Staffers and members alike covertly snapped photos of "Argo" director Ben Affleck on Wednesday before he testified in front of the House Armed Services Committee on the continuing crisis in the Congo. But with the "fiscal cliff" looming, members wondered if U.S. aid money could not be put to better use.
Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., framed his question about "the country of Africa" to the committee's first round of experts in the most American of ways: sports. "We're always playing defense ... how are we going to get the Congo to play offense?" Scott asked.
Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., echoed this by stating that he was reminded of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Somalia, hinting that involvement in the Congo could veer down the same disastrous path.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., also said that the $480 million given to the Congo is "like giving an addict more dope," as rapes, sexual violence and murder persist in the Congo despite U.S. aid.
Affleck, appearing on the second panel, stood his ground. The actor founded the Eastern Congo Initiative nonprofit in 2009 and said that he sees the country through the people he's met on the ground.
"Everyday I am inspired by the resilience of the Congolese ... they deserve better than the cycle and of violence and upheaval," Affleck said.
Despite the talk of daily atrocities in the Congo, Affleck tried to keep the mood light. "I probably went over my five minute time limit 15 minutes ago," he said. Affleck will soon be making his 10th trip to the Congo.