I just watched The Trials Of Henry Kissinger. It’s based in part on Christopher Hitchens’ book The Trial of Henry Kissinger. It was published back in 2001, before Hitchens became just like Kissinger. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Hitchens ever forgave Kissinger. That was the interesting thing about Hitchens: he never went back on what he thought before. So a Kissinger in power in 2003 was just fine with Hitchens, even while it was clear as day that the actual Henry Kissinger of 1973 was a war criminal. Luckily, the film doesn’t dwell too much on Hitchens and provides Kissinger with a much more fair treatment than he deserves.
What most struck me in the film was that in 1968, the Johnson administration was on the verge of ending the Vietnam War. Kissinger was acting as a double agent — leaking information he gained from his position in the Johnson campaign to the Nixon campaign. And then Nixon used that information to convince South Vietnamese President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu to reject the deal. Had the deal held, Hubert Humphrey might have been elected president. But that’s not really what’s important. What’s important is that the war could have been over then. Instead, it went on for another five years.
Half of the Americans who died in the Viewnam War did so after that date. Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese died after that date. And for what? So that Richard Nixon could be president? So that Henry Kissinger could further his career? Regardless of the way that you see it, there is no excuse for sabotaging the peace process. To me, it qualifies as treason. It makes the Watergate break-in sound like a trivial matter — even if you view it in its widest possible context. But this kind of thing seems to be acceptable now. Just look at the Republican letter to Iran that was meant to destroy the nuclear deal. It seems that among conservatives, their commitment is to gaining power and not the country itself.
Regardless, five years after Kissinger worked to destroy the peace deal in the Viewnam War, he brokered his own. He even got the Nobel Peace Prize. But I learned something new: the deal he worked out was almost identical to the 1968 deal he helped to derail. That’s really something. I wonder how people like that live with themselves. Is it really just that people who operate at that level are all psychopaths? Because that’s what it seems like.
There’s no indication that Kissinger or Nixon or anyone else actually thought that the Viewnam War was winnable. It was just a pawn in their little game. They were willing to kill hundreds of thousands of people on the theory that they could convince the American people that they had the secret to winning that war. I don’t think much of the American people, but I don’t think they would have gone for Nixon’s deal if he had been honest about it. There were two options. The first was that the war ends and that was that. The second was that the war continues on and we just hope for the best. I think the American people would have gone overwhelmingly for the first option.
Henry Kissinger is very old. Even if he weren’t, there would never have been any justice. But it would be right if he spent what little time he had left rotting in a prison cell. But even that is a fantasy. We’ll be lucky if after his death he gets anything but hagiography.