The Trial of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens

I have been reading the marvelous ‘The Trial of Henry Kissinger’ written in 2001 by Christopher Hitchens (1949-) at his polemic, lacerating best. He argues fairly convincingly, with appropriate documentary evidence, that Kissinger warrants trial for war crimes. Indeed, Kissinger apparently is unable to travel to many countries in the world for fear of detention and prosecution on these grounds. Which particular war crimes? Well the torture and murders in Chile and Argentina during their respective right wing dictatorships. The up to 2 million killed in Bangladesh by the Pakistan military. The 600,000 killed during the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. And Hitchens gets more personal and cites the connections with the assassinations of Rene Schneider head of the Chilean military before the Pinochet coup, and of Orlando Letelier a Chilean exile in Washington DC. 

You should read this book if you want to get the full impression of Kissinger’s alleged crimes. As one of the reviews of the book said: Kissinger should sue, but instead has completely failed to convincingly deny the overwhelming evidence, not only of his cited moral failings, but his vindictiveness, his complicity in the worst of the Nixon era outrages and his economy with the historical truth, often contradicting himself and tying himself up in knots about what happened. This is an account of the 1968-74 period when America was a Nixonian banana republic. But, as Hitchens suggests, we have not had our Truth and Reconciliation process to uncover what happened.

I suppose for me the great revelation in the book is that Kissinger, who was playing both sides of the Democrat/Republican fence, was likely a party to the message Nixon sent to the South Vietnamese, that if they pulled out of the Johnson administration efforts to bring peace before the 1968 election, Nixon would see they got better terms. They did pull out and it may have cost Hubert Humphrey the election, and given us the appalling Nixon Presidency. Moreover, in reality after 4 more years of fighting, and 20,000 more American and perhaps a million Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian lives lost, the South Vietnamese had to settle on the same 1968 terms in 1972. Nixon undercutting  the US government negotiations for political gain was probably treason. Some say the Watergate break in was to find out if the Democrats planned to use this information in the 1972 election. And of course, all of this had its echoes in Reagan’s dealing with Iran to undercut Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election over the release of American hostages. So maybe I am naive to think the Republicans once cared for the country over self interest? Come back Dwight Eisenhower!

The loathsome Kissinger:

His nemesis, Christopher Hitchens who is dying of esophageal cancer

About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
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