WASHINGTON – Three anti-war activists interrupted a Senate hearing with the bipartisan Iraq Study Group Tuesday,calling for the end of the war and accusing the senators of allowing torture.
U.S. Capitol Police escorted the protesters,two men and one woman,from the hearing room,where the Foreign Relations Committee heard testimony from former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Lee. H. Hamilton,a former Democratic representative from Indiana.
The two men fielded questions from the committee members about the report on Iraq they completed last year,focusing primarily on engaging Syria and Iran in diplomatic conversations.
The first protester,an older man with black-rimmed glasses,yelled and pointed fingers at the committee. “I hope you all lose your jobs,” he said. “You've tortured enough.”
A few minutes later,after he grabbed his jacket and bolted for the exit,a woman stood up wearing a shirt that said “3,086,” the number of U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.
She called out: “3,086 dead and more to come. The American people are tired of it.”
Another woman started walking toward the senators with her hands pressed together,begging Sen. Christopher J. Dodd,D-Conn.,to end the war when an officer grabbed her and calmly escorted her out.
Police said none of the protesters were arrested.
There was little reaction from the committee,except for Dodd,who banged the gavel and asked for order. Dodd was chairing the hearing because Sen. Joseph R. Biden,D-Del.,the chairman,had left for another appointment.
The disruption came after a weekend of protests against the war,including a rally on Saturday organized by United for Peace and Justice that drew tens of thousands to the National Mall.
On Monday,the coalition coordinated a lobbying day on Capitol Hill. Hundreds of people asked their representatives to oppose President Bush's plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq.
Baker,who was secretary of state under former President George H.W. Bush,said the surge could work if the extra forces were used to further prepare the Iraqi military to take control. “The president's plan ought to be given a chance,” he said.
But he repeatedly stressed that working with Iraq's neighbors had the best chance of success.
Baker said the Iranian regime wanted a stable Iraq because it “could be expected to be overrun by thousands of refugees,” if the situation continues as is.
And Syria,he said,would prove even more invaluable because that country could help the United States convince leaders in Palestine to recognize Israel's right to exist.
Hamilton,who was also a member of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission,agreed and said these types of talks didn't mean the United States needed to concede on other issues,such as Iran's plan to develop nuclear technology.
“We don't have a lot to lose,” he said. “You sit down and talk to people for a lot of different reasons. Information gathering is one of them.”