by Rob Kall
On Tuesday, as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke on issues of free speech at George Washington University, 71-year-old former CIA analyst Ray McGovern was assaulted, dragged from the room and double handcuffed causing profuse bleeding.
What had he done to elicit this treatment? He stood in “silent witness.”
This was not the first time this former Army intelligence officer employed this form of peaceful, civil resistance. In 1992, McGovern who is a Roman Catholic, expressed his dissent of the church’s position on women as priests by standing during Sunday Mass in what became a years’ long protest. This civil protest ultimately resulted in media attention and a conversation with James Cardinal Hickey.
Ray explained that it was in this spirit that he chose to protest Clinton’s policies and track record.
Hillary is the driving force, together with a few others, behind the wars in Afghanistan. She’s one of the big hawks in Iran. When I look at her and her husband that they don’t know the first thing about war. I do and so do my fellow Veterans for Peace. I have to make clear that we Veterans for Peace think that her policies are an abomination to the nation, that they are at cross purposes to the country and not everybody should applaud and give her the idea that she’s doing the right thing.
I knew that Hillary knew, at the beginning of the war, that Hillary knew how things would go. There was a young lady who was working as Hillary Clinton’s personal staff chief, when she was a senator in 2002 and 2003, was in a class I taught in DC and I’d ask her to give her boss articles I wrote. And she did give them to her. So I know that. She made a political calculation that she needed to be strong because she was a woman even though she knew from us that the unintended consequences would be catastrophic. She knew all that and made that calculation.
The height of irony, of course, is that was her tragic flaw that let Obama beat her. She supported the war and Obama didn’t. She is the height of hypocrisy. When people die because we have hypocrites at the top of our government, that compels me to make a statement in whatever way I can. It was not the theme of her speech that I was protesting. It was her war policies and support of Mubarak.
When Secretary Clinton walked into the room, the audience rose and applauded before sitting back down. All but Ray McGovern, just as he had done hundreds of times before in the Catholic church without incident. McGovern described what happened next.
It was my symbolic way of saying not everybody agrees with her. I turned my back to her and stood [silently]. When she came in I not only remained standing but I turned my back to her.
This time things were very different. Ray commented, “I didn’t think that would get me roughed up and arrested for disorderly conduct.”
Ray explained that when he would stand in silent witness at the church, his daughter would be with him keeping an eye on things. This time there was no one to warn him that two large men were approaching him. Nor was there any warning issued by the men, according to McGovern, as they grabbed him and dragged him out of the room.
They grabbed me and the shock wore off. There was a real struggle. I shouted, ‘This is America.’ Then I said, ‘Who are you?’ This is a mystery to me. Who were they? The guy in the suit was the one who did the damage. He was brutal.
They took me outside, put two sets of iron handcuffs that pierced my wrists. The bleeding went all over my pants. One guy said, “I pricked my finger” like it was his blood.
I was bleeding in the car so I said ‘I think you need to put some gauze on me.’ They handed me to the DC police and they told I was being charged with disorderly conduct. I was booked, fingerprinted, mug shot taken. They put me in a little cell — must be the same size as Bradley Manning’s– about six by four feet.
It was about three hours that they held me until they let me out. I had to take a cab to the hospital where they x-rayed me, treated me and dressed my wounds. Then the doctors told me that since this was an assault on me, I had to inform the police about who had assaulted me. A little humor helped then.
Four years ago, McGovern attended another speech and made national news. The speaker was Donald Rumsfeld and the talk was being broadcast live on CNN. During the Q&A, McGovern took his turn at the mic and asked the former Secretary of Defense why he had lied about weapons of mass destruction.
Security immediately approached McGovern, but Rumsfeld stopped them choosing instead to attempt to outwit the seasoned analyst. The exchange that ensued led to what Keith Olbermann would later call the “vivisection of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.”
Comparing the two experiences, Ray remarked:
When Clinton started talking about how people beat up and arrested people in Iran, it gave some poetic justice, a great irony, to my standing there and what happened to me then, when she’s talking about what happened in other countries and there I am being handled in a vicious way…God knows what would happen next. Maybe some senior would ask her questions [she doesn’t take questions]. As bad as Donald Rumsfeld was, he let me speak. He let me speak and engaged me in dialog.
At the same [Rumsfeld] speech, there was a courageous guy who stood with his back to Rumsfeld the entire speech. They left him completely alone and he walked out at the end, unbothered. Four years later, things have changed.
In response to the charges of disorderly conduct filed against him, he said, “There was a lot of disorderly conduct, but I wasn’t responsible for it.”
McGovern says he is not worried about the charges, commenting that “With all those cameras and photos there has to be someone who will come forward with pictures of me and what happened to me to prove I was attacked, I wasn’t warned.”
He concluded, “I’m sore, but I’m glad I did it.” OpEdNews.com writer Cheryl Biren contributed to this report.
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