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If liberty means anything at all,
it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.
- George Orwell



Serial War Criminal In Cork

Anthony McIntyre

Writing in the American journal Phoenix Dan Kennedy has claimed, almost matter of factly, that Henry Kissinger is perhaps the only American alive who is routinely referred to as a 'war criminal.' In 1999 the former senior US diplomat angrily departed a British radio interview because Jeremy Paxman asked him if he considered himself a fraud for accepting the Nobel Peace Prize given the atrocities he had been involved in.

Why then did the Irish city of Cork wish to have Henry Kissinger bathe in its 'river of knowledge'? Given that one commentator has referred to him, plausibly enough, as an 'unregenerate deceiver' and yet another has commented on his 'hysterical lying', what service to knowledge other than distortion could he lend? Why did he even want to go? Perhaps he had read Peter Hart's work on the Cork IRA and its enemies, and concluded that given the atrocities meted out to Protestants by the city's republicans in the 1920s that an old serial war criminal like himself would feel quite comfortable there - a sort of 'and whatever you are having yourself' type of affair. To his chagrin, it didn't work out quite like that.

In anticipation of the insult about to make its presence felt in the city, Cork Sinn Fein councillor Jonathan O'Brien at a council meeting called on University College Cork to cancel its invitation to the former US Secretary of State and one time National Security Advisor. Perhaps Councillor O'Brien should have called for Kissinger to be permitted to attend and then demand that he be arrested for war crimes. Either way it was merely a question of tactics. O'Brien's outspoken and clear opposition to Kissinger's presence should be both universally admired and unequivocally endorsed. It won't, however, because there is no universal and unequivocal opposition to war crimes. Always good for poking opponents in the eye but rarely welcome if somebody on our side was involved in a little political or ideological cleansing.

Kissinger, himself, angrily refuted those protestors who 'greeted' him at the university as 'the Milosevic of Manhattan' arguing that it was an insult to human intelligence to draw any comparison between himself and the Serbian war criminal. He has a point in so far as the comparison is unfair - to Milosevic. The Serbian genocidist committed his war crimes in considerably fewer countries than the former US Secretary - restricting himself for the most part to Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.

As far back as January 1971 General Telford Taylor, the chief US prosecutor of Nazi war criminals claimed that if the standards in place at Nuremberg were applied to those Americans behind the Vietnam War - of whom Kissinger was one - 'there would be a very strong possibility that they would come to the same end'. Not surprisingly the polemicist Christopher Hitchens has called for Kissinger's prosecution for war crimes, crimes against humanity, offences against common, customary or international law, including conspiracy to commit murder, kidnap, and torture. This activity spanned more than Vietnam.

Henry Kissinger is arguably one of the foremost war criminals of the 20th Century. Some of those hanged at Nuremberg were probably less culpable then he in terms of actually prompting genocide and both providing the hardware for and overseeing mass murder, torture and disappearances.

Kissinger served as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs from January 1969, until November 1975. From September 1973 until January 1977 he also served as US Secretary of State. As a foreign policy advisor he conducted illegal secretive diplomacy which resulted in the South Vietnamese Government pulling out of the Peace Talks with North Vietnam in Paris in November 1968. He was central to offering them what were sold as better terms under the incoming Nixon government.

This led to (even from the narrow perspective of US national interest) the continued prosecution of the war against the Vietnamese until March 1972 with the loss of 31,205 American soldiers, 86,101 South Vietnamese, and 475,609 people defined by the Americans as 'enemies.' In the same period the US used almost twice the amount of bombs used during World War 2; the CIA aided 'counter-insurgents' to disappear 35,708 civilians. Between 1969 and 1973 illegal US bombing of Cambodia (with whom the US was not at war) resulted in an estimated 600, 000 dead; In Laos similar bombing caused the loss of approximately 200, 000 lives. The sheer abominable nature of all this was underlined by the fact that the administration of which Kissinger was a key player sought a few years later to settle in the region on the same terms it had undermined in 1969.

Not one to be deterred by international frontiers nor displaying a penchant for the localistic like Milosevic, Kissinger, in 1970, supported attempts by the Greek military dictatorship to kidnap on US soil the Greek dissident journalist Elias Demetracopoulos. In the same year he helped arrange the murder of General Rene Schneider, the commander and chief of the Chilean army. The General refused to challenge the democratic decision which led to the election of Salvador Allende. The Hinchey report to the US Congress shows that American officials were complicit in torture, murder, and disappearings carried out by DINA and its associated Chilean government right wing death squads under the direction of Pinochet and Contreras. In 1973 Kissinger helped organise the murderous coup which led to the overthrow of the democratic government of Allende and the summary execution of the latter. His logic - there was no justification for the country to 'go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.' (Echoes of the Irish establishment response to its citizens recent choice in the referendum on Nice)

In 1971 Kissinger supported the military coup which overthrew a democratically elected government and went on to murder half a million people in what is now Bangladesh. In 1974 he supported a further military coup in Cyprus and the subsequent Turkish invasion of the island which led to 5,000 civilian deaths. In 1975 he supported and armed the Indonesian Government invasion of East Timor resulting in the deaths of 200,000 people - which amounted to almost 20/% of the population.

The problem is, of course, much wider than Kissinger. As James Fallows argued on the Atlantic Monthly's Web site 'do you mean to say that policies in Cambodia, Timor, Greece, and elsewhere should be considered Kissinger's failures, not America's, and that we can purge ourselves by putting him in the dock?'

Clearly not. But this does not amount to a reason for not sending Kissinger off to the Hague. As the writer Mike McGlothlin points out:

the United States is supposed to be the ethical and political leader of the Free World, the Indispensable Nation, a nation committed to the precepts of constitutional republican democracy and the rule of law, not of powerful, violent, and ambitious men.

Given its continued willingness to harbour Kissinger and support to this day other war criminals such as Ariel Sharon (who ordered the massacre at Sabra and Shatilla, prompting one Israeli soldier who walked through the hellish refugee camps in the wake of the murders to conclude that it conjured up images of the holocaust) it is logical to concur with Hitchens when he argues that:

it will suggest that prosecutions for war crimes and crimes against humanity are reserved for losers, or for minor despots in relatively negligible countries. This in turn will lead to the paltry politicization of what could have been a noble process and to the justifiable suspicion of double standards.

Consequently, those who protested against Kissinger in Cork can not be explained away and dismissed as 'anti-American' or 'student lefties' all too willing to pounce on any issue no matter how bizarre to support their 'infantile' sense of protest or dissent. By contrast, those who made him welcome have every cause to have their sleep disturbed by the ghosts of his victims.



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