Confronting Nancy Pelosi

The purpose of this article is to give Counterpunch readers a glimpse into the backstory of the antiwar events planned for Monday, September 26 in San Francisco. Cindy Sheehan has both inspired us and made it plain – to end this war, we must put the heat on the people responsible for the war’s continuation and say it in a way that connects with people on the most basic level. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, that person is House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, congresswoman for most of the city. On September 26, those of us active in United for Peace and Justice are convinced that the peace movement can expose the terrible voting record of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the gap between her words and her deeds. Although she describes the war as a “grotesque mistake”, she has consistently voted to fund the war.

In discussing a campaign that exposed her voting record, we were consistently appalled by the facts – please read and freely distribute both our fact sheet on Pelosi’s voting record and the Sept. 26 rally flier at 63% of San Franciscans voted in November, 2004 to remove all US military personnel from Iraq. We came to the conclusion that if Pelosi can’t do a complete 180 and become an uncompromising leader against the war, she should get out of the way and let others take the lead. After much discussion, we realized that this call could unite people throughout the country, non-Democrats and Democrats alike!

Monday, September 26th, at noon, is the date and time for a UFPJ action that we hope you will join: A call for the government to “de-fund the war”, and for the movement to “defend our communities”. We will put Nancy Pelosi on trial in front of the Federal Building, before a judge and a jury, for her consistent and reliable funding of the War on Iraq.

At the trial, community groups will be asked to speak out with evidence of the impact of her funding votes on American citizens, while others will offer first-hand testimony on the impact on the citizens of Iraq.

As Alexander Cockburn mentioned in a recent article, a litmus test for anyone serious about ending the war is a call to BRING THE TROOPS HOME NOW. This was adopted some time ago as the central strategic goal by UFPJ nationally , and we considered making it the call for this action. For this particular action, we decided that even a call to BRING THE TROOPS HOME NOW was too slippery for the likes of Democrats like Nancy Pelosi. In this situation, we felt that a call to “de-fund the war” would put the spotlight on the Democrats’ voting record, rather than their rhetoric.

Our thinking was based on the Nixon years, as Democrats frequently called for full and immediate withdrawal but failed to take effective action to vote for it. A key factor in ending the Indochina conflict was the passage of the Fulbright amendment on July 1, 1973 – in the midst of Watergate – which not only stopped the bombing but also prohibited the use of funds to “support directly or indirectly combat activities in or over Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam and South Vietnam.” (see, for example,

We also hope that a focus on “defending our communities” and economic justice will increase participation by community groups that would not ordinarily define themselves as “anti-war”. Our goal is to build a cross-class, cross-racial movement for peace and economic justice that will continue to grow and strengthen after the Iraq war is over.

In Washington, DC, UPJ and ANSWER have patched their differences and will host a joint rally and a joint march on Sept. 24. In San Francisco, where the differences between the two organizations are not as great, ANSWER will host the Sept. 24 events and UFPJ will host the Sept. 26 events. In the wake of the Sept. 24 mass march on Saturday, we are asking all concerned groups and individuals to take off the afternoon (or at least their lunchtime) and put the focus on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi by gathering in the thousands for her public trial outside her offices at the San Francisco Federal Building from 12-2 pm on Monday, Sept. 26. Our goal is for pressure on Pelosi to snowball into a national call for her to lead the Democrats in de-funding the war. If we succeed, great. If not, Nancy Pelosi’s role is then exposed for all to see.

If you can add to your commitment, bring a panel for the Community Action Quilt that will be displayed at the Federal Building plaza. Another possibility is to join the Camp Casey-Bay Area delegation to Pelosi’s office at the 14th Floor of the Federal Building after the verdict in her trial. Actions after 2 pm may necessitate willingness to risk arrest in the tradition of nonviolent direct action. Information about all the above activities can be found at Targeting the leader of the House Democrats won’t get us out of this problem, but will illustrate the depth of the crisis. It lets all Democrats and other would-be leaders know that it’s time to get out of the way if they won’t take the strongest possible action to immediately end the war, AND embrace a strong program towards economic justice using the money currently earmarked for war.

BILL SIMPICH is an Oakland civil rights lawyer and anti-war activist. He can be reached at: