Friday, January 25, 2013

The Trial of Henry Kissinger builds thorough, strong case

By Jon Overton

The late Christopher Hitchens often methodically and boldly took down anyone and anything he detested, including religion, Mother Teresa, Ayatollah Khomeini, JFK, Bill Clinton, Princess Diana and many others. In The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Hitchens calls the former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State a war criminal.

Kissinger’s alleged crimes include intentionally killing civilians in Indochina, covering up mass murder and assassination in Bangladesh, planning to murder a senior officer in democratic Chile, helping plan to assassinate the president of Cyprus, enabling genocide in East Timor and attempting to assist in the kidnapping and murder of a foreign journalist in Washington, DC.

Hitchens provides ample evidence supporting his case against Kissinger from sources including the memoirs of H.R. Haldeman, Nixon and Kissinger, transcripts of State Department meetings and historians among other sources. The complex nature of incidents Hitchens describes can make it hard to follow, but far from being a dry dissertation written in legalese and hardly a dull, academic history book, The Trial of Henry Kissinger is an eloquent, efficient and merciless condemnation of this calculated statesman. Kissinger is frequently characterized as cold and manipulative and the contempt Hitchens holds for Kissinger is blatantly explicit.

Hitchens said the effects of Kissinger’s actions were “present in uncounted and expendable corpses; the official and unofficial lying about the cost; the heavy and pompous pseudo-indignation when unwelcome questions were asked. Kissinger’s global career started as it meant to go on. It debauched the American republic and American democracy, and it levied a hideous toll of casualties on weaker and more vulnerable societies.”

The author noted that whenever someone accused Kissinger of knowing about legally suspicious activities, he would “pose as a sort of Candide: naive, and ill-prepared for and easily unhorsed by events.” Kissinger did this at “precisely the time when the record shows him to be knowledgeable, and when knowledge or foreknowledge would also confront him with charges of responsibility or complicity.”

While he seems to enjoy making grandiose denunciations, the author never makes wild accusations without supporting evidence, though he sometimes goes over the top.

Hitchens creates a sense of moral indignation over this unelected official obtaining vast control over covert operations and foreign policy in the world’s largest superpower to commit truly horrific atrocities. They all occurred under an ideology called realpolitik, which set practical matters over human rights and moral concerns.

The author evokes outrage best with the genocide in East Timor and fascist militants who overthrew the socialist and democratically elected Chilean government.

Hitchens also noted that if Kissinger isn’t put on trial for his apparent war crimes, if the files he dubiously labeled as “personal” aren’t even subpoenaed, it throws into question both the weight of U.S. and international law.

Never one to dodge controversy, Hitchens again charged head on to tackle someone he saw as wrongly lionized and as usual, laid a solid, provocative case against him.

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