Pelosi is booed at AIPAC

Members of the preeminent pro-Israel lobbying group booed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) yesterday after she said that the Iraq war has been a failure on several scores.

The boos, mixed with polite applause, contrasted starkly with the reception House Minority Leader John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBottom line Cheney battle raises questions about House GOP's future Lott says lobbying firm cut ties to prevent him from taking clients MORE (R-Ohio) received minutes earlier. Most of the crowd of 5,000 to 6,000 stood and loudly applauded BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBottom line Cheney battle raises questions about House GOP's future Lott says lobbying firm cut ties to prevent him from taking clients MORE when he said the U.S. had no choice but to win in Iraq.

The response was also notable because of the crowd’s generally warm reception for Pelosi, who was cheered when introduced to the crowd as the country’s first woman Speaker.

Pelosi also received applause for backing tougher sanctions on Iran, as well as a prolonged standing ovation when she displayed copies of Israeli Army dog tags given to her by the wife of an Israeli soldier kidnapped in Israel by Hezbollah. Pelosi said she displays the dog tags to remind her of the promise she made to do everything in her power to work for the soldier’s release.

But just minutes later came the negative reaction from numerous members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in attendance after Pelosi said the U.S. military campaign in Iraq must be judged on three counts: whether it makes the U.S. safer, the U.S. military stronger and the region more stable.

“The war in Iraq fails on all three counts,” Pelosi said. There was some applause, but catcalls and boos could also be heard. One AIPAC representative argued that the boos were in response to those applauding.

Pelosi carried on with her speech, defending the Iraq supplemental that will be considered this week by the House Appropriations Committee as a measure that would hold the Iraqi government accountable, protect U.S. troops and the American people and enable the U.S. to be a strong ally to its friends.

Pelosi and Boehner were speaking at AIPAC’s annual meeting. AIPAC is a powerful lobbying group that this week brought to Washington 6,000 members, who were set to lobby individual members of Congress most of yesterday after the Pelosi and Boehner speeches.

AIPAC has taken no position on the Iraq war or the supplemental spending bill. The group’s 2007 action agenda lays out a litany of issues for its supporters to press, including increased aid for Israel and reduced U.S. reliance on Middle East oil, but does not mention Iraq once in about four pages.

Iraq has, however, been on the mind of several AIPAC speakers. Vice President Cheney on Monday criticized the spending bill being prepared by Democrats, and Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, speaking on March 12 via satellite, argued against a quick U.S. pullout, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post. Olmert said those worried about Israel’s security and Middle East stability should recognize the need for American success in Iraq, and a responsible exit.

Boehner said a failure in Iraq would pose a direct threat to Israel by increasing Iran’s influence in the region and creating a safe haven for terrorists in al Qaeda, who could then attack Israel and the United States from Iraq.  
“Who doesn’t believe that failure in Iraq is not a direct threat to the very existence of Israel?” Boehner asked. “And if all of that isn’t bad enough, who doesn’t believe that if we walk away from this fight, that these people won’t follow us home to America? Ladies and gentlemen, we have no choice but to win in Iraq,” the minority leader said to a resounding ovation.

Boehner criticized the Bush administration’s handling of the conflict, but said it would represent a security risk for the U.S. and Israel to pull troops from Iraq because it is now the central front in a war against radical Islamic terrorism.
“And while we may have gone there with faulty intelligence, while there have been all kinds of mistakes that have been made there, it’s al Qaeda and Iran who have made the fight in Iraq the central front in our war with radical Islamic terrorists,” Boehner said. 

He also called Americans “the great Pollyannas in the history of the world” because they just want the situation in Iraq to go away.