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The Trial of Henry Kissinger

by Christopher Hitchens

ISBN 1859843980 / 9781859843987 / 1-85984-398-0
Publisher Verso
Language English
Edition Softcover
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Book summary

Christopher Hitchens doesn't mince words when it comes to The Trial of Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state and national-security advisor: in his view, Kissinger deserves vigorous prosecution "for war crimes, for crimes against humanity, and for offences against common or customary or international law, including conspiracy to commit murder, kidnap, and torture." The Trial of Henry Kissinger is a polemical masterpiece; even readers who don't agree that its target is an emanation of "official evil" will appreciate the verve and style brought to Hitchens's fiery brief. ("A good liar must have a good memory: Kissinger is a stupendous liar with a remarkable memory.")

The book is best understood as a document of prosecution--both because Hitchens limits his critique to what he believes might stand up in an international court of law following precedents set at Nuremberg and elsewhere, and also because his treatment of Kissinger is far from even handed. The charges themselves are astonishing, as they link Kissinger to war casualties in Vietnam, massacres in Bangladesh and Timor, and assassinations in Chile, Cyprus, and Washington, DC. After reading this book, one wants very badly to hear a full response from the defendant. Hitchens, a writer for Vanity Fair and The Nation, is a man of the Left, though he has a history of skewering both Democrats (he is the author of a provocative book on the Clintons, No One Left to Lie To) as well as Republicans (like Kissinger).

At the root of this latest effort is moral outrage, and a call for Americans, of all people, not to ignore Kissinger's record:

They can either persist in averting their gaze from the egregious impunity enjoyed by a notorious war criminal and lawbreaker, or they can become seized by the exalted standards to which they continually hold everyone else... If the courts and lawyers of this country will not do their duty, we shall watch as the victims and survivors of this man pursue justice and vindication in their own dignified and painstaking way, and at their own expense, and we shall be put to shame.
--John J Miller [via]