Bush the Comedian

I didn’t think President Bush had a highly developed sense of humor. Then, earlier this year, he appointed retired Admiral John Poindexter President Reagan’s National Security Adviser to head the Information Awareness Office, the ultra secret, Pentagon snooping expedition to look through your email and underwear to discover possible terrorist connections. In the late 1980s, Poindexter lied to Congress and secretly plotted to circumvent the law prohibiting the sale of missiles to the US-hating fanatics in Iran. Poindexter colluded with other officials to use the proceeds to buy weapons for the CIA’s contra rebels. Congress had de-funded the Contras. Bush (41) absolved him.

Previously, W had tested the Washington insiders’ sense of humor by naming Elliott Abrams to a high national security post. Abrams pled guilty to lying to Congress in the same scandal and wrote in his autobiography that he told his own kids that lying to Congress served the national interest.

But Bush’s biggest laugh came from appointing the 79 year old Henry Kissinger to head the investigation into the actions — or inactions — of government agencies around the 9/11 events.

“Ha,” I laughed aloud, “the man least likely to reveal the truth, the man least interested in honesty and disclosure, the man with a world class reputation for spreading and supporting terror in several continents now reigns as commish of a panel to investigate terrorism! Wow! Talk about irony!

Instead of investigating Kissinger for his own terrorist acts, Dubya named the sly old fox to investigate mass murder in the proverbial hen house. The public will certainly feel assured – that is, those without memory or the ability to read history.

“Maybe,” a friend suggested as a reason for appointing Kissinger, “the cartoonists’ association made a large contribution to W’s 2004 campaign fund! They will have a field day portraying Kissinger the master liar as the man charged with ferreting out the truth. Indeed, if Bush wasn’t kidding around how would one explain appointing an arch criminal to investigate a fiendish crime?”

Is Bush just a moron as a Canadian official recently said before being forced to resign, or is there something behind this bizarre appointment? In the December 1 New York Times, Maureen Dowd attributes the K gag to Dick Cheney “Only someone as pathologically opaque as the vice president could appreciate the sublime translucency of Henry Kissinger. And only someone intent on recreating the glory days of the Ford and Nixon White Houses could have hungered to add the 79-year-old Dr. Strange– I mean, Dr. Kissinger to the Bush team.”

Strange—– I mean Kissinger as a teammate? When Kissinger won the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize after slaughtering tens of thousands of Vietnamese civilians in his infamous Christmas bombing, a friend suggested he should have won the prize for Physics.

“What did he know about physics?” I asked, like a straight man.

“Ah ha!” sneered my friend.

Some relatives of the 9/11 victims didn’t get the joke when they heard of Bush’s decision to dub Henry the chief prober. Why, some asked, appoint a man who had proven his hatred for democracy and much of humanity! But, most of all, why place a man who despises truth, especially in its published form?

In the 1970s, the Washington media, living in a world of liars, informally dubbed Henry as an unequaled prevaricator. An apocryphal story from the early 1970s has a confounded Washington press corps hiring a shrink and giving him press credentials to observe Kissinger during his famed media background briefing sessions and provide clues as to when the architect of US foreign policy is lying. After several sessions the shrink tells the reporters: “It’s simple. When Kissinger folds his hands like a German school boy or fiddles with his glasses, he’s telling the truth. When he opens his mouth to speak, he’s lying.”

W’s advisers surely knew that Kissinger stands for governmental honesty as Al Capone symbolizes civic virtue and Ariel Sharon represents peace with Palestinians. So the Bushies may well have a non humorous motive for appointing this mountebank among charlatans.

Remember, W had opposed any investigation into 9/11. However, the media revealed that US agencies had foreknowledge of the horrid events and the families of the victims’ exerted heavy pressure on Bush to probe. So, he had to investigate, but didn’t want truth to emerge, that is, actual facts to appear in print.

So, Kissinger is the logical choice to insure that the public receives a contemporary Warren Commission report. When he wasn’t actually carrying out campaigns of terror and murder, he spent much of his time lying and covering up his dirty deeds.

In 1968 Republican Party heavies choose him to fly to Paris to help sabotage President Johnson’s peace talks with the Vietnamese. In his campaign, Nixon had promised to end the war and if the Vietnamese held out, Kissinger assured them secretly, Nixon would make a better peace with them. Nixon rewarded Kissinger for his nefarious behavior by naming him national security adviser. Kissinger rewarded the Vietnamese by prolonging the war, although he knew the United States could not win it. His “peace with honor” nonsense cost more than a million Vietnamese lives and scores of thousands of US soldiers dead and wounded.

In 1970, Kissinger had helped persuade Nixon to widen the war to include Cambodia. Without congressional authorization or even knowledge, Kissinger presided over the secret bombing and invasion of Cambodia, in an attempt to “cut off the Ho Chi Minh trail” and deprive the Vietnamese enemy of supplies. No one has yet accurately calculated how many hundreds of thousands of civilians died in this futile terrorist operation. Kissinger and Nixon secretly declared war against Cambodia without telling even the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Indeed, the pilots of the bomber planes kept false logs indicating that the Cambodia missions were flown over North Vietnam so as to deceive the Joint Chiefs.

Also in 1970, Kissinger conspired to alter the destiny of Chile. Dr. Salvador Allende, a socialist, won the election to head a popular unity government. With Nixon’s approval, Kissinger directed a CIA covert operation to “destabilize” the government. In October 1970, with Kissinger’s knowledge and approval, the CIA tried to assassinate Allende and did assassinate Chilean Army Chief, General Rene Schneider who stood as an obstacle to removing Allende, with the help of hired fascist thugs from “Patria y Libertad”. (Currently, poor Henry is facing legal problems in connection with that murder). The Schneider family has sued K for wrongful death, claiming that documents prove “that [Kissinger] was involved in great detail in supporting the people who killed General Schneider, and then paid them off.”

In another Chile-related case, Kissinger was asked by Chile’s Supreme Court to answer official questions about the murder of an American reporter in Chile shortly after the September 1973 coup. It appears that very high officials in the State Department refused to help Charles Horman (See Costa Gavras’ film Missing) when Pinochet’s Gestapo were torturing and then murdering him.

K denied involvement in the coup from day one, although he chastised the Chilean people for being irresponsible in electing Allende as President. In 1972, Kissinger arranged to meet Orlando Letelier, Chile’s Ambassador to Washington, at a dinner party. “With no trace of a smile,” Letelier recounted to me, “Kissinger wanted me to assure Allende that the US government was not destabilizing the Chilean government.”

Letelier laughed. He knew what was going on in Chile even if Kissinger was covering up his approval of CIA plans to commit violent acts to disrupt Chilean society. When the press corps pushed Kissinger as to why an elected socialist government threatened US security, Kissinger jokingly retorted: “Chile is like a dagger pointed at the heart of Antarctica.”

After three years of dirty tricks against the government and people of Chile, including routine acts of violence, the Chilean military with CIA urging finally launched the coup that overthrew the elected government. In its place, a pro-US military junta led by General Augusto Pinochet carried out a long reign of terror, murdering, torturing and exiling its political opponents.

After the coup, Kissinger ordered immediate recognition and aid for the illegal government. In June, 1976, he graced Pinochet with a personal visit while most of the world was condemning him for its gross violations of human rights. Before delivering a speech at an OAS meeting in Chile, K met privately with Pinochet and assured the mass murderer that his forthcoming speech on human rights was not “directed against your government.”

A State Department transcribed memo of the conversation shows that Kissinger flattered the man who he knew had murdered thousands including “enemies” abroad that “we are sympathetic to what you are trying to do here.” Pinochet twice mentioned Orlando Letelier’s name as being the man responsible for his bad “image” throughout the world. Kissinger assured Pinochet of Washington’s support for his methods. I think he meant economic methods and the means he used for established “order.” I don’t think K meant to give Pinochet the green light to assassinate Letelier in Washington.

But in September 1976, three months later, Pinochet sent his assassins to Washington to car bomb Letelier. Ronni Moffitt, a US colleague at the Institute for Policy Studies where they both worked, also died in the terrorist attack. The FBI discovered that the Letelier car bombing was part of Operation Condor, a network of Latin American intelligence agencies headquartered in Chile that carried out surveillance on each other’s dissidents and sometimes “disappeared” and assassinated them in each other’s countries. Pinochet had extended his murderous reach beyond the friendly military dictatorships of South America, however. The FBI discovered that he had set up assassination plots in Rome, London, Paris and Madrid as well. Kissinger knew all about them before he gave Pinochet his Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

Like Stanley Kubrick’s film character Dr. Strangelove, K possesses an eccentric sense of humor. After having initially backed a Kurdish uprising against Saddam Hussein the mid 1970s, he abruptly pulled the rug from under the rebelling Kurds. When a subordinate responded in shock to K’s lightning desertion of an ally since he had heard the Secretary promise the Kurds undying loyalty and aid, K quoted the old adage: “Promise them anything, give them what they get and f. them if they can’t take a joke.”

In recent years, however, Kissinger himself has become the butt of a few jokes. In 2001, a Chilean judge investigating Condor has tried to include Kissinger in his witness list. (Letelier was killed in a Condor operation.) Baltazar Garzon, the Spanish judge who requested the English to arrest Pinochet in 1998 also wants to question Kissinger about his knowledge of Pinochet’s crimes. A French judge presiding over a case involving the kidnapping of French citizens in Chile wants Kissinger to answer questions. Last May, he sent police to Paris’ Ritz Hotel, where Kissinger was staying, to serve him questions. In February, Kissinger canceled a trip to Brazil when he heard that human rights groups would picket him.

In December 1975, the jocular Kissinger tacitly accepted Indonesian President Suharto’s “understanding if we deem it necessary to take rapid or drastic action” in East Timor. Ford replied: “We will understand and will not press you on the issue. We understand the problem you have and the intentions you have.” Suharto quickly carried out his “intentions” on East Timor. Kissinger denied knowledge and wrote the lie, like the one on Chile, into his memoirs.

K preferred dealing with “authoritarian” regimes (dictatorships) because he found them less troublesome than democracies. So, in 1976 the Argentine foreign minister representing the military dictatorship described Kissinger as “euphoric” over their plans for repression. Kissinger’s advice was to make the killing quick. This was early in what came to be known as the “dirty war,” in which with tacit US backing as many as 30,000 died at the hands of the military government.

The man who once loved terrorists as long as they occupied state power in Chile, Argentina and Indonesia and behaved obediently to him will now investigate terrorism used against the master state itself. The Democrats have accepted this farce without a smile and agreed to work with K. Will they co-author with Kissinger the equivalent of the Warren Commission Report on 9/11? Or will Dr. Strangelove undergo basic character change and redeem himself by forcing an honest search? On December 3, Kissinger announced that taking the top investigative job did not entail his revealing the names of his business clients. Reporters suspect that Kissinger has had a long and profitable relationship with Saudi Arabian royal family members. If Vice President Cheney doesn’t have to tell Congress whom he met with on the energy plan, why should Kissinger. So, more than ever we look forward to full disclosure and an open investigation. Did someone say bookies are giving 100 to 1 against it?

SAUL LANDAU teaches at Cal Poly Pomona University and is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Landau’s new film, IRAQ: VOICES FROM THE STREETS is distributed by The Cinema Guild in New York City.


SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.