Kissinger, 79, is one of the best-known and most controversial
figures in 20th-century diplomacy. He was both Secretary
of State and National Security Adviser to Republican presidents
Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
He was the architect of a secret bombing of Laos, and a
secret war involving 3,630 American bombing raids over the
nation of Cambodia.
He has fought battles in and out of office to keep the
public from knowing things.
In his memoirs, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, former commander
of naval forces in Vietnam, wrote of his frustration with
the efforts of Kissinger and Nixon “to conceal, sometimes
by simple silence, more often by articulate deceit, their
real policies about the most critical matters of national
The man who once confided, “The illegal we do immediately.
The unconstitutional takes a little longer,” is regarded
by many outside the US as a war criminal. There are countries
he can’t travel to for fear of arrest.
Kissinger participated in a GOP plot to undermine the 1968
Paris peace talks in order to assist Richard Nixon’s presidential
campaign. As co-architect of Nixon’s war in Vietnam, Kissinger
oversaw the secret bombing campaign which reached into neighbouring
Cambodia, an arguably illegal operation estimated to have
claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians.
During the first 30 months of the Nixon-Kissinger administration,
the US counter-insurgency “Phoenix Program” was responsible
for the murder or abduction of 35,708 Vietnamese civilians.
According to the US Senate sub-committee on refugees, from
March 1969 to March 1972, in excess of three million civilians
were killed, wounded or made homeless. Also during this
period, the US launched approximately 4.5 million tons of
high explosives on Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, which was
200% more than all of the bombs used during the entire period
of World War II. The peace settlement that Kissinger negotiated
in 1973 approximated what the Johnson Administration could
have gotten four years earlier if Nixon and Kissinger hadn’t
sabotaged the effort.
In 1971, Pakistani General Yahya Khan, armed with US weaponry,
overthrew a democratically elected government in an action
that led to a massive civilian bloodbath. Hundreds of thousands
were killed. Kissinger blocked US condemnation of Khan.
Instead, he noted Khan’s “delicacy and tact.”
In 1975, President Gerald Ford and Kissinger, still serving
as Secretary of State, offered advance approval of Indonesia’s
brutal invasion of East Timor. One-third of the East Timorese
population was exterminated during the subsequent 20-year
occupation, but this had little impact on continuing US
and western arms shipments to the regime in Jakarta. For
years afterward, Kissinger denied the subject ever came
up during the Dec. 6, 1975, meeting he and Ford held with
General Suharto, Indonesia’s military ruler. But a classified
US cable obtained by the National Security Archive shows
otherwise. It notes that Suharto asked for “understanding
if we deem it necessary to take rapid or drastic action”
in East Timor. Ford said, “We will understand and will not
press you on the issue. We understand the problem you have
and the intentions you have.” The next day, Suharto struck
East Timor. Kissinger is an outright liar on this subject.
Kissinger is the target of two lawsuits, and judges overseas
have sought him for questioning in war-crimes-related legal
actions. On Sept. 9, two days before the Sept. 11 attacks,
the family of Chilean General Rene Schneider sued Kissinger.
Schneider was shot on Oct. 22, 1970, by would-be coup-makers
working with CIA operatives. These CIA assets were part
of a secret plan authorized by Nixon—and supervised by Kissinger—to
foment a coup before Salvador Allende, a socialist, could
be inaugurated as president. Schneider, a constitutionalist
who opposed a coup, died three days later. This secret CIA
program in Chile—dubbed “Track Two”—gave $35,000 to Schneider’s
assassins after the slaying. Every single document in the
prosecution case is a US-government declassified paper.
Michael Tigar, an attorney for the Schneider family, said
at the time the lawsuit was filed, “Our case shows, document
by document, that [Kissinger] was involved in great detail
in supporting the people who killed General Schneider, and
then paid them off.”
“The United States did not want Allende to assume the presidency,
and my father was the only political obstacle for a military
coup,” said Schneider’s eldest son, also named Rene Schneider.
The family chose to sue after carefully reviewing the materials
that became public in the past two years, Schneider said.
A Senate committee in 1975 found evidence that US officials
hoped to instigate a coup to stop Allende and did in fact
provide arms and encouragement to those plotting the general’s
kidnapping. According to the Schneider family, the materials
show that the CIA continued to encourage a coup in the days
leading to the kidnapping.
“Every single factual assertion in this complaint is based
on a document that has been furnished by the US government,”
Allende remained in power until a 1973 military coup that
was supported by the CIA. Gen. Augusto Pinochet then began
a 17-year reign in which thousands of people were killed
or tortured. Before the coup, Kissinger had remarked: “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.” On June 8, 1976, at the
height of Pinochet’s repression, Kissinger had a meeting
with the Chilean dictator and behind closed doors told him
that “we are sympathetic to what you are trying to do here.”
Pinochet was arrested in London in 1998 and indicted in
Chile last year. But an appellate court recently suspended
the legal proceedings because of concerns about his mental
fitness for trial.
But Kissinger has more trouble than lawsuits. The Chilean
Supreme Court sent the State Department questions for Kissinger
about the death of Charles Horman, an American journalist
killed during the 1973 coup. (Horman’s murder was the subject
of the 1982 film Missing.) A criminal judge in Chile has
said he might include Kissinger in his investigation of
Operation Condor, a now infamous secret project, in which
the security services of Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia,
Paraguay, and Argentina worked together to kidnap and murder
political opponents. Judges in France, Spain and Chile have
requested that Kissinger answer questions about the deaths
of their citizens in Operation Condor, but Kissinger, so
far, has not been cooperative.
On Memorial Day 2001, Kissinger was visited by the police
in the Ritz Hotel in Paris and handed a warrant, issued
by Judge Roger LeLoire, requesting his testimony in the
matter of disappeared French citizens in Pinochet’s
Kissinger chose to leave town rather than appear at the
Palais de Justice as requested.
In late 2001, the Brazilian government canceled an invitation
for Kissinger to speak in Sao Paulo because it could no
longer guarantee his immunity. Earlier this year, a London
court agreed to hear an application for Kissinger’s imprisonment
on war crimes charges while he was briefly in the United
Head 9/11 Investigation Director
|Appointed veteran Henry Kissinger to head commission
to investigate the Sept, 11, 2001 attacks on New York
Sources: BBC News, Boston Globe, CBSNews.com,
Financial Times (UK), Guardian (UK), The Nation, New York
Times, Newsday, Pan-African News Wire, Reuters, Washington