Christopher Hitchens on Arresting Henry Kissinger for Crimes Against Humanity (2002)


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At the height of Kissinger’s prominence, many commented on his wit. In February 1972, at the Washington Press Club annual congressional dinner, “Kissinger mocked his reputation as a secret swinger.” The insight, “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac”, is widely attributed to him, although Kissinger was paraphrasing Napoleon Bonaparte. Four scholars at the College of William & Mary ranked Kissinger as the most effective U.S. Secretary of State in the 50 years to 2015. A number of activists and human rights lawyers, however, have sought his prosecution for alleged war crimes. According to historian and Kissinger biographer Niall Ferguson, however, accusing Kissinger alone of war crimes “requires a double standard” because “nearly all the secretaries of state … and nearly all the presidents” have taken similar actions. But Ferguson continues “this is not to say that it’s all OK.”

Some have blamed Kissinger for injustices in American foreign policy during his tenure in government. In September 2001, relatives and survivors of General Rene Schneider (former head of the Chilean general staff) filed civil proceedings in Federal Court in Washington, DC, and, in April 2002, a petition for Kissinger’s arrest was filed in the High Court in London by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell,[203] citing the destruction of civilian populations and the environment in Indochina during the years 1969–75.[204] British-American journalist and author Christopher Hitchens authored The Trial of Henry Kissinger, in which Hitchens calls for the prosecution of Kissinger “for war crimes, for crimes against humanity, and for offenses against common or customary or international law, including conspiracy to commit murder, kidnap, and torture”. Critics on the right, such as Ray Takeyh, have faulted Kissinger for his role in the Nixon administration’s opening to China and secret negotiations with North Vietnam. Takeyh writes that while rapprochement with China was a worthy goal, the Nixon administration failed to achieve any meaningful concessions from Chinese officials in return, as China continued to support North Vietnam and various “revolutionary forces throughout the Third World,” “nor does there appear to be even a remote, indirect connection between Nixon and Kissinger’s diplomacy and the communist leadership’s decision, after Mao’s bloody rule, to move away from a communist economy towards state capitalism.”

Historian Jeffrey Kimball developed the theory that Kissinger and the Nixon administration accepted a South Vietnamese collapse provided a face-saving decent interval passed between American withdrawal and defeat.[209] In his first meeting with Zhou Enlai in 1971, Kissinger “laid out in detail the settlement terms that would produce such a delayed defeat: total American withdrawal, return of all American POWs, and a ceasefire-in-place for ’18 months or some period'”, in the words of historian Ken Hughes.[210] On October 6, 1972, Kissinger told Nixon twice that the terms of the Paris Peace Accords would probably destroy South Vietnam: “I also think that Thieu is right, that our terms will eventually destroy him.” However, Kissinger denied using a “decent interval” strategy, writing “All of us who negotiated the agreement of October 12 were convinced that we had vindicated the anguish of a decade not by a ‘decent interval’ but by a decent settlement.”[213] Johannes Kadura offers a positive assessment of Nixon and Kissinger’s strategy, arguing that the two men “simultaneously maintained a Plan A of further supporting Saigon and a Plan B of shielding Washington should their maneuvers prove futile.” According to Kadura, the “decent interval” concept has been “largely misrepresented,” in that Nixon and Kissinger “sought to gain time, make the North turn inward, and create a perpetual equilibrium” rather than acquiescing in the collapse of South Vietnam.[214]

Kissinger’s record was brought up during the 2016 Democratic Party presidential primaries. Hillary Clinton had cultivated a close relationship with Kissinger, describing him as a “friend” and a source of “counsel.”[215] During the Democratic Primary Debates, Clinton touted Kissinger’s praise for her record as Secretary of State.[216][217] In response, candidate Bernie Sanders issued a critique of Kissinger’s foreign policy, declaring, “I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend. I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Kissinger


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