Wednesday, March 14, 2007

CodePink activists Outside the Senate Appropriations Defense Sub-committee Hearing

By Midge Potts

Wednesday morning CODEPINK activists were in line outside the Senate Appropriations Defense sub-committee hearing on fiscal 2008 Defense Department spending. First in line when the committee room doors opened just before 10:30 AM in the Dirksen Senate office, several women clad in pink flocked into the hearing. Before the hearing began one of the women walked up to the table where the Generals were gathering and seemed to be casually chatting with them.

She joined the other CODEPINK women at the back of the room where several from all over the country stood wearing pink shirts with bold black lettering proclaiming slogans such as "Fund Education Not War" and "NO $$$ 4 War". The Chairman of the hearing, Senator Inouye from the state of Hawaii made no motion to stop them from standing and making gestures such as peace signs. As the hearing proceeded, Major General Schoomaker and the newly appointed Secretary of the Army testified before the committee about US Army funding requirements for fiscal 2008. General Schoomaker began his prepared statement by introducing three U.S. soldiers who have served in Iraq, and he told their stories of valiantly serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq. He then narrated an exhibition of high-tech gadgetry; A mini robotic vehicle was maneuvered around the room as it shot video which was displayed on a screen for all to see.

The Secretary of the Army testified that supplemental funds would be needed by April or the Army would have to reprogram its force in order to make up for the shortfalls in funding. About 45 minutes into the hearing, the dialogue turned toward the Walter Reed scandal. Senator Stevens of Alaska and Senator Domenici of New Mexico, both Republicans, asked General Schoomaker questions regarding the cost of building a new Army hospital to replace Walter Reed. At that moment, the woman who had chatted with the generals earlier yelled, "BUILD THE HOSPITAL, BRING THE TROOPS HOME. JUST BRING THE TROOPS HOME AND BUILD THE HOSPITAL TO TAKE CARE OF THEM WHEN THEY GET HERE!" Chairman Inouye banged his gavel once and gave a nod to the Capitol Police officer in the corner. She tapped the protester on the shoulder and escorted her out of the room. The CODEPINKer was simply asked not to go back in the hearing, but was allowed to immediately leave the scene and depart the building. The others CODEPINK women continued to stand and wave peace signs throughout the hearing.

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