Preface & Secret of '68
excerpted from the book
The Trial of Henry Kissinger
by Christopher Hitchins
Verso Press, 2001
... it will not do to blame the whole exorbitant cruelty and cynicism
of decades on one man.
... 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:
1. The deliberate mass killing of civilian populations in
2. Deliberate collusion in mass murder, and later in assassination,
3. 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.
4. Personal involvement in a plan to murder the head of state
in the democratic nation of Cyprus.
5. The incitement and enabling of genocide in East Timor
6. Personal involvement in a plan to kidnap and murder a journalist
living in Washington, DC.
The Pinochet verdict in London, the splendid activism of the Spanish
magistracy, and the verdicts of the International Tribunal at
The Hague have 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 why he may not be compelled
to answer it.
... Many if not most of Kissinger's partners in crime are
now in jail, or are awaiting trial, or have been otherwise punished
or discredited. 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.
The Secret of '68
There exists, within the political class of Washington, DC,
an open secret that is too momentous and too awful to tell. Though
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 plank" on which the Democrats
had contested it. In another way, it did not "work,"
because four years later the Nixon administration concluded 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 four years, some twenty thousand 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.
The CIA was originally set up by President Harry Truman at the
beginning of the Cold War. In the first Eisenhower administration,
it was felt necessary to establish a monitoring or watchdog body
to oversee covert operations. This panel was known as the Special
Group, and sometimes also referred to as the 54/12 Group, after
the number of the National Security Council directive which set
it up. By the time of President Johnson it was called the 303
Committee and during the Nixon and Ford administrations it was
called the 40 Committee.
Trial of Henry Kissinger