With the activists seated just a few feet behind him, the secretary of state and famed Vietnam War veteran departed from his prepared remarks before the Foreign Relations Committee to remind the group of his own anti-war past.
"As I came in here, obviously we had some folks who spoke out, and I would start out by saying, I understand dissent. I’ve lived it," Kerry said. "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."
It was actually before the very same Senate committee that Kerry, as a 27-year-old member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, uttered the famous words, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"
Four decades later, Kerry would serve as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and on Wednesday his task in testifying before the panel was to sell Obama's new war against ISIS.
After acknowledging CodePink, he went on to deliver an extended – and largely improvised – lecture on why the group should care about defeating the Islamic State.
But you know what? I also know something about CodePink. Code Pink was started by a woman, and women, who were opposed to war but who also thought that it was the government’s job to take care of people, to give them 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 ISIL."
CodePink was founded in 2002 by Medea Benjamin and other "women for peace" who were protesting the ramp-up to the invasion of Iraq that was launched five months later. Benjamin remains the face of the group, and she was ushered out of a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, where Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey were testifying on ISIS.
On Wednesday, Kerry sought to appeal to the protesters by saying that 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 ISIL. There is nothing to negotiate. And they’re not offering anyone healthcare of any kind. They're not offering education of any kind."
Kerry said the terrorists operated with a philosophy that "frankly comes out of the Stone Age."
They’re cold-blooded killers marauding across the Middle East making a mockery of a peaceful religion.
Frankly, CodePink and a lot of other people need to stop and think about you stop them and deal with that."
The argument did not appear to work. As Kerry paused, a protester directed behind him began chanting, "More invasions will not protect the homeland." She was led out of the room.
Kerry tried again.
It’s important to understand the invasion was ISIL into Iraq. The Invasion is foreign fighter in to Syria. That’s the invasion."
He then continued with his prepared testimony as several other CodePink activists remained seated behind him with signs.