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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Henry Kissinger
December 4, 2002
By Barbara O'Brien

Just when you thought George W. Bush couldn't get more outrageous, he appoints Henry Kissinger to head the "independent" September 11 investigation.

Julian Borger writes in The Guardian that Americans reacted to this appointment with "relief mixed with nostalgic affection," while Europeans were surprised to learn Kissinger was not dead or in jail.

I knew he was not dead or in jail. But to this American, having him back in government is like finding maggots in a sandwich.

Henry Kissinger: International Man of Mystery

Kissinger was Richard Nixon's national security advisor and, later, secretary of state for Nixon and Gerald Ford. He helped Nixon concentrate power in the White House by excluding Congress and professional diplomats from the conduct of foreign policy. He was a "lone ranger" of world affairs, traveling the globe, conducting secret meetings and covert operations with little oversight.

He scored some remarkable successes; for example, a secret trip to Beijing in 1971 paved the way for Nixon's famous visit to China in 1972. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 (shared with Le Duc Tho of North Vietnam) for the negotiations that eventually ended U.S. involvement in Vietnam. After the 1973 Middle East war Kissinger negotiated disengagement agreements that separated Israeli and Arab armies.

However, let's not forget that Kissinger and Nixon were responsible for widening the Vietnam War into Cambodia.

Let's not forget that Kissinger ordered the FBI to tap the telephones of subordinates on the staff of the National Security Council.

Let's not forget the covert actions that led to the overthrow of socialist President Salvador Allende of Chile and the ascension of the oppressive Augusto Pinochet.

Let's not forget East Timor. During a state visit to Jakarta in 1975, Kissinger gave a "green light" to the Indonesian dictator Suharto to invade East Timor. Less than a day after Kissinger and President Gerald Ford left Jakarta, Suharto's troops began their assault. According to Christopher Hitchens, a quarter of a million Timorese died as a result of the occupation by Indonesia.

Kissinger left government service at the end of the Ford Administration, but was called upon by Ronald Reagan in 1983 to head the National Bipartisan Commission on Central America, just in time for the Iran-Contra scheme. From 1984-1990 he served as a member of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.

Although there is no "smoking gun" evidence directly connecting Kissinger to Iran-Contra, Kissinger's long-time associate and protégé John Negroponte - now ambassador to the UN - was in the thick of it.

Kissinger is associated with the word "Realpolitik," which means politics or national policy governed by principles of power, expansion, and expediency rather than by ideals or ethics. It's a policy favored by powerful people interested in hanging on to their power. However, in the long run it does more harm than good.

"Previous Kissingerian forays into realpolitik have placed the US into some of history's ugliest footnotes: support for the intemperate Shah of Iran; the bombing of civilians in Vietnam and ultimate destabilization of Southeast Asia; kidnap, murder, assassination, and coup in Chile; the liquidation of hundreds of thousands of 'leftists' in Indonesia; a coup in Guatemala that led to four decades of mayhem and butchery; legally dubious escapades in Nicaragua; complicity in the slaughter of uncountable Catholic laypeople, clergy, and religious in El Salvador; support of Saddam Hussein as a balance against Iran, followed by a war against an overly ambitious Hussein, culminating in the shameful abandonment of Kurds and Shiites foolish enough to join a U.S.-instigated uprising.
 
"Some of these adventures, such as US flirtation with Kurdish nationalists, can only be called cynical and cruel. What typifies virtually all of the others, besides the almost incomprehensible brutality visited upon the world's most vulnerable people, is their consistent failure. In the long term, none of these realpolitik-inspired interventions can be said to have achieved their purported or even unspoken goals." [Kevin Clarke, "Realpolitik Redux," U.S. Catholic, January 2002]

More Blasts from the Past

Kissinger founded the New York-based consulting firm Kissinger Associates in 1982, a year before accepting the position as head of the National Bipartisan Commission on Central America. And, beginning in 1986, Kissinger Associates became entangled with the infamous Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI).

BCCI was a Pakistani-managed, Middle East-financed bank with branches in 70 countries. In a nutshell, BCCI's purpose was "stealing very large amounts of money and using it for a multitude of illegal purposes, perverting governments, corrupting politicians, corrupting regulators, corrupting bank regulators," according to Wall Street Journal reporter Peter Truell.

In 1986-1989, BCCI initiated a series of contacts with Kissinger Associates. Over several months, representatives of BCCI and representatives of Kissinger Associates explored the possibilities for joint projects. Following BCCI's indictment in 1988, representatives continued to meet to discuss how Kissinger Associates might help BCCI respond to the indictment. Kissinger ended these discussions in 1989, according to Kissinger.

BCCI itself may not have become a client of Kissinger Associates. However, a congressional investigation found that BCCI's secretly owned affiliate, the National Bank of Georgia, was.

"The committee has obtained documents showing that the former president of the National Bank of Georgia, Mr. Roy Carlson, received a briefing from Mr. Kissinger. Mr. Carlson's expense report from July 1986 states, `Briefing Session Dr. Henry Kissinger.'
 
"As Mr. [Alan] Stoga[*] stated, Kissinger Associates does not give free advice. The National Bank of Georgia therefore must have been a client of Kissinger Associates. After all, Mr. Kissinger knew Ghaith Pharoan's[**] father, an adviser to Saudi royal family, and he knew Ghaith Pharoan for many years." [Congressman Henry Gonzalez, Texas, Congressional Record, House of Representatives, April 28, 1992, Page: H2694-H2702]

[*Alan Stoga was chief economist at Kissinger Associates]
[**Ghaith Pharoan owned National Bank of Georgia]

Worse, another Kissinger Associate client, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro [BNL], connect Kissinger to Saddam Hussein. Here is more from Congressman's Gonzalez's testimony to the House:

"Several former employees of the Atlanta branch of BNL conspired to provide the Government of Iraq with over $4 billion in unreported loans between 1985 and 1990. They accomplished this massive fraud by keeping a secret set of accounting records that concealed the over $4 billion in loans to Iraq.
 
...To date, several of the former employees have pleaded guilty to the conspiracy and signing false financial statements. The former manager of BNL, Chris Drogoul, goes to trial on June 2. He claims that the BNL management in Rome was aware of the loans to Iraq and the United States and Italian Governments should have been aware of the loans.

"The $4 billion plus in BNL loans to Iraq between 1985 and 1990 were crucial to Iraqi efforts to feed its people and to build weapons of mass destruction. In addition, the BNL loans were crucial to Reagan and Bush administration efforts to assist Saddam Hussein. ...
 
"The procurement network, which operated through front companies situated in Europe and the United States, used the BNL loans to supply Iraqi missile, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs with industrial goods such as computer controlled machine tools, computers, scientific instruments, special alloy steel and aluminum, chemicals, and other industrial goods. ...
 
"Several of BNL's high level friends in the United States should have been aware of the BNL loans to Iraq. The high level patrons that I am referring to are Henry Kissinger, and his Kissinger Associates compadres, Brent Scowcroft and Lawrence Eagleburger." [Gonzalez, ibid.]

Note that Kissinger was a paid member of BNL's advisory board.

Who You Gonna Call?

President George Bush dropped the current bombshell the day before Thanksgiving, while people were distracted by holiday plans and Congress had scattered. So Kissinger will be head of the September 11 "independent" investigation.

Kissinger Associates is still in business. What its business is, exactly, is hard to say. From the founding of the company all consultations have been done verbally and in person because, as former Kissinger Associates executive Brent Scowcroft said, ``We don't want to see it ... passed around.'' The Kissinger client list is also secret. Fred Kaplan of the Boston Globe recently tried to get the list but was told by an assistant for Kissinger that its contents are private. However, Kaplan quotes Scott Armstrong, founder of the National Security Archive:

''He has so many clients whose interests are so completely tied up in the results of this investigation,'' Armstrong said. ''The minute you start talking about clerics in Saudi Arabia, it's in no way in the interests of his clients for the whole truth to be told.'' [Fred Kaplan, "Some See Kissinger as Wrong Man for the Job," The Boston Globe, November 28, 2002]

If, as many suspect, Kissinger works for several Persian Gulf states, oil companies, and transportation firms, would that not be a conflict of interest? And, if so, why was he nominated?

As an editorial in the New York Times delicately understated,

"Mr. Kissinger obviously has a keen intellect and vast experience in national security matters. Unfortunately, his affinity for power and the commercial interests he has cultivated since leaving government may make him less than the staunchly independent figure that is needed for this critical post. Indeed, it is tempting to wonder if the choice of Mr. Kissinger is not a clever maneuver by the White House to contain an investigation it long opposed." [New York Times, November 29, 2002]

Well duh, New York Times. Of course the White House is trying to contain the investigation. The White House has opposed an investigation since September 12, 2001, citing security concerns.

This administration is keeping secrets. On October 29, 2001, Bush drafted an executive order that could keep presidential records locked up in perpetuity; nearly anything in White House files can be kept classified as long as either a former or current president says so. (See George Lardner Jr., "Bush Clamping Down on Presidential Papers," The Washington Post, November 1, 2001.)

This past May, revelations that Bush was warned of impending terrorist attacks during a security briefing (see, for example, Michael Elliott, "How the U.S. Missed the Clues," Time, May 27, 2002) put a dent in Bush's poppularity ratings. Subsequent news stories revealed that the White House should have expected a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil, yet it was caught unprepared (see the Timeline of Terror for a plethora of evidence and links).

The congressional intelligence committees held their own hearings, mostly behind closed doors, and when asked about investigations the White House pointed at Congress. However, by mid-September even Republicans on the committees complained that the White House was withholding any information relating to the President's pre-September 11 intelligence briefings.

"Much as he did in dropping his initial opposition to a new Department of Homeland Security, Bush abruptly changed course. The president announced that he now favored an independent commission, as both houses of Congress rushed to approve one. By mid-October, all that remained was for the White House and Congress to nail down final details. But on the eve of its recess for the November elections, negotiations came unglued. Republicans such as Sen. John McCain charged that the administration was trying to scuttle the deal." [Walter Shapiro, "Kissinger Announcement Nearly as Secretive as He," USA Today, November 29, 2002]

The original plan for the independent investigative committee was to have ten members and two co-chairs, one Democrat and one Republican, and it allowed a vote of five members to authorize issuing subpoenas. The White House insisted it would appoint one chairman and that there should be a vote of six to four to issue subpoenas.

The White House got its way. And now Henry Kissinger - a man who keeps secrets; a man who thinks the little people don't need to know what the powerful are doing - is in charge.

Is this containing an investigation, or what? If the Bushies don't have something to hide, they are putting on a hell of an act.

''The Bush administration did not want an objective inquiry into the disastrous intelligence failures,'' Christopher Hitchens said, "and having an inquiry chaired by Henry Kissinger is the next best thing.''


SOURCES:

The BCCI Affair: A Report to the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, by Senator John Kerry and Senator Hank Brown, December 1992, 102d Congress 2d Session Senate Print 102-140

Julian Borger, "Henry's Revenge," The Guardian, November 29, 2002

Fred Branfman, "Wanted," Salon, May 18, 2001

Robert Bryce, "Realpolitik," The Austin Chronicle, May 19, 2000

Duncan Campbell, "Kissinger, 79, Returns from the Political Grave," The Guardian, November 28, 2002

Kevin Clarke, "Realpolitik Redux," U.S. Catholic, January 2002

David Corn, "Kissinger's Back ... As 9/11 Truth Seeker for Bush," The Nation, November 27, 2002

Maureen Dowd, "He's Ba-a-ck!" November 30, 2002

Marcus Gee, "Is Henry Kissinger a War Criminal?" Toronto Globe and Mail, June 11, 2002

Carol Giacomo, "Kissinger Brings Controversial Legacy to Post," The Arizona Republic, November 27, 2002

Todd Gitlin, "Pushovers of the Press," Salon, July 3, 2001

Congressman Henry Gonzalez, Texas, Congressional Record, House of Representatives, April 28, 1992, Page: H2694-H2702

Larry Gurwin, "Background: Investigating BCCI and the Savings and Loan Fraud," in David McKean, Why the News Media Took so Long to Focus on the Savings and Loan and BCCI Crises (Washington, D.C.: The Annenberg Washington Program in Communications Policy Studies of Northwestern University, 1993).

Christopher Hitchens, "The Latest Kissinger Outrage," Slate, November 27, 2002

Christopher Hitchens, "Kissinger's Green Light to Suharto," The Nation, February 18, 2002

Fred Kaplan, "Some See Kissinger as Wrong Man for the Job," The Boston Globe, November 28, 2002

"The Kissinger Commission," The New York Times, November 29, 2002

Dana Milbank, "Bush Taps Kissinger to Head 9/11 Probe," The Washington Post, November 27, 2002

Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus, "Kissinger to Lead 9/11 Panel," The Washington Post, November 28, 2002

Clarence Page, "Kissinger's Shady Record Is Bad Omen for His New Job," The Chicago Tribune, December 1, 2002

Walter Shapiro, "Kissinger Announcement Nearly as Secretive as He," USA Today, November 29, 2002


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