on the problem of Henry Kissinger

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Posted by Lilly from D006202.N1.Vanderbilt.Edu ( on Wednesday, December 04, 2002 at 1:02AM :

This is something a man read at a debate I just attended after seeing the film that is mentioned. After the debate, I approached him & asked for a transcript of his response to one question - I really liked his response. It follows.
Does the film "Trials of Henry Kissinger" make the case?
by Bill Partridge, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University
December 3, 2002

It is an important question today. On November 27, 2002, Mr. Bush said, "Dr. Kissinger and I share the same commitments" as he appointed him to lead a commission of inquiry on the obvious capacity - nay - futility of our national security institutions.

It is important, but perhaps (I will suggest here) not the only NOR THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION.

The film is convincing... mainly with regard to Kissinger's proven record of lying to the people of the United States, and his almost sociopathic, egregiously self-interested commitment to violence.

He is the embodiment of the old adage: if the only tool you have is a hammer, all problems will be nails.

That Kissinger is a war criminal - that he should be tried as such - is true as far as it goes. IT DOESN'T GO FAR ENOUGH.

The film is also a manifestation of a profound set of Western values. There are many to be discussed, but I will mention only 2:

1.) First, we attribute to great men, leaders or individuals the responsibility for societal or systemic expressions of power, corruption, goodness, creativity, violence, etc. - we have a cultural need to personify evil, to locate it, to name it, to attribute it to persons - Hitler, Osama bin Laden, Pol Pot, Kissinger, Saddam Hussein.

We are extremely susceptible to this kind of psychological reductionism - these monsters are insane, sociopaths, killers. We are comfortable with *externalizing* blame, responsibility, explanation, to avoid confronting reality.

The film's approach echoes through our history, beginning with "Pilgrim's Progress," our deeply-seated belief in individualism, individual achievement, individual values... the heroic individual battling against unbelievers, struggling to scale Mount Zion. It is how we explain to ourselves both the evil and the angelic in the world.

2.) Secondly, the film glosses over the fact that ours, as an American philosopher William James observed, is a culture dominated by a deeply ingrained habit of going to war. Every day of my lifetime - for almost 60 years - the US has been engaged in war somewhere, either covertly or overtly.

The majority of people in this country have remained untouched by this.

The media don't report the incessant stream of assassination-repression-subversion-coups-battles raging over the globe - financed by US citizens, armed by US taxpayers, supplied by US manufacturers.

Why? Because vast numbers of US citizens are part of the war industry. In every state of the union, they are employed by government contracts to manufacture:
-combat boots
-field tents
-food (rations plus those "great" turkey dinners in Afghanistan)
-guns and bullets
-medical supplies, cars, officers clubs, golf courses, ships...
You make your own list.

And, don't forget, we have distributed in every state of the union army bases, airforce units, marine camps, national guard units - provisioned and supplied by legions of private sector contractors - a strategic dispersal of a vast budget to make many depend upon it.

Permanent war. It is a permanent money spinner - lots of jobs, mortgages, SUVs, kids college educations, donations to Salvation Army. It's where my tax dollars go...

So, can Kissinger be held accountable as a war criminal? Yes, but in our culture only in the way that Hitler and his officers were accountable at the Neuremberg Trials after WWII -
-not the corporations that manufactured the military machinery
-not the contractors that built the gas chambers
-not the bankers who financed it
-not the Germans who supplied the war industry their labor.

35 years ago we mobilized "Against the Crime of Silence" in the face of the Vietnam War. Americans eventually voted for its end, probably not because of the protests of their children, but they came to see the evidence broadcast into their homes every night - monks immolating themselves, children burning to death bathed in napalm, poverty-strickened women tortured and assassinated - each night at dinner time - proof that Kissinger and his fellow criminals were engaged in genocide.

Yet the war in Vietnam went on for 11 years. They won. They also won Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, East Timor, Panama, Granada, Angola. Was this because Kissinger is a war criminal, or because he is one of the finest - most brilliant is the word frequently used - expressions of US culture and society?

And this is the point: All this 60 years of violence is financed by US investors, banks, war manufacturers, all to the benefit and profit of millions employed in this industry. It is a constant bleeding of the national wealth, which in times like now becomes an arterial lesion.


People say that everything changed on that day. I submit to you that nothing has changed.

Just as millions of Americans started out believing - incredibly - that we could bomb every village of men, women and children in SE Asia that supported independence for Vietnam, today my fellow Americans, employed in the factories and field that supply the war, feverishly believe that they can bomb every house, every school, every storefront, church, every mud hut where boys and girls are taught to hate the US or, more precisely, hate US industry of State violence.

They do not see - and our leaders do not tell them - that today, worldwide, the hatred is born of a worsening poverty and exclusion so profound that
- every assassination produces another 10 heroes and martyrs to take their place,
-every demolished village germinates 100 fully-armed sons and daughters.

Like the Greek legend of Jason and the Argonauts... from each of the teeth of the dragon killed by Jason's violence sprang forth another dragon, so each blow multiplied the number of dragons twenty-fold, until Medea showed him how to stay the sword and make the dragons content.

The film reminds us: we need a moral equivalent to war criminals like Henry Kissinger. I hope and believe that one day a World Tribunal will try and lock up for life the Kissingers of our country. I believe like the human rights lawyer in the film said, it is inevitable. BUT IT WILL NOT BE ENOUGH.

Fundamentally we need a moral equivalent to the culture of violence in the United States.

Or like those demolished mud huts in the third world or Jason's slain dragon, there will arise 10 more like him to take Kissinger's place.

-- Lilly
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