Pelosi the Hawk

By Zunes, Stephen | Foreign Policy in Focus, April 27, 2009 | Go to article overview

Pelosi the Hawk


Zunes, Stephen, Foreign Policy in Focus


Reports by international human rights groups and from within Israel in recent weeks have revealed the massive scale of war-crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law, committed by Israeli forces during their three-week offensive against the Gaza Strip earlier this year. Despite this, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has steadfastly stood by her insistence that the U.S.-backed Israeli government has no legal or moral responsibility for the tragic consequence of the war.

This is just one episode in a long history of efforts by Pelosi to undermine international humanitarian law, in regards to actions by a country she has repeatedly referred to as America's most important ally in the Middle East. It's also part of her overall right-wing agenda in the Middle East. As the powerful Speaker of the House, Pelosi could very well undermine efforts by President Barack Obama in the coming years to moderate U.S. policy toward that volatile region.

Support for the Gaza War

During the height of Israel's devastating offensive on the Gaza Strip in January, Pelosi pushed through a resolution putting the House of Representatives on record calling "on all nations ... to lay blame both for the breaking of the calm and for subsequent civilian casualties in Gaza precisely where blame belongs, that is, on Hamas."[emphasis added]

Not only did the resolution ignore Israel's attacks in Gaza in November and other violations of the ceasefire that served to "break the calm," it put forward an extreme reinterpretation of international humanitarian law apparently designed to absolve any nation that kills large numbers of civilians, as long as the other side allegedly initiated the conflict.

The resolution favorably quoted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, as well as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, regarding responsibility for civilian deaths and for the causes of the conflict, but cites no one else. Though the Gaza War should be considered "a final and eloquent testimony to the complete failure of the neoconservative movement in United States foreign policy," as Juan Cole has written, Pelosi instead aligned herself and the Democratic congressional majority with the failed ideology of the outgoing Bush administration. Indeed, some of the language of Pelosi's resolution was even to the right of Bush: For example, while the January 8 UN Security Council resolution--which received the endorsement of Rice and other administration officials--condemned "all acts of violence and terror directed against civilians," Pelosi's resolution only condemned the violence and terror of Hamas. Similarly, her resolution placed conditions for a ceasefire on the Palestinian side that was even more stringent than those advocated by the Bush administration and endorsed eventually by the Israelis.

And, despite International Red Cross reports of Israeli forces illegally preventing emergency workers from reaching wounded civilians, killing aid and health workers, and attacking hospitals and ambulances, Pelosi's resolution went on record praising Israel for having "facilitated humanitarian aid to Gaza."

Pelosi's resolution also cited the Israeli invasion as part of Israel's "right to act in self-defense to protect its citizens against Hamas's unceasing aggression, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter." In reality, the UN Charter explicitly prohibits nations going to war unless they "first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice." Yet Israel--with strong bipartisan U.S. support--has refused to even meet with Hamas. Furthermore, while Article 51 does allow countries the right to resist an armed attack, it doesn't grant any nation the right to engage in such massive and disproportionate warfare against densely packed cities and refugee camps. …

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