Who’s the “Low Life Scum:” Kissinger or CODEPINK?

By Medea Benjamin


A very angry Senator John McCain denounced CODEPINK activists as “low-life scum” for holding up signs reading “Arrest Kissinger for War Crimes” and dangling handcuffs next to Henry Kissinger’s head during a Senate hearing on January 29. McCain called the demonstration “disgraceful, outrageous and despicable,” accused the protesters of “physically intimidating” Kissinger and apologized profusely to his friend for this “deeply troubling incident.”


But if Senator McCain was really concerned about physical intimidation, perhaps he should have conjured up the memory of the gentle Chilean singer/songwriter Victor Jara. After Kissinger facilitated the September 11, 1973 coup against Salvador Allende that brought the ruthless Augusto Pinochet to power, Victor Jara and 5,000 others were rounded up in Chile’s National Stadium. Jara’s hands were smashed and his nails torn off; the sadistic guards then ordered him to play his guitar. Jara was later found dumped on the street, his dead body riddled with gunshot wounds and signs of torture.


Despite warnings by senior US officials that thousands of Chileans were being tortured and slaughtered, then Secretary of State Kissinger told Pinochet, "You did a great service to the West in overthrowing Allende."


Rather than calling peaceful protesters “despicable”, perhaps Senator McCain should have used that term to describe Kissinger’s role in the brutal 1975 Indonesian invasion of East Timor, which took place just hours after Kissinger and President Ford visited Indonesia. They had given the Indonesian strongman the US green light—and the weapons—for an invasion that led to a 25-year occupation in which over 100,000 soldiers and civilians were killed or starved to death. The UN's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (CAVR) stated that U.S. "political and military support were fundamental to the Indonesian invasion and occupation" of East Timor.


If McCain could stomach it, he could have read the report by the UN Commission on Human Rights describing the horrific consequences of that invasion. It includes gang rape of female detainees following periods of prolonged sexual torture; placing women in tanks of water for prolonged periods, including submerging their heads, before being raped; the use of snakes to instill terror during sexual torture; and the mutilation of women’s sexual organs, including insertion of batteries into vaginas and burning nipples and genitals with cigarettes. Talk about physical intimidation, Senator McCain!


You might think that McCain, who suffered tremendously in Vietnam, might be more sensitive to Kissinger’s role in prolonging that war. From 1969 through 1973, it was Kissinger, along with President Nixon, who oversaw the slaughter in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos—killing perhaps one million during this period. He was gave the order for the secret bombing of Cambodia. Kissinger is on tape saying, “[Nixon] wants a massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. He doesn't want to hear anything about it. It's an order, to be done. Anything that flies on anything that moves.” 


Senator McCain could have taken the easy route by simply reading the meticulously researched book by the late writer Christopher Hitchens, The Trial of Henry Kissinger. Writing as a prosecutor before an international court of law, Hitchens skewers Kissinger for ordering or sanctioning the destruction of civilian populations, the assassination of “unfriendly” politicians and the kidnapping and disappearance of soldiers, journalists and clerics who got in his way. He holds Kissinger responsible for war crimes that range from the deliberate mass killings of civilian populations in Indochina, to collusion in mass murder and assassination in Bangladesh, the overthrow of the democratically elected government in Chile, and the incitement and enabling of genocide in East Timor.


McCain could have also perused the warrant issued by French Judge Roger Le Loire to have Kissinger appear before his court. When the French served Kissinger with summons in 2001 at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, Kissinger fled the country. More indictments followed from Spain, Argentina, Uruguay—even a civil suit in Washington DC.


The late Christopher Hitchens was disgusted by the way Henry Kissinger was treated as a respected statesman. He would have been appalled by Senator McCain’s obsequious attitude. “Kissinger should have the door shut in his face by every decent person and should be shamed, ostracized, and excluded,”Hitchens said. “No more dinners in his honor; no more respectful audiences for his absurdly overpriced public appearances; no more smirking photographs with hostesses and celebrities; no more soliciting of his worthless opinions by sycophantic editors and producers.”


Rather than fawning on him, Hitchens suggested, “why don't you arrest him?”


Hitchens’ words were lost on Senator McCain, who preferred fawning to accountability. That’s where CODEPINK comes in. If we can’t get Kissinger before a court of law, at least we can show—with words and banners—that there are Americans who remember, Americans who empathize with the man’s many victims, Americans who have a conscience.


While McCain called us disgraceful, what is really disgraceful is the Senate calling in a tired old war criminal to testify about “Global Challenges and the U.S. National Security Strategy.” After horribly tragic failed wars, not just in Vietnam but over the last decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s time for the US leaders like John McCain to bring in fresh faces and fresh ideas. We owe it to the next generation that will be cleaning up the bloody legacy left behind by Kissinger for years to come.



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.


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  • commented 2015-02-09 20:38:06 -0500
    Mike Smith, notice I said we should focus on addressing our own nation’s evil, rather than that of other nations over which we have no ability to affect; heck we can’t even bring attention to the evil the U.S. has done without being called low-life scum. That makes me a liar? I think not. Those who attempt to deflect from recognizing what the U.S. has done participate in the evil. Congratulations. I encourage all to donate on this site as I did.
  • commented 2015-02-09 19:15:36 -0500
    robert/stephen – you’re both liars – code stink focuses on only US and Israeli government actions, no one else. The only other country they ever discuss or target is Israel, lying about that makes you as non-credible as code stink is.
  • commented 2015-02-09 11:08:14 -0500
    I agree Stephen. Complaining that the protest isn’t against the barbarism of other governments is strange. Seems we’ve got to focus mostly on the evil done by our own government, in this case by Kissinger (well-documented above). McCain’s support for what he did makes McCain complicit in Kissinger’s barbarism.

    From some of the comments below, too many are willing to support the right-wing terrorism the US has perpetrated in other countries.
  • commented 2015-02-09 10:35:58 -0500
    I find it curious that so many people condemn this article because it didn’t cover every incident of barbarism committed around the world. I also don’t understand the personal attacks with all this name calling. While I personally don’t like any type of murder and mayhem around the world, I am focused on this country where we are supposed to be in control of our government. Basically, when governments around the world are harming their citizens, who cares when you can’t even control your own government.
  • commented 2015-02-08 12:40:05 -0500
    Carolyn – agreed. The writer above complains about Kissinger’s culpability for 100,00 dead in SE asia, so why hasn’t she and this dreadful group of bottom-feeders protested russia’s Lavrov or any iranian diplomats given their direct responsibility for the murder of TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND in syria? The silence of fake “anti-war”/“human rights”/“women’s rights” groups like this regarding russia – who has killed an additional few thousand Ukrainians in the last year – is deafening.

    I have called them out on this and other atrocities, like the murder of women like Zahra Kazemi by the scum of the earth – iran’s monstrous regime – and they refuse to address that or any other actions by anyone other than Israel or the US. I believe they are a communist front funded by wealthy arab muslims and marxists seeking to attack the West. They are verminous filth with zero credibility.
  • commented 2015-02-08 10:18:26 -0500
    Code Pink is the low-life scum. A bunch of women who have nothing else to do or contribute. They are worthless.
  • commented 2015-02-02 21:21:56 -0500
    Go to hell! You are scum, too.
  • commented 2015-02-02 20:34:19 -0500
    Just saw the wonderful video of Code Pink confronting Kissinger. This is so sixties, and I mean that in complimentary fashion. Nice work. More of this needs to be done; we can’t rely upon the MSM to raise awareness. Thank you for your courage.
  • commented 2015-02-02 20:19:35 -0500
    Without a doubt, Code Pink are scum and should be arrested. Their protests are formed under the misunderstanding and misguidance of whoever run this gang. I find your “gang” totally lawless, and hope against hope, you get yours!!!
  • commented 2015-02-02 03:24:05 -0500
    Are there rules for the right to free speech? assembly? protest? I don’t know – but there are necessary evils in the world that we can at least express our opposition to. I think the counter argument was the way you did it – not that you did it – but you got lots of attention- way to go…You gotta fight for you right to party ~ BeastieBoyz
  • @mbarrettmiller tweeted link to this page. 2015-02-01 17:43:46 -0500
    Who’s the “Low Life Scum:” Kissinger or CODEPINK? http://pinktank-codepink.nationbuilder.com/lowlifescum?recruiter_id=297484
  • followed this page 2015-02-01 17:29:31 -0500
  • commented 2015-02-01 16:52:21 -0500
    “He (McCain) was certainly far from calm on the Senate POW committee. He browbeat expert witnesses who came with information about unreturned POWs. Family members who have personally faced McCain and pressed him to end the secrecy also have been treated to his legendary temper. He has screamed at them, insulted them, brought women to tears. In 1996, he roughly pushed aside a group of POW family members who had waited outside a hearing room to appeal to him, including a mother in a wheelchair.”
    How he can dare to say that ANYBODY protesting Kissinger did the same thing that he did???
  • commented 2015-01-31 19:38:26 -0500
    When called out on Kissinger’s war crimes … McCain goes boo hoo. Appreciate what you did. Donated.
  • commented 2015-01-31 16:50:53 -0500
    Anyone who can read this article, yet still post disapproving – even ugly – statements about Medea and Code Pink, has failed to attain the morality or intelligence one associates with normal human beings. This one paragraph alone should have pricked a normal conscience. “But if Senator McCain was really concerned about physical intimidation, perhaps he should have conjured up the memory of the gentle Chilean singer/songwriter Victor Jara. After Kissinger facilitated the September 11, 1973 coup against Salvador Allende that brought the ruthless Augusto Pinochet to power, Victor Jara and 5,000 others were rounded up in Chile’s National Stadium. Jara’s hands were smashed and his nails torn off; the sadistic guards then ordered him to play his guitar. Jara was later found dumped on the street, his dead body riddled with gunshot wounds and signs of torture.”

    Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.
  • commented 2015-01-31 10:11:45 -0500
    So a verbal protest against those wielding power beyond Caligula’s wildest dreams is worse than slaughtering the powerless? Oh, but these victims were faceless brown people in a country that over half of the US populace can’t locate on a world map, so those victims don’t count. Hey, isn’t the Super Bowl on teevee tomorrow?
  • commented 2015-01-30 18:22:29 -0500
    I thought it was an amusing spectacle. Thank you. More importantly you reminded everyone that war is an ugly business. If John McCain actually valued democracy, free speech and the rule of law he could have asked to see the warrant for arrest or invited a peace activist to join his committee. Instead he behaved in a way that can only be described as fascist. It gets worse. Later when he must have realized he looked ridiculous he tried to spin the blame onto the security workers instead of taking responsibility for losing his cool.
  • commented 2015-01-30 18:05:11 -0500
    I’ve know Kissinger to be a murderous monster for decades. While Secretary of State, he ran around the world threatening people or bribing them. John McCain is no one to be admired. He was deeply involved in the Saving & Loan scandal. I would venture to say that almost all of our rulers are sociopaths or psychopaths. McCain was even against getting back our POWs held prisoner in Vietnam. He assisted in leaving over 1000 of our men as slaves to the Vietnamese. I don’t think much of anyone who admires McCain.
  • commented 2015-01-30 16:10:24 -0500
    You are and always have been a Low Life Scum Medea . You have Disrespected our Heroic Military and Also Our Great Country Yet Cried like A Baby For Our Help When They Arrested Your Skanky Ass in Egypt !! I am So Proud of Senator McCain !!!
  • commented 2015-01-30 16:08:00 -0500
    I believe it was wrong of your organization to protest in the way it did. Yelling and screaming at a 91 year old man. A man who is potentially the reason our entire population was not obliterated by nuclear war with the Soviet Union during the Nixon and Ford Administrations. You should really try and weigh the lives saved against the lives lost, and put yourself in the place of the man you ridicule before you start making dramatic statements such as “Arrest Henry Kissinger” in the middle of Senate Armed Services Committee meetings. This man is perhaps the reason your parents were alive to create you. Though some of his department’s policies were controversial, realize that he is not the soul creator of evil nor the soul person who instituted the policies of his department and of the U.S. Government during the time he was in office. The buck stops with the President, so you should really be calling for the arrest of two dead men. On another note, just about anyone who has served the U.S. or any other government has made mistakes that have cost innocent lives. The reason for it is human error in extremely stressful situations. You cannot say one person is more guilty of this than any other. As Americans, however, is it our duty to trust our elected and appointed leaders to keep us safe, and in order to do that, sometimes difficult decisions have to be made. Again, consider the potential for lives lost if nothing was done before you condemn anyone as a murderer, because as far as most Americans are concerned, Kissinger saved our asses.
  • commented 2015-01-30 14:27:23 -0500
    i don’t know if anyone here was low-life scum, but the protest absolutely was “disgraceful, outrageous and despicable.” find a way to communicate without being THIS. especially in THIS setting. what else would you expect?
  • commented 2015-01-30 13:57:48 -0500