On Wednesday, January 31st I attended the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing concerning "remaining options for U.S. involvment in Iraq" where former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Madeline Albright were scheduled to testify. I got there early, and I was able to get a seat in the front row.
Coincidentally a CodePINK woman named Toby took a seat right next to mine. She was wearing all pink of course, and I was wearing a Veterans For Peace t-shirt with a pink longsleeve shirt peeking out from underneath.
As the hearing began, the room had filled up with a variety of people, mostly college students and Congressional staffers, who had come to witness the proceedings. Senator Biden (D - Delaware), the chairman of the committee began by saying that he felt that things needed to change in Iraq and that maintaining the status quo was not a viable option. Senator Biden's opening statement is available here: http://foreign.senate.gov/testimony/2007/BidenStatement070131.pdf
Others present when the hearing began were Senator Luger (R - Indianna), Senator Coleman (R - Minnesota), Senator Kerry (D - Massechusetts), Senator Boxer (D - California) and several others who I don't remember. Senator Kerry immediately excused himself, saying that he had to chair another hearing at the same time. Before long, Henry Kissenger was introduced, and he offered a pre-written testimony to the committee. It was about this time when Toby took off her jacket to reveal the words NO IRAN WAR written boldly in black on a pink best. At some point, Senator Obama (D - Illinois) entered the room and took his seat on the committee.
After giving his prepared statement there was a question and answer period.
When it came time for Senator Luger to question Dr. Kissinger, my stomach started to turn sour as I listened to a dialogue that seemed to imply that the only option was for the U.S. Military to remain in the Middle East indefinitely. I knew I had to say something in rebuttle to them in regard to this.
As Luger and Kissinger continued a one sided pro-war conversation, I could feel my heart beating heavily in my chest like I had never felt it beat before.
The Washington Post reported:
Sen. Richard Lugar (Ind.), the ranking Republican, asserted that "we cannot be in a situation in which we say 'We're out of there,' " Lugar pointed out.
"I believe very strongly that we cannot withdraw from the region," Kissinger agreed.
At this point, I froze solid for about half a second, but something deep inside moved me to respond to these warmongers who needed to hear a voice of dissent.
SO, I stood up, cutting them off in mid sentence, and yelled, "The American people voted to end the war in Iraq!" and I held up a small banner I had made that read "Bring U.S. Service People Home Now". Then, after I got the first few sentences out, I totally lost my breath and could hear the words coming out of my mouth becoming weaker and kind of inaudible. That's when the Capitol Police grabbed my arms on both sides and said, "you need to come with us now". So, I said, "okay", picked up my stuff, and started walking away peacefully. However, I then realized that I was still in the committee room and should continue my appeal as long as I could. So, I proclaimed, "I am a Navy veteran... bring the troops home now... end the Iraq war!"
I was escorted out of the room by Capitol police. They detained me for about 10 minutes which gave me a chance to talk with them about Iraq Veteran Against the War and specifically about my friend Cloy Richards, an honorably discharged Marine who served two tours in Iraq and has been notivated he may be reactivated to serve another tour as part of Bush's troop surge. They seemd to sympathize with this a bit. After getting word from the committee Chairman about how he wanted them to handle my situation, the police let me go without arrest or citation. In fact, they said I could stay in the building if I would not go back in the hearing. So, I hung around outside the hearing room so people could see that I had not been arrested or otherwise harmed.
As I waited for the hearing to finish, I stood on the second floor balcony overlooking the spot where about 80 of us in CodePINK had done an action a couple days prior. On monday, we had placed a whole bunch of baby shoes with names of dead iraqi children on them in the lobby of the Hart Senate Building, then marched around the shoes in a circle chanting, "Stop funding the war!"
I had a feeling of satisfaction that we were keeping the pressure on, and that if we continue along this path of direct action we actually might play a part in ending the Iraq war!