WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. foreign policy titan Henry Kissinger came to Capitol Hill Thursday to discuss global security challenges, but received a rude welcome from protesters who demanded his arrest for war crimes.
Sen. John McCain, presiding over the Senate Armed Services Committee, bridled during the incident, calling the demonstrators “low-life scum.”
Protesters from the rights group Code Pink stood up and shouted out at the start of the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, startling senators as well as Kissinger and two other former secretaries of state, Madeleine Albright and George Shultz, who were preparing to testify.
One man held up a banner bearing the words “Arrest Kissinger for War Crimes.”
When he neared Kissinger, who served as secretary of state from 1973 to 1977, Shultz stood up to push him away.
After order was restored, and as Kissinger began his remarks, a woman demanded Kissinger’s arrest because he “oversaw the slaughter in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.”
She also branded Kissinger a principle architect of the 1973 coup in Chile.
It all proved too much for McCain, who tore into the protesters.
“I’ve been a member of this committee for many years, and I have never seen anything as disgraceful and outrageous and despicable as the last demonstration that just took place,” McCain fumed.
When one of the protestors carried on, McCain grew angrier.
“You’re going to have to shut up or I’ll have you arrested,” he said. “Get out of here you low-life scum.”
Kissinger is a frequent target of protesters, who accuse him of a litany of crimes, including involvement in the secret bombing of Cambodia, while he served in the Nixon administration.
McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, has longstanding personal ties with Kissinger, and apologized “profusely” for the protesters’ outburst.
McCain recalled how Kissinger refused an offer to take him home with him from Hanoi where Kissinger was in negotiations to end the war.
McCain said Kissinger demanded the prisoners be released in the order they were captured, in order to prevent the image of favouritism to McCain, whose father was a U.S. Navy admiral.