Henry Kissinger’s dark past seems to be enclosing around him as various countries in South America and Europe have sought to question him about actions taken by the Nixon and Ford administrations in which Kissinger was National Security Adviser and Secretary of State respectively.
The latest move to question Kissinger was by Peter Tatchell, a British human rights activist. While Kissinger was speaking in Britain at the UK’s Institute of Directors annual conference on April 24, Tatchell attempted to have him arrested for committing war crimes under the Geneva Conventions Act.
Judge Nicholas Evans at the Bow Street magistrates’ court rejected Tatchell’s request because Tatchell did not present enough evidence implicating Kissinger to war crimes. However, according to Tatchell, the judge left the door open for future attempts to arrest the former U.S. official if suitable evidence is presented.
According to Tatchell’s recent contribution to London’s The Guardian, if he is able to “produce stronger evidence of Kissinger’s culpability in the killing, maiming, torture and forced relocation of civilian populations in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the late 60s and early 70s,” then there is a possibility an arrest warrant for Kissinger may be issued in the future.
Tatchell believes that Kissinger is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in Indochina. Tatchell mentions how the Nixon Administration dropped “nearly 4.5 million tons of high explosives on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia”; an amount double that dropped during the entire Second World War.
Tatchell explains that much of the evidence against Kissinger and his role in Indochina is highlighted in the book, The Trial of Henry Kissinger, by Christopher Hitchens. According to Hitchens, Kissinger approved bombing runs that resulted in widespread civilian casualties.
Kissinger was also responsible for the “premeditated, wholesale destruction of the environment using chemical defoliants such as Agent Orange,” as Tatchell wrote in The Guardian. “These are war crimes under the 1957 Geneva Conventions Act.”
Tatchell also mentions the comments made by United States General Telford Taylor, the former chief prosecuting officer at the Nuremberg trials, who stated that the Kissinger-Nixon air strikes against hamlets allegedly hiding Vietnamese guerrillas were “flagrant violations of the Geneva convention on civilian protection.”
Tatchell also points to freelance investigator Fred Branfman, who “secretly taped U.S. pilots on bombing missions over Cambodia in the early 70s. At no point did any pilots check before or during the raids that they were not bombing civilians. His expose that no precautions were taken to protect civilians was later written up in the New York Times by Sydney Schanberg; offering compelling evidence of the indiscriminate nature of U.S. aerial attacks.”
Kissinger, who was aware of all these actions, has defended them by saying, “No one can say that he served in an administration that did not make mistakes.”
Kissinger seems to have forgotten that most administrations are not responsible for tens of thousands of dead innocents. According to Tatchell, 350,000 civilians in Laos and 600,000 in Cambodia were killed during the U.S. bombardments. This does not even count the number of civilians maimed or wounded due to the bombings and the threat of unexploded cluster bombs (yes, this administration used them in conflict too).
Kissinger also failed to mention the Nixon Administration’s use of chemical defoliants and pesticides, including Agent Orange, that have, according to Tatchell, “caused birth defects and rendered significant areas of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia too toxic for people to live in or farm – creating an environmental disaster that will continue to affect many generations to come.”
However, Indochina is not the only area that Kissinger may have been involved in the killings of thousands of innocents.
Earlier in the month of April, Judge Baltasar Garzon, of Spain, wanted to question Kissinger’s involvement in supporting Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet; a man responsible for human rights abuses resulting in many deaths. Garzon’s request was rejected.
And in 2001, Juan Guzman, a Chilean judge, submitted 30 questions to Kissinger about his relationship with General Pinochet, to which Judge Guzman received no response.
Pinochet came into power after the CIA, with the knowledge of Kissinger, conspired to overthrow democratically elected leader Salvador Allende. A few months before Allende became president, Kissinger made the famous 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.” His remarks were later reported in Newsweek and many other publications.
The attempt to keep Allende from power, due to his socialist beliefs, resulted in the assassination of Rene 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.”
The news report continues: “The CIA passed ‘sterilized’ machine guns, those without markings, along with ammunition to conspirators on October 22 . Later that day, General Schneider, Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Army, was assassinated with the same weapons the CIA supplied, according to the CIA’s own admission to the United States Senate, published in April of 1975.”
General Schneider’s family members are now pressing to question Kissinger about his involvement in this assassination. They filed a $3 million civil suit in Washington last year against Kissinger; Richard Helms, former director of the CIA, and other Nixon officials also were implicated in the suit.
Another well-publicized killing that Kissinger may have oversaw was the death of Charles Horman, an American journalist living in Santiago during the coup against Allende.
As stated in the preceding news report: “According to Thomas Hauser’s ‘The Execution of Charles Horman,’ Horman was with several Americans on the day of the coup. Some of the Americans were in the U.S. military and apparently they spilled too much information in a conversation about the coup. According to Hauser, a retired naval engineer told Horman: ‘We came down to do a job and it’s done.’ ”
The report continues: “A few days later the new military junta arrested Horman in his Santiago home. He was never to be seen again.”
Horman’s family members have tried repeatedly to bring Kissinger and other Nixon officials to court in order to find out what happened to the missing journalist.
Human rights lawyers in Chile have also filed complaints against Kissinger for his involvement in the covert program of political repression known as Operation Condor.
This operation, according to the International Herald Tribune, included actions whereby “rightist military dictatorships in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay coordinated efforts throughout the 1970s to kidnap and kill hundreds of exiled political opponents”; apparently with the support of the Nixon and Ford administrations.
Supporters of Kissinger have tried to excuse his actions by explaining that they must be looked at in the light of the Cold War. This is an important point; however, even placing Kissinger’s actions in the context of the Cold War cannot excuse the death and destruction that he may have been directly involved in.