Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On the Hill, Day 2

by Lisa Savage

In the morning we hoofed it from Pink House to the House Foreign Relations committee hearing with Secretary of State Clinton. The pink early birds got into the room but I wasn't early enough, so I hung out in line scrawling signs ("$76 b. for war, $7 b. for aid + diplomacy. New direction?") and being hassled by the capitol police. What a difference from exercising my free speech rights yesterday before the panel overseeing Geithner and chaired by Harvard Law Prof Elizabeth Bennett!

Eventually I did get in and was told repeatedly I could not hold a sign, would be kicked out if I didn't hide it, and so forth. I sat about two feet behind Hillary and heard her field questions on topics from why Obama shook hands with Hugo Chavez to what she is doing about opening the border crossings into Gaza. She was a smooth operator and played a lot better in person than she does on t.v. Liz exercised her free speech rights in spite of squelching, calling out "Talk to Hamas, Hillary!" -- a good message since Hillary had just said that the U.S. had similarly tried to isolate Venezuela for the last eight years "and look where that got us."

Mid-day I stopped by to try and get an appointment with Chellie Pingree, then met with Congressman Mike Michaud as a follow up to a meeting last month where CODEPINK Maine and Waterville Area Bridges for Peace & Justice had posed the question, Why Afghanistan? Today I reminded Mike of the stunning lack of evidence that U.S. military action in Afghanistan reduces terrorism, and urged him to vote "no" on the supplemental war funding bill. He did not promise, saying he had not read the bill yet -- but I noted he has voted no on supplemental bills in the past. I expressed my dismay with the plan to allocate $76 billion for war and only $7 billion for aid and diplomacy. Mike had been to Afghanistan since our last meeting and said that he had been told Afghanis change sides depending on who pays the most. Also that it appears some U.S. funds actually end up supporting the Taliban due to corruption and lack of accountability. All the more reason to get out now!

I asked also about an earmark he had put through for research at UMO that appeared to be for military purposes. He appeared to know of my email on the topic a couple of weeks ago, and was ready with an answer: it is not for Aegis destroyer development, but for an innovative kind of fortification for tents that makes them resist mortar attacks. Hard to argue with that, so I moved on to talking about converting jobs in Maine to peaceful purposes, and the workers' initiative at Bath Iron Works to stop building Aegis destroyers and start building wind turbines. As a teacher, I begged him to create peaceful jobs in the state as an alternative to military enlistment for my students.

After that I scurried through the halls with Christiana, CODEPINK intern and a member of the recent Gaza delegation, in search of Rep. Shelley Berkley. We missed her but talked to her office staff about our concern with some of her remarks about preconditions (very biased toward Israel) for the peace process in Gaza. Then we walked home to Pink House through a spring shower, surrounded by trees flowering pinkly.

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