A California congressman is lashing out against President Bush, likening the administration’s policy toward Iraq to “extreme terrorism.”
“I think unleashing 3,000 smart bombs against the city of Baghdad in the first several days of the war … to me, if those were unleashed against the San Francisco Bay Area, I would call that an act of extreme terrorism,” Democrat Pete Stark told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif.
The remark comes a day after the 1960s-era peace activist told the Oakland Tribune that if the president initiates the conflict, “it’s blood on Bush’s hands.”
Stark’s criticism is in reaction to published reports that up to 3,000 missiles will be fired on Iraq at the commencement of military action.
“You can’t send in 3,000 bombs without some of them going awry, in spite of the military’s claims about accuracy,” Stark told the Chronicle. “If they get two-thirds accuracy, that means that 1,000 bombs will explode (off target) inside a city of 6 million people. To me, that’s a terrorist act.”
The White House responded by saying Stark and other members of the legislative branch are entitled to their own opinions.
“Others will judge them and decide whether or not they agree with them,” spokeswoman Claire Buchan told the paper.
“The president has made it very clear that it is Saddam Hussein’s choice not to take asylum or not to disarm, and that is the choice he is making. The president’s interests are the interests of peace for the American people, the Iraqi people and the region.”
Controversial remarks are nothing new for Stark, whose real first name is Fortney.
According to the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, Stark has:
- accused Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Conn., of learning all she knows about health care through “pillow talk” with her husband, a doctor, and also calling her a “whore” for the insurance industry;
- in 1991 singled out “Jewish colleagues” for special blame in their support of the Persian Gulf War and referred derisively to one, then-Rep. Stephen Solarz, D-N.Y., as “Field Marshal Solarz in the pro-Israel forces”;
- in 1990 called then Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan, who is African-American, “as close to being a disgrace to his race as anyone I’ve ever seen”; and
- focused his ire on the Bush administration, calling its spending plan, released during Easter week, “the embodiment [sic] of the Antichrist.”
Stark also was one of three members of Congress who voted to support a court of appeals ruling which said the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional.
“While I don’t oppose anyone reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, I think it was wrong to add the words ‘under God’ to the original pledge in 1954,” Stark said. “I believe the phrase does not accommodate the diversity of religious and personal beliefs in our nation as the Constitution requires.”
The Bay Area is a Democrat stronghold politically, and some lawmakers are expressing resignation about the looming conflict with Iraq.
“I’m glum. I’ve been glum all day,” Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, told the Chronicle. “I’m so saddened and disappointed that we have failed with diplomacy and in so doing are risking the lives of American troops and Iraqi citizens.”
Democrat George Miller of Martinez, Calif., said he still thinks the president is making “a dangerous decision,” but added Congress should rally behind American troops.
“It’s our young people who will be in jeopardy. They are the ones who are on the firing line,” Miller said. “Now that the decision has been made to go to war, they are entitled to our full support.”
Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, said Stark’s comments reflect the “deep, emotional sentiments” of many anti-war lawmakers.
“I agree this isn’t the right action to take,” Honda told the Chronicle. “There will be collateral damage, and there will be civilians hurt.”
The lone Republican in the Bay Area delegation, Rep. Richard Pombo, from the town of Tracy, lauded Bush for what he called a “difficult and courageous decision.”
“Anytime the decision is made to send our troops in harm’s way, it is never easy,” Pombo said.
On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle caused a firestorm of controversy by saying he was “saddened that this president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we’re now forced to war.”
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said Daschle’s remarks “may not give comfort to our adversaries, but they come mighty close,” and White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the statement was inconsistent with Daschle’s previous remarks about avoiding “politicizing the rhetoric” about the conflict with Iraq.
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., rallied to Daschle’s defense.
“In expressing his views, Tom Daschle is being patriotic,” Pelosi said. “The Republican leaders are being partisan.”