CODEPINK activist disrupts Kerry nomination hearing, demands end to military aid to Israel

Guards remove Code Pink intern Lachelle Roddy from the Kerry hearing in a screen grab from CNN Photograph: CNN

[UPDATE below: Lachelle Roddy comments on her reasons for speaking out during Senate Foreign Relations hearing.]

CODEPINK intern and college student Lachelle Roddy disrupted Senator John Kerry’s nomination hearing for Secretary of State today. [VIDEO below] From the gallery of the Senate chamber, Roddy voiced her objection to U.S. military aid to Israel:

We’re killing thousands of people in the Middle East who are not a threat to us. When is it going to be enough? When are enough people going to be killed? I’m tired of my friends in the Middle East not knowing if they’re going to live to see the next day!

CODEPINK is an activist group which opposes U.S. military aggression abroad, including military aid to Israel, which it believes is being used to oppress Palestinians.

Video of Roddy disrupting the hearing:

Update:

Roddy commented on her reasons for speaking out during the Senate hearing, which she says was a spontaneous outburst and not a planned action:

I stood in the back listening as they continued to reference how big of a threat the Middle East is to America and how America needs to be a global leader, as if we are not already occupying enough countries. I had had enough when they mentioned economic sanctions on Iran. I could not stay silent any longer, and decided to speak up.

Activist Lachelle Roddy, left, participates in CODEPINK Flash Mob at Union Station on January 19, 2013.

The effect of U.S. foreign policy on the lives of her friends from the Middle East also motivated her:

I live in a global village in Roanoke while in school [at Hollins University], and there are many women there from the Middle East including Afghanistan and Palestine. They never know whether their families will be alive the next day because of U.S. drones as well as U.S. funding of Israeli war crimes.

It’s very difficult for them to go to school here when they have so much hardship back at home because of our nation’s foreign policy, especially when they can not speak up out of fear of being labeled a terrorist.

Roddy was charged with unlawful conduct and interrupting Congress.

Update:

In response to Roddy’s outburst, Senator John Kerry retained his composure and recalled his activism following his military service in Vietnam:

When I first came to Washington and testified, I obviously was testifying as part of the group of people who came here to have their voices heard. And that is, above all, what this place is about. So I respect, I think, the woman who was voicing her concerns about that part of the world, and maybe one of you have traveled there. Some of you were there recently. Senator McCain, you were just there, you were in a refugee camp, and I know you heard this kind of thing. People measure what we do.

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Syrians rally for democratic future, end of atrocities

Waving Syrian flags, Syrian Americans gathered in front of the Saudi Embassy to draw attention to the opposition movement defying the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

The rally came just after Assad assented to a UN-negotiated cease-fire, but the UN said he hadn’t yet fully complied with its peace plan. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned against half-measures, saying in a press conference, “The Annan plan is not a menu of options. It is a set of obligations.” Apparently committing the US to political transition, Clinton said, “Assad will have to go and the Syrian people must be given the chance to chart their own future.”

Called the Syrian Women and Children Rally, supporters chanted “Free, free Syria!” and “We want democracy, not hypocrisy!” A speaker said, “We are here to tell the whole world that there is a massacre happening in Syria right now. We are here to support our brothers and sisters in Syria.”

The rally was held in front of the Saudi Embassy out of gratitude to its government–one sign read “Thank you Saudis for supporting the Syrian Revolution”–and to ask for more measures like a no-fly zone and a safe haven on the Turkish border.

“The Saudi Embassy representative welcomed us and thanked us for being here, and said they supported us 100%,” organizer Nagia Kurabi said.

The crowd of about 50 was largely made up of women of all ages, who highlighted the current plight of women and girls in Syria: “When a girl gets raped in Syria, we are all raped.”

17-year-old Hania Hamwi of Arlington, VA said it was important to get the message out to people in America that Syrians need help. “Children are so innocent,” she said. “Why should Assad’s soldiers go into a house a rape a woman in front of her child? The least I can do is be out here.”

At the Islamic Center on Massachusetts Ave., the demonstrators raised the Syrian revolutionary flag without permission before moving on to protest at the Syrian embassy.

(Images by coolrevolution.net)

Big changes happening in Burma

Monks protest in Burma, 2007

The pace of events in Burma is absolutely astonishing, given the historic intransigence of the regime there. The country’s been run into the ground, impervious to international isolation, yet at last big changes are happening. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest. US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton visited the country in December. The government signed a ceasefire agreement with the Karen National Union, one of the armed ethnic rebel groups. Senator Mitch McConnell, who has long taken a special interest, just returned from a trip to Burma and is said to have had an emotional meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi. Parliamentary elections will be held in April, and Suu Kyi will be allowed to participate. And the US last week awarded the Burmese probably the biggest carrot offered so far for good behavior–normalized relations between our two countries.

What brought this on? Possibly the election of new president Thein Sein last April. Here’s the first interview with him by a foreign journalist.