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
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.
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