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A master of war
Why hasn’t Henry Kissinger been banged up long ago?
Eamonn McCann, 07 Jun 2001
Two weeks on, and not a word.
Nobody in the mainstream has had a word to say about Bill Clinton being given an honorary law degree at Queen’s, Belfast, on May 24th in recognition of – as the vice-chancellor put it – ”his role as a peace-maker”.
Forget for a moment the clear impropriety of projecting the bomber of Baghdad as a maker of peace. Merely consider – a law degree!
Last January, Clinton was fined $25,000 and disbarred from practising law for a minimum of five years. He’d been rumbled for perjury and the perversion of justice.
I dare say there is nowhere else on planet Earth that, 17 weeks later, the great and the good would assemble dewy-eyed and applaud as an honorary law degree was conferred upon him. Any academic institution which made the offer would surely be laughed to scorn. But Ireland, land without shame, laps it up.
Well, not entirely without shame. During his stop-over in Derry, Clinton shouted down protestors who’d saved the honour of the city by objecting to his habit while in office of sending bombers against innocent people to divert attention from personal/political problems. Then he contradicted himself: “I believe in free speech”.
No, he doesn’t. The previous day, he’d charged IR£120,000 for an hour of unremarkable observations to an audience of monied nerds in downtown Dublin.
Clinton’s Dublin address was par for the particular course.
Two years ago, it was Henry Kissinger who delivered the “Independent Lecture”. Appropos of which: You know the bit at the end of speeches – the peroration, if you will – where points made earlier are reiterated with added emphasis and rhetorical flourish? Here was Kissinger’s:
“Solutions to the problem of world order need to be found which involve some reconciliation between the principles of sovereignty and humanitarian intervention, between the market and what is socially and politically bearable, between equity and speculative investment, and a means of dealing with crises that mitigates austerity.”.
Viscid phrases plopping slow, oozing shapelessly into awkward sentences – people pay to listen to this stuff...?
To be fair, as we always are in this space, Kissinger charged less than a quarter of the Clinton fee. That’s if he was booked at the going rate. Two years ago, the Harry Walker Agency (“America’s Leading Exclusive Lecture Agency”) was touting Kissinger (“guaranteed minimum 60 minute presentation, Q&A by arrangement”) at a mere $30,000 a throw.
Clinton, apparently, allows no discounts. He’s a recent ex-president in bad need of money. He owes somewhere between four and six million dollars – according to which US commentator we choose to rely on – in legal costs arising from his perjury etc., as well as from challenges to last-minute presidential pardons to various crooks. But it’s possible Kissinger didn’t sting his Indo hosts for the full fee.
We learn from the latest work by my old mate Christopher Hitchens (The Trial Of Henry Kissinger, Verso, stg£15) that the oafish ex-rugby player who now bosses the Indo and the exterminator of uppity peasants the world over are old business buddies. We might call it the China Connection.
This sheds new light on the fact that Kissinger’s theme in Dublin was that concerns about human rights shouldn’t be allowed to disrupt the development of commercial relations with China. “We tend to forget that this country has had 14 dynasties, 10 of which had individual histories longer than the history of the United States. Therefore they may have known something relevant to their survival all on their own”.
Hitchens reveals that China looms large, too, in the accounts of Kissinger Associates (KA), the “international corporate consultancy” which Kissinger set up after leaving office, with Brent Scowcroft and Laurence Eagleburger – as dodgy a duo as has ever decorated headed notepaper. Endorsements of the market Stalinism of the Beijing regime are a standard feature of Kissinger’s pitch to audiences. And this, it seems, in turn, tends marvellously to harmonise with the business needs of KA’s clients.
Hitchens provides a prime example. O’Reilly, speaking in his capacity as CEO of Heinz about the conglomorate’s push for access to the Chinese market, is quoted: “Kissinger and his associates make a real contribution... This is particularly true in China... He was helpful in seeing that we did not take steps that would not have been helpful in Beijing...”
Post-modernists say we live in a disordered world. I don’t know. Here we have in neat array and with interests fully coordinated – Kissinger Associates, H. J. Heinz, the Irish Independent group and the butchers of Tiananmen Square...
The thesis of the book is that in an era when Augusto Pinochet can be detained while on holiday in London and Slobodan Milosevic is snatched from his fortress home in Belgrade, surely Henry Kissinger should have been banged up long ago? The case is well-made, Chris being a bright spark from way back and the evidence against Kissinger overwhelming.
The book visits the scenes of many Kissinger crimes – the mass murder of civilians in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam; murder and the assassination of political leaders in Bangladesh; the overthrow of an elected government and the procurement of murder in Chile; the attempted murder of the president of Cyprus; the incitement and cover-up of murder in East Timor. And so on.
Much of the material isn’t new. Anyone who has read Seymour Hersh on LBJ or Anthony Summers on Nixon will be au fait with the broad outline. What, crucially, Hitchens adds are details which tie Kissinger in personally with particular crimes.
Kissinger didn’t just approve the policy which led to the overthrow of Allende, for example, or merely sanction the approach to East Timor which resulted in the slaughter of up to 200,000. He intervened personally in order to achieve these outcomes. (His chief sidekick in the East Timor strategy was recently-retired New York senator Daniel Moynihan, a great friend of Irish nationalism and supporter of the Belfast Agreement). If Hitchens doesn’t prove beyond doubt that Kissinger was directly involved in the car-bombing which killed former Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier in downtown Washington in 1976, he presents a plausible prima face case.
The biggest crime of all, and one of the most stomach-churning political manoeuvres of the last century, was the sabotage of the Vietnam peace negotiations in 1968. As Hitchens acknowledges, it was Summers and Robbyn Swan (residents of Cappoquin, if it matters, which I don’t suppose it does) who, in 1999, gained access to the relevant FBI files and, in The Arrogance of Power, published last year, described how Kissinger successfully urged the Saigon delegation at the Paris Talks to reject the deal then on offer and to hold out until after the US presidential election in November.
Then, he guaranteed, a Nixon administration would take a tougher line with Hanoi. Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey was thus deprived of a peace deal to point to in the election campaign. And three million died before much the same deal was done in 1973.
Around half the names on the Vietnam wall memorial in Washington have dates attached later than Kissinger’s intervention to prolong the war.
The book will have little effect. Kissinger won’t go to jail. As a general rule, only war criminals whose killings conflict with western interests are liable for arraignment before international tribunals. One recalls the stunned disbelief of Robin Cook when asked by Jeremy Paxman whether US or British officials might ever be brought before the new International Court he, Cook, had been extolling. “But it’s not for governments like ours,” the preposterous Jock finally spluttered.
Mind you, Hitchens, who mixed with decent people in his younger days, has been too long in the salons of DC. He writes too self-consciously stylishly. His tone is of moral disdain. Back in ’68, he saw the connection between the war against the Vietnamese and the truculence of the cops in Grosvenor Square, and knew that there was one solution, revolution. Now he wants the liberal elite to collar the likes of Kissinger, which won’t happen.
Still, his book reminds us that we live in a vice-versa world, where John Gilligan is locked away and his assets confiscated at the urging of Indo group newspapers, while Henry Kissinger walks unmolested into Dublin in the clear light of day and is paid thousands by Tony O’Reilly.