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Kissinger - The Wrong Man for Every Season

For immediate release, Thursday, November 28, 2002

Kissinger - The Wrong Man for Every Season

* A compelling case can be made that he belongs in jail rather than at the head of the investigation into September 11

* His stint as chairman of the 1983-84 National Bipartisan Commission on Central America was not at all bipartisan and produced a whitewash for U.S. policy in the region

In Miami a number of weeks ago to raise campaign funds from local anti-Castro Cuban exile leaders, President Bush insisted that his policy towards Cuba was a "moral statement." If that were the case, the appointment of Henry Kissinger to chair the national Commission investigating September 11, must be classified an "immoral" statement. Just like President Bush, the former Secretary of State in the Nixon and Ford White Houses specializes in strategic memory lapses when questions are asked pertaining to some dubious aspect of his personal character and ethical behavior, which could land him in jail. To fully understand the contempt in which Kissinger held presidents Nixon and Ford and the Iago-like wheedlings with which he fawningly catered to their vanities in order to win their trust, would be a monument to his lust for power, even though thousands if not millions of lives were otherwise at risk. The fact that the appointment of this immoralist is being praised by both Republicans and Democrats is a sad testament to the short shelf-life of most Americans' memories and how the crimes of the rich and well-connected seldom receive the full application of justice that their derelictions deserve.

Kissinger's Ill-Deserved Reputation

Kissinger's selection as chairman of the Sept. 11 body comes at the very time when his bona fides throughout much of his professional life are being called into question by a growing chorus of enraged voices, who fear that old age and death will catch up with this public malefactor, and that he must be made to confront the dark nature of his public life, and that it must be fully revealed to a world whose approbation he so desperately cultivates.

Most recently Kissinger has been pilloried as a war criminal in the book, The Trials of Henry Kissinger, which was recently adapted into a motion picture by the BBC. Moreover, Chilean Judge Juan Guzman has called upon Kissinger to testify in his courtroom regarding his complicity in the disappearance and execution of U.S. journalist Charles Horman in the hours immediately after the coup on September 11, 1973 which Kissinger, as one of its architects, was well aware was about to take place. The appointment of Kissinger to chair the panel investigating the terror attacks on the U.S. has to be a slap in the face to at least some of the victims of the terror attack who can be forgiven if they feel that the appointment provides an unwarranted opportunity to aid Kissinger in his endgame struggle to re-legitimate his crumbling reputation and counteract the well-merited grounds to see him, as millions do around the world, as a cheerless manipulator whose career has been studded with reprehensible deeds and meretricious public stands.

Bush's choice of Kissinger further serves as an unwitting indictment of the current administration's lamentable moral relativism on the issue of terrorism, for there are many lettered individuals who feel that Kissinger is the quintessential terrorist once removed, despite the artful skills he has at his command which allowed him to always be able to avoid the presence of any physical blood that might stain him or of being present when the atrocities for which he was guilty were actually being carried out.

Kissinger's Superb Qualifications for his New Post

On the other hand, who better to fulfill the role of heading the Commission? President Bush's opinion that "Dr. Kissinger will bring broad experience, clear thinking and careful judgment to this important task," is undeniably true. Kissinger has had a wealth of experience in the art of terrorism and subversion to draw on. This goes back to the policies he architected in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, East Timor and Chile, for just a sampling. Ever the pragmatist, his ferociously calculating intellectual prowess is sure to produce telling analytical results meant to exculpate him or those he serves from any accountability for his or their deeds.

Kissinger is also the ideal candidate to conform to what must be President Bush's valid concerns that the Commission refrain from delving too deeply into his own administration's failures in averting the New York and Pentagon catastrophes; few, if any, could exceed Kissinger in mustering the kind of effortless blandishments and farrago necessary to retroactively obfuscate the lapses and misjudgments of the intelligence agencies prior to Sept. 11, which, on an almost daily basis, already have started to come to light and which have caused concern enough in the White House for it to initially try to prevent, or at least delay, any assessment of the intelligence agencies' flawed role regarding prevention of the terrorist actions.

Kissinger and Chile

There is a certain irony to Kissinger's appointment to chair the investigation into the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, since he was the intellectual co-author of another supervening series of terrorist attacks on the same date 18 years earlier, in Santiago, Chile, when a constitutional government was overthrown by its military, with the quarterbacking provided by the U.S., a country possessing the world's oldest written constitution, with Kissinger egging the Chilean armed forces, starting months before, to do the deed. Kissinger was the single person outside of Chile who bears the greatest responsibility for the baleful events surrounding the death of Chilean democracy. Concerned with the 1970 election of the socialist candidate Salvador Allende to the Chilean presidency, a seething Kissinger insisted at the time that, "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist simply because of the irresponsibility of its own people."

Years later, when the U.S. ambassador to Chile had tried to bring to the attention of Secretary of State Kissinger the sorry human rights record of the Pinochet regime, an irritated Kissinger scribbled a comment on the margin of Ambassador Landau's Telex that he "didn't need a political science lecture" from the U.S. diplomat. Not only did Kissinger concentrate on undermining the economy of the country by seeing to it that during the Allende years, Chile would not be allowed access to any loans from the international lending agencies located in Washington, but he systematically starved the leftist government by seeing to it that its economy was asphyxiated, making the government increasingly unpopular among an increasingly stressed population. Disregarding the democratically-elected leader's legitimacy, Kissinger parried media questions before Allende's overthrow, regarding U.S.-Chile relations. He slyly responded that the U.S. posed no threat to the Allende government as long as it didn't export revolution outside the country, something that no one since has ever been able to establish that the Chilean leader ever had a mind to do.

Nor was Kissinger particular careful in his research on Chile. Apparently he was prepared to do everything for Chile but read its constitution. In the early 1970s, in a speech before the Chicago World Affairs Council, he warned his audience that the U.S. was less worried that Allende would stage a communist takeover in Chile during his first term in office but would do so if he were re-elected. Apparently, Kissinger was not aware that the Chilean constitution does not permit a president to serve more than one continuous term in office. On Sept. 11, 1973, however, the world of deception that Kissinger felt so at home with was once again enkindled when planes swooped over Chile's presidential palace, "La Moneda," in central Santiago and released their payloads, killing many government officials and heralding an era of death squads and secret intelligence units, as well as disappearances, torture and assassinations of several thousand innocent civilians, including several Americans and dissident Chilean military officers.

Recently declassified CIA reports have further disclosed the extent to which the U.S. was involved in the coup and its aftermath, such as a sustained period of monetary support for a nucleus of Pinochet-era officers, including Gen. Manuel Contreras, the regime's lead torturer and most notorious human rights abuser. But the State Department refused to declassify many other documents which could reveal the full extent of Kissinger's complicity in that event.

No one would seriously dispute that Kissinger has the credentials to be something of an expert in the retroactive investigation of terror plots and the ability to circumvent the searchlights of inquiry, eluding justice as faultlessly as Osama Bin Laden. Nevertheless, one can imagine the streak of fear which must have run through him when Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the leader of the Chilean coup, first appeared in London's Old Bailey court faced with charges of crimes against humanity. If the Pinochet trial had been allowed to go forward, Kissinger would doubtless have been called as a material witness, if not indicted as a lead defendant, and if forced to testify, would more than likely have been implicated himself in helping to directly hatch some of the crimes that afflicted Chile in the early 1970s.

The First Kissinger Commission

This is not the first time that Kissinger has been called upon to serve as the chairman of a national commission. What came to be known as the Kissinger Commission on Central America, under the Reagan administration, supposedly was bipartisan in make-up. In actuality, the Democrats on the Commission were Cold War enthusiasts, including representatives from labor unions and biased conservative Democrats who viewed U.S. support of the contras in Nicaragua and government forces in El Salvador as a justified anti-communist crusade, not as a license to commit heinous human rights violations against innocent civilians with impunity. The most liberal member of the Commission was then San Antonio mayor, Henry Cisneros, who understood little of the region and was largely ineffectual. Rather than offering new ideas and fresh approaches, the Commission's report reflected the predictable attitudes of its chairman, as well as those of his hand picked conservative staff, summed up by the uninspired question-begging finding that the United States "should not be asked to choose between peace and democracy." The Commission's conclusions included a glossed-over and largely ahistorical summary of the long history of U.S. intervention in the region, which it optimistically described as having a "mixed record." While the Commission recognized that poverty, inequity, authoritarianism and officially-sanctioned human rights violations existed throughout Central America, these occurrences were repeatedly attributed to excessive interference by Cuba, and the then Soviet bloc, with no evidence provided to back up the contention that Moscow and Havana were the mainsprings of civic strife throughout Central America. In retrospect, the report did little more than provide a rationale and a legitimation for existing hardline Reagan policies by using the argument of a Soviet threat to call for U.S. security assistance to the region on an even grander scale than the aid being delivered at the time. The return of Kissinger to the limelight provided sufficient diversionary activity for the public while behind the scenes the administration was completing the drafting of Operation Pegasus, a plan to provoke Nicaragua into a full-scale war.

If his previous chairmanship can be looked upon for examples of his management style, the public can expect calculated leaks and pontifical statements, but the ultimate results produced by the Kissinger-lead National Commission will be a mild reproach for the performance of the CIA and FBI, but in essence, a whitewash will be produced, whose net result will be the glorification of its chairman. Once again, the Houdini-like Kissinger will escape from having to face his past as an oversized malefactor and tart up a reputation better characterized by a commanding position that ended up with thousands of civilians murdered as a result of his activities in Southeast Asia and Chile, than by acts of public rectitude.

This analysis was prepared by Matthew Ward, COHA Research Associate.

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor as being "one of the nation's most respected bodies of scholars and policymakers."

Council on Hemispheric Affairs 1730 M St. NW, Suite 1010 Washington, DC 20036 (202) 216-9261

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