Manhattan’s Milosevic

How You Can Do What the Government Won’t: Arrest Henry Kissinger

Another country could order him brought to trial on their soil. "Under the extradition laws, we do not have any exceptions for American nationals," argues Alfred Rubin, a professor of international law at Tufts University. "The U.S. has extradition treaties with many countries, including Spain, and we do not except American nationals from their operation. If any countries in Europe or elsewhere would like to extradite Henry Kissinger, they can bring a case right now in an American court—and I'll bet you that Henry Kissinger knows all about that."

Finally, it is conceivable that the widow of Charles Horman, the young journalist who was killed in the Pinochet coup and was made famous by the film Missing, could bring a suit under the civil rights statutes on grounds that Kissinger and others conspired to deprive her husband of his rights. Since the conspiracy took place in the U.S., the suit might have standing in federal court.

Kissinger also might be prosecuted under the Alien Tort Claims Act. There has been considerable talk among lawyers about bringing such a suit on behalf of Chilean parties. Here the prospects are dicey, save for an opening granted by the courts to sue CIA officials for torture in Guatemala. In another case, lawyers argued in a Miami federal court that contra leaders conspired in Miami to kill Ben Linder, a young American engineer in Nicaragua.

The Chilean judge sitting on a case against Pinochet is asking Kissinger to come as a witness. Georgia Democratic representative Cynthia McKinney recently wrote Secretary of State Colin Powell, asking for help in persuading Kissinger to take the stand. She said Milosevic's arrest should allow the public to concentrate on Kissinger now; if she desires, McKinney is in the position to open a forum on the subject.

But heading to Chile to testify would place Dr. K. in the position of discussing—in public and under oath—decisions he'd just as soon forget. Still, Horman's widow thinks he should do what's right. "I don't see why Henry Kissinger would not want to answer the questions," says Joyce Horman. "He's not a defendant in our case; he's a witness. Considering that he has said several times that he has no knowledge of the death of Charles Horman, he should have no reason not to answer these questions."


One of the strongest calls for an investigation into Kissinger stems from the violence in East Timor, where he stands accused of supporting Indonesia's 1975 bloody occupation of the recently freed Portuguese colony. In 1999 East Timor once again exploded into violence, which U.S. troops attempted to quell. A subsequent human rights commission proposed that the UN itself set up a war crimes tribunal.

The U.S.-based East Timor Action Network would like the tribunal to extend back to the original invasion. It could become a tool to find out what actually happened, and a mechanism for trying Kissinger. "I believe a criminal case can be made against him," says John Miller, a spokesman for the group. "One country invaded another. He aided and abetted genocide. He provided a political go-ahead and was instrumental in continuing the flow of U.S. weapons." As for supporting a citizen's arrest, Miller says that would depend on how it was done. "We are not into assaulting people," he says. "It would be mostly as a way of furthering public education."

No doubt Kissinger is a disappearing symbol of the Cold War in general and Indochina specifically. During a recent forum sponsored by Harper's magazine at the National Press Club in Washington, a group including journalists and former government professionals questioned why Kissinger should be singled out when an entire administration ought to take the blame.

"These were not unique actions," said Scott Armstrong, whose National Security Archive has consistently dug up and published America's dirty laundry. "They were not covert. They were not Oliver North-type government out of control. These were deliberate manipulations of the levers of power. And Henry Kissinger was—is—very much in the loop. He defined the loop. And [Hitchens's] indictment is of an entire administration. And those who served with him, above him, across the Potomac, and even in Congress bear similar measures of responsibility."

In a Voice interview Noam Chomsky seconds that idea. "Kissinger observes, correctly, that he was conducting the foreign policy of the U.S.," he says. "The U.S. is a powerful state, overwhelmingly powerful, in fact. It follows that its leadership can make mistakes, but it cannot commit crimes in the technical Orwellian sense. Only enemies, or those who are weak and defenseless, can commit crimes in the literal sense. Accordingly, it is inconceivable that there would be an effort to bring Kissinger to trial.

"And even if it were done, he could correctly plead selective prosecution," Chomsky adds. "After all, it was the Kennedy administration that escalated the war against South Vietnam from Latin America-style terror to outright aggression, and the Johnson administration that escalated the attack sharply, also extending it to the rest of Indochina."

Roger Morris, best known for his scathing biography of Bill Clinton, worked under Kissinger in the National Security Council during the Nixon era. At the Press Club forum, Morris said he personally worked on a covert effort (unknown to either the secretary of defense or state) to reach a peace agreement in Vietnam. "There was on the table in the early spring of 1970 a negotiated withdrawal of American forces by the end of 1970," he said. "That was interrupted by the dementia, not, alas, of Henry Kissinger, but of the man he worked for—Richard Nixon—and the ensuing Cambodian invasion. And you know the sequel: Several thousand Americans died in the years that followed as a result." He concluded, "Henry's transgressions would not have been possible without the active intellectual and substantive support of his aides."

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