Henry Kissinger: Impunity is the name of the game

Why does anyone honour Henry Kissinger? Of course, he has power, wealth and, crucially, impunity. But he is also wanted for crimes against humanity, a serious accusation that has led others to the dock at the International Criminal Court.

Here is an excerpt from Kissinger’s new book On China (2011) regarding the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre when an estimated several hundred people (some say more than a thousand), the majority of them peaceful protestors, were killed by armed forces:

“This is not the place to examine the events that led to the tragedy at Tiananmen Square; each side has different perceptions depending on the various, often conflicting, origins of their participation in the crisis … The occupation of the main square of a country’s capital, even when completely peaceful, is also a tactic to demonstrate the impotence of the government, to weaken it, and to tempt it into rash acts, putting it at a disadvantage.”

How self-interestedly apologetic can you get? Apart from protecting his right-wing political allegiances, Kissinger Associates, an international consulting firm, has “strategic alliances” in several countries with highly dubious human rights reputations, including China.

Kissinger, National Security Advisor and later Secretary of State for President Nixon and President Ford, has been accused of complicity in war crimes in Indochina, Bangladesh, Chile, Cyprus, and East Timor. Numerous activists have attempted to arrest him over the years under the Geneva Conventions Act. In The Trial of Henry Kissinger (2001), author Christopher Hitchens documents how Kissinger personally approved bombing campaigns that resulted in thousands of civilian casualties as well as signing off on the use of the deadly chemical Agent Orange. United States General Telford Taylor, the former chief prosecuting officer at the Nuremberg trials, is on record as stating that Kissinger committed war crimes by approving the bombing of civilians and villages during the Vietnam War.

In 2002, Judge Baltasar Garzón, of Spain, wanted to question Kissinger’s involvement in supporting Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet, a man responsible for human rights abuses resulting in hundreds of deaths. Garzon’s request was rejected. Pinochet came into power after the CIA, with the encouragement of Kissinger, conspired to overthrow democratically elected leader Salvador Allende. A few months before Allende became president, Kissinger made his well-known statement on democracy, “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people.”

The attempt to keep Allende from power, due to his socialist beliefs, resulted in the assassination of René Schneider, Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Army. According to the U.S. Senate, the CIA “decided to support and engineer the assassination of General Schneider in order to clear the way for a coup.” Allende’s own death as a result of Kissinger’s machinations is currently being reinvestigated.

On 17 June 2011 Kissinger will be taking part in the Munk Debates at Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto, Canada. Writing in The Toronto Star, 3 June 2011, Gerald Caplan criticised the implicit welcome being given to an accused war criminal. He highlighted Kissinger’s record in office as Richard Nixon’s national security adviser and both Nixon and Gerald Ford’s secretary of state:

“The American war against Vietnam, the Pakistani massacre of Bengalis in 1971 (an estimated 1.5 million killed), the operations of the Shah of Iran’s secret police, the brutal Pinochet years in Chile, the secret U.S. bombing of Cambodia that made possible the Khmer Rouge’s genocidal killing fields (1.5 to 2 million dead), the bloody 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus (an estimated 150,000 refugees), the betrayal of the Kurds in 1974-75, the Indonesian slaughter of some 100,000 East Timorese, the war against the government of Angola, the entrenchment of apartheid in South Africa.”

Noting that a full house is anticipated, Caplan wrote, “That means 2,630 Torontonians are prepared to pay good money to listen to a man responsible for untold human misery. This number is somewhat smaller than the 3,200 people murdered by the Pinochet regime in Chile that Henry Kissinger did so much to install and support.”

Is an end to impunity in sight? Human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC, writing in Crimes Against Humanity: The Struggle for Global Justice (1999), says that, “Crimes against humanity will only be deterred when their would-be perpetrators … are given pause by the prospect that they will henceforth have no hiding place: that legal nemesis may some day, somewhere, overtake them.” Hopefully, time is running out for Henry Kissinger.

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One comment on “Henry Kissinger: Impunity is the name of the game

  1. […] out Philip’s latest offerings on an impossibly murky character: Henry Kissinger. Here Lee weighs in on Kissinger’s upcoming […]

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