Will the Real ‘Low-Life Scum’ Please Stand Up?

code-pink-henry-kissinger-war-criminal-mccain-low-life-scum-600x363

(Photo: CodePink / Flickr)

This piece is a joint publication of Foreign Policy and Focus and OtherWords.

As you may have heard, security guards recently tossed me and my fellow activists out of a Senate hearing where former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was about to testify. It became a hot story when Senator John McCain denounced us as “low-life scum.”

Why was McCain so mad?

Probably because we were holding signs that said “Arrest Kissinger for War Crimes” while dangling handcuffs.

For this, the Arizona Republican called us “disgraceful, outrageous, and despicable.” He even accused us of “physically intimidating” the 91-year-old Kissinger.

If McCain really objects to physical intimidation, perhaps he could recall what happened to the gentle Chilean singer-songwriter Victor Jara.

After Kissinger facilitated the 1973 coup that brought the ruthless Augusto Pinochet to power in Chile, soldiers herded Jara and 5,000 other prisoners into Chile’s National Stadium. Sadistic thugs smashed Jara’s hands and tore off his nails. Then they ordered him to play his guitar.

The popular singer’s corpse was later found dumped on the street, his dead body riddled with gunshot wounds and signs of torture.

As Pinochet’s military government tortured, killed, and “disappeared” thousands of Chileans, Kissinger told the dictator that he had done “a great service to the West” by overthrowing the democratically elected government that preceded him.

McCain also called us “despicable.” What about Kissinger’s role in the brutal 1975 Indonesian invasion of East Timor?

It was Kissinger who gave the Indonesian strongman Suharto a green light — and plenty of weapons — for an invasion that led to a 25-year occupation in which over 100,000 people were murdered or starved to death. A UN truth commission later observed that U.S. “political and military support were fundamental to the Indonesian invasion and occupation.”

I wish McCain would read the report by the UN Commission on Human Rights describing the horrific consequences. It includes the gang rape of female Timorese detainees and prolonged sexual torture of a vile and disgusting nature.

Talk about physical intimidation.

You might also think that McCain, who endured torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, would be more sensitive to Kissinger’s role in prolonging that conflict.

From 1969 through 1973, Kissinger, along with President Richard Nixon, oversaw the expansion of the war in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. About 1 million people died in the bloodshed. I hope McCain has heard the recording of Kissinger ordering a “massive bombing campaign in Cambodia” against “anything that moves.”

Given this shameful record, it’s no wonder that Kissinger is used to being called a war criminal.

In 2001, French Judge Roger Le Loire issued a warrant to have Kissinger appear before his court. When the French served Kissinger with his summons at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, Kissinger fled the country.

More indictments followed in Spain, Argentina, and Uruguay. In 2001 the family of General René Schneider, the assassinated commander in chief of the Chilean army, even filed a civil suit against him in Washington.

“Kissinger should have the door shut in his face by every decent person and should be shamed, ostracized, and excluded,” the late writer Christopher Hitchens once fumed. Rather than doting on the man, Hitchens suggested, “why don’t you arrest him?”

Kissinger probably won’t ever be tried for war crimes, at least not in the United States. But we can show — with words and banners — that some people remember his crimes.

McCain called us “disgraceful.” You know what’s really disgraceful? A bunch of senators hearing a war criminal drone on about “Global Challenges and the U.S. National Security Strategy.”

Following over a decade of failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s time for elected officials like John McCain to bring in fresh faces and fresh ideas.

Medea Benjamin is the co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK and the human rights organization Global Exchange. She is the author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.