Former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spoke to the Democratic National Convention Wednesday night, warning against the danger of putting Republican nominee Donald Trump in the position of commander-in-chief facing a dangerous world. But he was quickly drowned out by protesters chanting “No more wars!” and “Lies!”
Panetta, who has previously suggested that the fight against Islamic extremists will require a “30-year war,” was forced to pause repeatedly and wait for the chants to subside.
“We cannot afford an erratic finger on our nuclear weapons,” he said amid the chants. “This is no time to roll the dice and to gamble with America’s national security or with the American Dream.”
The former security official was part of the opening line-up for President Barack Obama, who Panetta has blamed in his memoir for the rise of ISIS and the wars in Syria and Iraq.
Panetta has come under criticism in the past for his defense of broad executive war powers that were vastly expanded after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, allowing the president to bypass Congress when deciding to go to war.
He also conducted a secret internal investigation of the CIA’s torture regimes, but argued against the declassification of torture documents in his memoir. “It seemed wrong to me to ask a public servant to take a risk for his country and assure him that it was both legal and approved, then, years later, to suggest that he had done something wrong,” he wrote. He’s more recently called for Congress to beef up counter-terrorism and surveillance efforts.
Protesters said they targeted Panetta because of his position as the former leader of the military.
“Why do we need to be in perpetual warfare?” Micheal Baca, a 24-year-old Marine Corps veteran from Colorado, asked ThinkProgress.
California delegate Alesa Byers said she chanted because she was put off by Panetta’s message of inevitable war. But, she said, other delegates around her were hostile toward her and the other protesters. “I don’t understand how being pro-peace is anti-Hillary,” she said. “They’re just pissed off that we’re saying something.”
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), who has repeatedly introduced legislation to end post-9/11 authorizations for more war powers, told ThinkProgress she supported the protesters in her delegation.
“We’ve got to repeal the authorizations that have kept us in perpetual war,” she said, arguing that Congress should have the final say over whether or not to go to war.
“The military option is always on the table, that’s a given,” she said. “We have to look at development, diplomacy. But I think Hillary Clinton really understands we have to have a comprehensive strategy to ensure global peace and security.”
“Everyone has the first amendment right to say what you want to say,” she added. “I’m the one who says ‘no more war.’”
Alice Ollstein and Kira Lerner contributed reporting.