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Friday, December 23, 2011

Hitchens on Kissinger

Not only is this post dedicated to Christopher Hitchens, it is dedicated to Deb, a good friend whose shared respect and admiration for his writings prompted me to endeavor to read his long essays, arguably some of his most important works.  It would be impossible to thank him enough for these invaluable works; the best we can do is honor him by reading them.  They will at once open your eyes, make you question why what he reveals is not much more well known and piss you off to no end.  He would appreciate the latter very much.
Before we get to that though, I would like to share the BBC tribute to Hitch that aired shortly after his passing.

I'm not sure whether I'm going to do one of these each time I read one of his long exposes -- that is my intent -- but I'll share a link to a collection of the best of them (courtesy of The Daily Beast) so that you'll have them in case I fail to follow through.
This first installment is regarding the essay(s) Hitch wrote indicting Henry Kissinger as a war criminal for his hand in sabotaging the 1968 Paris Treaty talks and, therefore, extending the Viet Nam War, leading to the unnecessary deaths of thousands of U.S. troops and hundreds of thousands of human beings in total.  (Side note:  As a result of the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, Kissinger and Le Durc Tho were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which Tho refused.  Know this before you read Hitch's essay and make sure you have a pail handy to puke in)
The very short version is that Kissinger as a liaison for Richard Nixon, the Republican Nominee for President, secretly had meetings with the South Vietnamese government in the late summer and early fall of 1968, telling them that they could get a better deal in peace talks with them once Nixon was elected than they were currently getting with the Johnson administration or with a potential Humphrey administration -- private citizens undermining the peace negotiations between the U.S. Government and a foreign government.  Now, there's no guarantee the 1968 peace talks would have succeeded in ending the Vietnam War or that, if it had, the war wouldn't have restarted; but the terms of the 1973 Accords are practically identical to what was on the table in 1968.  So I and Hitchens would make the argument that if it succeeded in '73, it would have succeeded in '68.
So what did Nixon and Kissinger have to gain by doing this?  Obviously making the Johnson Administration and its heir apparent Humphrey Administration look inept and, therefore, giving the election to Nixon, only at a cost of thousands and thousands of lives, a small price to pay when you're right.  Right?

It will take you an hour or so to get through that first long essay but I couldn't encourage you more strongly to take the time to do so.  Have a glass of scotch in honor of Hitch while you do so, the time will pass quickly and you'll be ever so glad you did.
I'll leave you with the last two paragraphs of his essay regarding Kissinger and Viet Nam:

When the unpreventable collapse occurred in Cambodia and Vietnam, in April and May 1975, the cost was infinitely higher than it would have been seven years previously. These locust years ended as they had begun--with a display of bravado and deceit. On May 12, 1975, in the immediate aftermath of the Khmer Rouge seizure of power, Cambodian gunboats detained an American merchant vessel named the Mayaguez. The ship was stopped in international waters claimed by Cambodia and then taken to the Cambodian island of Koh Tang. In spite of reports that the crew had been released, Kissinger pressed for an immediate face-saving and "credibility"-enhancing strike. He persuaded President Gerald Ford, the untried and undistinguished successor to his deposed former boss, to send in the Marines and the Air Force. Out of a Marine force of 110, 18 were killed and 50 were wounded. Twenty-three Air Force men died in a crash. The United States used a 15,000-ton bomb on the island, the most powerful nonnuclear device that it possessed. Nobody has the figures for Cambodian deaths. The casualties were pointless, because the ship's company of the Mayaguez were nowhere on Koh Tang, having been released some hours earlier. A subsequent congressional inquiry found that Kissinger could have known of this by listening to Cambodian broadcasting or by paying attention to a third-party government that had been negotiating a deal for the restitution of the crew and the ship. It was not as if any Cambodians doubted, by that month of 1975, the willingness of the U.S. government to employ deadly force.
In Washington, D.C., there is a famous and hallowed memorial to the American dead of the Vietnam War. Known as the "Vietnam Veterans Memorial," it bears a name that is slightly misleading. I was present for the extremely affecting moment of its dedication in 1982 and noticed that the list of nearly 60,000 names is incised in the wall not by alphabet but by date. The first few names appear in 1959 and the last few in 1975. The more historically minded visitors can sometimes be heard to say that they didn't know the United States was engaged in Vietnam as early or as late as that. Nor was the public supposed to know. The first names are of the covert operatives, sent in by Colonel Edward Lansdale without congressional approval to support French colonialism. The last names are of those thrown away in the Mayaguez fiasco. It took Henry Kissinger to ensure that a war of atrocity, which he had helped to prolong, should end as furtively and ignominiously as it had begun.


Brent said...

I always love reading and listening to Hitchens. He expanded my way of looking at things.

deb said...

I finally had the chance to sit down and read this properly. Quite sickening, really. As well as the Nobel Peace Prize, Kissinger was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and an OBE knighthood. Just goes to show how meaningless such awards are.

Thanks for your concise summary of the long article, which I have started and got about half way through. I intend to finish it.

Hitch truly was fearless. So sad that his words have been cut short. What's that song, only the good die young?

Thanks also for the dedication. Much appreciated :)