Responses to John McCain's Comment about 'Low-life Scum'
February 2, 2015
Carl Gibson / Reader Supported News & William Boardman / Reader Supported News & Medea Benjamin / Code Pink
Commentary: When John McCain assembled a host of aging Cold Warriors to testify before his Senate committee, Code Pink activists showed up to protest. Their loudest chants were directed at Henry Kissinger. The protesters were within their rights to attempt a citizens' arrest of someone who has committed a felony -- Kissinger is under international sanctions for the commission of war crimes in Laos and Cambodia. These protesters are patriotic Americans and not "low-life scum."
Open Letter to John McCain:
Get Out of Washington, You Low-Life Scum
Carl Gibson / Reader Supported News
WASHINGTON (January 30, 2015) -- Dear Senator McCain,
What would you call a war veteran who answers a veteran's question about providing more jobs to veterans by saying it's his "highest priority," only to vote against more jobs for veterans when he's back in Washington?
What would you call a veteran who was tortured, survived miraculously, got elected to the US Senate, sent more young men to die in a foreign war, voted to deny them jobs and benefits, and yet demands the arrest and full prosecution of those who exercise the constitutional rights he supposedly fought for? To borrow phrasing from you, Senator, I would call you low-life scum.
The Code PINK protesters you called "low-life scum" during a Senate hearing this week are Americans exercising their constitutional rights to freedom of speech, which you swore an oath to defend both as a naval officer and as a member of Congress.
These protesters were also within their right to make a citizens' arrest against someone who has committed a felony -- in this case, war crimes. It's critical for you to understand why these protesters are patriotic Americans and not "low-life scum," as you called them.
When Henry Kissinger, whom you just vociferously defended from the dais, authorized the secret bombing of Laos and Cambodia in 1969 and 1970, his actions killed over 40,000 people, including civilians who had nothing to do with the Vietnam War.
Kissinger has said he did so to stop North Vietnamese troops from using Cambodia as a staging ground. However, research has shown that all Kissinger's bombing campaign did was pave the way for the brutal Khmer Rouge to take over Cambodia, then use the B-52 bombings as propaganda to justify their cause, leading to more death and destruction.
Kissinger illegally bombed a sovereign nation that we never officially declared war on, destabilized its government, and allowed a violent, autocratic regime to seize power. If that isn't a felony, I don't know what is.
Washington D.C. statute allows for citizens' arrests in the case of a felony. And in Code PINK's case, war crimes are certainly a felony offense. When you called on the capitol police,
it should've been to arrest Kissinger, not Code PINK activists. But your classless outburst during that hearing is indicative of the allegiances you hold, and the longstanding hypocrisy of your entire Congressional career.
Despite going through a war firsthand, and going on record saying "war is wretched beyond description," you are one of the loudest voices consistently in favor of going to war with anyone at the drop of a hat.
You bragged to a conservative radio host that nobody supported President Bush's war in Iraq more than you. You were the first member of the Senate to call for airstrikes on Syria. You've openly said you'd like to keep troops in Iraq for 100 years. You even made a joke about bombing Iran at a campaign rally. As a Vietnam veteran, haven't you had enough war for one lifetime?
Speaking of veterans, I would think that someone who has personally experienced the worst imaginable hell of war would be the first one to stand up for veterans when given the chance. But you, Senator McCain, have turned your back repeatedly on America's veterans when they asked for even the most concrete necessities.
When the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) urged you to pass the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits & Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014, you voted against even bringing it to the floor for debate, despite the fact that several of your Republican colleagues supported it.
You claim to support better healthcare for veterans, and that bill would've provided that care by, among other things, expanding the Comprehensive Caregiver Assistance Program, and advanced veterans' retirement payments even in the event of a government shutdown. As a fellow veteran who bears permanent scars of war, how could you deny your brothers and sisters at the PVA this vote?
After you came home from Vietnam, where you endured years of cruel imprisonment, solitary confinement, and torture, where would you be if you didn't have for a father a four-star admiral who commanded all US forces in Vietnam?
Unlike you, many of the veterans who are lucky enough to come back from the wars you eagerly sent them off to don't have wealthy, highly-connected families to support them when they return stateside.
Almost 50,000 veterans today are struggling to survive on the streets despite serving their country. Yet when you were given multiple opportunities to show your commitment to homeless veterans, you did nothing.
When the House of Representatives passed the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program Reauthorization Act of 2009, which would have funded the transition for veterans to go from wandering the streets to having a roof over their head, you allowed the bill to die, and said nothing.
You even allowed your party to kill the Homeless Women Veterans and Homeless Veterans with Children Act of 2009, which would have provided homes for single mothers who served their countries with distinction in the military. But as bad as your inaction was on those bills, it still wasn't your biggest slight to America's veterans.
At the 2012 Republican National Convention, Meg Lanker-Simons, a veteran and journalist, asked you about providing more jobs to veterans, 14 percent of whom are unemployed. You responded, to her face, that you were going to "try to find more and better ways to hire veterans," that chronic unemployment of veterans was a "national disgrace," and that making more jobs available to veterans was your "highest priority."
But just a month later, when the Senate was voting on the Veterans Job Corps Bill, which would've paired veterans up with job opportunities based on their skill sets, you mocked the idea before voting it down. While your reason was that the $1 billion cost was too high, the bill would have paid for itself by $1 billion of new revenue for the office of Veterans' Affairs.
So, Mr. McCain, not only are you a hypocrite, but a liar as well. If you didn't run for elected office to serve your fellow veterans, why did you run in the first place?
With a net worth of over $10 million, you are one of the richest members of Congress. And as everyone learned in 2008, you own 8 properties, making you one of the wealthiest 0.01 percent of Americans.
During your Congressional career, you voted 19 times against increasing the minimum wage, yet in 2010, you voted to extend George W. Bush's tax cut package. That was a complete 180 from your earlier position against it, in which you rightly called it "generous tax relief to the wealthiest individuals of our country at the expense of lower and middle-income taxpayers."
You also voted for a $700 billion bailout of the big banks that crashed our economy in 2008. Those same banks gave you almost $2 million in campaign and leadership PAC donations between 2005 and 2010, including over $50,000 from bailout king Goldman Sachs. If someone who didn't know any better took a look at that data, they would think you're only in office to serve yourself.
You've been in Washington long enough, Senator McCain, and you've done enough damage to veterans and working people. Either resign now with some semblance of dignity, or prepare to be thrown out of office in 2016.
Carl Gibson, 25, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary "We're Not Broke," which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on twitter at @uncutCG.
Feeling Sorry for McCain,
Kissinger, and Other Living Dead
William Boardman / Reader Supported News
"Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste . . ."
-- "Sympathy for the Devil," The Rolling Stones
(February 1, 2015) -- Would you want to change places with a despised war criminal? Seriously, would you want to live as a guilty monster, unwilling to see yourself clearly even in a mirror, at the end of a career of criminal cruelty that has made you hated by millions if not billions of your fellow humans, never knowing if those who politely fawn on your excellence don't secretly despise you behind your back?
Would you really like to change places with John McCain or Henry Kissinger? With Dick Cheney or George Bush or Donald Rumsfeld or any of hundreds of other predators still at large?
Would you really want to be one of those people with so little essential humanity that you're incapable of feeling and expressing the slightest guilty conscience for even the most extreme of your crimes against humanity?
These questions arise amidst reaction to the scene at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on January 29, when the committee decided it would be useful to hear from a nonagenarian former secretary of state and unindicted war criminal named Henry Kissinger.
As reported by the Associated Press in The New York Times, this appearance of a former government official who was an architect of American failures from Viet-Nam to Chile left unasked the question: why would the Senate leadership today want to hear from a man so steeped in making war -- and losing?
The question of war or peace is a question the Times and most of the mainstream media would rather not consider, even though they're covering a Congress that has been noisy with war drums for months, or years now.
For Armed Services chairman McCain to seek the advice of Kissinger, accompanied by former secretaries of state George Shultz and Madeleine Albright, does not send a peace-keeping signal to the country or the world.
Albright, recall, has yet to express regret for her part in killing half a million Iraqi children, by supporting a sanctions policy about which she said: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price -- we think the price is worth it." [The collateral damage of child-killing has been acceptable to American policy makers for at least seventy years, and these three witnesses have yet to take exception to it.]
Code Pink attempted a citizens'
arrest of Kissinger for war crimes
According to the Senate calendar, the committee hearing was "to examine global challenges and the US national security strategy," again raising the implicit question of why the Senate would want to hear from people who were associated with the worst national security failures of the past half century, people who remain in substantial denial about the scale of their failures.
As the hearing began, Kissinger joined the others at the witness table, and perhaps a dozen Code Pink members with several signs and a pair of plastic handcuffs started demonstrating with chants of "Arrest Kissinger for War Crimes."
Calm was restored in about two minutes, during which Kissinger sat impassively and unthreatened, paying almost no attention to the demonstrators. At the same time, Albright squirmed restlessly in her seat and Shultz stood up and shouted at Code Pink.
As the hearing room was cleared of the peaceful, unresisting protestors, chairman McCain shouted, "Get out of here, you low-life scum." There were no arrests. Later McCain apologized "profusely" to Kissinger, commenting incredibly and hyperbolically that: "I have never seen anything as disgraceful and outrageous and despicable as the last demonstration that just took place."
The war crimes case against Kissinger is well known and detailed by, among others, the late Christopher Hitchins in his book The Trial of Henry Kissinger [2001; also an excellent 2002 movie]. Code Pink's Medea Benjamin has previously challenged President Obama for his war crimes, particularly torture and assassination by drone.
The day after this hearing, Benjamin issued a piece titled "Who's the 'Low Life Scum:' Kissinger or CODEPINK?" [See essay below -- EAW] in which she outlined Kissinger's most egregious crimes against Viet-Nam, Chile, East Timor, and the United States.
Benjamin suggested that McCain might have read the East Timor report by the UN Commission on Human Rights describing the horrific consequences of that Kissinger-backed 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.
If he read that report, would McCain still say, "I have never seen anything as disgraceful and outrageous and despicable as the last demonstration that just took place"? Probably, given that those practices were part of Henry Kissinger's "great service" to his nation.
McCain defends a man who
gave him four more years as a POW
"I'd like to apologize for allowing such disgraceful behavior towards a man who has served his country with the greatest distinction, I apologize profusely," McCain said to the national security bureaucrat who had been instrumental in extending McCain's suffering as a prisoner of war in North Viet-Nam for four years more than necessary. McCain was captured in October 1967.
In 1968, Richard Nixon was elected president, thanks in part to his "secret plan" to end the Viet-Nam War. Nixon-Kissinger proceeded to expand the war into Cambodia and Laos, and to extend the war by another four years. McCain was freed in 1973.
What must it be like inside McCain's head where bombing and invading neutral countries, killing thousands more Americans and Vietnamese, and extending his own POW captivity somehow all become "the greatest distinction?" Why aren't those realities better characterized as the soulless power politics of a world class low-life scum?
But McCain's is another old story: his record of loving to send Americans to die in stupid wars is well-documented, as is his continued eagerness for more carnage, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, or Iran, or even all four, or more. Tim Dickenson took McCain apart in Rolling Stone in 2008 and Carl Gibson has done so again on RSN this year.
McCain and Kissinger are surely deserving of the fullest prosecution for the enormity and depravity of the horrors they've helped unleash on their country and the world. But to focus on them is too easy, too much in the past, too much beside the point, except that they still command respect from others in and out of government, others who will willingly follow in their blood-drenched footsteps for the sake of no admirable, coherent, or even sane goal.
The present Armed Services Committee, faced with three mass murderers, was nothing but fawning and respectful.
War and war crimes are
what we do,
and who will say we shouldn't?
Chairman McCain shows no awareness of past war crimes, much less any inclination to avoid future war crimes as needed. Among Republican senators on the committee, will there emerge the realism and caution needed to serve the world well from members like James Inhofe or Ted Cruz, Jeff Sessions or Kelly Ayotte, Joni Ernst, Mike Lee, Lindsey Graham, or any of the others from whom we've yet to hear anything like a nuanced ethics in foreign policy or a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.
The ranking Democrat is Jack Reed, whose quiet opposition to the Iraq war has been quiet to a fault, amounting to tepid acquiescence. And Reed has been quite silent on holding war criminals to account for torture, killing civilians, or anything else. Can we expect any less ineffective "opposition" from senators like Bill Nelson or Claire McCaskill, Joe Manchin or Jeanne Shaheen, Kirsten Gillebrand, Richard Blumenthal, Tim Kaine, or the rest of these silent accomplices to chronic American violation of the world's human rights standards?
Will the only Independent on the committee, Angus King of Maine, actually display any serious independence when it comes to the next war, or any of the current wars and their associated crimes?
None of these senators have shown the capacity to face the reality of past American crimes against humanity, much less call for accountability from their perpetrators. Why should we even hope they won't embrace the failures of the past as the policy of the future? What's to keep them from perpetuating the old ways of thinking and acting, as represented by Kissinger, Albright, and Shultz?
Even when those three talk, as they did, about climate change being the single most pressing threat facing both the US and the world, is there any senator on that committee who can hear that warning over the relentless shrieking-in-horror over ISIS or Ukraine or Iran? What reason is there to believe that these senators aren't just more war-criminals-in-waiting?
The United States has achieved much since 1945, and the achievements have come at awful cost as well. It is as if we have reached a collective moment of mid-passage uncertainty where, like Macbeth, we might well ponder where we're headed:
By the worst means, the worst. For mine own good,
All causes shall give way. I am in blood
Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o'er.
To achieve justice,
a society must value and seek justice
None of this is reason to let those former zombie leaders off their own hooks. We as a country, as a moral society, still need to arrest these people, bring them to trial, and hold them accountable for the war crimes, torture, suffering, and death they have inflicted on others, and sometimes on us, all in our name.
Accountability for the past is the surest safeguard for the future. We need to restore some semblance of justice to a culture grown numb and vicious. And to roll back some of that numb viciousness, we need to proceed with relentless compassion, and even with a willingness to embrace mercy for any who might finally come to seek truth and reconciliation.
There's little reason to think that what we need to be a healthy, honest, open culture is anything like what we're going to get. Both houses of Congress are dominated by macho posturing and excited foreplay for war.
The American police state slowly rises, unchecked even when it's noticed. The populace seems restless and unhappy and full of blame for others without agreement on what is wrong.
It is as if we have come no distance at all from 50 years ago, when our government started assassinating non-violent Black Panther Party members in a murderously successful suppression of human freedom led by the FBI.
It is as if we still believe the formulation of FBI head J. Edgar Hoover, that crippled monster who said without fear of contradiction: "Justice is merely incidental to law and order."
He had it precisely backwards then, and as a nation we still do.
William M. Boardman has over 40 years' experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.
Who's the "Low Life Scum:" Kissinger or CODEPINK?
Medea Benjamin / Code Pink
(January 30, 2015) -- 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 US "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.
• 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 US 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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