Published on Friday, November 29, 2002 by CommonDreams.org
Kissinger Investigates? Investigate Kissinger
by Marty Jezer
George W. Bush’s appointment of Henry Kissinger to chair an independent investigation into the September 11th terrorist attacks is utterly cynical but totally in keeping with the Bush Administration’s long-standing opposition to the very idea of such an investigation.
This is an important investigation that, whether conducted with credibility or as a cover-up, will have a lasting influence on American politics. The commission needs to investigate the true nature of the terrorist threat. Is it the product (as the CIA maintains) of a loosely-based network of fundamentalist fanatics like bin Laden’s Al Qaida network? Or does it represent, as Administration hawks would have it, a deliberate effort by other nations (e.g. Iraq) to attack America?
Other questions that need answers: Was it bureaucratic bungling and rivalry that enabled the plane hijackings to happen? What were the political assumptions on which the security and intelligence agencies were (and are) operating? What justifies the need to give intelligence agencies expanded power? If the agencies had useful information before 9/ll and could not effectively handle it, how will they handle the flood of data that, thanks to the Patriot Act, they’ll be generating on you, I, and everyone else? Do we really need to shred the Bill of Rights, as the Administration in bent on doing, in order to protect ourselves from terrorists?
If Bush was sincere about a serious investigation, he would have appointed as chairman a person of upstanding character and nonpartisan credentials on the model of Elliot Richardson and Archibald Cox, two prominent Republicans involved in the Watergate investigation. In Kissinger, he has appointed the consummate establishment insider, a notorious suck-up, who can be expected to protect the FBI, the CIA, and the National Security Agency, as well as his friends and business associates in the Republican hierarchy and the Arab sheikdoms.
An investigation like this demands a trustworthy leader. Kissinger has his admirers, but there are many people in this country and elsewhere who believe him responsible for causing more civilian deaths than Saddam Hussein or Slobodan Milosevic together. At best, Kissinger is a polarizing figure who does not command trust. At worst, he’s an war criminal who ought to be brought to trial.
The case against Kissinger has been documented by, among others, Seymour Hersh (The Price of Power) and, most recently, Christopher Hitchens (The Trial of Henry Kissinger). Hitchens, a tough-minded journalist, has savaged Bill Clinton for his ethical shortcomings and is currently waging war with elements of the left (particularly The Nation magazine and foreign policy guru Noam Chomsky) for being too soft on what Hitchens calls "Islamic fascism". His newest book makes the argument that Kissinger is a war criminal.
The case against Kissinger begins in 1968 when, working for the Democrats, he tipped off Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign that a peace settlement in Vietnam was in the making. Nixon then sent an emissary to South Vietnam;s leader, General Nguyen Van Thieu, urging him to reject the peace proposal, which he did. In a Nixon presidency, Thieu was promised, the U.S. would win the war. Thieu’s opposition to peace likely cost Humphrey the election. Turncoat Kissinger then became Nixon’s most influential foreign policy advisor. Nixon promised the American people that he had a secret plan to end the war, which was a lie. Kissinger is cited as promoting the idea of extending the war to Laos and Cambodia, which then had a popular, neutral government. Hundreds of thousands of Cambodian civilians were killed in the American bombing and the government was destabilized, leading ultimately to the mass-murderer, Pol Pot, coming to power. In the end, Kissinger and Nixon’s plan to end the war cost the lives of millions of Americans, Cambodians, Laotians and Vietnamese. The peace settlement that Kissinger negotiated in 1973 approximated what the Johnson Administration could have gotten four years earlier if Nixon and Kissinger hadn’t sabotaged the effort.
Kissinger’s record in Vietnam should have brought him a life-time of disgrace, not just for the wasted deaths but for the sheer stupidity of his foreign policy. But Kissinger was able to parley the Vietnam disaster into a career as pundit and philosopher. He’s earned additional millions as head of Kissinger Associations, a firm that provides global corporations with access to Kissinger’s friends in government, here and abroad.
In addition to the Vietnam debacle, Kissinger is implicated in the 1973 Chilean military coup that overthrew the democratically-elected socialist government of Salvador Allende. The evidence includes Kissinger’s foreknowledge and approval of the assassination of the Chilean Commander in Chief, General Rene Schneider, who opposed a military coup, and the actual assassination, by right-wing military forces, of President Allende. After the coup, Kissinger was an ardent supporter of the Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet, who tortured and killed tens of thousands.
Kissinger is also implicated in Operation Condor in which, during the 1970s, U.S.-backed dictators and military rulers in Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina kidnapped and murdered political opponents, including citizens of the United States, France and Spain. Judges in France, Spain and Chile have requested that Kissinger answer questions about the deaths of their citizens in Operation Condor, but Kissinger, so far, has not been cooperative.
In the White House, Kissinger wiretapped his associates; backed Nixon throughout Watergate; accepted, without protest, Nixon’s tirades against Jews and blacks; and then, in his retirement, shielded his public papers from public scrutiny.
Such is the record and character of the man George W. Bush has chosen to lead the investigation of 9/11. Democrats, if they won’t make Kissinger the subject of an investigation, should at least refuse to participate in an investigation that Kissinger leads. There are honorable men and women who could lead such an investigation. The Bush Administration needs to be forced to pick somebody else.
Marty Jezer's books include The Dark Ages: Life in the U.S., 1945-1960. He writes from Brattleboro, Vermont and welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.