Henry Kissinger: War Criminal or Old-Fashioned Murderer?

Incredibly, Henry Kissinger—the man who rivals Pol Pot for the dubious honor of being the person responsible for the death of the largest number of innocent people in South East Asia (and far surpasses Pol Pot in criminality when one factors in Kissinger's various levels of responsibility for wholesale slaughter and repression in other parts of the world)—still wields significant power in the United States; but his role as eager facilitator of mass murder, totalitarian repression and other atrocities is never discussed in polite society. Although Kissinger is a frequent guest on Nightline, where he is treated as a harmless and venerable elder statesman, his friend Ted Koppel has never brought up the topic of Kissinger's responsibility for the horrifying deaths of so many in Asia, Latin America and other areas of the world. It is safe to assume that Koppel has no intention of doing so in the future.

In fact, Kissinger's continuing influence over what the US government does, and what is reported about what the government does, can clearly be seen is a relatively recent media event: Kissinger's significant behind-the-scene role in effecting CNN's retraction of the "Tailwind" story.

CNN's ostensible justification for the retraction is laid out in the compromise-ridden Abrams/Kohler Report. Although the Tailwind story's producers, April Oliver and Jack Smith, had ample evidence to draw the conclusions that they did (see the Oliver/Smith Rebuttal to the A/K Report), CNN quickly caved when the Pentagon and Kissinger, whose role in the indiscriminate mass killings in South East Asia is a well-known but never-mentioned (by the mainstream media) fact, both objected to the story. "Tailwind" alleged further U.S. atrocities in SE Asia during Kissinger's reign, specifically the use of poison gas during an illegal U.S. black operation in Laos. (Imagine the U.S. media retracting a story about an atrocity committed by Saddam Huessein because Saddam claimed it never happened.)

When the usual right wing flacks, predictably, went ballistic over the story, CNN quickly decided on a strategy of appeasement and hired Floyd Abrams to work along with David Kohler—who, as CNN's legal advisor, had already given Smith and Oliver his advice that the Tailwind story was, as prepared for broadcast, legally defensible—to produce a report that would absolve CNN's upper-management of any wrong-doing. That is precisely what their report did. The A/K report systematically ignored the best, strongest, and most direct evidence that Oliver and Smith had amassed during the course of their investigation and condemned the Tailwind story by adhering to a simple strategy: it examined only the weaker, subsidiary evidence and disingenuously implied that this weaker evidence was in fact the most significant evidence the producers had found. In short, Abrams and Kohler set up a straw man, then knocked it down.

But neither Kohler nor CNN ever explained what had changed, what new evidence had come to light, to effect Kohler's 180-degree turn-around. How, in two short weeks, did the evidence that Smith and Oliver had compiled go, in Kohler's mind, from justifiable and responsible to insufficient and insupportable? This is a question that the A/K report does not even pose, much less answer.

CNN has, however, said what allegedly was not a factor: CNN adamantly denies that the unprecedentedly quick retraction had anything to do with the pressure applied by Kissinger, Colin Powell and other powerful government people —thus leaving a vacuum at the center of the rationale for this whole embarrassing and unnecessary reversal. CNN would much rather leave this incident hanging with no explanation than admit it left two producers to twist in the wind because of management's cowardice in the face of pressure from powerful government-connected people. And CNN would evidently much rather be in the good graces of the government than defend it's dubious claims to any kind of journalistic integrity.

The A/K report does not claim that new evidence had come to light to contradict what Smith and Oliver reported; rather, the report, and it's co-author David Kohler, claim that the very evidence Kohler had found compelling and legally defensible was now somehow neither, even though that evidence had not changed. CNN's way of dealing with this seeming paradox was to imply Abram's sole authorship of the report: the CNN webpage where the full text of the A/K Report resides makes no mention of Kohler's name or of his role in the writing and preparing of the report. There was no reversal, CNN implies, because the evidence was being looked at by a different person who reached a different conclusion about the worthiness of that evidence. Kohler's role in the A/K report went down the memory hole.

CNN's quick retraction and summary firing of producers Oliver and Smith sent an unmistakeable message to anyone who might want to follow up on this story: approaching this issue, even if in good faith (and even the compromised Abrams/Kohler Report concludes that Oliver and Smith acted responsibly and in good faith), will cost you your job and your good name. When the rest of the mainstream media gleefully jumped on the bandwagon to condemn CNN and Oliver and Smith, it became clear that nobody in the mainstream media was going to follow up on this story despite the convincing preliminary case made in the Tailwind report, and despite the many promising leads that have yet to be pursued. Needless to say, CNN's summary firing of Smith and Oliver pulled the rug out from under them: they had been working on a follow-up to the original Tailwind story when CNN gave them the shiv. CNN has ensured that that story will probably never be told.

The media, once again, fell all over itself to become apologists for the Pentagon and the National Security state—some going so far as to claim that CNN admitted the story was "false", when in fact, CNN's retraction, while pusillanimous and abject, went no further than to say that story "could not be supported".

It should be noted that Smith and Oliver repeatedly asked to interview Kissinger for the story; Kissinger repeatedly refused. Clearly, Kissinger would rather work his magic behind the scenes and not be forced to answer questions about his role in the affair. Amazingly, many in the mainstream media viewed Kissinger's outrage at the Tailwind story as evidence that the Tailwind story was not true.

See also Alexander Cockburn's article on Kissinger's role in the affair: The Press Devours Its Own

A footnote: Peter Arnett, the reporter on the Tailwind story, attempted to distance himself from it as the right wing's attack on the story turned the heat was up. As the rest of the mainstream media jumped on the attack bandwagon, Arnett made the rounds of news sources claiming he was only the talking head for the story, and had little, if anything, to do with its content. He apologized for the story, as required by the higher-ups at CNN, and publicly agreed with CNN management's position that the story was fundementally flawed and deserved to be retracted.

A year later, Arnett, a veteran war correspondent and the only US-based reporter to attempt to report on the effect the American bombing during the Gulf war was having on the Iraqi populace (for which he was villified by the right, including many right-leaning CNN employees—many of whom had been gunning for him ever since) was unceremoniously fired by CNN. (CNN's coverage of the Gulf War, it should be noted, was saved from being as rah-rah jingoistic as all the other networks' almost exclusively by Arnett's reporting from Baghdad. Otherwise, CNN unquestioningly submitted to the military's censoring of the war, unfailingly relayed the military's absurdly inflated claims regarding the woefully underperforming "smart bombs" (which rarely, if ever, hit the intended target), and hewed to the government's party line. CNN's Pentagon employees hated Arnett for reporting the truth about the indiscriminate carnage happening in Iraq as a result of "smart bombs" missing their supposedly military targets.)

Like a victim of the Stalinist show trials of the 1930s, Arnett's public admission of his "guilt" ultimately did not save him from being purged. Of course, in the US, "purging" may mean loss of job, loss of "credibility", loss of career prospects...but obviously not death, as it did to the victims of Stalin's terror. And while risking the loss of one's job and one's career prospects ought not to be taken lightly, still it is a sad commentary on the state of mainstream journalism that so few American journalists are willing to take that risk. One does not need to look back to Stalinist Russia to find examples of countries where crossing the establishment could and often does mean a death sentence—there are a multitide of examples of such countries today (many of them U.S. client states). But, again, it need not be pointed out that the U.S. itself is not one of them. One may be ostrasized, marginalized, and effectively silenced, but obviously not murdered. The personal risk is real for any journalist who steps out of line, but it is comparatively small.

Still, the courage of journalists such as April Oliver, Jack Smith, Robert Parry and Gary Webb deserves recognition. Gary Webb has been vindicated, and Oliver and Smith, I have no doubt, will be too, in time. Arnett's willingness to accomodate CNN's management did not save him: he was just as surely purged as Smith and Oliver, who courageously—and with good reason—stood by their excellent reporting on Tailwind.

Admitting that he loved Big Brother did Arnett no good; it merely delayed the whisper of the axe. Ultimately, nothing less than his complete purging was deemed acceptible as expiation for the "sins", both past and present, he had committed; and his attempts to stave off the inevitable look, in retrospect, sad and pathetic. Arnett's frantic damage-control was unable to re-gain for him the tenuous mainstream favor he lost simply for being involved with the Tailwind story; and his willingness to say whatever he was required to say to attempt to save his position at CNN has, understandably, not won him any friends among those who believe—and, I would say, believe rightly—that the Tailwind story deserved to be told and, when attacked, defended. It certainly lost him the sympathy of those who feel that journalistic integrity ought not to be so easily given up.

It has now been years since the Tailwind story was broadcast and, to my knowledge, it has not been followed up by anyone in the mainstream. With CNN's help, Kissinger, Powell, Reed Irvine and their ilk have effectively killed it off.

For further insight into what CNN thinks qualifies as "objectivity" when covering our government, see Alexander Cockburn's article on CNN's use of US PSYOPS operatives as interns at CNN's Atlanta news headquarters. (See FAIR's Action Alert here.) CNN's rah-rah stance on US troops during the Gulf war; CNN's sponsoring of the Clinton administration's propaganda seminar that attempted to set forth the reasons for (and only for, not against) initiating another bombing campaign against the people of Iraq; CNN's quick retraction of the well-researched and justifiable Tailwind story to accomodate the hurt feelings of the likes of Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, and right-wing flak-hack Reed Irvine (whose "Accuracy in Media" flak-tank came about as a result of the right's desperate attempt to deny the My Lai massacre and justify the US's illegal invasion of, and continued presence in, Vietnam)—you decide...is CNN a prime (though certainly not lone) example of an adjunct to government?

The latest obscenity:

It strikes me as outrageous, but sadly indicative of the pro-American bias of the media (even the media that claims, as CNN does, to be international and thus relatively free of such bias), that CNN would conduct the following interview with Henry Kissinger - and print the transcript on their web site - and yet never even allude to the fact that Kissinger has a long history of terrorist sponsorship that makes even Osama bin Laden's pale in comparison.

The death toll for which Kissinger bares responsibility in Indochina alone is in the millions, and Kissinger and Nixon were the ones who expanded that terror to neighboring states, where they, without warning or authorization, deliberately bombed populated areas. The killing in East Timor, for which Kissinger and Ford promised and delivered US backing, reached genocidal levels and, with the help of Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the UN, the Ford administration managed to keep the facts of that genocide off the world agenda, as Moynihan bragged in his memoir A Dangerous Place:

At the time of the Timor invasion, Moynihan was the United States's Ambassador to the U.N. He wrote in A Dangerous Place a couple of years later that the United States State Department desired things to turn out as they did in East Timor and that it was his responsibility to render the U.N. "utterly ineffective" in anything it might do, "and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success." He proudly declared this knowing that "some sixty thousand persons had been killed" by the Indonesian murderers in the first weeks of the invasion - a figure he was aware represented "10 percent of the population" of East Timor. Although the blood-thirsty Indonesian aggressors had, at that point (early 1976), yet to commit the majority of the murders they ultimately carried out - 140,000 more Timorese were fated to die at the hand of Suharto's murderers, armed and trained by the US - Moynihan, after running interference for the Indonesian killers, declared the world "for the moment stable". Kissinger, Moynihan and Ford made sure the money and armaments to carry out this genocide never ceased flowing from the US and its allies, a policy continued by every succeeding US administration, up to and including Clinton's.

The Taliban, Say Kissinger below, must "dismantle the structure of terrorism" as well as "give up this one man [bin Laden]"; the US, naturally, is obliged to do neither, and the man they ought to be giving up to the docks of an international court on crimes against humanity is instead living well and giving color commentary on terrorism, such as what follows, for CNN and the rest of the complicit mainstream media.

Kissinger: 'We can't tolerate this'

(CNN) -- Henry Kissinger, U.S. secretary of state and national security adviser during the Nixon administration, played a large role in U.S. policy during the latter part of the Vietnam War. He talked with CNN's Paula Zahn on Monday about last week's terrorist attacks on U.S. targetsand offered his perspective on the road ahead.

CNN: Let's start off with the latest development. We know that Pakistan's top spy and a former ambassador to Afghanistan have gone to the Taliban and issued a demand: Give us Osama bin Laden in the next three days or face military action. What's going to happen as a result of that demand?

KISSINGER: Well, I think it's an ultimatum, and if they refuse, there will certainly be military action. But I believe we have to go after the Taliban anyway. They've been supporting these terrorist activities all over the area and all over the world, and it isn't enough for them to give up one man, they have to dismantle the structure of terrorism.

CNN: Do you have any confidence that someone can accomplish that? I think Madeleine Albright in the last hour said it's like cutting off the head of a snake and having all these other little parts trail behind.

KISSINGER: Well, in part, that is correct. But these groups require a base, they require money, they require organization, and if we can get them on the run and if they have to spend all their energy surviving, they can't plan these meticulously prepared attacks that we saw in New York and in Washington. And it isn't only Afghanistan, there are countries like Syria that have bases, Sudan, some are probably in Algeria, and we have to put governments on notice that if they extend safe havens to terrorists, they will run the risks that terrorists do.

CNN: So are you telling me this morning that the United States and its allies might find themselves in the position of attacking Syria and perhaps Iraq?

KISSINGER: No, I don't think we have to attack Syria because Syria will close down these camps if they are brought under enough pressure. Iraq, I would be open-minded on. If they have ties to any of these terrorist networks, they should be attacked.

CNN: Let's explore further the impact of Pakistan, now offering its support to the United States in exchange for retiring $30 billion worth of debt and some other things they want taken care of by the United States. There are folks like the Northern Alliance, the opposition front to the Taliban, that says don't trust Pakistan. Do you trust Pakistan?

KISSINGER: I don't know. I would judge countries by their performance now, not by their words. The American objective has to be to break up these terrorist organizations. I'm not saying that all had to be done with military force; for example, there could be a ban on travel to any country that has safe haven for terrorists, added to economic pressures. But in the end these terrorist groups must have training bases; they prepare these things at great leisure, and it is dangerous for all of us, suicidal, to let them get organized, hit us, then take one retaliatory blow and come back two or three years later with another disruptive, murderous attack.

CNN: So while the Bush administration is exploring military options, it is working around the clock to build a number of different kinds of coalitions. Where do you think Russia is in all this?

KISSINGER: Well, Russia is in a very curious position, and I hope some of the reports that I have read aren't true, because no country has been -- I was in Russia in July and talked to many of their leading people. And their sense was of the danger of fundamentalists and terrorists; of course, they were thinking in part of Chechnya. Now they seem to be holding back a little bit, vis-a-vis Afghanistan because they must have some pleasure in watching the Americans get involved in Afghanistan. But at the end of the day, all these countries have to understand that they are targets even before we are; we're just a symbol. When they went after us, it was a symbol to everybody else that if even America can be attacked, what chance do you people have? And that's why we need a broad coalition. But we cannot be made dependent on whether everybody agrees.

CNN: Secretary of State Colin Powell mentioned that an executive order that was put into place in 1976 on President Ford's watch that forbids assassinations is under review. If that is lifted, and if the United States and its allies can specifically target Osama bin Laden, who the president says is the prime suspect, how will that change the efforts in the months to come?

KISSINGER: Not much. We're not good at this. If this assassination order was interpreted that we couldn't bomb a building in which Osama is located, then it will free us for that sort of attack, but hiring assassins that go after individuals is not something Americans are very good at. I support whatever Secretary Powell proposed, and altogether, I'm impressed by the decisiveness of the administration. So I don't think that will be the key element. The key element will be: one, whether we can generate a consensus; secondly, whether we will keep going after our initial, hopefully, success, because this is going to be a long effort as the president has said.

CNN: You said that, and Sunday we heard a number of cabinet secretaries repeat that message. What is it that the American public should be prepared for? I heard someone say a 10-year war.

KISSINGER: Well, it could be a prolonged war, but its intensity will diminish, and after a while it will be a mopping-up operation. And what we have to remember is, if we don't do it, we will remain permanently vulnerable. People who rely on us and others even who don't rely on us are going to be under an even greater threat than we are, and that means that the world will be dominated by terrorists, and we can't tolerate this.

CNN: One last question for you: Do you think U.S. intelligence knows where Osama bin Laden is today as we speak?

KISSINGER: Well, they probably don't know the street number, but they probably have a general idea of the region where he's located. And we ought to give some credit to our intelligence services because they've been under tremendous pressure from our domestic institutions, and they've had a tough job.

CNN: So you are not willing to say U.S. intelligence has failed America?

KISSINGER: No. I think U.S. intelligence has been -- if you look at one investigation after another, they have done as good a job as they could under the circumstances.

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Further crimes and atrocities for which Henry Kissinger is responsible:

More evidence to come...