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The Trial of Henry Kissinger [Paperback]

Christopher Hitchens
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 17 2002
“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 Drawing on first-hand testimony, previously unpublished documentation, and broad sweeps through material released under the Freedom of Information Act, he mounts a devastating indictment of a man whose ambition and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.

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Christopher Hitchens doesn't mince words when it comes to The Trial of Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state and national-security advisor: in his view, Kissinger deserves vigorous prosecution "for war crimes, for crimes against humanity, and for offences against common or customary or international law, including conspiracy to commit murder, kidnap, and torture." The Trial of Henry Kissinger is a polemical masterpiece; 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 document of prosecution--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 even handed. 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, DC. 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 (like 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... 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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Library of Congress Protects Another Criminal May 9 2004
Format:Paperback
Although Hitchens wrote this book in order to expose the criminality of Henry Kissinger, it is of utmost importance to Library of Congress employees (as well as other librarians) to see how the institution was misused and [bad]. Really, just how can a government employee hide government papers as his own personal papers?
A bit out of date, Hitchens details on page 76 how this was done: "On leaving the State Department, Kissinger made an extraordinary bargain whereby (having first hastily trucked them for safekeeping on the Rockefeller estate at Pocantico Hills, New York) he gifted his papers to the Library of Congress, on the sole condition that they remained under seal until after his demise. However, Kissinger's friend Manuel Contreras made a mistake when he killed a United States citizen, Ronni Karpen Moffitt, in the Washington car bomb which also murdered Orlando Letelier in 1976. by late 2000, the FBI had finally sought and received subpoena power to review the Library of Congress papers, a subpoena with which Kissinger dealt only through his attorneys." I am also assuming one of Kissinger's attorneys could be listed as the General Counsel of the Library, Elizabeth Pugh.
Left out is the story of the man who took the papers under a [tricked] Deed of Gift, signed on Christmas Eve no less, between then Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin and Kissinger. Boorstin, a highly duplicitous man in his own right, is a former communist who named names at the McCarthy hearings. The current Librarian of Congress, right-winger James Billington, is the man who fought the FBI subpoena. Maybe that is because he later named an endowed Library of Congress chair after Kissinger?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Trial of Henry Kissinger April 17 2004
Format:Paperback
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enough evidence for an arraignment... March 25 2004
Format:Paperback
In an ideal democratic society, no one is above the law. Crimes against humanity are a pretty serious business, and the international community are now beginning to take it very seriously, as they should, because without justice, no one is safe. It takes courage to go against individuals of power, and Hitchins has put himself squarely in the face of a man with considerable clout, who has a lot to answer for. What is mind boggling is that there should be enough evidence out there, and enough witnesses, particularly in regards to the secret meetings between Nixon and the South Vietnamese, stalling the peace negotiations, and prolonging that terrible war for another four years, costing thousands of American lives, not to mention a plethora of innocent deaths; add to the illegal bombings of Cambodia and Laos, and the extermination of literally thousands of civilians, instigated without congressional approval, should be enough to at least begin arraignment proceedings, though Kissinger manages to wriggle out of the legal spotlight, because I suspect, opening this particular can of worms would implicate more people, thus bringing shame upon everything good the United States stands for. If anything, Hitchens book presents a compelling case to begin arraignment proceedings against a man who clearly has many things to hide.
In this little book, Hitchens outlines several areas on the international stage where Henry Kissinger had influence or direct involvement with terrible crimes, including political assassination, massive genocide, illegal regime change, and war crimes that match, in terms of scope, the Nazi atrocities of WW II. In fact, it has reached a point where Kissinger refuses to enter certain countries for fear of being detained and arrested.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Midway through Hitchens' examination of Kissinger there is little doubt left that were Kissinger not a US citizen, he would surely be subject to the same level of examination by the UN, the ICC and over a dozens nations whose citizens his policy advising have affected. Only his immunity provided by the most powerful nation in the world keeps him out of prison.
Hitchens takes the same approach throughout every chapter, contrasting the different versions of history as presented by DOD documents obtained by the FOA and those given by Nixon, Kissinger and US military officials themselves. The process is thorough and extremely reliable, considering that most of the documentation of Kissinger's deadly foreign policy dealings from Cambodia to Chile are provided by the same department that allowed these atrocities to happen 30 years ago.
Reading about all the backpedaling and evasion of accountability on Kissinger's part throughout the years is enough reason to buy this book.
The only word of warning I would give is that this is not a book for newcomers to the world of US foreign policy in the 1970s. Be prepared for some serious time/subject leaps, especially in the sections on Bangladesh and E. Timor, due in part to Hitchens' quick and assuming writing style and in part to the fact that this stuff never exactly gets talked about in your "average" history lesson. Read your history first and then come to this book.
The only question I had left at the end is where Hitchens got the picture for the cover.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Trial of Henry Kissinger
A well-documented, most credible book. Kissinger emerges as an evil influence, with unrestricted power ceded to him by a weak president. Read more
Published on April 22 2012 by nicholas
3.0 out of 5 stars No Laws No War Criminals - It Is That Simple
What is a "war criminal"? For all practical purposes it means you lost so you are the criminal, we won we bring peace and freedom. Read more
Published on April 3 2004 by J. E. Robinson
4.0 out of 5 stars Enough for an arraignment...
In an ideal democratic society, no one is above the law. Crimes against humanity are a pretty serious business, and the international community are now beginning to take it very... Read more
Published on March 23 2004 by C. Middleton
5.0 out of 5 stars Searing Indictment Of Henry Kissinger For War Crimes!
One of the most memorable scenes in the original "Godfather' movie was a sequence in which Michael (played by Al Pacino), now firmly insinuated in the evil machinations of the... Read more
Published on March 19 2004 by Barron Laycock
5.0 out of 5 stars Dont be fooled by my rating...
In totality this book is excellent and covers aphoristically within small bounds many grounds with detailed/ specific support and reference to appropriate documents. Read more
Published on Feb. 4 2004 by "aphorise"
4.0 out of 5 stars All Roads Lead to Henry
I find that few authors are as fun to read as this one when it comes to non-fiction. Regardless if you agree or disagree with Hitchens, he always provides an interesting book that... Read more
Published on Dec 7 2003 by John G. Hilliard
2.0 out of 5 stars Lay off Kissinger, its to easy to fault him
Hitchens, known for great works like 'Cyprus' and his speech "is Islam the enemy"? has finally corssed the line with this slanderous not worthwhile, unnecesary book. Read more
Published on Sept. 14 2003 by Seth J. Frantzman
2.0 out of 5 stars Missing the Larger Issues
Christopher Hitchens' slender indictment of former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Henry A. Read more
Published on July 8 2003 by John Whitehead
5.0 out of 5 stars awesome book!
If you're into topics like this, then this is by far a must-read! Personally, I always liked Henry Kissinger a lot and think he was a superstar in the foreign policy. Read more
Published on May 21 2003 by aj
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