader, it's not just the city, but the nation that needs an antiwar representative from San Francisco.

In fact, many San Franciscans are themselves quite surprised, shocked even, when they learn that both of their Congressional representatives, Nancy Pelosi and Tom Lantos, opposed a May 25 budget amendment calling upon the President to "develop a plan for the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq."  After all, last November, 63% of the city's voters approved Proposition N, which called on the Federal government to "bring the troops safely home now." 

And since Pelosi is the House Democratic leader, there might have been a few Congressional Democrats surprised as well – or at least disappointed, since a 122-79 majority of her own party supported the amendment.  On the war, it seems, Pelosi is leading from the rear – her national antiwar image notwithstanding.  Oh, she does berate the Bush Administration for its conduct of the war, certainly.  Her statement on the May 5 $82 billion supplemental appropriation referred  to "repeated failures in judgment that first put our troops in harm's way."  But when 58 Democrats voted against the increased war funding, their ranks did not include her – or Lantos.  Critic of the war?  Yes.  Opponent of the war?  Not so far.

Certainly she's deft enough.  Challenging the President to put what he thinks he's doing in Iraq into words with her resolution demanding that he provide a "plan for success" was a clever enough maneuver, even if  was voted down on procedural grounds along nearly absolute party lines.  Likewise, few war opponents found fault with her raising Republican hackles by her describing the war as "a grotesque mistake" – although it should be clear by now that while the Administration's war plans were grotesque, they were no mistake.  

But all of Pelosi's polished maneuvering and rhetoric is no substitute for making substantive votes against the war.  Pelosi essentially assures the antiwar movement that she feels our pain and then votes the President what he wants.  This sort of winking – "you know we're really with you but we can't say it"–  strategy has already failed the Democrats in the John Kerry campaign, and the once massive antiwar movement has yet to recover from it.   

The May 25 Iraq withdrawal plan that Pelosi and Lantos helped defeat was offered by Democratic Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey of Petaluma, California and was a toned-down version of a resolution (H.Con.Res. 35), sponsored by Woolsey and 34 others, declaring it "the sense of Congress that the President should develop and implement a plan to begin the immediate withdrawal of United States Armed Forces from Iraq," while not shirking the obligations to that country which Bush's duplicitous and disastrous war policies have brought us.

Cities can't make foreign policy, we know.  But their voters can demand that their representatives do so.  San Francisco's did that last Fall, and since all polls show opposition to the war only increasing since then, the urgency of our representatives' supporting "the immediate withdrawal" called for in the Woolsey resolution is all the greater.  The San Francisco Board of Supervisors thought so on June 28, when they passed a resolution, with only one dissenting vote,  "urging Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Tom Lantos to add their names to the list of Representatives sponsoring H.Con.Res.35."

By the simple act of signing the Woolsey resolution, Nancy Pelosi and Tom Lantos can belatedly, but clearly, give San Francisco the antiwar representation it deserves – and has already asked for.  And in the act, Nancy Pelosi might also provide her party and the country the antiwar leadership we need in the fight to end this war based on lies that has killed 1,800 Americans, untold numbers of Iraqis, and costs $1 billion a week. 

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Tom Gallagher

Tom Gallagher

Tom Gallagher is a former Massachusetts State Representative and the author of 'The Primary Route: How the 99% Take On the Military Industrial Complex.' He lives in San Francisco.

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