Protesters resurrect claims of Kissinger's war crimes
Protesters outside the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland on Wednesday night rallied against Henry A. Kissinger's visit to Pittsburgh.
Henry A. Kissinger speaks with Dick Thornburgh, former Pennsylvania governor and U.S. attorney general.
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Local activists protested Henry Kissinger's keynote lecture of the Pittsburgh Middle East Institute's Fourth Annual Conference at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland on Wednesday night.
The protesters, about 20 members of Pittsburghers for World Peace and the Thomas Merton Center Anti-War Committee, say the 88-year-old former secretary of state and 1973 Nobel Peace Prize recipient is responsible for "heinous war crimes," including but not limited to the extension of the Vietnam War, the 1969 bombings of Laos and Cambodia and arming Indonesian dictator Suharto when he invaded East Timor in 1975.
"Emotions are very high, and people are livid about this," said protest organizer David Hughes, 65, of Squirrel Hill.
The activists, who were mostly men over the age of 50, said it was their moral responsibility to not let Mr. Kissinger's presence in Pittsburgh go unchallenged.
Simin Curtis, founder and president of the Pittsburgh Middle East Institute, said the fact that Mr. Kissinger drew a packed crowd to the 2,000 capacity Carnegie Music Hall proves that the protesters and their beliefs are not strongly represented in Pittsburgh.
"I think that Americans know very little about their history, and I think it's important for them to hear of great men from history whether they agree with them or not," said Ms. Curtis, 51, of Shadyside. "We learn about history from different points of view. So get out of your comfort zone."
Ms. Curtis -- whose institute was formed four years ago with the aim to foster educational, business and cultural ties between the Middle East and the United States -- said Mr. Kissinger was selected to speak on Wednesday night because he is "a brilliant man and an icon of foreign policy of the last century."
Mr. Kissinger served as assistant to the president for national security affairs from 1969 to 1975, a post he held throughout controversial President Richard Nixon's tenure in the oval office and as the Vietnam War waged on.
Mr. Kissinger also served as secretary of state from 1973 to 1977 under Gerald Ford. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in negotiating peace in Vietnam and signing a cease-fire agreement in 1973, even though violence continued in the region until the fall of Saigon in 1975.
Mr. Kissinger has never stood trial for any claims of war crimes against him and has publicly defended some of his political policies.
Brian Johnston, a 79-year-old emeritus professor of dramatic literature at Carnegie Mellon University, said he joined the protesters to remind people of Mr. Kissinger's history so it doesn't get repeated.
"Henry Kissinger is involved in the worst part of American history," he said.
Mr. Hughes hoped the protest would served as a message to future leaders.
"Don't think that eventually you'll get away with it, because people won't give up," he said.
First Published October 27, 2011 12:00 am