BBC Documentary

The Trials of Henry Kissinger

[from review

Regarding Henry

New York Daily News, September 24th, 2002]


During his years as Richard Nixon's pet hawk, Gerald Ford's secretary of state and the New York tabloids' favorite bold-faced party animal, Henry Kissinger prosecuted private and illegal wars that cost hundreds of thousands of Cambodian, Vietnamese, Timorese and Chilean lives, and should himself be prosecuted for crimes against humanity.

Those are the contentions of journalist and Kissinger tracker Christopher Hitchens, made in a book-length pair of Harper's Magazine articles last year and reiterated and supported in the damning new BBC documentary "The Trials of Henry Kissinger."

The 80-minute film, which parades credible high-level witnesses, indicts Kissinger on at least four counts of mass murder, providing convincing evidence that Kissinger:

* Ordered the U.S. military to conduct illegal air raids in Cambodia in 1969, and to misreport the targets as Vietnamese.

* Convinced Nixon to order the 1972 "Christmas bombing" of Hanoi, which killed thousands of North Vietnamese civilians, as a political sop to weakened South Vietnam President Nguyen van Thieu.

* Got Ford to okay arms sales to Indonesian President Suharto in 1975, knowing they would be used, illegally, in the slaughter of rebels and civilians in East Timor.

* Ordered the CIA to instigate a coup of the democratically elected left-wing Chilean government of Salvador Allende, clearing the way for the murderous right-wing dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

It's Kissinger's role in Chile's military coup that has made him a specific target of international prosecutors, who want him for questioning in Pinochet investigations in six foreign countries.

"The Trials of Henry Kissinger" serves as both a prosecution brief on the above charges and an unauthorized biography. It takes us back to his childhood as a bullied German Jew, his family's pre-war migration to New York, when he was 15, and his ascension as a renowned academic, White House top gun, statesman and international babe magnet.

"Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac," Kissinger famously said, and knew whereof he spoke.

Kissinger comes off in the film as a complex man with a fungible morality. Appearing only in news and interview clips, Kissinger defends his actions on the dubious grounds that political issues are not subject to the right-wrong judgments we make as individuals "because sometimes we're choosing between two evils."

Coming on the apparent eve of war against despot Saddam Hussein's Iraq, "The Trials of Henry Kissinger" also serves as a reminder that American foreign policy has not had anything against vicious despots per se, only those who are not acting in our interests.

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