Whatever your views of Kissinger, his rise to power is as astonishing as it was unlikely. A refugee from Nazi Germany who found his métier as a scholar of history, philosophy and geopolitics while serving in the U.S. Army, Kissinger was one of many Harvard professors who were drawn into government during the Cold War. His appointment as Richard Nixon’s national security adviser in December 1968 nevertheless came as a surprise to many people (not least Kissinger himself), because for most of the previous decade he had been so closely identified with Nelson Rockefeller, Nixon’s patrician rival within the Republican Party. From his sickbed, the former President Eisenhower expressed his skepticism about the appointment. “But Kissinger is a professor,” he exclaimed when he heard of Nixon’s choice. “You ask professors to study things, but you never put them in charge of anything.”
The Trial of Henry Kissinger is a 2001 book by Christopher Hitchens which examines the alleged war crimes of Henry Kissinger, the National Security Advisor and later, the U.S. Secretary of State for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Acting in the role of prosecutor, Hitchens presents Kissinger’s involvement in a series of alleged war crimes in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh, Chile, Cyprus and East Timor.
The actual overthrow of the Allende government in a sanguinary coup d’etat took place on September 11, 1973, while Kissinger was going through his own Senate confirmation process as secretary of state. He falsely assured the Foreign Relations Committee that the United States government had played no part in the coup. From a thesaurus of hard information to the contrary, one might select Situation Report No. 2, from the Navy Section of the United States Military Group in Chile and written by U.S. Naval Attaché Patrick J. Ryan. Mr. Ryan describes his close relationship with the officers engaged in overthrowing the government, hails September 11, 1973, as “our D-Day,” and observes with satisfaction that “Chile’s coup de etat [sic] was close to perfect.” Or one may peruse the declassified files on “Project FUBELT”- the code name under which the CIA, in frequent contact with Kissinger and the 40 Committee, conducted covert operations against the legal and elected government of Chile.
. . .On leaving the State Department, Kissinger made an extraordinary bargain whereby he gifted his papers to the Library of Congress (having first hastily trucked them for safekeeping to the Rockefeller estate at Pocantico Hills, New York) on the sole condition that they remain under seal until five years after his death. Kissinger’s friend Manuel Contreras, however, made a mistake when he killed an American citizen, Ronni Karpen Moffitt, in the Washington car bomb that also murdered Orlando Letelier in 1976. By late 2000, the Federal Bureau of Investigation had finally sought and received subpoena power to review the Library of Congress papers, a subpoena with which Kissinger dealt only through his attorneys. It was a start, but it was pathetic when compared with the efforts of truth-and-justice commissions in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, which have now emerged from years of Kissinger befriended dictatorship and are seeking a full accounting. We await the moment when the United States Congress will inaugurate a comparable process and finally subpoena all the hidden documents that obscure the view of unpunished crimes committed in our names.
. . .Cyprus was not the first instance in which a perceived need to mollify China outweighed even the most minimal concern for human life elsewhere. On April 6, 1971, a cable of protest was written from the United States Consulate in what was then East Pakistan, the Bengali “wing” of the Muslim state of Pakistan, known to its restive nationalist inhabitants by the name Bangladesh. The cable’s senior signatory, the consul general in Dhaka, was named Archer Blood, though it might have become known as the Blood Telegram in any case. Sent directly to Washington, its purpose was, quite simply, to denounce the complicity of the United States government in genocide.
This was signed by twenty members of the United States’ diplomatic equipe in Bangladesh and, on its arrival at the State Department, by a further nine senior officers in the South Asia division. It was the most public and the most strongly worded demarche, from State Department servants to the State Department, that has ever been recorded.
The circumstances fully warranted the protest. In December 1970, the Pakistani military elite had permitted the first open elections in a decade. The vote was easily won by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the leader of the Bengali-based Awami League, who gained a large overall majority in the proposed National Assembly. (In the East alone, it won 167 out of 169 seats.) This, among other things, meant a challenge to the political and military and economic hegemony of the Western “wing.” The National Assembly had been scheduled to meet on March 3, 1971. On March 1, General Yahya Khan, head of the supposedly outgoing military regime, postponed its convening, which resulted in mass protests and nonviolent civil disobedience in the East.
On March 25,1971, the Pakistani army struck at the Bengali capital of Dhaka. Having arrested and kidnapped Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and taken him to West Pakistan, it set about massacring his supporters. The foreign press had been preemptively expelled from the city, but much of the direct evidence of what then happened was provided via a radio transmitter operated by the American consulate. Archer Blood himself supplied an account of one episode directly to the State Department and to Henry Kissinger’s National Security Council. Having readied the ambush, Pakistani regular soldiers set fire to the women’s dormitory at the university and then mowed the occupants down with machine guns as they sought to escape. (The guns, along with all the other weaponry, had been furnished under American military-assistance programs.)
Other reports, since amply vindicated, were supplied to the London Times and Sunday Times by the courageous reporter Anthony Mascarenhas and flashed around a horrified world. Rape, murder, dismemberment, and the state murder of children were employed as deliberate methods of repression and intimidation. At least 10,000 civilians were butchered in the first three days. The eventual civilian death toll has never been placed at less than half a million and has been put as high as 3 million. Since almost all Hindu citizens were at risk by definition from Pakistani military chauvinism (not that Pakistan’s Muslim co-religionists were spared), a vast movement of millions of refugees-perhaps as many as 10 million-began to cross the Indian frontier. To summarize, then: first, the direct negation of a democratic election; second, the unleashing of a genocidal policy; third, the creation of a very dangerous international crisis. Within a short time, Ambassador Kenneth Keating, the ranking American diplomat in New Delhi, had added his voice to those of the dissenters. It was a time, he told Washington, when a principled stand against the authors of this aggression and atrocity would also make the best pragmatic sense. Keating, a former senator from New York, used a very suggestive phrase in his cable of March 29,1971, calling on the administration to “PROMPTLY, PUBLICLY AND PROMINENTLY DEPLORE THIS BRUTALITY.” It was “MOST IMPORTANT THESE ACTIONS BE TAKEN NOW,” he warned, “PRIOR TO INEVITABLE AND IMMINENT EMERGENCE OF HORRIBLE TRUTHS.”
Nixon and Kissinger acted quickly. That is to say, Archer Blood was immediately recalled from his post, and Ambassador Keating was described by the president to Kissinger, with some contempt, as having been “taken over by the Indians.” In late April 1971, at the very height of the mass murder, Kissinger sent a message to General Yalya Khan, thanking him for his “delicacy and tact.”
We now know of one reason why the general was so favored at a time when he had made himself-and his patrons-responsible for the grossest crimes against humanity. In April 1971, an American Ping-Pong team had accepted a surprise invitation to compete in Beijing, and by the end of that month, using the Pakistani ambassador as an intermediary, the Chinese authorities had forwarded a letter inviting Nixon to send an envoy. Thus there was one motive of realpolitik for the shame that Nixon and Kissinger were to visit on their own country for its complicity in the extermination of the Bengalis.
Those who like to plead realpolitik, however, might wish to consider some further circumstances. There already was, and had been for some time, a “back channel” between Washington and Beijing. It ran through Nicolae Ceausescu’s Romania; not a decorative choice but not, at that stage, a positively criminal one. To a serious person like Chou En-Lai, there was no reason to confine approaches to the narrow channel afforded by a blood-soaked (and short-lived, as it turned out) despot like the delicate and tactful Yabya Khan. Either Chou En-Lai wanted contact, in other words, or he did not. As Lawrence Lifschultz, the primary historian of this period, has put it:
“Winston Lord, Kissinger’s deputy at the National Security Council, stressed to investigators the internal rationalization developed within the upper echelons of the Administration. Lord told [the staff of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace] “We had to demonstrate to China we were a reliable government to deal with. We had to show China that we respect a mutual friend.” How, after two decades of belligerent animosity with the People’s Republic, mere support for Pakistan in its bloody civil war was supposed to demonstrate to China that the U.S. “was a reliable government to deal with” was a mystifying proposition which more cynical observers of the events, both in and outside the U.S. government, consider to have been an excuse justifying the simple convenience of the Islamabad link-a link which Washington had no overriding desire to shift.”
Second, the knowledge of this secret diplomacy and its accompanying privileges obviously freed the Pakistani general of such restraints as might have inhibited him. He told his closest associates, including his minister of communications, G. W. Choudhury, that his private understanding with Washington and Beijing would protect him. Choudhury later wrote, “If Nixon and Kissinger had not given him that false hope, he’d have been more realistic.” Thus the collusion with him in the matter of China increases the direct complicity of Nixon and Kissinger in the massacres.
Only a reopened congressional inquiry with subpoena power could determine whether there was any direct connection, apart from the self-evident ones of consistent statecraft attested by recurring and reliable testimony, between the secret genocidal diplomacy of 1971 and the secret destabilizing diplomacy of 1975. The task of disproving such a connection, meanwhile, would appear to rest on those who believe that everything is an accident.
Video Title: Christopher Hitchens – Discussing the crimes of Henry Kissinger. Source: James V. Date Published: August 31, 2013. Description:
April 10, 2001
Christopher Hitchens details his research on the war crimes of Henry Kissinger.
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