Well, our group did include Leslie, who had fasted since Monday in protest. But, we explained, we were there really for a civil dialog of the kind we wished to see between the US and Iran. Warnings by the Capitol Police that we'd all be expelled followed stonewalling by the office staff.
Then Leslie, weakened by her five-day fast, showed the beautiful photos (enlarged) of people that she had taken on a recent trip to Iran and passionately pleaded for a chance to tell Lieberman not to harm them. She repeatedly told the Senator's aides, "Iranians are the most warm, lovely, friendly people I have ever met … They love Americans … They treated me better than I'm ever treated here in my own country… This is a nation that has not attacked anyone in more than 200 years. How can the Senator threaten to bomb them?" Our group's video cameras were rolling the whole time.
Some of the photos taken by Leslie in Iran
After one of us warned that Leslie might become the next Cindy Sheehan and shadow Senator Lieberman everywhere in protest, three senior aides agreed to have a discussion with three of us if the rest waited in the hallway.
So while most in our group got better acquainted and
strategized for the future in the hallway, Leslie, Bob, and I talked privately
with the Senator's foreign policy advisor, legislative director, and chief of
staff. For over an hour our trio argued in the Senator's conference room that
even if the administration's concerns about Iran were real, a military solution
was no solution at all and would only complicate things further. We insisted
that it is in the interest of neither the US or Israel to start another war. The
senior aides kept claiming that US intelligence showed Iran was causing the
deaths of US troops in Iraq and the leadership of nations neighboring Iran were
terrified by Iran's expansionism. We asked for and received no evidence backing
Bob (Middle East analyst at Just Foreign Policy) told them of a perception that Lieberman and other powerful extremists are trying to derail the historic and still tentative negotiations between Iran and the US that began last month in Baghdad. Their side tried but could not convince us that Lieberman is supportive of dialog with Iran. Nor did we agree with their logic that the threat of force was needed to make diplomacy work. We challenged them when one claimed the European Union substitutes for Washington in talks on Iran's nuclear program (even he didn't sound convinced of what he said).
Leslie, the hunger striker, argued Iran could not possibly have an interest in destabilizing Iraq, as Lieberman had claimed Sunday. She also noted that everyone she met in Iran was superbly open and welcoming towards her American peace delegation. She argued the US had no more right to rid Iranians of their government than did Iran to install a new government in Washington. I told Liberman's senior aides the Senator's complaints of alleged Iranian meddling in Iraq would make sense only if Iran had invaded Mexico or Canada with 150,000 troops, too!
While the three of us argued with the Lieberman team,
Medea Benjamin of Code Pink led a teach-in for the rest of our group in the
hallway, with about ten Capitol Policemen keeping watch and video cameras
Although we did not seem to entirely convince Lieberman's staff, we thought we made an impact and the Senator might in the future think twice before mouthing off about bombing Iran. Just to be sure, we assured his aides we represented a much larger constituency and we would be back more forcefully if the Senator repeats the threat of force instead of actively supporting dialog. We also left a very handsomely framed enlarged photo of three Iranian children smiling for the camera as a gift for the Senator.
See more photos here.
Editor's note: Rostam Pourzal is a CASMII Board