There was also a deficiency in imagination likely to circumscribe the value of any study by Kissinger of Kissinger. Asked about his role in the Cambodian war, in which an estimated five hundred thousand people died, he’d said, “I may have a lack of imagination, but I fail to see the moral issue involved.” — Joseph Heller, Good as Gold (Kissinger’s original quote is from William Shawcross’s Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon, and the Destruction of Cambodia)
Fred Branfman has a great article up over at AlterNet pillorying the State Department’s invitation to Henry Kissinger to address a conference on “the American Experience in Southeast Asia, 1946-1975.” The conference was scheduled for September 29-30 at the George C. Marshall Conference Center at the U.S. Department of State. Along with bona fide war criminal Kissinger, the other invitees included current Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke, and Former Deputy Secretary of State, and Former Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte.
It was only last April here at The Seminal/Firedoglake that I reported on the declassification of a 1976 State Department cable from Henry Kissinger to “his assistant secretary of state for Inter-American affairs, Harry Shlaudeman, to cancel a formal demarche to the Uruguayan government, protesting the assassinations and other activities of Operation Condor.” Only five days later, former Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and his assistant Ronnie Moffat were assassinated on the streets of Washington, D.C. by a CIA-supported Chilean secret police killer.
But, as the Obama administration rehabilitation of the odious Kissinger demonstrates, memory is short in Washington, even when there is blood on the streets… unless that blood can be turned in for demagogic currency, as is the case with the deaths on 9/11. To have Kissinger honored as an authority on the Indochinese War is an obscenity of the first order. Branfman recalls some of the essential history: . . .
Kissinger orchestrated the most massive bombing in world history, dropping 3,984,563 million tons on an area inhabited by some 50 million people, twice the 2 million tons dropped on hundreds of millions through Europe and the Pacific in World War II. He dropped 1.6 million tons on South Vietnam, as many as Lyndon Johnson at the height of U.S. involvement; quadrupled the bombing of Laos, from 454,200 to 1,628,900 million tons; initiated widespread bombing of previously peaceful Cambodia, including B52 carpet bombing of undefended villages, for a total of 600,000-1 million tons; and vastly expanded the bombing of civilian targets in North Vietnam….
In Cambodia, Kissinger told Alexander Haig to undertake “a massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. Anything that flies or anything that moves,” the clearest possible violation of international law requiring the protection of civilians. Two million people in Khmer Rouge zones, as estimated by the U.S. Embassy, were driven underground by massive U.S. bombing that featured regular B52 carpet-bombing of undefended villages.
But when it comes to crimes, we’re just getting started here. Christopher Hitchens positioned part of his career as a would-be prosecutor for war criminal Kissinger. A quick review of just the first part of his March 2001 article at Harpers, “The Making of a War Criminal,” notes Kissinger’s activities. For instance, there was the “recruitment and betrayal of the Iraqi Kurds, who were falsely encouraged by him to take up arms against Saddam Hussein in 1972-75, and who were then abandoned to extermination on their hillsides when Saddam Hussein made a diplomatic deal with the Shah of Iran…” Or consider “Kissinger’s orchestration of political and military and diplomatic cover for apartheid in South Africa.” Or read Hitchen’s detailed, documentary discussion of Kissinger’s brain-trusting for assassination and coup plotting in Chile.
What Has Hillary Wrought?
Of course, Hillary Clinton deserves her own share of obloquy for inviting Kissinger and friends, including former Kissinger protege Holbrooke and the latter’s former Saigon Foreign Service roommate, the unsavory John Negroponte. (Negroponte worked at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon from 1964-68… uh huh.) One could write an entire column about the war crimes of Mr. Negroponte, who, according to the introduction by the National Security Archive (NSA) to a slew of documents implicating him, as former U.S. Ambassador to Honduras in the 1980s “sought to undermine regional peace efforts” in the Nicaraguan Civil War. NSA also cites “multiple reports of meetings and conversations [by Negroponte] with Honduran military officers who were instrumental in providing logistical support and infrastructure for CIA covert operations in support of the contras against Nicaragua.”
Holbrooke, of course, was recently implicated in a controversy with General Stanley McChrystal over policy in Afghanistan. MrChrystal got the heave-ho for being injudicious in his comments to a Rolling Stone reporter, and even though Holbrooke has been critical of U.S. goals in Afghanistan, it’s Holbrooke on the State Department podium, while McChrystal is out in the wilderness (for the time being). Branfman notes the ironies, and political agenda, behind the invite:
Clinton has also invited Richard Holbrooke, who as State Department head of Afghanistan/Pakistan policy has learned nothing from history and is repeating precisely the same policies that caused the U.S. to lose in Indochina — support of a corrupt and unpopular regime that cannot stand on its own. Inviting Holbrooke is particularly egregious, because following Obama’s strategy review, according to Bob Woodward’s new book, “perhaps the most pessimistic view came from Richard Holbrooke. “It can’t work,” he said. Lacking even a fraction of the integrity and moral courage of a Daniel Ellsberg, Holbrooke continues to promote in public a policy he privately believes is doomed to fail.
Branfman also notes that Kissinger is on hand to promote his “we lost Vietnam” garbage, claiming it was Congressional betrayal that failed the U.S. mission in Vietnam at the end. And sure enough, Kissinger was true to form at the conference, as reported by WRGW News:
“I believe most of what went wrong in Vietnam we did to ourselves,” said Kissinger, speaking candidly about his Vietnam experience in front of a capacity audience, including the Vietnamese Embassy….
Henry Kissinger… explained that during the Vietnam War “the faith of Americans in each other became destroyed in the process” of America reaching the limits of its foreign policy….
“America wanted compromise, Hanoi wanted victory,” he stated.
According to Dr. Kissinger, lack of support at home ultimately lost the war for South Vietnam and the United States.
Kissinger, Holbrooke, and Negroponte at the podium represent the true face of U.S. diplomacy today, which relies on the nostrums and machinations of an entire post-WWII generation which saw nothing wrong in ruling American Empire by means of mass murder, assassination, and the bombing of civilians. Today, the Obama administration steps up bombings in Pakistan, escalates the war in Afghanistan (as an exit strategy?), and conducts a world-wide Murder, Inc., which grants itself the right to execute without due process American citizens by Hellfire missiles, even as it trumpets secrecy for everything it does.
Obama’s embrace of Kissinger tells you all you need to know about what this administration is about. Behind the special treatment for war criminal Kissinger is the current administration’s aggressive pursuit of war in Afghanistan and military and covert operations around the world.
I try to imagine how the left would have responded if Bush had invited Kissinger to reflect for history upon the Vietnam War. I’d like to think there would have been universal derision. Today, there’s very little outrage expressed by this official government appearance by a bona fide war criminal. Whether it is fealty to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or a U.S. military and national security apparatus that says it stands for democracy but really stands for endless war, the state right to assassinate U.S. critics, and to intervene anywhere in the world that U.S. “interests” are involved, what stands for politics in this country is a joke. Something is very, very rotten at the core of this country. The falsification of history by the very criminals who conducted crimes against humanity is a primary exhibit of the degeneration of political discourse in America.
Jeffrey Kaye is a psychologist living in Northern California who writes regularly on torture and other subjects for The Public Record, Truthout and Firedoglake. He also maintains a personal blog, Invictus. His email address is sfpsych at gmail dot com.