Five years ago this coming Wednesday, House Majority leader Nancy Pelosi defied President Bush’s request and his strategy isolating Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad by going to Damascus. “We do not encourage and, in fact, we discourage members of Congress to make such visits to Syria,” the White House spokesman said. “This is a country that is a state sponsor of terror.”
Pelosi would have none of that. She had known evil and to her, he resided in the White House. The Syrian dictator, however, was a reforming, Western educated eye doctor. Bilateral problems might be real, but they might be resolved through dialogue. “We came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace,” she told reporters.
The Syrian regime used her meeting to its full propaganda advantage. After concluding his meeting with Pelosi, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, said, “These people in the United States who are opposing dialogue I tell them one thing: Dialogue is … the only method to close the gap existing between two countries.” Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Pelosi, Syrian officers and North Korean scientists scrambled to put the finishing touches on a covert nuclear facility, and Syrian dissidents dove for cover, interpreting correctly that Assad would interpret the end of America’s isolation of Assad as a green light for murder. Assad, in hindsight, welcomed Pelosi not as a politician with whom to have sincere dialogue, but rather as a useful idiot who might help relieve him of international pressure.
Five years later, Bashar al-Assad has not changed and, alas, neither has Nancy Pelosi.