After nearly two decades of life underground as a television pundit, author, lobbyist and respected elder statesman, notorious war criminal Dr. Henry Kissinger recently surfaced to face charges for his instrumental role in the deaths and injuries of several million Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians and others.
One of the first of a generation of aging mass murderers to surrender to moral authority and historical justice, Kissinger negotiated his surrender with representatives of his Southeast Asian victims and former members of the U.S. antiwar movement.
While he could at the very least be rightfully hung from the nearest lamp post for his actions, Kissinger is expected to receive a reduced sentence of life imprisonment clearing away still functioning landmines and unexploded munitions in the former South Vietnam. He faces other charges as well, including for his role in the destabilization and overthrow of the Chilean government in 1973, and the subsequent torture and murder of some 2,000 innocent people by the U.S.-financed dictatorship.
Kissinger told reporters he had suffered years of depression contemplating the millions of widows and orphans caused by the U.S. war and the terrible ecological destruction visited on the land by chemical defoliants, bombing and other destructive actions of the U.S. war machine. He said he was “learning to live with openness and truth, rather than shame and hiddenness,” and that he now was ready to “accept any responsibility” for his actions in causing such monumental destruction of life.
“Those who know me,” Kissinger’s prepared statement said, “and those who reflect on my life as an apparently exemplary intellectual, university professor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, will wonder how someone like myself could commit such outrageous acts, not only illegal but thoroughly immoral, hideous crimes against humanity like the systematic genocide of some two million Vietnamese people, and the conscious, official lies I helped to perpetrate to cover up my and others’ wrongdoing.
“The answer is in the deep and violent social crisis the Vietnam War both reflected and brought about. At that time, the law was being broken everywhere; students refused to go to class, insisting on protesting the war; blacks refused to observe segregation laws; young men refused to report for military duty and soldiers refused to fight, even going so far as to mutiny and to kill their officers.
“Some people were so hysterical about government policies that they planted bombs, robbed banks, and committed other acts of mayhem in society. At the time, I felt I had to do anything and everything to preserve the power of American corporate capital and its military machine, even if it meant killing countless millions of people, despoiling entire countries, overthrowing sovereign nations, and violating international laws.
“I want to emphasize,” Kissinger’s statement continued, “that the illegal and immoral acts I committed arose not only from a desire for personal power and the immense wealth I have accumulated, but from a philosophical and political commitment to defend the American Empire by any means necessary. Although at the time my actions seemed the correct course, in light of the worsening conditions of life internationally because of what I and others like me both did and did not do, I realize that my acts were naive, unthinking, and ultimately utterly evil.
“I deeply regret all the pain I have caused others while I have supped with the lords of the world. All I want to do now is to make amends, digging up live bombs in the countries I helped destroy, wrapped in this two-hundred-pound barbed chain I am wearing.” Kissinger ended his press conference by calling on other fugitives such as Richard Nixon, William Westmoreland and Robert S. McNamara to “come in from the cold once and for all.”
Speaking for the families of Kissinger’s Vietnamese victims, Nguyen Van Troi told a captivated courtroom that he could never forgive the former Secretary of State. “I remember being proud of my father and mother for defending our villages against the American invaders who came to bomb and burn it during the period when Mr. Kissinger was negotiating with the North Vietnamese while stepping up the war in the south. My mother was raped and murdered, my father tortured and thrown from a helicopter, his remains never recovered.
“Mr. Kissinger cannot evade responsibility for the consequences of his acts by citing generalized lawlessness or his commitment to certain political and philosophical beliefs. Two decades ago, Mr. Kissinger was a leader of an armed criminal gang. My parents were humble farmers. When Kissinger and his ilk invaded our village, my parents answered the call. Kissinger’s friends killed them and I and my brothers and sisters have been without parents ever since, living with the open wound of his unresolved crimes.”
See Fifth Estate’s Vietnam Resource Page.