Amanda LakeyInternational Relations Book Review 18 April 2012 Kissinger’s Offenses The book the Trial of Henry Kissinger was written by Christopher Hitchens, a political opponent of Henry Kissinger. He is considered to be a pretty controversial figure because of his confrontational type of debate. He is considered a political observer, polecemist, and a self-proclaimed left -winged radical. He can be remembered for being a critic of Henry Kissinger, Mother Theresa and Bill Clinton.
The Trial of Henry Kissinger took a long time for the author to write because he collected a lot of incriminating evidence to help bring out the wrongdoings Kissinger has done during his political career. The book focuses on Hitchens’s examination of the evidence of Henry Kissinger’s supposed war crimes. Hitchens thinks that Kissinger deserves prosecution “for war crimes against humanity, and for offenses against common or customary or international law, including conspiracy to commit murder, kidnap, and torture” ( Hitchens 2).
To the author, Henry Kissinger is just a great liar who seems to have an amazing memory. According to Hitchens, Kissinger may be connected to war casualties in Vietnam, massacres in Bangladesh, planning murder in Chile when the US was not at war with them, involvement in the murder of the head of state of Cyprus, enabling a genocide in East Timor and kidnapping and murdering a journalist from Washington DC. The logic in which the author uses appears to be pretty persuasive to the reader. It is difficult to argue with one who uses such solid support in his opinions.
This book seems more like pure fact than just what the author thinks. If I were to have read thinking Henry Kissinger was innocent, afterwards I would start to think that he should be charged for the things he did. I think many Americans are not aware of the kinds of secrets acts that happen within the political system. This is an eye opener for many citizens; one should not get away with committing a crime, even if he has a lot of power. One of the main events the book focuses on is Kissinger’s involvement with the bombing of Cambodia.
The bombing of Cambodia would need approval from congress before it could occur. Unfortunately, Nixon and Kissinger never tried to get approval and went ahead with the plan anyways. They would try to hide these happenings from society. The bombing of Cambodia actually took place for about fourteen months, and “as a result of the expanded and intensified bombing campaigns, It has been estimated that as many as 350,000 civilians in Laos, and 600,000 in Cambodia, lost their lives” (Hitchens 35).
These events were leaked into the newspaper by American journalists, and Kissinger tried to find those responsible by wire-tapping phones. Another one of the events that took place is Kissinger’s involvement with the Vietnamese War. During the 1968 Paris peace talks, Kissinger came into the discussion and said that “he thinks any pullout next year would be a serious mistake… he favored a continued winding down and then a pull out… so it is too late to affect the election” (Hitchens 19). Kissinger was having secret meetings with the North Vietnamese, specifically the negotiator Le Duc Tho.
He was hiding these meetings from the rest of the governments officials who should have been involved. These peace talks ended up being futile, but they did help him gain more of a reputation with Nixon. Nixon was not happy with the way the Vietnamese War was turning out, so he decided to invade the neutral countries of Cambodia and Laos; this resulted in one million deaths in Cambodia and 350 thousand deaths in Laos. Even after everything that occurred, Henry Kissinger signed a peace treaty with Le Duck Tho in 1973. The two of then were then awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Henry Kissinger was one of the people who helped start the war, and he is also the person who helped finish it: “It took Henry Kissinger to ensure that a war of atrocity, which he had helped to prolong, should end just as furtively and ignominiously as it had began” (Hitchens 20). According to Hitchens, there is a Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in which the names are listed by date, not alphabetically: “The first few names appear in 1954, and the last few in 1965” (20). A majority of the American population would not know that we went into Vietnam as early or as late as the memorial claims.
The author also talks about Kissinger’s role in Bangladesh. Kissinger supported Pakistan in the Liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. He wanted to show China how useful the United States can be when it comes to tactical alliance so they would side with America and oppose the USSR. Kissinger helped support the extermination of many Bengalis: “Kissinger had received some very bad and even mocking press for his handling of the Bangladesh crisis, and it had somewhat spoiled his supposedly finest hour in China” (Hitchens 50).
The Nixon Administration also was involved in a controversial military coup in Chile. Nixon had given the CIA permission to hold a military coup in order to prevent Salvador Allende’s inauguration. Allende was said to have ties with communist countries, which is something that caused the United State’s to have a rocky relationship with Chile. In 1973, the military coup caused the death of the Chilean leader. After this happened, Augusto Pinochet took control of Chile and began to bring a reign of terror to the country. Two cases were filed against Kissinger and dismissed during these times.
He was blamed for being involved in the military coup and disregarding those civilian’s and their family’s lives when he encouraged the Chilean repressive regime. The Trial of Henry Kissinger is one of the more recent books written in 2002 about the wrongdoings of Henry Kissinger, but other books were previously written before this time. One of the books is called the Price of Power written by Seymour M. Hursh in 1983. The other book is called Sideshow written by William Shawcross in 1979. There was obviously a great time span between these two books and the most current one, but they all seem to have the same idea.
They all seem to discuss Kissinger’s involvement with the Nixon Administration and try to charge him as a war criminal. The other books seem to focus on the topic of Cambodia the most, but the Trial of Henry Kissinger seems to discuss more circumstances for which Nixon should be charged for. The Slideshow seemed to think that Cambodia was one of the biggest crimes Kissinger and President Nixon committed: “Neither the United States nor its friends nor those who are caught helplessly in its embrace are well served when its leaders act, as Nixon and Kissinger acted, without care.
Cambodia was not a mistake; it was a crime” ( Shawcross 396). According to the book the Price of Power Nixon and Kissinger both appear to be in denial that any of the occurrences were their fault: “Kissinger and Nixon would repeatedly claim that the failures in South Vietnam and Cambodia were not their responsibility but the fault of Congress, which had cut off funding for the war” (Hursch 640). The book the Trial of Henry Kissinger is able to expand on these arguments more by giving solid evidence.
One of Nixon’s associates who worked alongside Kissinger claimed that if the plan for Cambodia did not work then Henry would get in trouble: “Kissinger was caught between the views of his staff- several of whom resigned in protest when the invasion began- and the need to please the President” ( Hitchens 28). Compared to the other books that has been written about Kissinger, I think the Trial of Henry Kissinger is the most helpful and informative, but because of the use of excerpts from government documents and memorandums, it can be a little difficult to read.
I also feel the author did not use enough counter arguments when he wrote the book. I feel like this is supposed to be an argumentative book in which the author tries to sway the reader to agree with his side. I think there is enough evidence to back up the authors claims, but the book would be even more believable had he tried to bring in opposing arguments and prove them wrong this way, there would be no arguing that Kissinger did do something wrong. All in all, I think this book is very useful for people to learn about Henry Kissinger.
To be honest, before coming into this class, I had never heard anything about him or the terrible things he was involved in. I think this book gives good background information in order to show the reader what kind of person Kissinger is and why he should be treated like a criminal. Because there was so much evidence from government documents used in the book, I have almost no arguments against the author’s claims. References Hitechens, Christopher. Trial of Henry Kissinger. Verso, New York. 2001. Print. Hursch, M Seymour. The Price of Power. 1983. Print. Shawcross, William. Sideshow. 1979. Print.