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.