In 1973 the Nobel Peace Prize was tarnished when it was awarded to Henry Kissinger for his role in negotiating the end of the Vietnam War. The duplicitous and secretive Kissinger had also been involved in sabotaging peace negotiations with the North Vietnamese five years earlier. He eventually helped conclude the war, after some one million more Vietnamese and 20,000 more Americans had died, on substantially the same terms that he sabotaged in 1968. Kissinger was also deeply involved in conducting the secret and illegal US bombing of Cambodia and Laos, and of withholding information from the US Congress on this broadening of the war.
Add to Kissinger’s work in Southeast Asia his role in undermining East Timor and the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile, and there is a strong case to be made that Kissinger is one of the 20th century’s most egregious criminals. This is the case that has been made by Christopher Hitchens in his book, The Trial of Henry Kissinger. The book also forms the basis of a new documentary called The Trials of Henry Kissinger. Both the book and documentary are important for anyone wanting to understand why Henry Kissinger is wanted for questioning in so many countries. He is a walking, talking advertisement for why an International Criminal Court is so critical to upholding human rights in the future from national leaders like Kissinger who place their view of national interests above human rights.
Mr. Bush has recently attempted to resuscitate Kissinger by appointing him to chair a “Blue Ribbon” Commission to investigate the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001. This is a bit like appointing Al Capone to investigate the Mafia, or Ken Lay, former CEO of Enron, to investigate corporate wrongdoing.
Mr. Kissinger, always a ruthless power seeker and broker, even keeps secret the client list at his power brokerage firm, Kissinger Associates. One wonders how Kissinger could possibly be even-handed in this important investigation when he may be called upon to investigate his secret clients. He and Mr. Bush seem to be operating on the assumption that what the public doesn’t know won’t hurt them. While this is one way to shove conflicts of interest under the rug, it is an exceedingly dangerous assumption in an already dangerous world.
With Kissinger leading the investigation, we can be sure that the public will hear only what Mr. Kissinger and Mr. Bush want them to know. In an editorial on 29 November 2002, the New York Times wrote: “It seems improbable to expect Mr. Kissinger to report unflinchingly on the conduct of the government, including that of Mr. Bush. He would have to challenge the established order and risk sundering old friendships and business relationships.” It is likely that Mr. Kissinger will flinch only when one of the countries wanting to investigate him for murder and other high crimes actually gets him into the defendant’s docket.