February 26, 2001
3:25 AM   Subscribe

The trial of Henry Kissinger!
posted by Mocata (11 comments total)
Harper's Magazine has the full report in its February and March 2001 editions (damn them for not having a full online version, go to the newsstand). I am still plowing through the first part; the argument so far is quite compelling. I fail to see how Kissinger could not be tried for the selfsame crimes as Pinochet and others.

Since this story is getting recognition on both sides of the Atlantic, does anyone think anything could come of it?
posted by Avogadro at 5:20 AM on February 26, 2001

I sure wish something could come of it. There's no political motivation here. Perhaps a war-crimes charge from an international body?
posted by argybarg at 7:29 AM on February 26, 2001

That'll just get shotguns to cock from Idaho to Texas. Americans are exempt from war-crimes prosecution by definition.

You can pre-order Hitchens' book via the usual suspects.
posted by dhartung at 9:19 AM on February 26, 2001

Good luck in prosecuting him beyond the realm of public opinion.
posted by Watcher at 9:44 AM on February 26, 2001

The arrest of Pinochet was significant, obviously, in that it created precedent for holding national leaders responsible for war crimes under international law. Of course, as Noam Chomsky is fond of reminding us, if the Nuremberg Laws were actually enforced every U.S. president since (and including) Truman would be tried and hanged.

Theoretically, a British court could arrest Kissinger as they did Pinochet if it there were sufficent evidence that his actions knowlingly lead to the death of British civilians anywhere. Britain won't, although tenyears ago the Pinochet scenario was almost unthinkable. Cambodia and Vietnam certainly have a case against Kissinger, it's just a question of whether they want to risk alienating the U.S.

I've always thought it interesting, though, that many on the right traditionally tend to support moral absolutes, right and wrong, black and white, and constantly accuse leftists and liberals of moral relativism, yet the "realpolitik" which is Kissinger's legacy is nothing if not morally relativistic. And he remains a darling of the right.

posted by Dr. Boom at 11:20 AM on February 26, 2001

Just a side-note: Hitchens rocks. No one is better at slaughtering sacred cows. He's going to be on Dennis Miller Live this Friday, for those of you lucky enough to have HBO.
posted by Optamystic at 11:24 AM on February 26, 2001

Note for constant readers: the Hitchens pieces were also exerpted in the Grauniad, here and here.
posted by holgate at 5:16 PM on February 27, 2001

I love the fact that you cite the "Grauniad", holgate. It's just not the same since spellcheck, is it?
posted by rodii at 5:45 PM on February 27, 2001

rodii: you haven't been following the Readers' Editor, have you...?
posted by holgate at 6:38 PM on February 27, 2001

I fail to see how Kissinger could not be tried for the selfsame crimes as Pinochet and others.

Simple: Only the losers are ever subjected to war crimes tribunals. (Yeah, I know we lost Vietnam, but we're still the de facto political and military winners of planet Earth at this time.) The winners decide what constitutes war crimes, and those will never be defined as what the winners did.

...yet the "realpolitik" which is Kissinger's legacy is nothing if not morally relativistic.That's the thing about "realpolitik," it's real. Like war crimes themselves, morality gets to be defined by those with the power. We've got the power, so we get to say Kissinger's actions are morally acceptable. You just gotta accept it. That's realpolitik.

And he remains a darling of the right.

Not with me. I've always thought he was a twerp. He lost 'Nam, after all, but he does have an excellent working knowledge of foreign affairs in general, so it's probably in our best interests to keep him around.
posted by aaron at 11:55 PM on February 27, 2001

(Confession: I am still reading part II of the longer Harper's article; I have too much to read in general)

Hitchens isn't making an argument against realpolitik, though there is easily one to be made. Saying that the war crimes are justified by realpolitik is analogous to saying that killing a human being is justified by murder; we've got the power, the action was morally acceptible (by my twisted standards), you just gotta accept it: that's murder. All that you have done is define realpolitik.

Hitchens's argument is that Kissinger's actions strayed beyond realpolitik and into criminality. To cite but one example: During the 1968 Nixon/Humphrey race, Kissinger (who was working with South Vietnam for the Johnson administration in an unofficial capacity) conspired with the Nixon campaign to engage in secret (and illegal, since only the Executive has the authority to enter into treaty negot. with foreign powers) negotiations with South Vietnamese officials. To make a long story short, they persuaded the South Vietnamese to walk away from a negotiated peace settle ment three days before election day, thus ensuring Nixon victory. The proposed 1968 peace settlement was fundamentally the same as the 1972 peace settlement (for which Kissinger won the Nobel Peace prize). During those four years, over 20,000 American and over half a million Vietnamese lives were lost.

There was no reason for Kissinger and Nixon to engage in those secret negotiations other than to win the presidency for Nixon and the beginning of a long series of adminstrative positions (and power) for Kissinger. By all standards, these can't be even categorized as realpolitik, since it wasn't the interests of the U.S. for which these actions were taken, but the interests of morally corrupt individuals.

And if the credibility of the U.S. further erodes because of Kissinger, then it is not in our best interests to keep him around.
posted by Avogadro at 6:13 AM on February 28, 2001

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