Kissinger, The Man With the Plan
by Matt Hanson
Bob Woodward's new book State Of Denial is generating a lot of buzz. Its new revelations weigh more heavily on the American public, especially now that Bush & Co. are frantically looking under the couch cushions to find the political capital he claimed to have earned in 2004. The President is quoted as saying, rather pathetically, that he is so sure of his Iraq strategy that the he will stay the course even if only his wife and his dog are behind him. Vice President Cheney, however, has sought counsel outside of the immediate family. Woodward quotes him as identifying the person whose advice he seeks out most frequently as being Dr. Henry Kissinger. Woodard discloses that Kissinger enjoys "a powerful, largely invisble influence on Bush's Iraq policy."
Balzac (who knew his way around such things) once wrote that behind every great fortune is a crime. Many fortunes were made behind much of America's 20th Century foreign policy. Behind many of the crimes was Henry Kissinger. We know, for instance, that Kissinger played a commanding if not despotic role in America's policies including (but not limited to) Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, the Iraqi Kurds, and East Timor. Though he served under various presidents, Kissinger's influence could certainly be described as powerful and distinct. That he is still sought after years later by the current administration is ominous evidence of this.
An interest in oil is a striking overlap between Kissinger and the House of Bush. Bush and Cheney are both well-known oil men — Condi Rice once sat on the board at Chevron and had an oil tanker named after her. The unsettling harmony between decisionmaking on foreign policy and their respective buisness interests is often recognized. Bush the man and Bush the administration have been fighting off charges of greed and exploitation for most of their political lives. What isn't as well known is that Kissinger has been hot on the trail for a long time. In 1975, while serving as Secretary Of State, he wrote a long essay published under a pseudonym in Harper's Magazine. Its title was "Seizing Arab Oil" and, among other things, it outlined plans economic and geopolitical to do just that: militarily breaking up OPEC and annexing Saudi Arabia's biggest cash crop. In his bestselling book American Theocracy, Kevin Philips opens with a quote from him: "Control energy and you control the nations." This resembles the neocons in both shade and color.
Another important link between Kissinger and the Bush Administration is the 9/11 Commission. He was their first suggestion for chairman and it's reasonable to assume this was done for motives that had more to do with political roots in the Nixon White House than respect for the open sharing of information. The arrogant and baldly partisan suggestion was withdrawn after it became apparent that Kissinger Associates would have to make a full disclosure of their buisness activities and interests in the Middle East. The date is ominous in the Kissinger history in its own respect. It marks the date of the CIA-sponsored (and Kissinger approved) coup in Chile which ousted the democratically elected Socialist President Salvador Allende and gave rise to the decade-plus Pinochet dictatorship.
His contempt and aversion to independant democratic choice was made clear when he infamously growled that he "didn't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Marxist due to the irresponsibility of its people...The issues are much too important...for the voters to decide for themselves." The apparent logic being that a nation may choose its leaders, provided that those leaders match the American interest. This type of realpolitik is pretty nasty both in theory and in practice. This simply can't be a point of pride for anyone who really treasures this country, and those who might assent to it usally do so in a frustrated mumble. Larry Diamond has written about the impact of this kind of selfish, imperial myopia in the context of reconstructing Iraq. Naomi Klein has also brought to light the same domineering attitude in Paul Bremer — himself a former employee of Kissinger Associates — during his miasma in Iraq. It should go without saying this is nowhere near the mindset necessary for a midwife of democracy.
A marked and vindictive lack of open debate and transparency is also expressed in his treatment of his critics. Christopher Hitchens's lucid, spellbinding and damning The Trial Of Henry Kissinger makes a strongly reasoned and detailed case for his prosecution in international court. Kissinger responded by fallaciously labeling Hitchens a Holocaust denier. The accusation is spiteful and bizarre on its own, of course, but even more thuggish and desperate considering that Hitchens is himself Jewish. Kissinger swiftly withdrew the slander after Hitchens threatened to sue. His crude and irate treatment of Daniel Ellsberg (marvelously detailed by Seymour Hersh in the Price Of Power, who was remarkably willing to tell him to his face that he was wrong about Vietnam, makes his character even more suggestive of Nixonian pathology and paranoia. This is not a man who should be welcome at policy dinners late at night with the vice president.
This is a man who has consistently undermined democratic action and discourse, pushed for and profited from war, and who once advised against gradual troop withdrawls in a generation-splitting catastrophe that still haunts the nation. His rationale was that, like salted peanuts, troop withdrawl had an addictive effect. American soldiers coming home would prove irresistable to the electorate and leave them craving for more. As the national dialogue moves closer towards choosing between a rock and a hard place — between peanuts and starvation — his re-opening of the old dank argument is a very scary and painful proposition. Darth Vader now has the ear of Doctor Evil, and it may not be for the first time. With the new wave of elections coming down to the wire and the Iraq war looking dire, the GOP might want to turn away from the dark side and start eating some peanuts.
Email Matt Hanson at junglegroove at gmail dot com