Thursday, October 31, 2013

Henry Kissinger is frequently described as “a man of great charm, wit, and intellect.”

Henry Kissinger, a moral monster who exemplified the dark arts of immoral and amoral Realpolitik while at the pinnacle of political power in the United States, is a living reminder of why we established (several ad hoc and hybrid, as well as one permanent) international criminal tribunals and need universal jurisdiction in the quest for international criminal justice. If you’re not well acquainted with the precise reasons why Kissinger is rightly referred to in some quarters as a “war criminal” (although one could plausibly argue he is also guilty of crimes against humanity and complicity in genocide, among other crimes), see the first and still best summary of the particulars of this searing public indictment in Christopher Hitchens’ The Trial of Henry Kissinger (Twelve, 2012; first edition, Verso, 2001, 2002 with new preface). I’ll provide more thorough references in a future post, but for now see too the 1987 edition of Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon, and the Destruction of Cambodia (Cooper Square Press) and Gary J. Bass’ new book, The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide (Alfred A. Knopf, 2013). The following excerpt is from the latter volume: 

“Nixon and Kissinger bear responsibility for a significant complicity in the slaughter of the Bengalis. This overlooked episode deserves to be a defining part of their historical reputations. But although Nixon and Kissinger have hardly been neglected by history, this major incident has largely been whitewashed out of their legacy—and not by accident. Kissinger began telling demonstrable falsehoods about the administration’s record just two weeks into the crisis, and has not stopped distorting since.” 

In 1971, West Pakistan’s genocidal campaign in East Pakistan caused at least 8 million East Bengalis to flee to India, taking refuge in nearby Indian states and prompting a humanitarian crisis the U.S. could no longer ignore. Yet the evil of genocide was not, it seems, sufficient: “Nixon bitterly said, ‘The Indians need—what they really need is a—’ Kissinger interjected, ‘They’re such bastards.’ Nixon finished his thought: ‘A mass famine.’”


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