doesn't mince words when it comes to henry kissinger
, the former secretary of state and national-security advisor: Kissinger deserves vigorous prosecution "for war crimes, for crimes against humanity, and for offenses against common or customary or international law, including conspiracy to commit murder, kidnap, and torture." The Trial of henry kissinger
is a masterpiece of polemics; even readers who don't agree that its target is an emanation of "official evil" will appreciate the verve and style brought to Hitchens's fiery brief. ("A good liar must have a good memory: Kissinger is a stupendous liar with a remarkable memory.") The book is best understood as a prosecutorial document--both because Hitchens limits his critique to what he believes might stand up in an international court of law following precedents set at Nuremberg and elsewhere, and also because his treatment of Kissinger is far from evenhanded. The charges themselves are astonishing, as they link Kissinger to war casualties in Vietnam, massacres in Bangladesh and Timor, and assassinations in Chile, Cyprus, and Washington, D.C. After reading this book, one wants very badly to hear a full response from the defendant. Hitchens, a writer for Vanity Fair
and The Nation
, is a man of the Left, though he has a history of skewering both Democrats (he is the author of a provocative book on the Clintons, No One Left to Lie To
) as well as Republicans (Kissinger). At the root of this latest effort is moral outrage, and a call for Americans, of all people, not to ignore Kissinger's record: "They can either persist in averting their gaze from the egregious impunity enjoyed by a notorious war criminal and lawbreaker, or they can become seized by the exalted standards to which they continually hold everyone else," writes Hitchens. "If the courts and lawyers of this country will not do their duty, we shall watch as the victims and survivors of this man pursue justice and vindication in their own dignified and painstaking way, and at their own expense, and we shall be put to shame." --John J. Miller
From Publishers Weekly
The arrest of Augusto Pinochet signaled a significant shift in enforcing international law, noticed by henry kissinger if not others. Vanity Fair columnist Hitchens (No One Left to Lie To, etc.), a self-described "political opponent of henry kissinger
," writes to remedy the awareness gap, focusing on specific charges of Kissinger's responsibility for mass killings of civilians, genocide, assassinations, kidnapping, murder and conspiracy involving Indochina, East Timor, Bangladesh, Cyprus, Greece and Chile. If the book's title is direct, Hitchens's style is not. Indeed, so much attention is given to unraveling Kissinger's denials and cover stories that the underlying allegations recede into the background. Most of the material is known, but Kissinger's possible culpability has been overlooked for so long that Hitchens's stylish summation may be precisely what's required to bring resolution to a chapter in American foreign policy. Topics include what Hitchens casts as Kissinger's role in helping Nixon undermine the Paris peace talks on the eve of the 1968 election; the bombings of Cambodia and Laos, which killed roughly a million civilians; the assassination of Chilean chief of staff General Rene Schneider, whose loyalty blocked the planned coup against Allende; Kissinger's approval and support for Indonesia's invasion of East Timor and the resulting genocide; his support for the Pakistan military government's 1971 genocide in Bangladesh and for a bloody military coup in independent Bangladesh in 1975, and more. If America does not act promptly, Hitchens warns, others will, further eroding our claims to moral leadership. (May)Forecast: Hitchens's fame and reputation as a contrarian guarantee that his indictment will receive media attention (it's already been serialized in Harper's), and leftists will delight in his skewering of Kissinger.Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Is former secretary of state and Nobel Peace Prize winner Kissinger a war criminal? Hitchens, a journalist (the Nation, Vanity Fair) and author (Hostage to History: Cyprus from the Ottomans to Kissinger), believes that Kissinger committed crimes around the world, from Cambodia to Bangladesh to Chile. With the recent detention of Chile's August Pinochet and the international interest in prosecuting Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic, Hitchens theorizes that the era of "sovereign immunity" for state crimes has ended. He would limit Kissinger's prosecution to "offenses that might or should form the basis of a legal prosecution: for war crimes, for crimes against humanity and for offenses against common or customary or international law." Hitchens relies on congressional hearing testimony, transcripts of the infamous Nixon tapes, and the memoirs and papers of Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administration officials to support his case against Kissinger. Although there is limited attribution of the quoted and referenced documentation, the substance of the material makes an intriguing case. Recommended for political science and international relations collections. Jill Ortner, SUNY at Buffalo Libs.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
A thorough compilation of previously established facts as much as an indictment. -- James McQuillen, The Oregonian, 15 April 2001
Hitchen's stylish summation may be precisely what's required to bring resolution to a chapter in American foreign policy. -- Publishers Weekly, 7 May 2001
What emerges is an indictment not only of a criminal, but of a coward too. -- Greg Goldin, LA Weekly, 27 April 2001
[A] new, devastating portrayal of Kissinger...[Hitchens's] essay is powerful, ugly, and important. -- Dan Kennedy, Boston Phoenix, 9 March 2001
[T]hat Kissinger might be arrested might be far-fetched, but it has drawn blood....Hitchens has clearly hit a nerve. -- Nancy Mitchell, The Raleigh News and Observer, 6 May 2001
'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.'
With the detention of Augusto Pinochet, and intense international pressure for the arrest of Slobodan Milosevic, the possibility of international law acting against tyrants around the world is emerging as a reality. Yet, as christopher hitchens demonstrates in this compact, incendiary book, the West need not look far to find suitable candidates for the dock. The United States is home to an individual whose record of war crimes bears comparison with the worst dictators of recent history. Please stand, ex-Secretary of State and national security advisor
, Henry A. Kissinger. Weighing the evidence with judicial care, and developing his case with scrupulous parsing of the written record, Hitchens takes the floor as prosecuting counsel. He investigates, in turn, Kissinger's involvement in the war in Indochina, mass murder in Bangladesh, planned assassinations in Santiago, Nicosia and Washington DC, and genocide in East Timor. Drawing on first-hand testimony, previously unpublished documentation, and broad sweeps through material released under the Freedom of Information Act, he mounts a devastating indictment of a man whose ambition and ruthlessness have directly resulted in both individual murders and widespread, indiscriminate slaughter.
About the Author
lives in Washington DC and writes columns for Vanity Fair
and The Nation
. His previous books include Hostage to History, The Elgin Marbles, For the Sake of Argument, The Missionary Position, No One Left To Lie To
and Unacknowledged Legislation.