Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 5, 2001
Past villainy catching up with Kissinger
As an assortment of old Republicans rushed to the aid of George W. Bush in his bid for the presidency, the name of one old stalwart seemed curiously absent. TV preachers Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell were reported to have used the tax-exempt divisions of the religious right empires to support their candidate.
James Baker and other senior bagmen from the Bush-Reagan era made television appearances accusing the Democrats of "shenanigans." Desert Storm troopers and dad's cronies came forward to once more serve the greatest nation on earth and lend the new administration the aura of dynastic stability.
But the one time toast of the town, Nobel Peace Prize winner, brilliant technocrat, often photographed in glossy magazines exchanging witticisms with lanky models at Vogue cocktail parties, the power behind the throne of successive presidents, Henry Kissinger, was nowhere to be seen.
At the height of his popularity Kissinger could charge $30,000 for an appearance, but now he has become a hot potato.
Not too long ago Kissinger was hired as a cultural ambassador promoting Disney movies in China, but according to Maryknoll News Notes, he cancelled all his foreign engagements after Gen. Augusto Pinochet was arrested in Britain for crimes against humanity.
On July 17, 1998, 120 nations voted to create a permanent International Criminal Court to try war crimes. Only seven nations opposed the measure, including Iraq, China, Israel and the U.S. As events unfolded it became clear that perhaps the era of impunity for war crimes and genocide was coming to an end.
Already in 1983, Sojourners magazine described Kissinger as the "ambassador of darkness" who "probably inflicted more suffering and death than any single public official in U.S. history."
They cited the four years of relentless slaughter in Indochina, the murderous coup in Chile, the backing of Pakistan to kill a million Bengalis, the invasion of East Timor, which killed 100,000 civilians, only hours after he and Ford had met with Indonesian officials, the prolonged involvement in Central America and his "willingness to kill thousands of non-combatants to demonstrate U.S. resolve," to say nothing of his treatment of the Kurds.
Twenty years ago, historian Ronald Steele described Kissinger's gift as an "ability to provide compelling reasons for doing the unspeakable," to engage in the worst villainies and be considered a hero, to revel in warfare and be hailed as a peacemaker.
Around the same time analyst Alan Wolfe wrote "for the U.S. to ever again be morally whole, it would have to convict Henry Kissinger of war crimes." But Kissinger committed his crimes by proxy or in secrecy and has never been prosecuted or interrogated.
With George W. Bush as president, it is not likely that such an investigation will take place soon. But the word is out now and the Machiavellian Prince of the last half of the 20th century might at least stand trial in the court of public opinion.
The February and March 2001 issue of Harper's magazine features a detailed analysis by Christopher Hitchens on the rise to power and the abuse of power by Kissinger.
"Many, if not most of Kissinger's partners in politics, from Greece to Chile to Argentina to Indonesia," writes Hitchens, "are now in jail or awaiting trial. His own lonely impunity is rank; it smells to heaven. In the name of innumerable victims known and unknown, it is time for justice to take a hand."
No wonder, old Henry was absent from the inauguration celebrations. Fallen heroes are a liability to those who boast a new morality.
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