Henry Kissinger, who coddled state-sponsored terrorists, has been put in charge of the September 11 terrorism investigation. A proven liar has been assigned the task of finding the truth. President George W. Bush's naming of Kissinger to head a supposedly independent commission to investigate the nightmarish attacks of September 11 is a sick, black-is-white, war-is-peace joke--a cruel insult to the memory of those killed on 9/11 and an affront to any American who believes the public deserves a full accounting of government actions or lack thereof.
Consider the record.
Vietnam. Kissinger assisted a GOP plot to undermine the 1968 Paris peace talks to help Richard Nixon's presidential campaign. Once in office, Nixon named Kissinger his National Security Adviser, later appointing him Secretary of State. As co-architect of Nixon's war in Vietnam, Kissinger oversaw the secret bombing of Cambodia, an arguably illegal operation estimated to have claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians.
Bangladesh. In 1971 Pakistani Gen. Yahya Khan, armed with US weaponry, overthrew a democratically elected government in an action that led to a massive civilian bloodbath. Hundreds of thousands were killed. Kissinger blocked US condemnation of Khan. Instead, he noted Khan's "delicacy and tact."
Chile. In the early 1970s Kissinger oversaw the CIA's covert campaign that assisted coup-plotters, some of whom eventually ousted the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende and installed the murderous military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. On June 8, 1976, at the height of Pinochet's repression, Kissinger had a meeting with Pinochet and behind closed doors told him that "we are sympathetic to what you are trying to do here," according to minutes of the session (quoted in Peter Kornbluh's forthcoming book The Pinochet File).
East Timor. In 1975 President Gerald Ford and Kissinger, still Secretary of State, offered advance approval of Indonesia's brutal invasion of East Timor, which took the lives of tens of thousands of East Timorese. For years afterward, Kissinger denied that the subject ever came up during the December 6, 1975, meeting he and Ford held with General Suharto, Indonesia's military ruler, in Jakarta. But a classified US cable obtained by the National Security Archive shows otherwise. It states that Suharto asked for "understanding if we deem it necessary to take rapid or drastic action" in East Timor. Ford said, "We will understand and will not press you on the issue. We understand the problem you have and the intentions you have." The next day, Suharto struck East Timor.
Argentina. In 1976, as a fascistic and anti-Semitic military junta was beginning its "dirty war" against supposed subversives--between 9,000 and 30,000 people would be "disappeared" by the military over the next seven years--Argentina's foreign minister met with Kissinger and received what he believed was tacit encouragement for his government's violent efforts. According to a US cable released earlier this year, the foreign minister was convinced after his chat with Kissinger that the United States wanted the Argentine terror campaign to end soon--but not that Washington was dead-set against it. The cable said the minister left his meeting with Kissinger "euphoric." Two years later, Kissinger, then a private citizen, traveled to Buenos Aires as the guest of dictator Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla and praised the junta for having done, as one cable put it, "an outstanding job in wiping out terrorist forces." As Raul Castro, the US ambassador to Argentina, noted at the time in a message to the State Department, "My only concern is that Kissinger's repeated high praise for Argentina's action in wiping out terrorism...may have gone to some considerable extent to his hosts' heads.... There is some danger that Argentines may use Kissinger's laudatory statements as justification for hardening their human rights stance."
Appropriately, Kissinger is a man on the run for his past misdeeds. In the United States, the family of Chilean Gen. Rene Schneider sued Kissinger last year. Schneider was shot on October 22, 1970, by would-be coup-makers working with CIA operatives. These CIA assets were part of a secret plan authorized by Nixon--and supervised by Kissinger--to foment a coup before Allende, a Socialist, could be inaugurated as president. Schneider, a constitutionalist who opposed a coup, died three days later. This secret CIA program in Chile--dubbed "Track Two"--paid Schneider's assassins $35,000.
In another lawsuit, filed in November, eleven Chilean human rights victims--including relatives of people murdered after Pinochet's coup--claimed Kissinger knowingly provided practical assistance and encouragement to the Pinochet regime. Kissinger's co-defendant in the case is Michael Townley, an American-born Chilean agent who was a leading international terrorist in the mid-1970s. In his most notorious operation, Townley in 1976 planted a car bomb that killed Orlando Letelier, Allende's ambassador to the United States, and Ronni Moffitt, Letelier's colleague, on Washington's embassy row.
Kissinger has more trouble than these lawsuits. The Chilean Supreme Court sent the State Department questions for him about the death of Charles Horman, a US journalist killed during the 1973 coup in Chile. The Spanish judge who requested the 1998 arrest of Pinochet in Britain has declared that he wants to question Kissinger as a witness in his inquiry into crimes against humanity committed by Pinochet and other Latin American dictators. In France a judge probing the disappearance of five French citizens in Chile during the Pinochet years wants to talk to Kissinger. This past May he sent police to a Paris hotel where Kissinger was staying in an attempt to serve him questions. In February Kissinger canceled a trip to Brazil, where he was to be awarded a medal by President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. His would-be hosts said he had pulled out to avoid protests by human rights groups.
But such problems appear to be of no concern to Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, who share Kissinger's obsession with secrecy. A leaks-obsessed Kissinger, when he served as Nixon's National Security Adviser, wiretapped his own staff. (One of his targets, Morton Halperin, sued and eventually won an apology.) And when he left office, Kissinger took tens of thousands of pages of documents--created by government employees on government time--and treated them as his personal records, using them for his own memoirs and keeping the material for years from the prying eyes of historians and journalists.
Remember, the White House was never keen on setting up an independent commission that would answer to the public. Cheney at one point reportedly intervened to block a compromise, painstakingly worked out in Congress, regarding the composition and rules of the commission. With Kissinger in control, the secret-keepers of the White House--who already have succeeded in preventing the House and Senate intelligence committee investigations of 9/11 from releasing embarrassing information--will have little to fear from the commission.
When Kissinger hit the media circuit after being named by Bush, he encountered no tough questions and only a few references to his business dealings and potential conflicts of interest, which he dismissed in typically disingenuous fashion. "If there are any clients that are involved in this investigation," said Kissinger, now a consultant to transnational corporations, "I would certainly sever my relationship with them. But I cannot conceive there will be any." He's probably right; his corporate clientele--firms that pay him to ease them into deals overseas--are not likely to turn up in Al Qaeda financial records. But with his various business enterprises, Kissinger has a keen personal interest in maintaining good ties with the governments of other nations, such as the Saudi petrocracy. He will think twice--if that--before steering the commission in a direction that could annoy foreign leaders. The conflict involves not his clients but Kissinger himself.
For many in the world, Kissinger is a symbol of US arrogance and the misuse of American might. He believes that US power should be used for "credibility" and geopolitical advantage rather than to advance human rights and democratic transparency. He is more interested in concealing than in revealing. He is not a truth-seeker. Indeed, he has prevaricated about his own actions and tried to limit access to government information. He should be the target of subpoenas, not one who issues them.
With Kissinger's appointment, Bush has rendered the independent commission a sham. Democrats should have immediately announced they would refuse to fill their allotted five slots. But after Bush picked Kissinger, the Democrats tapped former Democratic Senator George Mitchell to be vice chairman of the panel, signaling that Kissinger was fine by them. The public would be better served and the victims of 9/11 better honored by no commission rather than one headed by Kissinger.