The Case Against Henry Kissinger
The making of a war criminal
by Christopher Hitchens
Harpers magazine, March 2001
THE 1968 ELECTION * INDOCHINA * CHILE
It will become clear, and may as well be stated at the outset,
that this is written by a political opponent of Henry Kissinger.
Nonetheless, I have found myself continually amazed at how much
hostile and discreditable material I have felt compelled to omit.
I am concerned only with those Kissingerian offenses that might
or should form the basis of a legal prosecution: for war crimes,
for crimes against humanity, and for offenses against common or
customary or international law, including conspiracy to commit
murder, kidnap, and torture.
Thus, I might have mentioned Kissinger's recruitment and betrayal
of the Iraqi Kurds, who were falsely encouraged by him to take
up arms against Saddam Hussein in 1972-75, and who were then abandoned
to extermination on their hillsides when Saddam Hussein made a
diplomatic deal with the Shah of Iran, and who were deliberately
lied to as well as abandoned. The conclusions of the report by
Congressman Otis Pike still make shocking reading and reveal on
Kissinger's part a callous indifference to human life and human
rights. But they fall into the category of depraved realpolitik
and do not seem to have violated any known law.
In the same way, Kissinger's orchestration of political and
military and diplomatic cover for apartheid in South Africa presents
us with a morally repulsive record and includes the appalling
consequences of the destabilization of Angola. Again, though,
one is looking at a sordid period of Cold War and imperial history,
and an exercise of irresponsible power, rather than an episode
of organized crime. Additionally, one must take into account the
institutional nature of this policy, which might in outline have
been followed under any administration, national security adviser,
or secretary of state.
Similar reservations can be held about Kissinger's chairmanship
of the Presidential Commission on Central America in the early
1980s, which was staffed by Oliver North and which whitewashed
death-squad activity on the isthmus. Or about the political protection
provided by Kissinger, while in office, for the Pahlavi dynasty
in Iran and its machinery of torture and repression. The list,
it is sobering to say, could be protracted very much further.
But it will not do to blame the whole exorbitant cruelty and cynicism
of decades on one man. (Occasionally one gets an intriguing glimpse,
as when Kissinger urges President Ford not to receive the inconvenient
Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, all the while posing as Communism's most
daring and principled foe.)
No, I have confined myself to the identifiable crimes that
can and should be placed on a proper bill of indictment, whether
the actions taken were in line with general "policy"
or not. These include, in this installment, the deliberate mass
killing of civilian populations in Indochina and the personal
suborning and planning of murder of a senior constitutional officer
in a democratic nation-Chile-with which the United States was
not at war. In a second installment we will see that this criminal
habit of mind extends to Bangladesh, Cyprus, East Timor, and even
to Washington, D.C.
Some of these allegations can be constructed only prima facie,
since Mr. Kissinger-in what may also amount to a deliberate and
premeditated obstruction of justice-has caused large tranches
of evidence to be withheld or possibly destroyed. We now, however,
enter upon the age when the defense of "sovereign immunity"
for state crimes has been held to be void. As I demonstrate below,
Kissinger has understood this decisive change even if many of
his critics have not. The House of Lords' ruling in London, on
the international relevance of General Augusto Pinochet's crimes,
added to the splendid activism of the Spanish magistracy and the
verdicts of the International Tribunal at The Hague, has destroyed
the shield that immunized crimes committed under the justification
of raison d'etat. There is now no reason why a warrant for the
trial of Kissinger may not be issued in any one of a number of
jurisdictions and no reason why he may not be compelled to answer
it. Indeed, as I write, there are a number of jurisdictions where
the law is at long last beginning to catch up with the evidence.
And we have before us in any case the Nuremberg precedent, by
which the United States solemnly undertook to be bound.
A failure to proceed will constitute a double or triple offense
to justice. First, it will violate the essential and now uncontested
principle that not even the most powerful are above the law. Second,
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.
Many if not most of Kissinger's partners in politics, from
Greece to Chile to Argentina to Indonesia, are now in jail or
awaiting trial. His own lonely impunity is rank; it smells to
heaven. If it is allowed to persist then we shall shamefully vindicate
the ancient philosopher Anacharsis, who maintained that laws were
like cobwebs-strong enough to detain only the weak and too weak
to hold the strong. In the name of innumerable victims known and
unknown, it is time for justice to take a hand.
In December 2, 1998, Michael Korda was being interviewed on
camera in his office at Simon & Schuster. As one of the reigning
magnates of New York publishing, he had edited and "produced"
the work of authors as various as Tennessee Williams, Richard
Nixon, Joan Crawford, and Joe Bonanno. On this particular day,
he was talking about the life and thoughts of Cher, whose portrait
adorned the wall behind him. And then the telephone rang and there
was a message to call "Dr." Henry Kissinger as soon
as possible. A polymath like Korda knows-what with the exigencies
of publishing in these vertiginous days-how to switch in an instant
between Cher and high statecraft. The camera kept running, and
recorded the following scene for a tape that I possess:
Asking his secretary to get the number (7597919-the digits
of Kissinger Associates), Korda quips dryly, to general laughter
in the office, that it "should be 1-800-CAMBODIA . . .1-800-BOMB-CAMBODIA."
After a pause of nicely calibrated duration (no senior editor
likes to be put on hold while he's receiving company, especially
media company) it's "Henry-Hi, how are you? . . . You're
getting all the publicity you could want in the New York Times
but not the kind you want... I also think it's very, very dubious
for the administration to simply say yes, they'll release these
papers . . . no . . . no, absolutely . . . no . . . no . . . well,
hmmm, yeah. We did it until quite recently, frankly, and he did
prevail . . . Well, I don't think there's any question about that,
as uncomfortable as it may be . . . Henry, this is totally outrageous
. . . yeah . . . also the jurisdiction. This is a Spanish judge
appealing to an English court about a Chilean head of state. So
it's, it . . . Also, Spain has no rational jurisdiction over events
in Chile anyway, so that makes absolutely no sense . . . Well,
that's probably true . .. If you would. I think that would be
by far and away the best. .. Right, yeah, no, I think it's exactly
what you should do, and I don't think it should be long, and I
think it should end with your father's letter. I think it's a
very important document . . . Yes, but I think the letter is wonderful,
and central to the entire book. Can you let me read the Lebanon
chapter over the weekend?" At this point the conversation
ends, with some jocular observations by Korda about his upcoming
colonoscopy: "a totally repulsive procedure."
By means of the same tiny internal camera, or its forensic
equivalent, one could deduce not a little about the world of Henry
Kissinger from this microcosmic exchange. The first and most important
is this: Sitting in his office at Kissinger Associates, with its
tentacles of business and consultancy stretching from Belgrade
to Beijing, and cushioned by innumerable other directorships and
boards, he still shudders when he hears of the arrest of a dictator.
Syncopated the conversation with Korda may be, but it's clear
that the keyword is "jurisdiction." What had the New
York Times been reporting that fine morning? On December 2, 1998,
its front page carried the following report from Tim Weiner, the
paper's national-security correspondent in Washington. Under the
headline "U.S. Will Release Files on Crimes Under Pinochet,"
Treading into a political and diplomatic confrontation it
tried to avoid, the United States decided today to declassify
some secret documents on the killings and torture committed during
the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile....
The decision to release such documents is the first sign that
the United States will cooperate in the case against General Pinochet.
Clinton Administration officials said they believed the benefits
of openness in human rights cases outweighed the risks to national
security in this case. But the decision could open "a can
of worms," in the words of a former Central Intelligence
Agency official stationed in Chile, exposing the depth of the
knowledge that the United States had about crimes charged against
the Pinochet Government....
While some European government officials have supported bringing
the former dictator to court, United States officials have stayed
largely silent, reflecting skepticism about the Spanish court's
power doubts about international tribunals aimed at former foreign
rulers, and worries over the implications for American leaders
who might someday also be accused in foreign countries.
President Richard M. Nixon and Henry A. Kissinger, who served
as his national security advisor and Secretary of State, supported
a right-wing coup in Chile in the early 1970s, previously declassified
But many of the actions of the United States during the 1973
coup, and much of what American leaders and intelligence services
did in liaison with the Pinochet Government after it seized power,
remain under the seal of national security. The secret files on
the Pinochet regime are held by the C.l.A., the Defense Intelligence
Agency the State Department, the Pentagon, the National Security
Council, the National Archives, the Presidential libraries of
Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter, and other Government agencies.
According to Justice Department records, these files contain a
history of human rights abuses and international terrorism:
* In 1975 State Department diplomats in Chile protested the
Pinochet regime's record of killing and torture, filing dissents
to American foreign policy with their superiors in Washington.
* The C.l.A. has files on assassinations by the regime and
the Chilean secret police. The intelligence agency also has records
on Chile's attempts to establish an international right-wing covert-action
* The Ford Library contains many of Mr. Kissinger's secret
files on Chile, which have never been made public. Through a secretary,
Mr. Kissinger declined a request for an interview today.
One must credit Kissinger with grasping what so many other
people did not: that if the Pinochet precedent became established,
then he himself was in some danger. The United States believes
that it alone pursues and indicts war criminals and "international
terrorists"; nothing in its political or journalistic culture
yet allows for the thought that it might be harboring and sheltering
such a senior one. Yet the thought had very obliquely surfaced
in Weiner's story, and Kissinger was a worried man when he called
his editor that day to discuss the concluding volume of his memoirs
(eventually published under the unbearably dull and self-regarding
title Years of Renewal), which was still in progress.
"Harboring and sheltering," though, are understatements
for the lavishness of Henry Kissinger's circumstances. His advice
is sought, at $30,000 an appearance, by audiences of businessmen
and academics and policymakers. His turgid newspaper column is
syndicated by the Los Angeles Times and appears as far afield
as the Washington Post. His first volume of memoirs was in part
written, and also edited, by Harold Evans, who with Tina Brown
is among the many hosts and hostesses who solicit Kissinger's
company, or perhaps one should say society, for their New York
soirees. At different times, he has been a consultant to ABC News
and CBS; his most successful diplomacy, indeed, has probably been
conducted with the media (and his single greatest achievement
has been to get almost everybody to call him "Doctor").
Fawned on by Ted Koppel, sought out by corporations and despots
with "image" problems or "failures of communication,"
and given respectful attention by presidential candidates and
those whose task it is to "mold" their global vision,
this man wants for little in the pathetic universe that the "self-esteem"
industry exists to serve. Of whom else would Norman Podhoretz
write, in a bended-knee encomium to the second volume of Kissinger's
memoirs, Years of Upheaval:
What we have here is writing of the very highest order. It
is writing that is equally at ease in portraiture and abstract
analysis; that can shape a narrative as skillfully as it can paint
a scene; that can achieve marvels of compression while moving
at an expansive and leisurely pace. It is writing that can shift
without strain or falsity of tone from the gravitas befitting
a book about great historical events to the humor and irony dictated
by an unfailing sense of human proportion.
A critic who can suck like that, as was once dryly said by
one of my moral tutors, need never dine alone. Nor need his subject.
Except that, every now and then, the recipient (and donor) of
so much sycophancy feels a tremor of anxiety. He leaves the well-furnished
table and scurries to the bathroom. Is it perhaps another disclosure
on a newly released Nixon tape ? Some stray news from Indonesia
portending the fall or imprisonment of another patron (and perhaps
the escape of an awkward document or two)? The arrest or indictment
of a torturer or assassin, the expiry of the statute of secrecy
for some obscure cabinet papers in a faraway country? Any one
of these can instantly spoil his day. As we see from the Korda
tape, Kissinger cannot open the morning paper with the assurance
of tranquillity. Because he knows what others can only suspect,
or guess at. And he is a prisoner of the knowledge, as, to some
extent, are we.
Notice the likable way in which Michael Korda demonstrates
his broad-mindedness with the Cambodia jest. Everybody "knows,"
after all, that Kissinger inflicted terror and misery and mass
death on that country, and great injury to the United States Constitution
at the same time. (Everybody also "knows" that other
vulnerable nations can lay claim to the same melancholy and hateful
distinction as Cambodia, with incremental or "collateral"
damage to American democracy keeping pace.) Yet the pudgy man
standing in black tie at the Vogue party is not, surely, the man
who ordered and sanctioned the destruction of civilian populations,
the assassination of inconvenient politicians, the kidnapping
and disappearance of soldiers and journalists and clerics who
got in his way. Oh, but he is. He's exactly the same man. And
that may be among the most nauseating reflections of all. Kissinger
is not invited and feted because of his exquisite manners or his
mordant wit (his manners are in any case rather gross, and his
wit consists of a quiver of borrowed and second-hand darts). No,
he is sought after because his presence supplies a frisson, the
authentic touch of raw and unapologetic power. There's a slight
guilty nervousness on the edge of Korda's gag about the indescribable
sufferings of Indochina. And I've noticed, time and again, standing
at the back of the audience during Kissinger speeches, that laughter
of the nervous, uneasy kind is the sort of laughter he likes to
provoke. In exacting this tribute, he flaunts not the "aphrodisiac"
of power (another of his plagiarized bons mots) but its pornography.
DRESS REHEARSAL: THE SECRET OF '68
There exists, within the political class of Washington, D.C.,
an open secret that is too momentous and too awful to tell.
Although it is well known to academic historians, senior reporters,
former Cabinet members, and ex-diplomats, it has never been summarized
all at one time in any one place. The reason for this is, on first
viewing, paradoxical. The open secret is in the possession of
both major political parties, and it directly implicates the past
statecraft of at least three former presidencies. Thus, its full
disclosure would be in the interest of no particular faction.
Its truth is therefore the guarantee of its obscurity; it lies
like Poe's "purloined letter" across the very aisle
that signifies bipartisanship.
Here is the secret in plain words. In the fall of 1968, Richard
Nixon and some of his emissaries and underlings set out to sabotage
the Paris peace negotiations on Vietnam. The means they chose
were simple: they privately assured the South Vietnamese military
rulers that an incoming Republican regime would offer them a better
deal than would a Democratic one. In this way, they undercut both
the talks themselves and the electoral strategy of Vice President
Hubert Humphrey. The tactic "worked," in that the South
Vietnamese junta withdrew from the talks on the eve of the election,
thereby destroying the peace initiative on which the Democrats
had based their campaign. In another way, it did not "work,"
because four years later the Nixon Administration tried to conclude
the war on the same terms that had been on offer in Paris. The
reason for the dead silence that still surrounds the question
is that in those intervening years some 20,000 Americans and an
uncalculated number of Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians lost
their lives. Lost them, that is to say, even more pointlessly
than had those slain up to that point. The impact of those four
years on Indochinese society, and on American democracy, is beyond
computation. The chief beneficiary of the covert action, and of
the subsequent slaughter, was Henry Kissinger.
I can already hear the guardians of consensus, scraping their
blunted quills to dismiss this as a "conspiracy theory."
I happily accept the challenge. Let us take, first, the Diaries
of that renowned conspirator (and theorist of conspiracy) H. R.
Haldeman, published in May 1994.1 choose to start with them for
two reasons. First, because on the logical inference of "evidence
against interest" it is improbable that Mr. Haldeman would
supply evidence of his knowledge of a crime, unless he was (posthumously)
telling the truth. Second, because it is possible to trace back
each of his entries to its origin in other documented sources.
In January 1973, the Nixon-Kissinger Administration-for which
Haldeman took the minutes-was heavily engaged on two fronts. In
Paris again, Henry Kissinger was striving to negotiate "peace
with honor" in Vietnam. In Washington, D.C., the web of evidence
against the Watergate burglars and buggers was beginning to tighten.
On January 8,1973, Haldeman records:
John Dean called to report on the Watergate trials, says that
if we can prove in any way by hard evidence that our [campaign]
plane was bugged in '68, he thinks that we could use that as a
basis to say we're going to force Congress to go back and investigate
'68 as well as '7I, and thus turn them off.
Three days later, on January 11, 1973, Haldeman hears from
Nixon ("the P," as the Diaries call him):
On the Watergate question, he wanted me to talk to [Attorney
General John] Mitchell and have him find out from [Deke] De Loach
[of the FBI] if the guy who did the bugging on us in 1968 is still
at the FBI, and then [FBI acting director Patrick] Gray should
nail him with a lie detector and get it settled, which would give
us the evidence we need. He also thinks I ought to move with George
Christian [President Johnson's former press secretary, then working
with Democrats for Nixon], get LBJ to use his influence to turn
off the Hill investigation with Califano, Hubert, and so on. Later
in the day, he decided that wasn't such a good idea, and told
me not to do it, which I fortunately hadn't done.
On the same day, Haldeman reports Henry Kissinger calling
excitedly from Paris, saying "he'll do the signing in Paris
rather than Hanoi, which is the key thing." He speaks also
of getting South Vietnam's President Thieu to "go along."
On the following day:
The P also got back on the Watergate thing today, making the
point that I should talk to Connally about the Johnson bugging
process to get his judgment as to how to handle it. He wonders
if we shouldn't just have Andreas go in and scare Hubert. The
problem in going at LBJ is how he'd react, and we need to find
out from [Deke] De Loach who did it, and then run a lie detector
on him. I talked to Mitchell on the phone on this subject and
he said De Loach had told him he was up to date on the thing because
he had a call from Texas. A Star re' porter was making an inquiry
in the last week or so, and LBJ got very hot and called Deke and
said to him that if the Nixon people are going to play with this,
that he would release [deleted material-national security], saying
that our side was asking that certain things be done. By our side,
I assume he means the Nixon campaign organization. De Loach took
this as a direct threat from Johnson.... As he recalls it, bugging
was requested on the planes, but was turned down, and all they
did was check the phone calls, and put a tap on the Dragon Lady
[Mrs. Anna Chennault].
This bureaucratic prose may be hard to read, but it needs
no cipher to decode itself. Under intense pressure about the bugging
of the Watergate building, Nixon instructed his chief of staff,
Haldeman, and his FBI contact, Deke DeLoach, to unmask the bugging
to which his own campaign had been subjected in 1968. He also
sounded out former president Johnson, through former senior Democrats
like Texas governor John Connally, to gauge what his reaction
to the disclosure might be. The aim was to show that "everybody
does it." (By another bipartisan paradox, in Washington the
slogan "they all do it" is used as a slogan for the
defense rather than, as one might hope, for the prosecution.)
However, a problem presents itself at once: how to reveal
the 1968 bugging without at the same time revealing what that
bugging had been about. Hence the second thoughts ("wasn't
such a good idea . . ."). In his excellent introduction to
The Haldeman Diaries, Nixon's biographer Professor Stephen Ambrose
characterizes the 1973 approach to Lyndon Johnson as "prospective
blackmail," designed to exert backstairs pressure to close
down a congressional inquiry. But he also suggests that Johnson,
himself no pushover, had some blackmail ammunition of his own.
As Professor Ambrose phrases it, the Diaries had been vetted by
the National Security Council, and the bracketed deletion cited
above is "the only place in the book where an example is
given of a deletion by the NSC during the Carter Administration."
"Eight days later Nixon was inaugurated for his second term,"
Ambrose relays. "Ten days later Johnson died of a heart attack.
What Johnson had on Nixon I suppose we'll never know."
The professor's conclusion here is arguably too tentative.
There is a well-understood principle known as "Mutual Assured
Destruction," whereby both sides possess more than enough
material with which to annihilate the other. The answer to the
question of what the Johnson Administration "had" on
Nixon is a relatively easy one. It was given in a book entitled
Counsel to the President, published in 1991. Its author was Clark
Clifford, the quintessential blue-chip Washington insider, who
was assisted in the writing by Richard Holbrooke, the former assistant
secretary of state and current ambassador to the United Nations.
In 1968, Clark Clifford was secretary of defense and Richard Holbrooke
was a member of the American negotiating team at the Vietnam peace
talks in Paris.
From his seat in the Pentagon, Clifford had been able to read
the intelligence transcripts that picked up and recorded what
he terms a "secret personal channel" between President
Thieu in Saigon and the Nixon campaign. The chief interlocutor
at the American end was John Mitchell, then Nixon's campaign manager
and subsequently attorney general (and subsequently Prisoner Number
24171-157 in the Maxwell Air Force Base prison camp). He was actively
assisted by Madame Anna Chennault, known to all as the "Dragon
Lady." A fierce veteran of the Taiwan lobby, and all-purpose
right-wing intriguer, she was a social and political force in
the Washington of her day and would rate her own biography.
Clifford describes a private meeting at which he, President
Johnson, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, and National Security Adviser
Walt Rostow were present. Hawkish to a man, they kept Vice President
Humphrey out of the loop. But, hawkish as they were, they were
appalled at the evidence of Nixon's treachery. They nonetheless
decided not to go public with what they knew. Clifford says that
this was because the disclosure would have ruined the Paris talks
altogether. He could have added that it would have created a crisis
of confidence in American institutions. There are some things
that the voters can't be trusted to know. And even though the
bugging had been legal, it might not have looked like fair play.
(The Logan Act flatly prohibits any American from conducting private
diplomacy with a foreign power.) In the event, Thieu pulled out
of the negotiations anyway, ruining them just three days before
the election. Clifford is in no doubt of the advice on which he
The activities of the Nixon team went far beyond the bounds
of justifiable political combat. It constituted direct interference
in the activities of the executive branch and the responsibilities
of the Chief Executive, the only people with authority to negotiate
on behalf of the nation. The activities of the Nixon campaign
constituted a gross, even potentially illegal, interference in
the security affairs of the nation by private individuals.
Perhaps aware of the slight feebleness of his lawyerly prose,
and perhaps a little ashamed of keeping the secret for his memoirs
rather than sharing it with the electorate, Clifford adds in a
It should be remembered that the public was considerably more
innocent in such matters in the days before the Watergate hearings
and the 1975 Senate investigation of the CIA.
Perhaps the public was indeed more innocent, if only because
of the insider reticence of whiteshoe lawyers like Clifford, who
thought there were some things too profane to be made known. He
claims now that he was in favor either of confronting Nixon privately
with the information and forcing him to desist, or else of making
it public. Perhaps this was indeed his view.
A more wised-up age of investigative reporting has brought
us several updates on this appalling episode. And so has the very
guarded memoir of Richard Nixon himself. More than one "back
channel" was required for the Republican destabilization
of the Paris peace talks. There had to be secret communications
between Nixon and the South Vietnamese, as we have seen. But there
also had to be an informant inside the incumbent administration's
camp, a source of hints and tips and early warnings of official
intentions. That informant was Henry Kissinger. In his own account,
RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, the disgraced elder statesman
tells us that, in mid-September 1968, he received private word
of a planned bombing halt. In other words, the Johnson Administration
would, for the sake of the negotiations, consider suspending its
aerial bombardment of North Vietnam. This most useful advance
intelligence, Nixon tells us, came "through a highly unusual
channel." It was more unusual even than he acknowledged.
Kissinger had until then been a devoted partisan of Nelson Rockefeller,
the matchlessly wealthy prince of liberal Republicanism. His contempt
for the person and the policies of
Richard Nixon was undisguised. Indeed, President F Johnson's
Paris negotiators, led by Averell Harriman, considered Kissinger
to be almost one of themselves. He had made himself helpful, as
Rockefeller's chief foreign-policy adviser, by supplying French
intermediaries with their own contacts in Hanoi. "Henry was
the only person outside of the government we were authorized to
discuss the negotiations with," Richard Holbrooke told Walter
Isaacson. "We trusted him. It is not stretching the truth
to say that the Nixon campaign had a secret source within the
U.S. negotiating team."
So the likelihood of a bombing halt, wrote Nixon, "came
as no real surprise to me." He added: "I told Haldeman
that Mitchell should continue as liaison with Kissinger and that
we should honor his desire to keep his role completely confidential."
It is impossible that Nixon was unaware of his campaign manager's
parallel role in colluding with a foreign power. Thus began what
was effectively a domestic covert operation, directed simultaneously
at thwarting the talks and embarrassing the Hubert Humphrey campaign.
Later in the month, on September 76 to be precise, and as
recorded by Nixon in his memoirs, "Kissinger called again.
He said that he had just returned from Paris, where he had picked
up word that something big was afoot regarding Vietnam. He advised
that if I had anything to say about Vietnam during the following
week, I should avoid any new ideas or proposals." On the
same day, Nixon declined a challenge from Humphrey for a direct
debate. On October 12, Kissinger once again made contact, suggesting
that a bombing halt might be announced as soon as October 23.
And so it might have been. Except that for some reason, every
time the North Vietnamese side came closer to agreement, the South
Vietnamese increased their own demands. We now know why and how
that was, and how the two halves of the strategy were knit together.
As far back as July, Nixon had met quietly in New York with the
South Vietnamese ambassador, Bui Diem. The contact had been arranged
by Anna Chennault. Bugging of the South Vietnamese offices in
Washington, and surveillance of the "Dragon Lady," showed
how the ratchet operated. An intercepted cable from Diem to President
Thieu on the fateful day of October 23 had him saying: "Many
Republican friends have contacted me and encouraged us to stand
firm. They were alarmed by press reports to the effect that you
had already softened your position." The wiretapping instructions
went to one Cartha DeLoach, known as "Deke" to his associates,
who was J. Edgar Hoover's FBI liaison officer to the White House.
We met him, you may recall, in H. R. Haldeman's Diaries.
In 1999 the author Anthony Summers was finally able to gain
access to the closed FBI file of intercepts of the Nixon campaign,
which he published in his 2000 book, The Arrogance of Poquer:
The Secret World of Richard Nixon. He was also able to interview
Anna Chennault. These two breakthroughs furnished him with what
is vulgarly termed a "smoking gun" on the 1968 conspiracy.
By the end of October 1968, John Mitchell had become so nervous
about official surveillance that he ceased taking calls from Chennault.
And President Johnson, in a conference call to the three candidates,
Nixon, Humphrey, and Wallace (allegedly to brief them on the bombing
halt), had strongly implied that he knew about the covert efforts
to stymie his Vietnam diplomacy. This call created near-panic
in Nixon's inner circle and caused Mitchell to telephone Chennault
at the Sheraton Park Hotel. He then asked her to call him back
on a more secure line. "Anna," he told her, "I'm
speaking on behalf of Mr. Nixon. It's very important that our
Vietnamese friends understand our Republican position, and I hope
you made that clear to them.... Do you think they really have
decided not to go to Paris?"
The reproduced FBI original document shows what happened next.
On November 2,1968, the agent reported:
MRS. ANNA CHENNAULT CONTACTED VIETNAMESE AMBASSADOR, BUI DIEM,
AND ADVISED HIM THAT SHE HAD RECEIVED A MESSAGE FROM HER BOSS
(NOT FURTHER IDENTIFIED), WHICH HER BOSS WANTED HER TO GIVE PERSONALLY
TO THE AMBASSADOR. SHE SAID THAT THE MESSAGE WAS THAT THE AMBASSADOR
IS TO "HOLD ON, WE ARE GONNA WIN" AND THAT HER BOSS
ALSO SAID "HOLD ON, HE UNDERSTANDS ALL OF IT." SHE REPEATED
THAT THIS IS THE ONLY MESSAGE. "HE SAID PLEASE TELL YOUR
BOSS TO HOLD ON. SHE ADVISED THAT HER BOSS HAD JUST CALLED FROM
Nixon's running mate, Spiro Agnew, had been campaigning in
Albuquerque, New Mexico, that day, and subsequent intelligence
analysis revealed that he and another member of his staff (the
one principally concerned with Vietnam) had indeed been in touch
with the Chennault camp.
The beauty of having Kissinger leaking from one side and Anna
Chennault and John Mitchell conducting a private foreign policy
on the other was this: It enabled Nixon to avoid being drawn into
the argument over a bombing halt. And it further enabled him to
suggest that it was the Democrats who were playing politics with
the issue. On October 25, in New York, he used his tried-and-tested
tactic of circulating an innuendo while purporting to disown it.
Of LBJ's Paris diplomacy he said, "I am also told that this
spurt of activity is a cynical, last-minute attempt by President
Johnson to salvage the candidacy of Mr. Humphrey. This I do not
Kissinger himself showed a similar ability to play both ends
against the middle. In the late summer of 1968, on Martha's Vineyard,
he had offered Nelson Rockefeller's files on Nixon to Professor
Samuel Huntington, a close adviser to Hubert Humphrey. But when
Huntington's colleague and friend Zbigniew Brzezinski tried to
get him to make good on the offer, Kissinger became shy. "I've
hated Nixon for years," he told Brzezinski, but the time
wasn't quite ripe for the handover. Indeed, it was a very close-run
election, turning in the end on the difference of a few hundred
thousand votes, and many hardened observers believe that the final
difference was made when Johnson ordered a bombing halt on October
31 and the South Vietnamese made him look like a fool by boycotting
the peace talks two days later. Had things gone the other way,
of course, Kissinger was a near-certainty for a senior job in
a Humphrey administration.
With slight differences of emphasis, the larger pieces of
this story appear in Haldeman's work as cited and in Clifford's
memoir. They are also partially rehearsed in President Johnson's
autobiography, The Vantage Point, and in a long reflection on
Indochina by William Bundy (one of the architects of the war)
entitled rather tritely The Tangled Web. Senior members of the
press corps, among them Jules Witcover in his history of 1968,
Seymour Hersh in his study of Kissinger, and Walter Isaacson,
editor of Time magazine, in his admiring but critical biography,
have produced almost congruent accounts of the same abysmal episode.
The only mention of it that is completely and utterly false, by
any literary or historical standard, appears in the memoirs of
Henry Kissinger himself. He writes just this:
"Several Nixon emissaries-some self appointed- telephoned
me for counsel. l took the position that I would answer specific
questions on foreign policy, but that I would not offer general
advice or volunteer suggestions. This was the same response I
made to inquiries from the Humphrey staff."
This contradicts even the self-serving memoir of the man who,
having won the 1968 election by these underhanded means, made
as his very first appointment Henry Kissinger as national security
adviser. One might not want to arbitrate a mendacity competition
between the two men, but when he made this choice Richard Nixon
had only once, briefly and awkwardly, met Henry Kissinger in person.
He clearly formed his estimate of the man's abilities from more
persuasive experience than that. "One factor that had most
convinced me of Kissinger's credibility," wrote Nixon later
in his own delicious prose, "was the length to which he went
to protect his secrecy."
That ghastly secret is now out. In the January 1969 issue
of the Establishment house organ Foreign Affairs, published a
few days after his appointment as Nixon's right -hand man, there
appeared Henry Kissinger's own evaluation of the Vietnam negotiations.
On every point of substance, he agreed with the line taken in
Paris by the Johnson-Humphrey negotiators. One has to pause for
an instant to comprehend the enormity of this. Kissinger had helped
elect a man who had surreptitiously promised the South Vietnamese
junta a better deal than they would get from the Democrats. The
Saigon authorities then acted, as Bundy ruefully confirms, as
if they did indeed have a deal. This meant, in the words of a
later Nixon slogan, "Four More Years." But four more
years of an unwinnable and undeclared and murderous war, which
was to spread before it burned out, and was to end on the same
terms and conditions as had been on the table in the fall of 1968.
This was what it took to promote Henry Kissinger. To promote
him from a mediocre and opportunistic academic to an international
potentate. The signature qualities were there from the inaugural
moment: the sycophancy and the duplicity; the power worship and
the absence of scruple; the empty trading of old non-friends for
new non-friends. And the distinctive effects were also present:
the uncounted and expendable corpses; the official and unofficial
Iying about the cost; the heavy and pompous pseudo-indignation
when unwelcome questions were asked. Kissinger's global career
started as it meant to go on. It debauched the American republic
and American democracy, and it levied a hideous toll of casualties
on weaker and more vulnerable societies.
THE CRIME OF WAR, AND BOMBING FOR VOTES
Even while compelled to concentrate on brute realities, one
must never lose sight of that element of the surreal that surrounds
Henry Kissinger. Paying a visit to Vietnam in the middle 1960s,
when many technocratic opportunists were still convinced that
the war was worth fighting and could be won, the young Henry reserved
judgment on the first point but developed considerable private
doubts on the second. He had gone so far as to involve himself
with an initiative that extended to direct personal contact with
Hanoi. He became friendly with two Frenchmen who had a direct
line to the Communist leadership in North Vietnam's capital. Raymond
Aubrac, a French civil servant who was a friend of Ho Chi Minh,
and Herbert Marcovich, a French microbiologist, began a series
of trips to North Vietnam. On their return, they briefed Kissinger
in Paris. He in his turn parlayed their information into high-level
conversations in Washington, relaying the actual or potential
negotiating positions of Pham Van Dong and other Communist statesmen
to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. (In the result, the relentless
bombing of the North made any "bridge-building" impracticable.
In particular, the now forgotten American destruction of the Paul
Doumer Bridge outraged the Vietnamese side.)
This weightless mid-position, which ultimately helped enable
his double act in 1968, allowed Kissinger to ventriloquize Governor
Rockefeller and to propose, by indirect means, a future détente
with America's chief rivals. In his first major address as a candidate
for the Republican nomination in 1968, Rockefeller spoke ringingly
of how "in a subtle triangle with Communist China and the
Soviet Union, we can ultimately improve our relations with each-as
we test the will for peace of both."
This foreshadowing of a later Kissinger strategy might appear
at first reading to illustrate prescience. But Governor Rockefeller
had no more reason than Vice President Humphrey to suppose that
his ambitious staffer would defect to the Nixon camp, risking
and postponing this same détente in order later to take
credit for a debased simulacrum of it.
Morally speaking, Kissinger treated the concept of superpower
rapprochement in the same way as he treated the concept of a negotiated
settlement in Vietnam: as something contingent on his own needs.
There was a time to feign support of it and a time to denounce
it as weak-minded and treacherous. And there was a time to take
credit for it. Some of those who "followed orders" in
Indochina may lay a claim to that notoriously weak defense. Some
who even issued the orders may now tell us that they were acting
sincerely at the time. But Kissinger cannot avail himself of this
alibi. He always knew what he was doing, and he embarked upon
a second round of protracted warfare having knowingly helped to
destroy an alternative that he always understood was possible.
This increases the gravity of the charge against him. It also
prepares us for his improvised and retrospective defense against
that charge: that his immense depredations eventually led to "peace."
When he announced that "peace is at hand" in October
1972, he made a boastful and false claim that could have been
made in 1968. And when he claimed credit for subsequent superpower
contacts, he was announcing the result of a secret and corrupt
diplomacy that had originally been proposed as an open and democratic
one. In the meantime, he had illegally eavesdropped and shadowed
American citizens and public servants whose misgivings about the
war, and about unconstitutional authority, were mild compared
with those of Messieurs Aubrac and Marcovich. In establishing
what lawyers call the mens rea, we can say that in Kissinger's
case he was fully aware of, and is entirely accountable for, his
Upon taking office at Richard Nixon's | side in the winter
of 1969, it was | Kissinger's task to be plus royaliste que le
roi in two respects. He had to confect a rationale of "credibility"
for punitive action in an already devastated Vietnamese theater,
and he had to second his principal's wish that he form part of
a "wall" between the Nixon White House and the Department
of State. The term "two track" was later to become commonplace.
Kissinger's position on both tracks, of promiscuous violence abroad
and flagrant illegality at home, was decided from the start. He
does not seem to have lacked relish for either commitment; one
hopes faintly that this was not the first twinge of the "aphrodisiac."
President Johnson's "bombing halt" had not lasted
long by any standard, even if one remembers that its original
conciliatory purpose had been sordidly undercut. Averell Harriman,
who had been LBJ's chief negotiator in Paris, later testified
to Congress that the North Vietnamese had withdrawn 90 percent
of their forces from the northern two provinces of South Vietnam,
in October and November 1968, in accordance with the agreement
of which the "halt" might have formed a part. In the
new context, however, this withdrawal could be interpreted as
a sign of weakness, or even as a "light at the end of the
The historical record of the Indochina war is voluminous,
and the resulting controversy no less so. This does not, however,
prevent the following of a consistent thread. Once the war had
been unnaturally and undemocratically prolonged, more exorbitant
methods were required to fight it and more fantastic excuses had
to be fabricated to justify it. Let us take four connected cases
in which the civilian population was deliberately exposed to indiscriminate
lethal force, in which the customary laws of war and neutrality
were violated, and in which conscious lies had to be told in order
to conceal these facts and others.
The first such case is an example of what Vietnam might have
been spared had not the 1968 Paris peace talks been sabotaged.
In December 1968, during the "transition" period between
the Johnson and Nixon administrations, the United States military
command turned to what General Creighton Abrams termed "total
war" against the "infrastructure" of the Vietcong/National
Liberation Front insurgency. The chief exhibit in this campaign
was a six-month clearance of the province of Kien Hoa. The code
name for the sweep was Operation "Speedy Express."
It might, in some realm of theory, be remotely conceivable
that such tactics could be justified under the international laws
and charters governing the sovereign rights of self-defense. But
no nation capable of deploying the overwhelming and annihilating
force described below would be likely to find itself on the defensive.
And it would be least of all likely to find itself on the defensive
on its own soil. So the Nixon-Kissinger Administration was not,
except in one unusual sense, fighting for survival. The unusual
sense in which its survival was at stake is set out, yet again,
in the stark posthumous testimony of H. R. Haldeman. From his
roost at Nixon's side he describes a Kissingerian moment on December
"K[issinger] came in and the discussion covered some
of the general thinking about Vietnam and the F's big peace plan
for next year, which K later told me he does not favor. He thinks
that any pullout next year would be a serious mistake because
the adverse reaction to it could set in well before the t72 elections.
He favors, instead, a continued winding down and then a pullout
right at the fall of ,72 so that if any bad results follow they
will be too late to affect the election."
One could hardly wish for it to be more plainly put than that.
(And put, furthermore, by one of Nixon's chief partisans with
no wish to discredit the re-election.) But in point of fact, Kissinger
himself admits to almost as much in his own first volume of memoirs,
The White House Years. The context is a meeting with General de
Gaulle, in which the old warrior demanded to know by what right
the Nixon Administration subjected Indochina to devastating bombardment.
In his own account, Kissinger replies that "a sudden withdrawal
might give us a credibility problem." (When asked "where?"
Kissinger hazily proposed the Middle East.) It is important to
bear in mind that the future flatterer of Brezhnev and Mao was
in no real position to claim that he made war in Indochina to
thwart either. He certainly did not dare try such a callow excuse
on Charles de Gaulle. And indeed, the proponent of secret deals
with China was in no very strong position to claim that he was
combating Stalinism in general. No, it all came down to "credibility"
and to the saving of face. It is known that 20,763 American, 109,230
South Vietnamese, and 496,260 North Vietnamese servicemen lost
their lives in Indochina between the day that Nixon and Kissinger
took office and the day in 1973 that they withdrew American forces
and accepted the logic of 1968. Must the families of these victims
confront the fact that the chief "faces" at risk were
those of Nixon and Kissinger?
Thus the colloquially titled "Christmas bombing"
of North Vietnam, continued after that election had been won,
must be counted as a war crime by any standard. The bombing was
not conducted for anything that could be described as "military
reasons" but for twofold political ones. The first of these
was domestic: a show of strength to extremists in Congress and
a means of putting the Democratic Party on the defensive. The
second was to persuade South Vietnamese leaders such as President
Thieu-whose intransigence had been encouraged by Kissinger in
the first place-that their objections to American withdrawal were
too nervous. This, again, was the mortgage on the initial secret
payment of 1968.
When the unpreventable collapse occurred in Cambodia and Vietnam,
in April and May 1975, the cost was infinitely higher than it
would have been seven years previously. These locust years ended
as they had begun-with a display of bravado and deceit. On May
12, 1975, in the immediate aftermath of the Khmer Rouge seizure
of power, Cambodian gunboats detained an American merchant vessel
named the Mayague. The ship was stopped in international waters
claimed by Cambodia and then taken to the Cambodian island of
Koh Tang. In spite of reports that the crew had been released,
Kissinger pressed for an immediate face-saving and "credibility"-enhancing
strike. He persuaded President Gerald Ford, the untried and undistinguished
successor to his deposed former boss, to send in the Marines and
the Air Force. Out of a Marine force of 110, 18 were killed and
50 were wounded. Twenty-three Air Force men died in a crash. The
United States used a 15,000-ton bomb on the island, the most powerful
non-nuclear device that it possessed. Nobody has the figures for
Cambodian deaths. The casualties were pointless, because the ship's
company of the Mayaguez were nowhere on Koh Tang, having been
released some hours earlier. A subsequent congressional inquiry
found that Kissinger could have known of this by listening to
Cambodian broadcasting or by paying attention to a third-party
government that had been negotiating a deal for the restitution
of the crew and the ship. It was not as if any Cambodians doubted,
by that month of 1975, the willingness of the U.S. government
to employ deadly force.
In Washington, D.C., there is a famous and hallowed memorial
to the American dead of the Vietnam War. Known as the "Vietnam
Veterans Memorial," it bears a name that is slightly misleading.
l was present for the extremely affecting moment of its dedication
in 1982 and noticed that the list of nearly 60,000 names is incised
in the wall not by alphabet but by date. The first few names appear
in 1959 and the last few in 1975. The more historically minded
visitors can sometimes be heard to say that they didn't know the
United States was engaged in Vietnam as early or as late as that.
Nor was the public supposed to know. The first names are of the
covert operatives, sent in by Colonel Edward Lansdale without
congressional approval to support French colonialism. The last
names are of those thrown away in the Mayaguez fiasco. It took
Henry Kissinger to ensure that a war of atrocity, which he had
helped to prolong, should end as furtively and ignominiously as
it had begun.
A SAMPLE OF CASES: KISSINGER'S WAR CRIMES IN INDOCHINA
Some statements are too blunt for everyday, consensual discourse.
In national "debate," it is the smoother pebbles that
are customarily gathered from the stream and used as projectiles.
They leave less of a scar, even when they hit. Occasionally, however,
a single hard-edged remark will inflict a deep and jagged wound,
a gash so ugly that it must be cauterized at once. In January
1971 there was a considered statement from General Telford Taylor,
who had been chief U.S. prosecuting counsel at the Nuremberg trials.
Reviewing the legal and moral basis of those hearings, and also
the Tokyo trials of Japanese war criminals and the Manila trial
of Emperor Hirohito's chief militarist, General Yamashita Tomoyuki,
Taylor said that if the standard of Nuremberg and Manila were
applied evenly, and applied to the American statesmen and bureaucrats
who designed the war in Vietnam, then "there would be a very
strong possibility that they would come to the same end [Yamashita]
did." It is not every day that a senior American soldier
and jurist delivers the opinion that a large portion of his country's
political class should probably be hooded and blindfolded and
dropped through a trapdoor on the end of a rope.
In his book Nuremberg and Vietnam, General Taylor also anticipated
one of the possible objections to this legal and moral conclusion.
It might be argued for the defense, he said, that those arraigned
did not really know what they were doing; in other words, that
they had achieved the foulest results but from the highest and
most innocent motives. The notion of Indochina as some Heart of
Darkness "quagmire" of ignorant armies has been sedulously
propagated, then and since, in order to make such a euphemism
appear plausible. Taylor had no patience with such a view. American
military and intelligence and economic and political teams had
been in Vietnam, he wrote, for much too long to attribute anything
they did "to lack of information." It might have been
possible for soldiers and diplomats to pose as innocents until
the middle of the 1960s, but after that time, and especially after
the My Lai massacre of March 16, 1968, when serving veterans reported
major atrocities to their superior officers, nobody could reasonably
claim to have been uninformed, and of those who could, the least
believable would be those who-far from the confusion of battle-read
and discussed and approved the panoptic reports of the war that
were delivered to Washington.
General Taylor's book was being written while many of the
most reprehensible events of the Indochina war were still taking
place, or still to come. He was unaware of the intensity and extent
of, for example, the bombing of Laos and Cambodia. Enough was
known about the conduct of the war, however, and about the existing
matrix of legal and criminal responsibility, for him to arrive
at some indisputable conclusions. The first of these concerned
the particular obligation F of the United States to be aware of,
and to respect, the Nuremberg principles:
"Military courts and commissions have customarily B rendered
their judgments stark and unsupported by opinions giving the reasons
for their decisions. The Nuremberg and Tokyo judgments, in contrast,
were all based on extensive opinions detailing the evidence and
analyzing the factual and legal issues, in the fashion of appellate
tribunals generally. Needless to say they were not of uniform
quality, and often reflected the logical shortcomings of compromise,
the marks of which commonly mar the opinions of multi-member tribunals.
But the process was professional in a way seldom achieved in military
courts, and the records and judgments in these trials provided
a much needed foundation for a corpus of judge-made international
penal law. The results of the trials commended themselves to the
newly formed United Nations, and on Dec. 11, 1946, the General
Assembly adopted a resolution affirming "the principles of
international law recognized by the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal
and the judgment of the Tribunal."
However history may ultimately assess the wisdom or unwisdom
of the war crimes trials, one thing is in disputable: At their
conclusion, the United States Government stood legally, politically
and morally committed to the principles enunciated in the charters
and judgments of the tribunals. The President of the United States,
on the recommendations of the Departments of State, War and Justice,
approved the war crimes programs. Thirty or more American judges,
drawn from the appellate benches of the states from Massachusetts
to Oregon, and Minnesota to Georgia, conducted the later Nuremberg
trials and wrote the opinions. General Douglas MacArthur, under
authority of the Far Eastern Commission, established the Tokyo
tribunal and confirmed the sentences it imposed, and it was under
his authority as the highest American military officer in the
Far East that the Yamashita and other such proceedings were held.
The United States delegation to the United Nations presented the
resolution by which the General Assembly endorsed the Nuremberg
"Thus the integrity of the nation is staked on those
principles, and today the question is how they apply to our conduct
of the war in Vietnam, and whether the United States Government
is prepared to face the consequences of their application."
Facing and cogitating these consequences himself, General
Taylor took issue with another United States officer, Colonel
William Corson, who had written that
"[r]egardless of the outcome of . . . the My Lai courts-martial
and other legal actions, the point remains that American judgment
as to the effective prosecution of the war was faulty from beginning
to end and that the atrocities, alleged or otherwise, are a result
of a failure of judgment, not criminal behavior."
To this Taylor responded:
"Colonel Corson overlooks, I fear, that negligent homicide
is generally a crime of bad judgment rather than evil intent.
Perhaps he is right in the strictly causal sense that if there
had been no failure of judgment, the occasion for criminal conduct
would not have arisen. The Germans in occupied Europe made gross
errors of judgment which no doubt created the conditions in which
the slaughter of the in habitants of Klissura [a Greek village
annihilated during the Occupation] occurred, but that did not
make the killings any the less criminal."
Referring this question to the chain of command in the field,
General Taylor noted further that the senior officer corps had
"more or less constantly in Vietnam, and splendidIy equipped
with helicopters and other aircraft, which gave them a degree
of mobility unprecedented in earlier wars, and consequently endowed
them with every opportunity to keep the course of the fighting
and its consequences under close and constant observation. Communications
were generally rapid and efficient, so that the flow of information
and orders was unimpeded.
These circumstances are in sharp contrast to those that confronted
General Yamashita in 1944 and 1945, with his troops reeling back
in disarray before the oncoming American military powerhouse.
For failure to control his forces so as to prevent the atrocities
they committed, Brig. Gens. Eghert F. Bullene and Morris Handwerk
and Maj. Gens. James A. Lester, Leo Donovan and Russel B. Reynolds
found him guilty of violating the laws of war and sentenced him
to death by hanging."
Nor did General Taylor omit the crucial link between the military
command and its political supervision, again a much closer and
more immediate relationship in the American-Vietnamese instance
than in the Japanese-Filipino one, as the regular contact between,
say, General Creighton Abrams and Henry Kissinger makes clear:
"How much the President and his close advisers in the
White House, Pentagon and Foggy Bottom knew about the volume and
cause of civilian casualties in Vietnam, and the physical devastation
of the countryside, is speculative. Something was known, for the
late John McNaughton (then Assistant Secretary of Defense) returned
from the White House one day in 1967 with the message that "We
seem to be proceeding on the assumption that the way to eradicate
the Vietcong is to destroy all the village structures, defoliate
all the jungles, and then cover the entire surface of South Vietnam
This was noticed (by Townsend Hoopes, a political antagonist
of General Taylor's) before that metaphor had been extended into
two new countries, Laos and Cambodia, without a declaration of
war, a notification to Congress, or a warning to civilians to
evacuate. But Taylor anticipated the Kissinger case in many ways
when he recalled the trial of the Japanese statesman Koki Hirota,
"who served briefly as Prime Minister and for several
years as Foreign Minister between 1933 and May, 1938, after which
he held no office whatever. The so-called "rape of Nanking"
by Japanese forces occurred during the winter of 1937-38, when
Hirota was Foreign Minister. Upon receiving early reports of the
atrocities, he demanded and received assurances from the War Ministry
that they would be stopped. But they continued, and the Tokyo
tribunal found Hirota guilty because he was "derelict in
his duty in not insisting before the Cabinet that immediate action
be taken to put an end to the atrocities," and "was
content to rely on assurances which he knew were not being implemented."
On this basis, coupled with his conviction on the aggressive war
charge, Hirota was sentenced to be hanged."
Melvin Laird, as secretary of defense during the first Nixon
Administration, was queasy enough about the early bombings of
Cambodia, and dubious enough about the legality or prudence of
the intervention, to send a memo to the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
asking, "Are steps being taken, on a continuing basis, to
minimize the risk of striking Cambodian people and structures?
If so, what are the steps? Are we reasonably sure such steps are
effective?" No evidence has surfaced that Henry Kissinger,
as national security adviser or secretary of state, ever sought
even such modest assurances. Indeed, there is much evidence of
his deceiving Congress as to the true extent to which such assurances
as were offered were deliberately false. Others involved-such
as Robert McNamara; McGeorge Bundy, national security adviser
to both Kennedy and Johnson; and William Colby-have since offered
varieties of apology or contrition or at least explanation. Henry
Kissinger, never. General Taylor described the practice of air
strikes against hamlets suspected of "harboring" Vietnamese
guerrillas as "flagrant violations of the Geneva Convention
on Civilian Protection, which prohibits 'collective penalties,'
and reprisals against protected persons,' and equally in violation
of the Rules of Land Warfare." He was writing before this
atrocious precedent had been extended to reprisal raids that treated
two whole countries-Laos and Cambodia-as if they were disposable
For Henry Kissinger, no great believer in the boastful claims
of the war makers in the first place, a special degree of responsibility
attaches. Not only did he have good reason to know that field
commanders were exaggerating successes and claiming all dead bodies
as enemy soldiers- a commonplace piece of knowledge after the
spring of 1968-but he also knew that the issue of the war had
been settled politically and diplomatically, for all intents and
purposes, before he became national security adviser. Thus he
had to know that every additional casualty, on either side, was
not just a death but an avoidable death. With this knowledge,
and with a strong sense of the domestic and personal political
profit, he urged the expansion of the war into two neutral countries-violating
international law-while persisting in a breathtakingly high level
of attrition in Vietnam itself.
From a huge menu of possible examples, I have chosen cases
that involve Kissinger ~ directly and in which I have myself been
_ , able to interview surviving witnesses. The first, as foreshadowed
above, is Operation "Speedy Express":
My friend and colleague Kevin Buckley, then a much admired
correspondent and Saigon bureau chief for Newsweek, became interested
in the "pacification" campaign that bore this breezy
code name. Designed in the closing days of the Johnson-Humphrey
Administration, it was put into full effect in the first six months
of 1969, when Henry Kissinger had assumed much authority over
the conduct of the war. The objective was the American disciplining,
on behalf of the Thieu government, of the turbulent Mekong Delta
province of Kien Hoa.
On January 22, 1968, Robert McNamara had told the Senate that
"no regular North Vietnamese units" were deployed in
the Delta, and no military intelligence documents have surfaced
to undermine his claim, so that the cleansing of the area cannot
be understood as part of the general argument about resisting
Hanoi's unsleeping will to conquest. The announced purpose of
the Ninth Division's sweep, indeed, was to redeem many thousands
of villagers from political control by the National Liberation
Front (NLF), or "Vietcong" (VC). As Buckley found, and
as his magazine, Newsweek, partially disclosed at the rather late
date of June 19, 1972,
"All the evidence I gathered pointed to a clear conclusion
a staggering number of noncombatant civilians perhaps as many
as 5,000 according to one official-were killed by U.S. firepower
to "pacify" Kien Hoa. The death toll there made the
My Lai massacre look trifling by comparison....
The Ninth Division put all it had into the operation. Eight
thousand infantrymen scoured the heavily populated countryside,
but contact with the elusive enemy was rare. Thus, in its pursuit
of pacification, the division relied heavily on its 50 artillery
pieces, 50 helicopters (many armed with rockets and mini guns)
and the deadly support lent by the Air Force. There were 3,381
tactical air strikes by fighter bombers during "Speedy Express."
"Death is our business and business is good," was
the slogan painted on one helicopter unit's quarters during the
operation. And so it was. Cumulative statistics for "Speedy
Express" show that 10,899 "enemy" were killed.
In the month of March alone, "over 3,000 enemy troops were
killed . . . which is the largest monthly total for any American
division in the Vietnam War," said the division's official
magazine. When asked to account for the enormous body counts,
a division senior officer explained that helicopter gun crews
often caught unarmed "enemy" in open fields....
There is overwhelming evidence that virtually all the Viet
Cong were well armed. Simple civilians were, of course, not armed.
And the enormous discrepancy between the body count [11,000] and
the number of captured weapons  is hard to explain-except
by the conclusion that many victims were unarmed innocent civilians....
The people who still live in pacified Kien Hoa all have vivid
recollections of the devastation that American firepower brought
to their lives in early 1969. Virtually every person to whom I
spoke had suffered in some way. "There were 5,000 people
in our village before 1969, but there were none in 1970,"
one village elder told me. "The Americans destroyed every
house with artillery, air strikes, or by burning them down with
cigarette lighters. About 100 people were killed by bombing, others
were wounded and others became refugees. Many were children killed
by concussion from the bombs which their small bodies could not
withstand, even if they were hiding underground."
Other officials, including the village police chief, corroborated
the man's testimony. I could not, of course, reach every village.
But in each of the many places where I went, the testimony was
the same 100 killed here, 700 killed there."
Other notes by Buckley and his friend and collaborator Alex
Shimkin (a worker for International Voluntary Services who was
later killed in the war) discovered the same evidence in hospital
statistics. In March 1969, the hospital at Ben Tre reported 343
patients injured by "friendly" fire and 25 by "the
enemy," an astonishing statistic for a government facility
to record in a guerrilla war in which suspected membership in
the Vietcong could mean death. And Buckley's own citation for
his magazine-of "perhaps as many as 5,000" deaths among
civilians in this one sweep- is an almost deliberate understatement
of what he was told by a United States official, who actually
said that "at least 5,000" of the dead "were what
we refer to as non-combatants"-a not too exacting distinction,
as we have already seen, and as was by then well understood.
Well understood, that is to say, not just by those who opposed
the war but by those who were conducting it. As one American official
put it to Buckley,
"The actions of the Ninth Division in inflicting civilian
casualties were worse [than My Lai]. The sum total of what the
9th did was overwhelming. In sum, the horror was worse than My
Lai. But with the 9th, the civilian casualties came in dribbles
and were pieced out over a long time. And most of them were inflicted
from the air and at night. Also, they were sanctioned by the command's
insistence on high body-counts.... The result was an inevitable
outcome of the unit's command policy."
The earlier sweep that had mopped up My Lai-during Operation
"Wheeler Wallawa"- had also at the time counted all
corpses as those of enemy soldiers, including the civilian population
of the village, who were casually included in the mind-bending
overall total of 10,000.
Confronted with this evidence, Buckley and Shimkin abandoned
a lazy and customary usage and replaced it, in a cable to Newsweek
head quarters in New York, with a more telling and scrupulous
one. The problem was not "indiscriminate use of firepower"
but "charges of quite discriminating use-as a matter of policy
in populated areas." Even the former allegation is a gross
violation of the Geneva Convention; the second charge leads straight
to the dock in Nuremberg or The Hague.
Since General Creighton Abrams publicly praised the Ninth
Division for its work, and drew attention wherever and whenever
he could to the tremendous success of Operation "Speedy Express,"
we can be sure that the political leadership in Washington was
not unaware. Indeed, the degree of micromanagement revealed in
Kissinger's memoirs quite forbids the idea that anything of importance
took place without his knowledge or permission.
Of nothing is this more true than his own individual involvement
in the bombing and invasion of neutral Cambodia and Laos. Obsessed
with the idea that Vietnamese intransigence could be traced to
allies or resources external to Vietnam itself, or could be overcome
by tactics of mass destruction, Kissinger at one point contemplated
using thermonuclear weapons to obliterate the pass through which
ran the railway link from North Vietnam to China, and at another
stage considered bombing the dikes that prevented North Vietnam's
irrigation system from flooding the country. Neither of these
measures (reported respectively in Tad Szulc's history of Nixon-era
diplomacy, The Illusion of Peace, and by Kissinger's former aide
Roger Morris) was taken, which removes some potential war crime
from our bill of indictment but which also give an indication
of the regnant mentality. There remained Cambodia and Laos, which
supposedly concealed or protected North Vietnamese supply lines.
As in the cases postulated by General ' Telford Taylor, there
is the crime of aggressive war and then there is the question
of war crimes. In the postwar period, or the period governed by
the U.N. Charter and its related and incorporated conventions,
the United States under Democratic and Republican administrations
had denied even its closest allies the right to invade countries
that allegedly gave shelter to their antagonists. Most famously,
President Eisenhower exerted economic and diplomatic pressure
at a high level to bring an end to the invasion of Egypt by Britain,
France, and Israel in October 1956. (The British thought Egyptian
president Gamal Abdel Nasser should not control "their"
Suez Canal, the French believed Nasser to be the inspiration and
source of their troubles in Algeria, and the Israelis claimed
that he played the same role in fomenting their difficulties with
the Palestinians. The United States maintained that even if these
propaganda fantasies were true, they would not retrospectively
legalize an invasion of Egypt. ) During the Algerian war of independence,
the United States had also repudiated France's claimed right to
attack a town in neighboring Tunisia that succored Algerian guerrillas,
and in 1964, at the United Nations, Ambassador Adlai Stevenson
had condemned the United Kingdom for attacking a town in Yemen
that allegedly provided a rear guard for rebels operating in its
then colony of Aden.
All this law and precedent was to be thrown to the winds when
Nixon and Kissinger decided to aggrandize the notion of "hot
pursuit" across the borders of Laos and Cambodia. As William
Shawcross reported in his 1979 book, Sideshow, even before the
actual territorial invasion of Cambodia, for example, and very
soon after the accession of Nixon and Kissinger to power, a program
of heavy bombardment of the country was prepared and executed
in secret. One might with some revulsion call it a "menu"
of bombardment since the code names for the raids were "Breakfast,"
"Lunch," "Snack," "Dinner," and
"Dessert." The raids were flown by B-52 bombers, which,
it is important to note, fly at an altitude too high to be observed
from the ground and carry immense tonnages of high explosive;
they give no warning of approach and are incapable of accuracy
or discrimination. Between March 1969 and May 1970, 3,630 such
raids were flown across the Cambodian frontier. The bombing campaign
began as it was to go on-with full knowledge of its effect on
civilians and flagrant deceit by Mr. Kissinger in this precise
To wit, a memorandum prepared by the Joint Chiefs of Staffand
sent to the Defense Department and the White House stated plainly
that "some Cambodian casualties would be sustained in the
operation" and that "the surprise effect of attack could
tend to increase casualties." The target district for "Breakfast"
(Base Area 353) was inhabited, explained the memo, by about 1,640
Cambodian civilians; "Lunch" (Base Area 609), by 198
of them; "Snack" (Base Area 351), by 383; "Dinner"
(Base Area 352), by 770, and "Dessert" (Base Area 350),
by about 120 Cambodian peasants. These oddly exact figures are
enough in themselves to demonstrate that Kissinger must have been
Iying when he later told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
that areas of Cambodia selected for bombing were "unpopulated."
As a result of the expanded and intensified bombing campaigns,
it has been officially estimated that as many as 350,000 civilians
in Laos and 600,000 in Cambodia lost their lives. (These are not
the highest estimates. ) Figures for refugees are several multiples
of that. In addition, the widespread use of toxic chemical defoliants
created a massive health crisis that naturally fell most heavily
on children, nursing mothers, the aged, and the already infirm.
That crisis persists to this day.
Although this appalling war, and its appalling consequences,
can and should be taken as a moral and political crisis for American
institutions, for at least five United States presidents, and
for American society, there is little difficulty in identifying
individual responsibility during this, its most atrocious and
indiscriminate stage. Richard Nixon, as commander in chief, bears
ultimate responsibility and only narrowly escaped a congressional
move to include his crimes and deceptions in Indochina in the
articles of impeachment, the promulgation of which eventually
compelled his resignation. But his deputy and closest adviser,
Henry Kissinger, was sometimes forced, and sometimes forced himself,
into a position of virtual co-presidency where Indochina was concerned.
For example, in the preparations for the invasion of Cambodia
in 1970, Kissinger was caught between the views of his staff-several
of whom resigned in protest when the invasion began and his need
to please his president. His president listened more to his two
criminal associates-John Mitchell and Bebe Rebozo-than he did
to his secretaries of state and defense, William Rogers and Melvin
Laird, both of whom were highly skeptical about widening the war.
On one especially charming occasion, Nixon telephoned Kissinger,
while drunk, to discuss the invasion plans. He then put Bebe Rebozo
on the line. "The President wants you to know if this doesn't
work, Henry, it's your ass." "Ain't that right, Bebe?"
slurred the commander in chief. (The conversation was monitored
and transcribed by one of Kissinger's soon-to-resign staffers,
William Watts.) It could be said that in this instance the national
security adviser was under considerable pressure; nevertheless,
he took the side of the pro-invasion faction and, according to
the memoirs of General William Westmoreland, actually lobbied
for that invasion to go ahead.
A somewhat harder picture is presented by former chief of
staff H. R. Haldeman in his Diaries. On December 22, 1970, he
"Henry came up with the need to meet with the P to' day
with Al Haig and then tomorrow with Laird and Moorer because he
has to use the P to force Laird and the military to go ahead with
the P's plans, which they won't carry out without direct orders."
In his White House Years, Kissinger claims that he usurped
the customary chain of command whereby commanders in the field
receive, or believe that they receive, their orders from the president
and then the secretary of defense. He boasts that he, together
with Haldeman, Alexander Haig, and Colonel Ray Sitton, evolved
"both a military and a diplomatic schedule" for the
secret bombing of Cambodia. On board Air Force One, which was
on the tarmac at Brussels airport on February 24,1969, he writes,
"we worked out the guidelines for bombing of the enemy's
sanctuaries." A few weeks later, Haldeman's Diaries for March
"Historic day. K[issinger]'s "Operation Breakfast"
finally came off at 2:00 PM our time.
K[issinger] really excited, as was P[resident]."
The next day's entry:
"K[issinger]'s "Operation Breakfast" a great
He came beaming in with report, very productive."
It only got better. On April 22, 1970, Haldeman reports that
Nixon, following Kissinger into a National Security Council meeting
on Cambodia, "tumed back to me with a big smile and said,
'K[issinger]'s really having fun today, he's playing Bismarck."'
The above is an insult to the Iron Chancellor. When Kissinger
was finally exposed in Congress and the press for conducting unauthorized
bombings, he weakly pleaded that the raids were not all that secret,
really, because Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia had known of them.
He had to be reminded that a foreign princeling cannot give permission
to an American bureaucrat to violate the United States Constitution.
Nor, for that matter, can he give permission to an American bureaucrat
to slaughter large numbers of his "own" civilians. It's
difficult to imagine Bismarck cowering behind such a contemptible
excuse. (Prince Sihanouk, it is worth remembering, later became
an abject puppet of the Khmer Rouge.)
Colonel Sitton, the reigning expert on B-52 tactics at the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, began to notice that by late 1969 his own
office was being regularly overruled in the matter of selecting
targets. "Not only was Henry carefully screening the raids,"
said Sitton, "he was reading the raw intelligence" and
fiddling with the mission patterns and bombing runs. In other
departments of Washington insiderdom, it was also noticed that
Kissinger was becoming a Stakhanovite committeeman. Aside from
the crucial 40 Committee, which planned and oversaw all foreign
covert actions, he chaired the Washington Special Action Group
(WSAG), which dealt with breaking crises; the Verification Panel,
concerned with arms control; the Vietnam Special Studies Group,
which oversaw the day-to-day conduct of the war; and the Defense
Program Review Committee, which supervised the budget of the Defense
It is therefore impossible for him to claim that he was unaware
of the consequences of the bombings of Cambodia and Laos; he knew
more about them, and in more intimate detail, than any other individual.
Nor was he imprisoned in a culture of obedience that gave him
no alternative, or no rival arguments. Several senior members
of his own staff, most notably Anthony Lake and Roger Morris,
resigned over the invasion of Cambodia, and more than two hundred
State Department employees signed a protest addressed to Secretary
of State William Rogers. Indeed, both Rogers and Secretary of
Defense Melvin Laird were opposed to the secret bombing policy,
as Kissinger himself records with some disgust in his memoirs.
Congress also was opposed to an extension of the bombing (once
it had agreed to become informed of it), but even after the Nixon-Kissinger
Administration had undertaken on Capitol Hill not to intensify
the raids, there was a 21 percent increase of the bombing of Cambodia
in the months of July and August 1973. The Air Force maps of the
targeted areas show them to be, or to have been, densely populated.
Colonel Sitton does recall, it must be admitted, that Kissinger
requested the bombing avoid civilian casualties. His explicit
motive in making this request was to avoid or forestall complaints
from the government of Prince Sihanouk. But this does no more
in itself than demonstrate that Kissinger was aware of the possibility
of civilian deaths. If he knew enough to know of their likelihood,
and was director of the policy that inflicted them, and neither
enforced any actual precautions nor reprimanded any violators,
then the case against him is legally and morally complete.
As early as the fall of 1970, an independent ' investigator
named Fred Branfman, who spoke Lao and knew the country as a civilian
volunteer, had gone to Bangkok and interviewed Jerome Brown, a
former targeting officer for the United States Embassy in the
Laotian capital of Vientiane. The man had retired from the Air
Force because of his disillusionment at the futility of the bombing
and his consternation at the damage done to civilians and society.
The speed and height of the planes, he said, meant that targets
were virtually indistinguishable from the air. Pilots often chose
villages as targets, because they could be more readily identified
than alleged Pathet Lao guerrillas hiding in the jungle. Branfman,
whom I interviewed in San Francisco in the summer of 2000, went
on to provide this and other information to Henry Kamm and Sydney
Schanberg of the New York Times, to Ted Koppel of ABC, and to
many others. Under pressure from the United States Embassy, the
Laotian authorities had Branfman deported back to the United States,
which was probably, from their point of view, a mistake. He was
able to make a dramatic appearance on Capitol Hill on April 22,
1971, at a hearing held by Senator Edward Kennedy's subcommittee
on refugees. His antagonist was the State Department's envoy,
William Sullivan, a former ambassador to Laos. Branfman accused
him in front of the cameras of helping to conceal evidence that
Laotian society was being mutilated by ferocious aerial bombardment.
Partly as a consequence, Congressman Pete McCloskey of California
paid a visit to Laos and acquired a copy of an internal U.S. Embassy
study of the bombing. He also prevailed on the U.S. Air Force
to furnish him with aerial photographs of the dramatic damage.
Ambassador Sullivan was so disturbed by these pictures, some of
them taken in areas known to him, that his first reaction was
to establish to his own satisfaction that the raids had occurred
after he left his post in Vientiane. (He was later to learn that,
for his pains, his own telephone was being tapped at Henry Kissinger's
instigation, one of the many such violations of American law that
were to eventuate in the Watergate tapping-and-burglary scandal,
a scandal that Kissinger was furthermore to plead-in an astounding
outburst of vanity, deceit, and self-deceit-as his own alibi for
collusion in the 1974 Cyprus crisis.)
Having done what he could to bring the Laotian nightmare to
the attention of those whose constitutional job it was to supervise
such questions, Branfman went back to Thailand and from there
to Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia. Having gained access to a
pilot's radio, he tape-recorded the conversations between pilots
on bombing missions over the Cambodian interior. On no occasion
did they run any checks designed to reassure themselves and others
that they were not bombing civilian targets. It had been definitely
asserted, by named U.S. government spokesmen, that such checks
were run. Branfman handed the tapes to Sydney Schanberg, whose
New York Times report on them was printed just before the Senate
met to prohibit further blitzing of Cambodia (the very resolution
that was flouted by Kissinger the following month).
From there Branfman went back to Thailand and traveled north
to Nakhorn Phanom, the new headquarters of the U.S. Seventh Air
Force. Here, a war room code-named Blue Chip served as the command
and control center of the bombing campaign. Branfman was able
to pose as a new recruit just up from Saigon and ultimately gained
access to the war room itself. Consoles and maps and screens plotted
the progress of the bombardment. In conversation with the "bombing
officer" on duty, he asked if pilots ever made contact before
dropping their enormous loads of ordnance. Oh, yes, he was assured,
they did. Were they worried about hitting the innocent? Oh, no-merely
concerned about the whereabouts of CIA "ground teams"
infiltrated into the area. Branfman's report on this, which was
carried by Jack Anderson's syndicated column, was uncontroverted
by any official denial.
The reason that the American command in Southeast Asia finally
ceased employing the crude and horrific tally of ~ "body
count" was that, as in the relatively small but specific
case of Operation "Speedy Express" cited above, the
figures began to look ominous when they were counted up. Sometimes,
totals of "enemy" dead would turn out, when computed,
to be suspiciously larger than the number of claimed "enemy"
in the field. Yet the war would somehow drag on, with new quantitative
goals being set and enforced. Thus, according to the Pentagon,
the following are the casualty figures between the first Lyndon
Johnson bombing halt in March 1968 and February 26, 1972:
South Vietnamese regulars: 86,101
The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Refugees estimated that in
the same four-year period, rather more than 3 million civilians
were killed, injured, or rendered homeless.
In the same four-year period, the United States dropped almost
4,500,000 tons of high explosive on Indochina. (The Pentagon's
estimated total for the amount dropped in the entire Second World
War is 2,044,000.) This total does not include massive sprayings
of chemical defoliants and pesticides.
It is unclear how we count the murder or abduction of 35,708
Vietnamese civilians by the ClA's counter-guerrilla "Phoenix
program" during the first two and a half years of the Nixon-Kissinger
Administration. There may be some "overlap." There is
also some overlap with the actions of previous administrations
in all cases. But the truly exorbitant death tolls all occurred
on Henry Kissinger's watch; were known and understood by him;
were concealed from Congress, the press, and the public by him;
and were, when questioned, the subject of political and bureaucratic
vendettas ordered by him. They were also partly the outcome of
a secretive and illegal process in Washington, unknown even to
most Cabinet members, of which Henry Kissinger stood to be, and
became, a prime beneficiary.
On that closing point one may once again cite H. R. Haldeman,
who had no further reason to lie and who had, by the time of his
writing, paid for his crimes by serving a sentence in prison.
Haldeman describes the moment in Florida when Kissinger was enraged
by a New York Times story telling some part of the truth about
"Henry telephoned J. Edgar Hoover in Washington from
Key Biscayne on the May morning the Times story appeared.
According to Hoover's memo of the call, Henry said the story
used "secret information which was extraordinarily damaging."
Henry went on to tell Hoover that he "wondered whether I
could make a major effort to find out where that came from . .
. and to put whatever resources I need to find out who did this.
l told him I would take care of this right away."
Henry was no fool, of course. He telephoned Hoover a few hours
later to remind him that the investigation be handled discreetly
``so no stories will get out." Hoover must have smiled, but
said all right. And by five o'clock he was back on the telephone
to Henry with the report that the Times re. porter 'may have gotten
some of his information from the Southeast Asian desk of the Department
of Defense's Public Affairs Office." More specifically, Hoover
suggested the source could be a man named Mort Halperin (a Kissinger
staffer) and an. other man who worked in the Systems Analysis
Agency.... According to Hoover's memo, Kissinger "hoped I
would follow it up as far as we can take it and they will destroy
whoever did this if we can find him, no matter where he is."
"The last line of that memo gives an accurate reflection
of Henry's rage, as I remember it.
Nevertheless, Nixon was one hundred percent behind the wiretaps.
And I was, too.
And so the program started, inspired by Henry's rage but ordered
by Nixon, who soon broadened it even further to include newsmen.
Eventually, seventeen people were wiretapped by the FBI including
seven on Kissinger's NSC staff and three on the White House staff."
And thus, the birth of the "plumbers" and of the
assault on American law and democracy that they inaugurated. Commenting
on the lamentable end of this process, Haldeman wrote that he
still believed that ex-president Nixon (who was then still alive)
should agree to the release of the remaining tapes. But:
"This time my view is apparently not shared by the man
who was one reason for the original decision to start the taping
process. Henry Kissinger is determined to stop the tapes from
reaching the public....
Nixon made the point that Kissinger was really the one who
had the most to lose from the tapes becoming public. Henry apparently
felt that the tapes would expose a lot of things he had said that
would be very disadvantageous to him publicly.
Nixon said that in making the deal for custody of his Presidential
papers, which was originally announced after his pardon but then
was shot down by Congress, that it was Henry who called him and
insisted on Nixon's right to destroy the tapes. That was, of course,
the thing that destroyed the deal."
A society that has been "plumbed" has the right
to demand that its plumbers be compelled to make some restitution
by way of full disclosure. The litigation to put the Nixon tapes
in the public trust is only partially complete; no truthful account
of the Vietnam years will be available until Kissinger's part
in what we already know has been made fully transparent.
Until that time, Kissinger's role in the violation of American
law at the close of the Vietnam War makes the perfect counterpart
to the 1968 covert action that helped him to power in the first
place. The two parentheses enclose a series of premeditated war
crimes that still have power to stun the imagination.
CHILE ( PART I ): STATESMAN AS HITMAN
In a famous expression of his contempt for democracy, Kissinger
once observed that he saw no reason why a certain country should
be allowed to "go Communist due to the irresponsibility of
its own people." The country concerned was Chile, which at
the time of this remark had a justified reputation as the most
highly evolved pluralistic democracy in the Southern Hemisphere
of the Americas. The pluralism translated, in the years of the
Cold War, into an electorate that voted about one-third conservative,
one-third socialist and Communist, and one-third Christian Democratic
and centrist. This had made it relatively easy to keep the Marxist
element from having its turn in government, and ever since 1962
the CIA had-as it had in Italy and other comparable nations- largely
contented itself with funding the reliable elements. In September
1970, however, the left's candidate actually gained a slight plurality
of 36.2 percent in the presidential elections. Divisions on the
right, and the adherence of some smaller radical and Christian
parties to the left, made it a moral certainty that the Chilean
Congress would, after the traditional sixty-day interregnum, confirm
Dr. Salvador Allende as the next president. But the very name
of Allende was anathema to the extreme right in Chile, to certain
powerful corporations (notably ITT, PepsiCola' and the Chase Manhattan
Bank) that did business in Chile and the United States, and to
This loathing quickly communicated itself to President Nixon.
He was personally beholden to Donald Kendall, the president of
Pepsi-Cola, who had given him his first international account
when, as a failed politician, he had joined a Wall Street law
firm. A series of Washington meetings, within eleven days of Allende's
electoral victory, essentially settled the fate of Chilean democracy.
After discussions with Kendall, with David Rockefeller of Chase
Manhattan, and with CIA director Richard Helms, Kissinger went
with Helms to the Oval Office. Helms's notes of the meeting show
that Nixon wasted little breath in making his wishes known. Allende
was not to assume office. "Not concerned risks involved.
No involvement of embassy. $10,000,000 available, more if necessary.
Full-time job-best men we have.... Make the economy scream. 48
hours for plan of action."
Declassified documents show that Kissinger- who had previously
neither known nor cared about Chile, describing it offhandedly
as "a dagger pointed at the heart of Antarctica"-took
seriously this chance to impress his boss. A group was set up
in Langley, Virginia, with the express purpose of running a "two
track" policy for Chile, one the ostensible diplomatic one
and the other- unknown to the State Department or the U.S. ambassador
to Chile, Edward Korry-a strategy of destabilization, kidnapping,
and assassination designed to provoke a military coup.
There were long- and short-term obstacles to the incubation
of such an intervention, especially in the brief interval available
before Allende took his oath of office. The long-term obstacle
was the tradition of military abstention from politics in Chile,
a tradition that marked off the country from its neighbors. Such
a military culture was not to be degraded overnight. The short-term
obstacle lay in the person of one man: General Rene Schneider.
As chief of the Chilean Army, he was adamantly opposed to any
military meddling in the electoral process. Accordingly, it was
decided at a meeting on September 18, 1970, that General Schneider
had to go.
The plan, well documented by Seymour Hersh and others, was
to have him kidnapped by extremist officers, in such a way as
to make it appear that leftist and pro-Allende elements were behind
the plot. The resulting confusion, it was hoped, would panic the
Chilean Congress into denying Allende the presidency. A sum of
$50,000 was offered around the Chilean capital, Santiago, for
any officer or officers enterprising enough to take on this task.
Richard Helms and his director of covert 77 operations, Thomas
Karamessines, told Kissinger that they were not optimistic. Military
circles were hesitant and divided, or else loyal to General Schneider
and the Chilean constitution. As Helms put it in a later account
of the conversation: "We tried to make clear to Kissinger
how small the possibility of success was." Kissinger firmly
told Helms and Karamessines to press on in any case.
Here one must pause for a recapitulation. An unelected official
in the United States is meeting with others, without the knowledge
or authorization of Congress, to plan the kidnapping of a constitutionally
minded senior officer in a democratic country with which the United
States is not at war and with which it maintains cordial diplomatic
relations. The minutes of the meetings may have an official look
to them (though they were hidden from the light of day for long
enough), but what we are reviewing is a "hit," a piece
of state-supported terrorism.
Ambassador Edward Korry has testified ~ that he told his embassy
staff to have ,L~ nothing to do with a group styling itself Patria
y Libertad, a quasi-fascist group intent on defying the election
results. He sent two cables to Washington warning his superiors
to have nothing to do with them either. He was unaware that his
own military attaches had been told to contact the group and to
keep the fact from him. And when the outgoing president of Chile,
the Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei, announced that he was opposed
to any American intervention and would vote to confirm the legally
elected Allende, it was precisely to this gang that Kissinger
turned. On September 15, 1970, Kissinger was told of an extremist
right-wing officer named General Roberto Viaux, who had ties to
Patria y Libertad and who was willing to accept the secret American
commission to remove General Schneider from the chessboard. The
term "kidnap" was still being employed at this point
and is often employed still. Kissinger's "track two"
group, however, authorized the supply of machine guns as well
as tear-gas grenades to Visux's associates and never seem to have
asked what they would do with the general once they had kidnapped
Let the documents tell the story. A CIA cable to Kissinger's
"track two" group from Santiago dated October 18, 1970,
reads (with the names still blacked out for "security"
purposes and cover identities written in by hand, in my square
brackets, by the ever-thoughtful redaction service) as follows:
1. [Station cooptee] MET CLANDESTINELY EVENING 17 OCT WITH
[two Chilean Armed Forces officers] WHO TOLD HIM THEIR PLANS WERE
MOVING ALONG BETTER THAN HAD THOUGHT POSSIBLE. THEY ASKED THAT
BY EVENING 18 OCT [cooptee] ARRANGE FURNISH THEM WITH EIGHT TO
TEN TEAR GAS GRENADES. WITHIN 48 HOURS THEY NEED THREE 45 CALIBRE
MACHINE GUNS ('GREASE GUNS") WITH 500 ROUNDS AMMO EACH. [One
officer] COMMENTED HAS THREE MACHINE GUNS HIMSELF BUT CAN BE IDENTIFIED
BY SERIAL NUMBERS AS HAVING BEEN ISSUED TO HIM THEREFORE UNABLE
2. [Officers] SAID THEY HAVE TO MOVE BECAUSE THEY BELIEVE
THEY NOW UNDER SUSPICION AND BEING WATCHED BY ALLENDE SUPPORTERS.
[One officer] WAS LATE TO MEETING HAVING TAKEN EVASIVE ACTION
TO SHAKE POSSIBLE SURVEILLANCE BY ONE OR TWO TAXI CABS WITH DUAL
ANTENNAS WHICH HE BELIEVED BEING USED BY OPPOSITION AGAINST HIM.
3. [Cooptee] ASKED IF [officers] HAD AIR FORCE CONTACTS. THEY
ANSWERED THEY DID NOT BUT WOULD WELCOME ONE. [Cooptee] SEPARATELY
HAS SINCE TRIED CONTACT [a Chilean Air Force General] AND WILL
KEEP TRYING UNTIL ESTABLISHED. WILL URGE [Air Force General] MEET
WITH [other two officers] ASAP. [Cooptee] COMMENTED TO STATION
THAT [Air Force General] HAS NOT TRIED CONTACT HIM SINCE REF A
4. [Cooptee] COMMENT: CANNOT TELL WHO IS LEADER OF THIS MOVEMENT
BUT STRONGLY SUSPECTS IT IS ADMIRAL [Deleted]. IT WOULD APPEAR
FROM [his contacts'] ACTIONS AND ALLEGED ALLENDE SUSPICIONS ABOUT
THEM THAT UNLESS THEY ACT NOW THEY ARE LOST. TRYING GET MORE INFO
FROM THE EVENING 18 OCT ABOUT SUPPORT THEY BELIEVE THEY HAVE.
5. STATION PLANS GIVE SIX TEAR GAS GRENADES (ARRIVING NOON
18 OCT BY SPECIAL COURIER) TO [cooptee] FOR DELIVERY TO [Armed
Forces officer] INSTEAD OF HAVING [False Flag officer] DELIVER
THEM TO VIAUX GROUP. OUR REASONING IS THAT [cooptee]DEALING WITH
ACTIVE DUTY OFFICERS. ALSO [False Flag officer] LEAVING EVENING
18 OCT AND WILL NOT BE REPLACED BUT [cooptee] WILL STAY HERE.
HENCE IMPORTANT THAT [cooptee] CREDIBILITY WITH [Armed Forces
officers] BE STRENGTHENED BY PROMPT DELIVERY WHAT THEY REQUESTING.
REQUEST HEADQUARTERS AGREEMENT BY 1500 HOURS LOCAL TIME 18 OCT
ON DECISION DELIVERY OF TEAR GAS TO [cooptee] VICE [False Flag
6. REQUEST PROMPT SHIPMENT THREE STERILE 4s CALIBRE MACHINE
GUNS AND AMMO PER PARA 1 ABOVE, BY SPECIAL COURIER IF NECESSARY.
PLEASE CONFIRM BY 2000 HOURS LOCAL TIME 18 OCT THAT THIS CAN BE
DONE So [cooptee] MAY INFORM [his contacts] ACCORDINGLY.
The reply, which is headed IMMEDIATE SANTIAGO (EYES ONLY [deleted]),
is dated October 18 and reads as follows:
SUB-MACHINE GUNS AND AMMO BEING SENT BY REGULAR [deleted]
COURIER LEAVING WASHINGTON 0700 HOURS 19 OCTOBER DUE ARRIVE SANTIAGO
LATE EVENING 20 OCTOBER OR EARLY MORNING 21 OCTOBER. PREFERRED
USE REGULAR [deleted] COURIER TO AVOID BRINGING UNDUE ATTENTION
A companion message, also addressed to "SANTIAGO 562,"
went like this:
1. DEPENDING HOW [cooptee] CONVERSATION GOES EVENING 18 OCTOBER
YOU MAY WISH SUBMIT INTEL REPORT [deleted] so WE CAN DECIDE WHETHER
SHOULD BE DISSEMED.
2. NEW SUBJECT: IF [cooptee] PLANS LEAD COUP, OR BE ACTIVELY
AND PUBLICLY INVOLVED, WE PUZZLED WHY IT SHOULD BOTHER HIM IF
MACHINE GUNS CAN BE TRACED TO HIM. CAN WE DEVELOP RATIONALE ON
WHY GUNS MUST BE STERILE? WILL CONTINUE MAKE EFFORT PROVIDE THEM
BUT FIND OUR CREDULITY STRETCHED BY NAVY [officer] LEADING HIS
TROOPS WITH STERILE GUNS? WHAT IS SPECIAL PURPOSE FOR THESE GUNS?
WE WILL TRY SEND THEM WHETHER YOU CAN PROVIDE EXPLANATION OR NOT.
The full beauty of this cable traffic cannot be appreciated
without a reading of an earlier message, dated October 16. (It
must be borne in mind that the Chilean Congress was to meet to
confirm Allende as president on the twenty-fourth of that month)
I. [code name Trickturn] POLICY, OBJECTIVES AND ACTIONS WERE
REVIEWED AT HIGH USG [United Stares Government] LEVEL AFTERNOON
15 OCTOBER. CONCLUSIONS, WHICH ARE TO BE YOUR OPERATIONAL GUIDE,
2. IT IS FIRM AND CONTINUING POLICY THAT ALLENDE BE OVERTHROWN
BY A COUP. IT WOULD BE MUCH PREFERABLE TO HAVE THIS TRANSPIRE
PRIOR TO 24 OCTOBER BUT EFFORTS IN THIS REGARD WILL CONTINUE VIGOROUSLY
BEYOND THIS DATE. WE ARE TO CONTINUE TO GENERATE MAXIMUM PRESSURE
TOWARD THIS END UTILIZING EVERY APPROPRIATE RE' SOURCE. IT IS
IMPERATIVE THAT THESE ACTIONS BE IMPLEMENTED CLANDESTINELY AND
SECURELY SO THAT THE USG AND AMERICAN HAND BE WELL HIDDEN. WHILE
THIS IMPOSES ON US A HIGH DEGREE OF SELECTIVITY IN MAKING MILITARY
CONTACTS AND DICTATES THAT THESE CONTACTS BE MADE IN THE MOST
SECURE MANNER IT DEFINITELY DOES NOT PRECLUDE CONTACTS SUCH AS
REPORTED IN SANTIAGO 544 WHICH WAS A MASTERFUL PIECE OF WORK.
3. AFTER THE MOST CAREFUL CONSIDERATION IT WAS DETERMINED
THAT A VIAUX COUP ATTEMPT CARRIED OUT BY HIM ALONE WITH THE FORCES
NOW AT HIS DISPOSAL WOULD FAIL. THUS, IT WOULD BE COUNTERPRODUCTIVE
TO OUR [track two] OBJECTIVES. IT WAS DECIDED THAT [CIA] GET A
MESSAGE TO VIAUX WARNING HIM AGAINST PRECIPITATE ACTION. IN ESSENCE
OUR MESSAGE IS TO STATE, "WE HAVE REVIEWED YOUR PLANS, AND
BASED ON YOUR INFORMATION AND OURS, WE COME TO THE CONCLUSION
THAT YOUR PLANS FOR A COUP AT THIS TIME CANNOT SUCCEED. FAILING,
THEY MAY REDUCE YOUR CAPABILITIES FOR THE FUTURE. PRESERVE YOUR
ASSETS. WE WILL STAY IN TOUCH. THE TIME WILL COME WHEN YOU TOGETHER
WITH ALL YOUR OTHER FRIENDS CAN DO SOMETHING. YOU WILL CONTINUE
TO HAVE OUR SUPPORT.' YOU ARE REQUESTED TO DELIVER THE MESSAGE
TO VIAUX ESSENTIALLY AS NOTED ABOVE. OUR OBJECTIVES ARE AS FOLLOWS:
(A) TO ADVISE HIM OF OUR OPINION AND DISCOURAGE HIM FROM ACTING
ALONE; (B) CONTINUE TO ENCOURAGE HIM TO AMPLIFY HIS PLANNING;
(C) ENCOURAGE HIM TO JOIN FORCES WITH OTHER COUP PLANNERS SO THAT
THEY MAY ACT IN CONCERT EITHER BEFORE OR AFTER 24 OCTOBER. (N.B.
SIX GAS MASKS AND SIX CS CANNISTERS [sic] ARE BEING CARRIED TO
SANTIAGO BY SPECIAL [deleted] COURIER ETD WASHINGTON 1100 HOURS
4. THERE IS GREAT AND CONTINUING INTEREST IN THE ACTIVITIES
OF TIRADO, CANALES, VALENZUELA ET AL. AND WE WISH THEM MAXIMUM
5. THE ABOVE IS YOUR OPERATING GUIDANCE. NO OTHER POLICY GUIDANCE
YOU MAY RECEIVE FROM [indecipherable: State] OR ITS MAXIMUM EXPONENT
IN SANTIAGO, ON HIS RETURN, ARE TO SWAY YOU FROM YOUR COURSE.
6. PLEASE REVIEW ALL YOUR PRESENT AND POSSIBLY NEW ACTIVITIES
TO INCLUDE PROPAGANDA, BLACK OPERATIONS, SURFACING OF INTELLIGENCE
OR DISINFORMATION, PERSONAL CONTACTS, OR ANYTHING ELSE YOUR IMAGINATION
CAN CONJURE WHICH WILL PERMIT YOU TO PRESS FORWARD OUR [deleted]
OBJECTIVE IN A SECURE MANNER.
Finally, it is essential to read the White House "MEMORANDUM
OF CONVERSATION, dated October 15, 1970, to which the above cable
directly refers and of which it is a more honest summary. Present
for the "HIGH USG LEVEL" meeting were, as noted in the
heading, "Dr. Kissinger, Mr. Karamessines, Gen. Haig."
The first paragraph of their deliberations has been entirely blacked
out, with not so much as a scribble in the margin from the redaction
service. (Given what has since been admitted, this sixteen-line
deletion must be well worth reading.) Picking up at paragraph
two, we find:
2. Then Mr. Karamessines provided a rundown on Viaux, the
Canales meeting with Tirado, the latter's new position (after
Porta was relieved of command "for health reasons")
and, in some detail, the general situation in Chile from the coup
3. A certain amount of information was available to us concerning
Viaux's alleged support throughout the Chilean military. We had
assessed Viaux's claims carefully, basing our analysis on good
intelligence from a number of sources. Our conclusion was clear:
Viaux did not have more than one chance in twenty-perhaps less-to
launch a successful coup.
4. The unfortunate repercussions, in Chile and internationally,
of an unsuccessful coup were discussed. Dr. Kissinger ticked off
his list of these negative possibilities. His items were remarkably
similar to the ones Mr. Karamessines had prepared.
5. It was decided by those present that the Agency must get
a message to Viaux warning him against any precipitate action.
In essence our message was to state: "We have reviewed your
plans, and based on your information and ours, we come to the
conclusion that your plans for a coup at this time cannot succeed.
Failing, they may reduce your capabilities for the future. Preserve
your assets. We will stay in touch. The time will come when you
with all your other friends can do something. You will continue
to have our support."
6. After the decision to de-fuse the Viaux coup plot, at least
temporarily, Dr. Kissinger instructed Mr. Karamessines to preserve
Agency assets in Chile, working clandestinely and securely to
maintain the capability for Agency operations against Allende
in the future. [Italics added.]
7. Dr. Kissinger discussed his desire that the word of our
encouragement to the Chilean military in recent weeks be kept
as secret as possible. Mr. Karamessines stated emphatically that
we had been doing everything possible in this connection, including
the use of false flag officers, car meetings and every conceivable
precaution. But we and others had done a great deal of talking
recently with a number of persons. For example, Ambassador Korry's
wide-ranging discussions with numerous people urging a coup "cannot
be put back into the bottle." [Three lines of deletion follow
] (Dr. Kissinger requested that copy of the message be sent to
him on 16 October.)
8. The meeting concluded on Dr. Kissinger's note that the
Agency should continue keeping the pressure on every Allende weak
spot in sight-now, after the 24th of October, after 5 November,
and in' to the future until such time as new marching orders are
given. Mr. Karamessines stated that the Agency would comply.
So "track two" contained two tracks of its own.
"Track two/one" was the group of ultras led by General
Roberto Viaux and his sidekick, Captain Arturo Marshal. These
men had tried to bring off a coup in 1969 against the Christian
Democrats; they had been cashiered and were disliked even by conservatives
in the officer corps. "Track two/two" was a more ostensibly
"respectable" faction headed by General Camilo Valenzuela,
the chief of the garrison in the capital city, whose name occurs
in the cables above and whose identity is concealed by some of
the deletions. Several of the CIA operatives in Chile felt that
Viaux was too much of a madman to be trusted. And Ambassador Korry's
repeated admonitions also had their effect. As shown in the October
15 memo cited above, Kissinger and Karamessines developed last-minute
second thoughts about Viaux, who as late as October 13 had been
given $20,000 in cash from the CIA station and promised a life-insurance
policy of $250,000. This offer was authorized directly from the
White House. With only days to go, however, before Allende was
inaugurated, and with Nixon repeating that "it was absolutely
essential that the election of Mr. Allende to the presidency be
thwarted," the pressure on the Valenzuela group became intense.
As a direct consequence, especially after the warm words of encouragement
he had received, General Roberto Viaux felt himself under some
obligation to deliver and to disprove those who had doubted him.
On the evening of October 19, 1970, the Valenzuela group,
aided by some of Viaux's gang, and equipped with the tear-gas
grenades delivered by the CIA, attempted to grab General Schneider
as he left an official dinner. The attempt failed because Schneider
left in a private car and not the expected official one. The failure
produced an extremely significant cable from CIA headquarters
in Washington to the local station, asking for urgent action because
"HEADQUARTERS MUST RESPOND DURING MORNING 20 OCTOBER TO QUERIES
FROM HIGH LEVELS." Payments of $50,000 each to Valenzuela
and his chief associate were then authorized on condition that
they make another attempt. On the evening of October 20 they did.
But again there was only failure to report. On October 22 the
"sterile" machine guns mentioned above were handed to
Valenzuela's group for yet another try. Later that same day General
Roberto Viaux's gang finally murdered General Rene Schneider.
According to the later verdict of the j' Chilean military
courts, this atrocity partook of elements of both tracks of "track
two." In other words, Valenzuela was not himself on the scene,
but the assassination squad, led by Viaux, contained men who had
participated in the preceding two attempts. Viaux was convicted
on charges of kidnapping and of conspiring to cause a coup. Valenzuela
was convicted of the charge of conspiracy to cause a coup. So
any subsequent attempt to distinguish the two plots from each
other, except in point of degree, is an attempt to confect a distinction
without a difference.
It scarcely matters whether Schneider was slain because of
a kidnapping scheme that went awry (he was said by the assassins
to have had the temerity to resist) or whether his assassination
was the objective in the first place. The Chilean military police
report, as it happens, describes a straightforward murder. Under
the law of every law-bound country (including the United States),
a crime committed in the pursuit of a kidnapping is thereby aggravated,
not mitigated. You may not say, with a corpse at your feet, "I
was only trying to kidnap him." At least, you may not say
so if you hope to plead extenuating circumstances.
Yet a version of "extenuating circumstances" has
become the paper-thin cover story with which Kissinger has since
protected himself from the charge of being an accomplice, before
and after the fact, in kidnapping and murder. And this sorry euphemism
has even found a refuge in the written record. The Senate intelligence
committee, in its investigation of the matter, concluded that
since the machine guns supplied to Valenzuela had not been actually
employed in the killing, and since General Viaux had been officially
discouraged by the CIA a few days before the murder, there was
therefore "no evidence of a plan to kill Schneider or that
United States officials specifically anticipated that Schneider
would be shot during the abduction."
Walter Isaacson, in his biography of Kissinger, takes at face
value a memo from Kissinger to Nixon after his meeting on October
15 with Karamessines, in which he reports to the president about
the Viaux plot, saying that he had "turned it off."
He also takes at face value the claim that Viaux's successful
hit was essentially unauthorized. These excuses and apologies
are as logically feeble as they are morally contemptible. Henry
Kissinger bears direct responsibility for the Schneider murder,
as the following points demonstrate:
1) Bruce MacMaster, one of the "False Flag" agents
mentioned in the cable traffic above, a career CIA man carrying
a forged Colombian passport and claiming to represent American
business interests in Chile, has told of his efforts to get "hush
money" to jailed members of the Viaux group, after the assassination
and before they could implicate the agency.
2) Colonel Paul M. Wimert, a military attaché in Santiago
and chief CIA liaison with the Valenzuela faction, has testified
that after the Schneider killing he hastily retrieved the two
payments of $50,000 that had been paid to Valenzuela and his partner,
and also the three "sterile" machine guns. He then drove
rapidly to the Chilean seaside town of Vina del Mar and hurled
the guns into the ocean. His accomplice in this action, CIA station
chief Henry Hecksher, had assured Washington only days before
that either Viaux or Valenzuela would be able to eliminate Schneider
and thereby trigger a coup.
3) Look again at the White House/Kissinger memo of October
15 and at the doggedly literal way it is retransmitted to Chile.
In no sense of the term does it "turn off" Viaux. If
anything, it incites him-a well-known and boastful fanatic- to
redouble his efforts. "Preserve your assets. We will stay
in touch. The time will come when you with all your other friends
can do something. You will continue to have our support."
This is not exactly the language of standing him down. The remainder
of the cable speaks plainly of the intention to "DISCOURAGE
HIM FROM ACTING ALONE, to "CONTINUE TO ENCOURAGE HIM TO AMPLIFY
HIS PLANNING, and to "ENCOURAGE HIM TO JOIN FORCES WITH OTHER
COUP PLANNERS SO THAT THEY MAY ACT IN CONCERT EITHER BEFORE OR
AFTER 24 OCTOBER." (Italics added.) The last three stipulations
are an entirely accurate, not to say prescient, description of
what Viaux actually did.
4) Consult again the cable received by Henry Hecksher on October
20, referring to anxious queries "from high levels"
about the first of the failed attacks on Schneider. Thomas Karamessines,
when questioned by the Senate intelligence committee about the
same phrase in a similar cable sent to another CIA agent in Santiago,
testified of his certainty that the term "high levels"
referred directly to Kissinger. In all previous communications
from Washington, as a glance above will show, that had indeed
been the case. This on its own is enough to demolish Kissinger's
claim to have "turned off" "track two" (and
its interior tracks) on October 15.
5) Ambassador Edward Korry later made the obvious point that
Kissinger was attempting to build a paper alibi in the event of
a failure by the Viaux group: "His interest was not in Chile
but in who was going to be blamed for what. He wanted me to be
the one who took the heat. Henry didn't want to be associated
with a failure, and he was setting up a record to blame the State
Department. He brought me in to the President because he wanted
me to say what I had to say about Viaux; he wanted me to be the
The concept of "deniability" was not as well understood
in Washington in 1970 as it has since become. But it is clear
that Henry Kissinger wanted two things simultaneously: He wanted
the removal of General Schneider, by any means and employing any
proxy. (No instruction from Washington to leave Schneider unharmed
was ever given; deadly weapons were sent by diplomatic pouch,
and men of violence were carefully selected to receive them.)
And he wanted to be out of the picture in case such an attempt
might fail, or be uncovered. These are the normal motives of anyone
who solicits or suborns murder. Kissinger, however, needed the
crime very slightly more than he needed, or was able to design,
the deniability. Without waiting for his many hidden papers to
be released or subpoenaed, we can say with safety that he is prima
facie guilty of direct collusion in the murder of a constitutional
officer in a democratic and peaceful country.
Christopher Hitchens, formerly Washington editor of Harper's
Magazine, is the author of books on the Cyprus crisis Kurdistan,
Palestine, and the Anglo-American relationship. He is a regular
columnist for Vanity Fair and The Nation.