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 Indochina.

2. Deliberate collusion in mass murder, and later in assassination, in Bangladesh.

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.

The Trial of Henry Kissinger

Henry Kissinger page

Index of Website

Home Page