National Security & Defense

Why Pelosi’s Syria Visit Remains Indefensible

Nancy Pelosi and Bashar al-Assad in April 2007 (Via Twitter)
It is not comparable to Senator Tom Cotton’s letter.

‘The road to Damascus is a road to peace.”

Those were damning words. When Nancy Pelosi embraced Bashar al-Assad in April 2007, she wasn’t simply challenging the commander-in-chief during a war; she was propagandizing for a dictator who was killing Americans.

This is not conservative hyperbole. It is fact. After all, it is an undeniable truth that Assad was sheltering a range of terrorist groups that were attacking U.S. forces in Iraq — including then-lieutenant Tom Cotton, the senator whom Democrats now accuse of “treason” for spearheading a letter to Iran warning that a future president or Congress could cancel any nuclear deal it makes with the Obama administration.

With the tacit approval of the Syrian regime, between 2005 and 2008, foreign jihadists flooded along the arterial highways that connect eastern Syria and western Iraq. Once in Iraq, they joined up with facilitators from the Islamic State’s precursor, al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). The zealots were then assigned to murder American soldiers and Marines. And AQI was responsible for particularly gruesome crimes.

For one, the kidnap and murder of Byron Fouty and Alex Jimenez. When the remains of these young U.S. soldiers were found — dumped in shallow graves and ravaged by animals — it was clear their bones had healed after being broken: proof their deaths had not come quick. Yes, Salafi-Jihadists get off on torturing their combatant enemies, but AQI also murdered tens of thousands of Iraqis. It took special pleasure targeting children.

Granting AQI safe haven and supply routes, Mr. Assad was complicit in their crimes. As speaker (entitled to near-highest level intelligence), Pelosi knew this.

But it wasn’t just AQI that received Assad’s support. A long-term ally of Iranian intelligence and the Lebanese Hezbollah, Assad’s regime harbored those waging Explosively Formed Penetrator (EFP) terrorism against U.S. military patrols in Iraq (and power-drill wars against the heads of innocent Sunnis). Again, the facts are clear. When the CIA finally caught up with Imad Mughniyah (a key organizer of these attacks) in February 2008, he was in Damascus. Think on that. Nearly a year after Pelosi’s “peace” visit, Assad was still protecting this murderer as he lived openly. Incidentally, if you want to know what EFPs do to human bodies, read David Finkel’s The Good Soldiers.

As I’ve noted before, the Damascus visit is just one incident from Pelosi’s outrageous national-security record. And many on the left (such as MSNBC’s Steve Benen) are now defending the visit. They argue that because Pelosi informed the White House before traveling, and was given State Department briefings, she did nothing wrong. Such claims are fundamentally disingenuous.

First, President Bush was (for the reasons outlined) firmly against Pelosi’s trip. Second, State Department briefings do not signify endorsement of travel. They simply reflect State’s rightful need to inform U.S. representatives and ensure their safety. Nothing changes the fact that Speaker Pelosi — third in line to the presidency — praised an American enemy while he was helping to murder Americans and attack U.S. interests.

The Left’s hypocrisy on this issue defines tragic delusion. While liberals call for Senator Cotton and Co. to face prosecution under the Logan Act for writing a letter, they simultaneously defend Speaker Pelosi’s aid to Assad. (Incidentally, anyone who believes the Logan Act has been breached has a severe case of legal incontinence.)

Yet there’s also a great moral dysfunction here. While I believe Cotton’s letter was a mistake that endangered efforts by other senators to gain oversight of President Obama’s Iran policy, the letter was seen in Iran for what it was — domestic politics. In contrast, the former speaker’s judgment has long met its match with bloody reality.

As I noted this weekend, Bashar’s “road to peace” is paved with the littered bodies of hundreds of Americans and over 200,000 starved, barrel bombed, and gassed civilians.

Tom Rogan is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He is a panelist on The McLaughlin Group and holds the Tony Blankley chair at the Steamboat Institute. He tweets @TomRtweets.

Tom Rogan is a columnist for National Review Online, a contributor to the Washington Examiner, and a former panelist on The McLaughlin Group. Email him at

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