The Trial of Henry Kissinger

Hitchens, Christopher

Published by Verso Books, 2001
ISBN 10: 1859846319 / ISBN 13: 9781859846315
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Synopsis: “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, D.C., 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 Drawing on first-hand testimony, previously unpublished documentation, and broad sweeps through material released under the Freedom of Information Act, he mounts a devastating indictment of a man whose ambition and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.

Review: Christopher Hitchens 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

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Trial of Henry Kissinger
Publisher: Verso Books
Publication Date: 2001
Binding: Hard Cover
Book Condition: Very Good

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