Thursday, May 24, 2007

Constituent's Open Letter to Nancy Pelosi

By an accident of geography, it happens that I live in the 8th Congressional District of California, where I am represented by Nancy Pelosi, the current Speaker of the House of Representatives. I was inspired by Keith Olbermann's "Special Comment" on yesterday's MSNBC Countdown with Keith Olbermann to write this constituent letter to my Congressperson. The Congress has already passed President Bush's supplemental spending bill, no strings attached, so my letter won't do any good on that vote, but at least it makes clear what I as a constituent expect from my Representative.

Madam Speaker,

I trust that you are aware of Mr. Keith Olbermann's "Special Comment" segment on Wednesday's "Countdown" on MSNBC. If not, I suggest that it is imperative that you see it, at if your staff somehow did not TiVo it for you. I add below my own comments, as a constituent not only of your country and of your party, but of your district as well.

The people of the United States did not send a Democratic majority to both houses of Congress for the purpose of asking President Bush politely, if it's not too much trouble, if he wouldn't mind thinking about eventually drawing the Iraq War to a close. The American people were sold a war that would be over in less than 6 months, but this war is well into its fifth year. The American people believe — I would say "realize" — that the war in Iraq is not making America or the world any safer. Mr. Bush's war in Iraq has created for our enemies a safe haven, a recruiting poster, and a training camp with real live American soldiers as targets to sharpen their aim. Mr. Bush could have created an al Qaeda training facility at Camp David, and it would have done no more damage to America's national security than this war in Iraq has already done and is continuing to do. Mr. Bush continues to make the specious claim that somehow fighting them "over there" makes it less likely that we will have to fight them "over here," even while our continued presence in Iraq clearly makes it more likely that we will have to fight them on our own soil.

It is long past time for the Democratic leadership to exhibit leadership in redirecting the focus to a different question: How does the United States withdraw from Iraq with a minimum of further damage to the Iraqi people and to our own soldiers? We need to do some serious planning for that goal: Yankee Go Home. That is also the goal that the Iraqi government must use to unite its people, because it is the one thing on which they have a broad consensus. Any Iraqi leader who cannot tell the U.S. Army to start packing its bags, will never be strong enough to hold his or her nation together. (If Nouri al-Maliki is not that leader, then the Iraqis need to find someone who is.) We need to redefine "success" to put some kind of dignity into our withdrawal, but we also need to recognize the limits of what we can hope to accomplish. Acknowledging our limits will not make us appear weak in the eyes of the world — at least, not nearly so much as our continuing to writhe in quicksand — but rather will show that America's appetite for controlling other countries at any cost is not insatiable. We need to remind Mr. Bush of his pledge to lead a "humble" foreign policy, for the sake of our standing in the community of nations.

We, the people of the Eighth Congressional District, "the Fightin' Eighth," did not send you to Congress nearly twenty years ago (happy anniversary, by the way) to be a timid player. You have shown time and again that you are tough and determined and committed to the well-being of America, but those qualities are not shining brightly through on the subject of the Iraq War. The American people overwhelmingly reject this war, but what about the people of the 8th District? There are probably about 30 people in our entire district who would admit publicly to favoring continuing the war. Even those of us who are willing to recognize the need for some damage-control work in the process of withdrawing our military from Iraq, reject and repudiate any "blank check," most especially for an administration that has shown so little effectiveness and so much loyalty to the man over the office of President of the United States and the Constitution that limits that office. We sent you back to Congress, not merely because your Republican sacrificial lamb opponent was so laughable, but because we wanted someone with the chutzpah to look George W. Bush in the eye and say, "Given that choice, sir, I will take 'the highway.'"

The Democratic majority in Congress must act immediately to rein in Mr. Bush and his ruinously delusional military aspirations. We must bring home the National Guard and Reserve, to be ready for natural disasters at home and also for the day that will inevitably come when we have another terrorist attack in the United States. We must wind down the American military presence in Iraq, pausing only long enough to minimize the disruption caused by our leaving. We must leave only those forces needed to combat al Qaeda, not to combat every faction in the Iraqi civil war. We also must not provoke a war with Iran, or with any other country, but rather return to a less bellicose posture on the world stage.

Please, for the sake of the nation, for the sake of the Democratic Party, and even for the sake of your own political future, you must do better than this capitulation under the guise of compromise. You must make the case to the American people that it is President Bush, not the Democrats in Congress, who fails to support our troops. The Republicans clearly have a solid advantage in their ability to spin the news, but you have the advantage that the facts are overwhelmingly on your side.

Specifically on the subject of Iran, you must make it unambiguously and unmistakably clear to the President and to the American people that the Authorization for Use of Military Force of September 18, 2001, cannot possibly be interpreted to give the President authority to act against Iran, since Iran was not one of "those nations, organizations, or persons [who] planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons." (Of course, it is also unmistakably clear that the language of that resolution does not give the President authority to attack Iraq, either, since it also did not authorize, commit, aid, or harbor the 9/11 terrorists.) Mr. Bush cannot be allowed to fully cripple our military capability by starting another war even as he refuses to end the one he has already started.

Lincoln Madison

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