MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (AP) — Occupy Wall Street protesters on Thursday disrupted a foreign policy speech by Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann in which she said she would make Iraq pay back billions of dollars the U.S. spent to liberate the country and never let Iran get its hands on a nuclear weapon.
Bachmann was about five minutes into the speech aboard the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown in Charleston Harbor when about 30 protesters rose from the audience of about 100 people and began shouting "Mike Check!" They then chanted a variety of complaints as police escorted the Minnesota congresswoman from the podium. She later said she never felt threatened by the mostly college-age protesters.
"You cater to the 1 percent!" they shouted. "You oppose paying hardworking Americans a living wage and refuse to promote realistic solutions to economic problems." After several minutes, the group walked together off the aircraft carrier shouting, "We are the 99 percent!"
Bachmann was then escorted back to the podium and finished the speech. "Don't you love the First Amendment?" she asked the crowd.
Afterward, she told reporters that the protesters showed a lack of respect on a historic ship in front of veterans on the day before a national holiday honoring their service to the country.
"It was really ironic that you had a group of young people in what was really a very disrespectful and ignorant move, to take that kind of action in the midst of veterans who have fought to give them the right to do that," Bachmann said.
She's been the target of protesters during past campaign appearances around the country, but she said Thursday's incident was the loudest of all.
Bachman was campaigning in South Carolina ahead of the state's first-in-the-South primary on Jan. 21. In the speech, she said that if elected she would make Iraq pay back what the U.S. spent fighting the war there.
"We have spent over $805 billion to liberate Iraq. Iraq is not a poor nation," Bachmann said. "The least Iraq can do is pay back the United States for the treasure we spent on their liberation."
She added if the United States has learned anything from the experience it should be that foreign entanglements come with high costs and are sometimes difficult to get out of.
"We must be wise and thoughtful before we ever engage in a foreign conflict," Bachmann said.
The congresswoman also accused President Barack Obama's administration of taking its eye off of what she said is the most serious threat in the Middle East — Iran.
"Today we have seen a terrible warning about the future state of Iran's ability to create a nuclear weapon. As president, I will stand with Israel and make sure Iran never gets it," she said.
Iran warned Israel and the United States on Thursday that it would respond strongly should there be a military strike against its nuclear program. The U.N. atomic agency earlier this week said Iran is suspected of conducting secret experiments for the sole purpose of developing nuclear arms. Iran insists it is pursuing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.