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Leon Panetta served as CIA director from 2009 to 2011 before becoming Secretary of Defense from 2011 to 2013. (Photo: Getty)

Ex-CIA Chief's Speech Disrupted by Chants of "Love Not War" at DNC

'Badass' protesters wonder: 'Why do we need to be in perpetual warfare?'

Deirdre Fulton

Former CIA director and defense secretary Leon Panetta's speech at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) on Wednesday night was interrupted by chants of "No more war!"

According to news reports, as Panetta dug into Hillary Clinton rival Donald Trump, delegates from Oregon, California, and Washington state broke into cries of "No more war!" and "Lies!"

ABC News reported: "Other groups around the arena began chanting 'Hillary!' More chants of 'Love Not War!' and 'No More Drones!' broke out before being swallowed by 'USA!' from most of the arena."

The Hill noted that "Panetta appeared rattled by the interruptions and unsure how to proceed. As Panetta continued to speak, the lights were dimmed over the sections of Sanders supporters, an apparent effort to silence them."

Alex Shephard wrote at the New Republic:

Panetta—who, it's worth pointing out, threw President Obama under the bus in his memoir two years ago—represents the hawkish wing of the Democratic Party, which Bernie Sanders and his supporters vehemently oppose. As director of the CIA and secretary of defense, Panetta oversaw the country’s forever war in two countries and a drone program that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians. It's unclear if the protesters were responding to these specific policies or just Panetta himself, but it’s clear that he might not have been the best choice for a prime-time speaker's slot.

ThinkProgress spoke with some of the protesters, who "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.

But California delegate Alesa Byers told the publication that 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."

Meanwhile, Sanders delegate Larry Siegel, of California, described the moment as such:

The highlight of the evening for me came when former CIA Director Leon Panetta spoke. Other than honoring veterans, few speakers at the convention have addressed foreign policy. But Panetta was assigned to defend the Obama-Clinton policies of regime change and the war on terror, two terms they don’t use because they were associated with George W. Bush. To be honest, given what happened, I don’t remember exactly what he said, other than claiming credit for killing Osama bin Laden. I sat there quietly and sadly, holding up a hand-made sign I got from the fellow sitting next to me. It read, 'End the drone wars.' Democrats are quick to criticize Republican wars, but most are reluctant to challenge Democratic Commanders in Chief. I am not looking forward to four or eight more years of endless war.

To my surprise, across the hall the Oregon delegation started chanting 'No more war!' Or maybe it was 'wars.' Our larger group quickly echoed them. I couldn't tell if other delegates joined in. Before long, the masters of the house dimmed the lights shining on the Oregon delegation. We shouted 'Lights, Lights ...' The Oregonians pulled out their smartphones and turned on their flashlight apps. It looked like a cosmic constellation. We shone ours, and I believe others were shining elsewhere in the arena.

Yet the disruption also earned condemnation from some liberal media commentators, including MSNBC correspondent Joy Reid, who said the protesters' action was "embarrassing" and "shameful."

But the protesters had defenders on social media:


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