CODEPINK OUTSIDE THE HOUSE:
The real story behind Camp Pelosi
HBO recently released Alexandra Pelosi's documentary, “Pelosi In the House." The film pieces together old video footage capturing pivotal moments from Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi's career. A part of the documentary features footage from CODEPINK's 2007 “Camp Pelosi” Iraq War protests, which consisted of week-long peace encampments on the public sidewalk outside Pelosi’s San Francisco home in March and again in August. Camp Pelosi was a response to Speaker Pelosi acting as a cheerleader and facilitator of President Bush's illegal war on Iraq.
Although voting against the impending invasion of Iraq in October 2002, Pelosi’s subsequent actions helped enable the war by repeatedly supporting increased military spending, and refraining from calling for diplomacy talks with the Iraqi people. Just prior to “Camp Pelosi,” she refused to meet with a coalition of Bay Area peace organizations. These organizers had gone to her San Francisco office every Wednesday for 5 weeks to request a meeting with her due to the dire impact that a continued U.S. occupation was likely to have. Instead, her staff mumbled vague specious excuses like: Representative Pelosi wants peace as well, but just has “different ideas” about how to achieve it. In essence, our voices were silenced.
So CODEPINK organized a light-hearted “occupation” of her house, in order to hold her accountable as a facilitator of war. But Camp Pelosi activists also had hopes that maybe Pelosi would, after witnessing their creative and daring act of conscience, actually sit at the table and hear our concerns. What started out as a simulated “Afternoon Tea Party with Nancy Pelosi,” quickly evolved into a week-long encampment. And then in August they intensified their protest by initiating a hunger fast for peace during a second encampment that also included the home of Senator Feinstein, a co-facilitator of George Bush’s illegal war.
Salon Magazine interviewed Alexandra Pelosi after the documentary's release. She had a thing or two to say about the protest. What was striking to those who had been there was Alexandra’s interpretation and relationship to our presence, and her lack of understanding as to why we were there.
I sat down with some CODEPINK members who participated in the encampment to hear their side of the story. This is the story Nancy and Alexandra Pelosi don't want you to know. The full story the media never told.
WORDS WITHOUT ACTION ARE MEANINGLESS
The documentary suggests Camp Pelosi consisted of peace activists "putting on a show."
After all, Pelosi initially voted against the Iraq War. The important question is, was that initial vote only a show?
War doesn’t happen in a vacuum and it doesn’t happen without an obscene amount of funding. You cannot oppose a war while feeding it billions of dollars. But that is exactly what Nancy Pelosi did, and that is what drove folks to bring the protest to her home. Her constituents and the city of San Francisco demanded she vote against war funding.
They were protesting her votes for funding, not her initial vote that was likely done for show.
From Camp Pelosi participant Cynthia Papermaster:
“It was at Nancy Pelosi's house in Pacific Heights where I learned, where I became aware that Nancy Pelosi always had a choice to do the right thing, the loving thing, the moral thing-- but didn't. It never occurred to me before my participation in the campout at Pelosi's that she was the key person enabling the illegal wars, the war spending, the deaths of little children-- just as precious as her own grandchildren-- death and destruction of our soldiers and the helpless communities who were hit with depleted uranium and cluster bombs, the lives she destroyed here at home and everywhere the U.S. was sending its military. I knew that in taking impeachment "off the table" that she was violating her oath to the Constitution, where impeachment is mentioned six times as the remedy for officials committing crimes, 35 of which crimes Dennis Kucinich detailed in his impeachment resolutions. She said right to me when I asked her to impeach Cheney and then Bush, "I know they're committing crimes, but I'm not going to impeach them." Why did she approve the U.S. invasions, occupations, and war funding? Why didn't she say "No, my constituents don't want me to support this senseless killing and spending on war, and the country doesn't want it. I'm not going to allow these votes for the AUMF to come to the floor of the House. I'm not going to approve these wars for oil, these wars are based on lies." I don't understand how a devout Catholic could be so cold-hearted, ignoring the hungry children of this nation and the people suffering on the streets of the City she is supposed to represent in Congress.”
“ORO en PAZ, FIERRO en GUERRA,”
San Francisco’s motto is “Oro en Paz, Fierro en Guerra,” which means “Gold in Peace, Iron in War,” which is fitting for the showdown between Pelosi's constituents and herself. The city and its constituency set the gold standard in peace. Nancy was being an ironclad for war.
The fact is San Francisco made it clear they wanted Pelosi to NOT fund the war. San Francisco passed a proposition to that effect.
From the proposition "elected representatives in the United States Senate and House of Representatives should vote against any further funding for the deployment of United States Armed Forces in Iraq, with the exception of funds specifically earmarked to provide for their safe and orderly withdrawal."
She refused to listen.
“We were kind of the moral center of what San Francisco does believe in, at least at that time, where, you know, the city was known for being anti war progressive, so we had large demonstrations against the war there.
So, you know, we represented more of what her constituents felt than she represented, and we were determined to find a way to get to her and show her how disrespectful she was towards her own constituents.”
TO ROAD TO BILLIONAIRE ROW WAS PAVED WITH REJECTIONS
As mentioned earlier, San Franciscians asked Pelosi to meet with them to talk about her votes to fund the war. For five weeks, a coalition of peace organizations went to Pelosi’s district to ask for a meeting. They were never granted one.
People then attended a town hall to which Pelosi later claimed was “un-American.” A healthy democracy is dependent on elected officials hearing from their constituents. The only un-American thing was Pelosi refusing to hear from them.
People went to her office and they went to her town hall. It wasn't until she shut them out completely that they brought the matter to her front yard.
Camp Pelosi participant Toby Blome:
“[Five to seven peace organizations] met every Wednesday for five weeks in Pelosi’s S.F. office, trying to get a meeting with the House Speaker in the weeks preceding Camp Pelosi. After five weeks of doing this, we were never given any indication that a meeting with her would be forthcoming. She had become totally inaccessible to us. Is that exhibiting democratic values or democratic leadership, “a government by the people and for the people?” That's what led us to realize that we had reached a dead end street. We all knew that the Iraq war was an unjustified war started and propelled on lies and misinformation, causing an immeasurable amount of harm to Iraqi lives, culture and environment and paid by our tax dollars.
As concerned citizens, we had no traditional options left to change the course of U.S. policy. We had already tried years of lobbying our government through petitions, phone calls, letters, marches, innumerable trips to DC…even a three week hunger fast in 2006 in front of the White House, CODEPINK’s “Troops Home Fast.” We invited every Senator to meet with us to discuss why we were fasting against the Iraq War. Not a single Senator came. And then, after all that, we were repeatedly silenced by Pelosi. All traditional options ran out. And let us never forget the unprecedented millions around the world who marched against the Iraq War BEFORE the U.S. invasion.
As Camp Pelosi evolved, we became more aware that we were breaking social norms. “It’s not nice to protest at someone’s home.” It took courage to break these social norms and try something so daring. We who participated were doing it for the people of Iraq who were under violent occupation. We were their voices.
After the January 6 attack, Nancy Pelosi referred to the U.S. Capitol as “The Temple of Democracy.” I ask Speaker Pelosi: Does a democracy even exist in a country where whistleblowers continue to be imprisoned or exiled (Daniel Hale, Edward Snowden), a publisher/journalist is persecuted, imprisoned and abused (Julian Assange), political prisoners fail to get justice (Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu Jamal, etc), corruption goes unchecked, and, most tragically, the expanding homeless population is horrifically neglected and abused. Meanwhile, we have an annual military budget now soon to reach a trillion, but no universal healthcare for U.S. citizens. Nancy, is our democracy a sham?”
The Salon interviewer appears to enthusiastically agree with Alexandra Pelosi’s sentiment that protesting at government officials’ homes is counter-productive and ineffective. We at CODEPINK ask: What other options do we have left? What strategies will end ongoing aggressive U.S. military intervention abroad? In extreme circumstances like this, when elected officials are deaf to the clamor for peace, direct actions like Camp Pelosi would appear to be one hundred percent justifiable.
WHAT AM I GOING TO TELL MY SON?
The documentary shows Alexandra’s young son watching CODEPINK from inside the home. “What am I supposed to tell my son? Why are all these war protestors outside my house?" Alexandra asks in the background.
Tell him the truth.
Tell him the people camping outside his grandmother’s home were brave and courageous. They were truthsayers at a time of malicious lies. They had no other choice. That sometimes you have to break social norms when you have no other options on the table.
Tell him that they didn’t want to make things uncomfortable, but it was the moral thing to do. Explain to him how nothing could compare to the pain and suffering of innocent Iraqis who lost more than their privacy. They lost their loved ones, their homes, their sense of security, their dignity, their country, their futures. The gatherings were meant to be a non-violent wake up call to protest what she was enabling and refusing to counter. They were there for the people in Iraq who couldn’t be.
And be sure to tell him that none of that had to happen to the people of Iraq in the first place.Teach him that she could have and should have been brave and courageous too.
Tell him peace is the moral position. It’s never too late to end wars to achieve it.