Protesters employ monkey to decry Reid's Iraq stance

With a sleepy monkey in a camouflage outfit and white handkerchiefs on flagpoles, a small group of pro-war activists Thursday gathered outside the federal courthouse that houses Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's Las Vegas office, decrying what they said was a policy of surrender.

"Even though my son paid the ultimate sacrifice, I still support the president. I support what we're doing over there, and I support our troops," said Debbie Lee, a Phoenix-area mother whose son, a Navy Seal, was killed in Iraq last year. "I want Harry Reid to hear my voice today. I can't believe he would say we've lost the war. What a defeatist attitude."

The anti-Reid demonstration was organized by a national group, Move America Forward, and most of the protestors were from out of town. They said they wanted to bring their message home to the Nevada Democrat, whose work in the Senate to set deadlines for troop withdrawal they said was irresponsible.

The "surrender monkey" the group used to draw attention to its action was a hired gun -- a Dallas-based performing monkey named Hobo who has appeared on television and in movies. Hobo gripped a miniature white flag and waved it briefly before stopping to gnaw on the dowel.

Reid this week backed a largely symbolic bill that would have required troops to begin pulling out of Iraq within 120 days and would have ended war funding by March 31, 2008. That measure failed, getting just 29 votes. Reid says he hopes to work toward a compromise with President Bush, who vetoed a previous bill that passed both houses of Congress that would have set a timetable to begin troop withdrawal.

The protesters also were angry at Reid's statement last month that the war in Iraq "is lost."

Down the block, a similarly sized group of counter-demonstrators gathered. The local anti-war activists and veterans said they supported Reid.

"My son was in Iraq three times," said Catherine Jackson of Las Vegas. "I thank God he's home now. Enough is enough. We need to bring our troops home."

Reid spokesman Jon Summers said Move America Forward was mischaracterizing Reid's position. "It's their right to make their feelings known, but most Nevadans agree with Senator Reid that it's time to change course in Iraq," he said.

The group on Thursday also protested at Reid's Carson City office and at the San Francisco headquarters of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and launched pro-war advertisements on national cable networks.

Move America Forward's use of a primate to draw media attention also drew criticism from the Humane Society.

"It's a shame that Move America Forward is exploiting animals to score political points," said Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.