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Red-stained hands wave in protest at U.S. hearing on Syria

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry faces protesters against a military strike in Syria, as he arrives at a U.S. House Foreign Affairs Commit
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry faces protesters against a military strike in Syria, as he arrives at a U.S. House Foreign Affairs Commit

By Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Red-stained hands of anti-war protesters waved sporadically for hours on Wednesday behind Obama administration officials urging lawmakers to authorize military strikes against Syria.

The silent demonstration, led by the anti-war group Code Pink, involved about 10 activists. But an untold number of people worldwide saw it because the protest took place during a televised congressional hearing.

Demonstrators said the red represented the blood that would be on Secretary of State John Kerry's hands if Congress approves military attacks in retaliation for Syria's suspected use of chemical weapons against its own people.

"John Kerry - diplomacy not war," read a sign held by Medea Benjamin, a co-founder of Code Pink, which was formed a decade ago to oppose the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Benjamin said that at a similar hearing on Tuesday, she was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after shouting that the American people do not want another war.

At Wednesday's hearing before the House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee, Benjamin kept mum while waving her stained hands.

Kerry made an apparent reference to the protesters during his testimony.

"When I walked into this room," he said, "a person of conscience stood up behind me, as is the ability of people in our country, and that person said, 'Please, don't take us to war. Don't take us to another war.'

"Let me be clear. We are not asking America to go to war," said Kerry, who has promised that targeted U.S. air strikes would involve no U.S. ground troops.

"I would have liked to have told him, 'When you lob missiles into another country, that is war,'" said Benjamin, who along with other demonstrators, sat a few rows behind Kerry and other members of the administration.

Another demonstrator, Diane Wilson, an Army medic during the Vietnam War, said the hearing reminded her of 2002, when she and other protesters came to Congress to oppose the Bush administration's call for war against Iraq.

Benjamin said she sat at a hearing behind then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"Rumsfeld talked about all the (since refuted) evidence of 'the weapons of mass destruction,' about how little money their war would cost and how little time it would last," Wilson said.

(Reporting By Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Fred Barbash and Xavier Briand)

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