REVIEW BY ROHAN PEARCE
The Trial of Henry Kissinger
Sunday, September 7, 8.30pm.
When US President George Bush appointed Henry Kissinger to chair the committee of inquiry into the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the resulting outcry forced Kissinger to relinquish the position. In at least one sense, however, Kissinger was well qualified to serve on the committee — if anyone understands mass murder, it should be him.
Kissinger is arguably the most famous diplomat of the 20th century, and with good reason. He has played a role in some of the most heinous crimes committed against humanity since the second world war. The Trial of Henry Kissinger is inspired by the book of the same title by Christopher Hitchens (who, unfortunately, has recently turned his talents to defending the US empire's most recent crimes).
SBS Television's decision to screen the documentary — just days before we will be inundated with pro-US imperialist rubbish, using the excuse of remembering the victims of 9/11, to justify the US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq — should be welcomed.
While most of the world's attention was centred on the mass murder carried out in New York on September 11, 2001, the Washington Post reported that same day on the legacy of another, far greater September 11 atrocity.
On September 11, 1973, a coup led by General Augusto Pinochet toppled the government of Chile's democratically elected, left-wing president, Salvador Allende. The Washington Post reported that almost three decades later, the family of a general who was loyal to Allende's government and was assassinated by CIA-funded mercenaries, intended to sue Kissinger.
Kissinger, at the time secretary of state in President Richard Nixon's administration, played a central role in the coup plot. "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves", he stated prior to the coup. The military dictatorship that followed Allende's bloody overthrow and murder was brutally efficient in destroying any threat to its rule: thousands of people were murdered and tens of thousands more tortured. Hundreds were herded into the Santiago soccer stadium and shot.
For Washington, the coup served two interconnected purposes: it removed a threat to the Chilean operations of the US-based corporations and prevented the emergence of another pro-poor, anti-imperialist regime in Latin America.
Kissinger's time in public office began half a decade earlier, with Nixon's 1968 election. From 1969-73, Kissinger was Nixon's assistant for national security affairs. Later, he was Nixon's secretary of state. He helped oversee the White House's war on the people of Indochina, including the secret dropping of more than 110,000 tonnes of bombs on Cambodia. Kissinger crafted policy of publicly promising a swift and "honourable" end to the war, while in reality escalating it, trying to defeat the forces of the Vietnamese national liberation movement at any cost.
On December 5, 1975, Kissinger and US President Gerald Ford (Nixon's successor) met Indonesian dictator Suharto and gave him the green light for the brutal annexation of East Timor (which began the day after they left Jakarta). When Kissinger returned to Washington, he launched an assault on state department bureaucrats who had concluded that, in light of the invasion, the US government was legally required to end military aid to Indonesia.
Kissinger's crimes shouldn't be viewed merely as the actions of an evil individual — he's the kind of public figure whose personal biographers will rake over endlessly in search of explanations for the policies he pursued while in public office. But such a view is erroneous, because it ignores the dictates of imperialism and of the US empire. As long as the global order is dominated by a system — capitalism — that demands profits be put before human rights, democracy and freedom, there will always be Kissingers.
From Green Left Weekly, September 3, 2003.
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