Kissinger's Shadow Over the Council on Foreign Relations | The Nation


Kissinger's Shadow Over the Council on Foreign Relations

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The leadership of the Council on Foreign Relations has long maintained that a "church-state separation" divides the council from Foreign Affairs, but Maxwell's account turns that assertion on its head. By choosing to exert his influence through two close friends and business associates--Peter Peterson and Maurice Greenberg--Kissinger, Maxwell writes, "had chosen his messengers well." Both Peterson, as chair, and Greenberg, as honorary vice chair, possess gargantuan influence at the council and maintain an active interest in its affairs. On December 18, at the council's holiday staff party, Maxwell learned from Hoge and Peterson that Greenberg, who was not present, was indignant about his review of The Pinochet File. As Maxwell confided to his diary the following morning: "[Greenberg, according to Hoge] claimed KM [Maxwell] accused HK [Kissinger] of 'killing babies'--Jim told him [Greenberg] to read piece!" Maxwell was shaken by the holiday party, for it revealed to him for the first time the full dimensions of the "firestorm Kissinger had initiated."

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Scott Sherman
Scott Sherman (scottgsherman.com), a contributing writer to The Nation,  is at work on a book about the New York...

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Maxwell has brought the full range of his scholarly abilities to bear on "The Case of the Missing Letter," and the footnotes painstakingly delineate an interlocking web of connections between Kissinger, Peterson and Greenberg. The Kissinger-Peterson relationship began in the Nixon Administration, when Peterson was international economic adviser and later Secretary of Commerce, and carried over into civilian life: The Peterson-led Blackstone Group, according to its website, maintains a "strategic alliance" with Kissinger Associates to provide "financial advisory services to corporations seeking high-level strategic advice." Kissinger, likewise, is no stranger at Greenberg's AIG: In 1987 Greenberg appointed Kissinger chairman of AIG's international advisory group, where, according to Walter Isaacson's Kissinger: A Biography, he assisted the insurance giant with lucrative business deals in Argentina, Peru, Malaysia and South Korea.

In turn, Peterson and Greenberg were excellently positioned to assist Kissinger at the Council on Foreign Relations. Both men have been exceedingly generous to the institution--contributing, Maxwell notes, "more than $34 million between them directly in personal donations and indirectly, via the privately-held Blackstone Group in the case of Peterson, and, in the case of Greenberg, via the Starr Foundation, of which he is chairman." Signs of Greenberg's largesse are evident at the council's 68th Street headquarters: there is a Greenberg Reception Room, a Greenberg Chair and a Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies.

Greenberg and Peterson also have influence at Foreign Affairs magazine. Maxwell notes that both men have contributed to the endowment of the chair that Hoge holds as editor, which is named for...Peter Peterson.

On May 13 Maxwell submitted his letter of resignation to Hoge and to Richard Haass, the president of the council. The next day Hoge replied by e-mail and made this astonishing claim: "Your May 13 letter contains speculation about supposed pressures from Mr. Kissinger. As I have previously told you, Mr. Rogers is the only person involved with whom I have discussed this matter." Repeated efforts by The Nation to reach Hoge were unsuccessful: He did not return phone calls. Likewise, Kissinger, Peterson, Greenberg and Haass all declined to discuss Maxwell's allegations. Only William Rogers made himself available. Asked if Kissinger applied direct pressure on Hoge--or indirect pressure through Peterson and Greenberg--Rogers replied: "Not that I know of. I'm sure not. He would never be so tactless. I believe that he told me that he washed his hands of the whole thing."

Maxwell believes that an "official line" on the affair was soon hammered out by Hoge and Haass. At an all-staff meeting on June 15, in front of 200 people, Haass declared that the press accounts about Maxwell's departure were false; that Hoge, an "extraordinary editor," had made an "editorial judgment" to stop the exchange; and that a "church-state separation" existed between the council and Foreign Affairs. Less than an hour before the meeting, Maxwell was confidentially warned that Haass planned to address the controversy. Speaking in his own defense at the meeting, Maxwell, who left the council on July 1, told the staff, "I have had fifteen very happy years at the council. It seems obvious that I would not have resigned at this stage of my career unless I had very good reasons for doing so."

The departure of Maxwell, The Nation wrote in June, "raises questions about intellectual freedom at the council; about editorial independence at Foreign Affairs...and about Kissinger's and Rogers's influence" on the institution. Haass, who became president in 2003, has thus far neglected his responsibility to address these matters publicly. But privately he seems to possess a keen understanding of the emotionally charged issues that continue to swirl around Kissinger's Chile policy in the early 1970s. The morning after the holiday party, December 19, 2003, Maxwell ran into Haass at 8 am, when both men were arriving for work. As Maxwell soon confided to his diary: "Haass said: 'this is [an] issue that still gets under everyone's skin 30 years later!'"

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