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Kerry’s Pretentious Scolding of CODEPINK for Protesting Escalation of War in Iraq & Syria

Secretary of State John Kerry

Secretary of State John Kerry testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and President Barack Obama’s plans to combat the group. However, before getting into his remarks, he took a moment to address the pink-clad members of the peace group, CODEPINK, because they were in the room holding up pink signs with antiwar messages and greeted him with chants and words of protest as he entered and sat down at the witness table.

“As I came in here, obviously, we had some folks who spoke out, and I would start by saying that I understand dissent. I’ve lived it. That’s how I first testified in front of this country in 1971. I spent two years protesting a policy so I respect the right of CODEPINK to protest and use that right,” Kerry said.

“But, you know what,” Kerry continued, “I also know something about how CODEPINK was started by a woman and women who were opposed to war but who also thought that the government’s job is to take care of people, to give them good healthcare and education and good jobs. And, if that’s what you believe in—and I believe it is—then you ought to care about fighting [ISIS].”

Kerry added, “Because [ISIS] is killing and raping and mutilating women, and they believe women shouldn’t have an education. They sell off girls to be sex slaves to jihadists. There is no negotiation with [ISIS]. There is nothing to negotiate. And they’re not offering anyone healthcare of any kind. They’re not offering education of any kind.”

“For a whole philosophy or idea or cult, they’re cold-blooded killers marauding across the Middle East making a mockery of a peaceful religion. And that’s precisely why we are building a coalition to try to stop them from denying the women and the girls and the people of Iraq the very future that they yearn for. And, frankly, CODEPINK and a lot of other people need to stop and think about how you stop them and deal with that,” Kerry concluded.

Except, CODEPINK and “other people” opposed to military action have considered what it would take to stop ISIS. That is why they oppose US military intervention, even if done with the support of a coalition.

We are deeply concerned about the people of Syria and Iraq and the threat to their safety that ISIS poses, but we know that US military intervention in the region has historically been counterproductive. We especially saw this play out after the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. Instead of relying on the US military to solve the crisis, what’s needed is a political and humanitarian solution to the crisis, not more violence.

It also is rather brazen that faced with protest from CODEPINK Kerry was suddenly all concerned about the women of Iraq. He had multiple meetings with former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and not once did he publicly address the abuse of women in Iraq’s criminal justice system, which Human Rights Watch (HRW) called attention to in a report [PDF] in February.

According to HRW, thousands of Iraqi women are “imprisoned by a judicial system plagued by torture and rampant corruption.” Convictions are based on confessions “obtained under torture and ill-treatment.” Women are threatened and suffer beatings. Trial proceedings are unfair and “fall far short of international standards.”

Kerry expressed concern about sex slaves. It appears that security forces in Iraq used women they detained and imprisoned as their own sex slaves.

“Fatima Hussein,” who had been documenting abuse of detainees in prison was accused of alleged involvment in the murder of a parliamentarian’s brother and also of marrying an al Qaeda member. She was physically and sexually tortured. A man she identified as Colonel Ghazi blindfolded her and tied her to a column. She was electrocuted with an electric baton. Her feet and back were hit with a cable. Her hair was pulled. She was tied naked to the column. Cigarettes were extinguished on her body. She was later handcuffed to a bed and forced to give oral sex. Then, with blood all over her, she was raped three times and Ghazi “would relax, have a cigarette and put it out” on her buttocks and then start violating her again.

As HRW explained, “The insecurity created by the US-led 2003 occupation of Iraq, followed by sectarian strife that engulfed the country, further eroded women’s rights. Human Rights Watch documented a wave of sexual violence and abductions against women in Baghdad following the invasion. Women and girls told Human Rights Watch that insecurity and fear of rape and abduction kept them in their homes, out of schools, and away from work.”

This is what CODEPINK and other people fear and why they are so hesitant to support military escalation. Yet, the Obama administration stood by Maliki and his government and were mostly silent as officials in his criminal justice system barbarically engaged in rape and torture of women or were complicit when faced with evidence of rape and torture by Iraqi security forces.

Kerry naively raised the fact that the group is interested in government providing people with jobs, healthcare and education without realizing that this is exactly what could be motivating their opposition. They would rather see funds that will go toward war go into jobs, healthcare and education.

Plus, what is this pretentious nonsense about living dissent, like it is some phase he outgrew or misfortune he went through decades ago?

It also is remarkable that he can talk about his past speaking out against the Vietnam War when he wants to publicly shame activists but was a coward and ran from his past when he was campaigning for president against President George W. Bush in 2004.

Dissenting against war was fashionable for Kerry until it threatened his future as a politician. And now, Kerry is talking about arming and equipping thousands of Syrian rebels, who will be trained by Saudi Arabia—that bastion of dignity, equality and justice for women—and then go off to fight ISIS and then…

Well, that’s yet to be worked out. Although, it is worth noting US-made weapons provided to rebels in Syria have fallen into the hands of ISIS. Fighters have also obtained weapons, which were supplied by Saudi Arabia to opposition groups in southern Syria in January 2013, according to The Guardian.

Finally, to the blood-lusting hordes of people who are incensed by dissent and say CODEPINK should go try and negotiate with ISIS and see what happens to them, opposing this military intervention does not make one pro-ISIS.

It does not make one pro-ISIS any more than being opposed to the Iraq War, which President George W. Bush launched in 2003, made one pro-Saddam Hussein.

Video of Kerry addressing CODEPINK during the hearing:

{!hitembed ID=”hitembed_1″ width=”512″ height=”390″ align=”none” !}

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."