“I have never seen anything as disgraceful and outrageous and despicable as the last demonstration that just took place…” That was part of Sen. John McCain’s apology to Henry Kissinger, 90, after Code PINK protesters interrupted a Senate hearing with their demands that Kissinger be arrested for war crimes. While serving as National Security Advisor and then Secretary of State between 1969 and 1977, Kissinger “designed and implemented policies which led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, the overthrow of democratically-elected governments, and the invasion and occupation of sovereign countries,” according to a group of historians. In defense of Kissinger, the 78-year-old senator who is currently considering running for another six-year term in 2016, labeled the protesters as “low-life scum.”
Early in his term as National Security Officer, Kissinger authorized the secret bombing of Laos and Cambodia in 1969 and 1970 killed 40,000 people. He said, “[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 or anything that moves.” Although Kissinger claimed that he was stopping North Vietnamese troops, he merely gave the brutal Khmer Rouge an opportunity to take over Cambodia, allowing the U.S. a justification for more bombings. Kissinger illegally bombed a sovereign nation, destabilized its government, and allowed a violent, autocratic regime to seize powers.
Kissinger’s killings didn’t end with Cambodia. As Secretary of State for Richard Nixon in 1973, he facilitated a coup against legally elected Salvador Allende that brought dictator Augusto Pinochet to power and ended civilian rule. Among the 5,000 people rounded up in Chile’s National Stadium was singer/songwriter Victor Jara. Guards smashed his hands, tore off his nails, and then ordered him to play his guitar before dumping his dead body, riddled with gunshot wounds and signs of torture, into the street. After hearing about the torture and slaughter of thousands of Chileans, Kissinger said to Pinochet, “You did a great service to the West in overthrowing Allende.”
During his 17-year reign in Chile, government policies dramatically increased economic inequality—just as attempted in the United States—by restricting labor unions and privatizing social security. When Pinochet died in 2006, Chile had approximately 300 pending criminal charges against him not only for human rights violations but also tax evasion and embezzlement.
Hours after Kissinger and President Jerry Ford visited Indonesia in 1975, the country invaded East Timor with weapons provided by the United States. The result was a 25-year occupation in which 100,000 to 180,000 soldiers and civilians were killed or starved to death. Horrifying details of the invasion are here. Almost all the military equipment for the invasion came from the United States. U.S.-supplied destroyer escorts shelled East Timor, and U.S. aircraft dropped Indonesian paratroops and strafed East Timor’s largest city. Although the U.S. claimed that they suspended military service to Indonesia from 1975 to 1979, taxpayers provided $250 million of military assistance to Indonesia during those years.
Kissinger’s war crimes include his backing Pakistan’s overthrow of Bangladesh’s democratically elected government which caused half a million deaths. He also gave the green light to Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus when a right-wing junta wing replaced President Archbishop Makarios in 1974.
In The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Christopher Hitchens, writing as a prosecutor before an international court of law, describes Kissinger’s ordering or sanctioning the destruction of civilian populations, his assassination of “unfriendly” politicians, and the kidnapping and disappearance of soldiers, journalists and clerics who got in his way.
Kissinger fled France after French Judge Roger Le Loire served Kissinger to appear in court. Indictments from Spain, Argentina, Uruguay—even a civil suit in Washington D.C.—followed Kissinger. Trying him may be difficult because he doesn’t directly commission these crimes; instead he facilitates them. The B-52s flew over Cambodia to bomb villages so high that the planes’ crews couldn’t see the targets.
In a pre-Internet world, Kissinger’s crimes were easier to hide. With access to information now, people were able to find out that George W. Bush lied about Saddam Hussein’s having weapons of mass destruction were able to discover that he was wrong although 42 percent of the people still believe Iraq had WMD. Less known, however, the United States’ long history of supporting Hussein and providing him with weapons and other resources before the political strategy of deposing him in 2003.
While McCain claims that “war is wretched beyond description,” he is the biggest war hawk in Congress whether about Iraq, Syria, or Iran. Yet he kept a 2014 bill for veterans’ retirement pay restoration from getting to the Senate floor. Five years earlier he allowed a bill to die that would have funded a transition for homeless veterans to having shelter. The same year he did the same thing for a bill to provide homes for veterans who are single mothers. Another bill he helped destroy was to pair up veterans with job opportunities based on their skills.
McCain has a net worth of over $10 million and owns eight properties, putting him in the top 0.01 percent of people in the United States. He voted 19 times against increasing the minimum wage but voted to extend George W. Bush’s tax cut package. Earlier he had called it “generous tax relief to the wealthiest individuals of our country at the expense of lower and middle-income taxpayers.” McCain’s $700-million bailout for big banks benefited him with almost $2 million in campaign and leadership PAC donations between 2005 and 2010.
Instead of being disgusted by Kissinger’s behavior, McCain fawned over him, apologizing profusely for anyone who objected to Kissinger’s reign of terror for decades. Kissinger has presided over a series of failed wars and was invited to the Senate to testify about “Global Challenges and the U.S. National Security Strategy.”
McCain follows the conservative approach of sliming individuals rather than their ideas. He calls the protesters “scum” but fails to point out how their ideas are wrong. Nowhere does he try to deny or justify Kissinger’s complicity in replacing elected officials with brutal dictators while killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people. The theory, which never succeeds, is that eliminating the people will take away the ideas, avoiding the merits of an argument by attacking an individual’s or group’s character. Michael Mann calls it “The Serengeti Strategy” in which a lion kills an individual zebra, usually one perceived as a soft target, rather than going for the herd. McCain can’t kill off the herd of people who believe that Kissinger should be tried for his war crimes because he can’t stop the debate. Therefore he yells “low-life scum” at a group composed largely of young women.
McCain’s purpose was to silence the protesters. The best way to oppose this intention is to keep talking and keep talking. “The best defense is a good offense.” Mann writes that a herd can be made stronger by supporting those who are perceived as weak and vulnerable.