‘Distinguished’ war criminal on CBC’s Ideas

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Henry the K, war criminal

As Henry Kissinger’s monotonous German accent oozed from my radio last night, I thought of Gerry Caplan’s gutsy online Globe column of June 3rd. It condemned Kissinger’s many crimes as well as the 2,700 Torontonians willing to shell out $25-$90 to hear him participate in this year’s Munk debate. CBC Radio’s Ideas broadcast highlights last night.

Caplan pulled no punches in listing the crimes Kissinger “enabled or endorsed” during his tenure as one of Richard Nixon’s chief henchmen:

The American war against Vietnam, the Pakistani massacre of Bengalis in 1971 (an estimated 1.5 million killed), the operations of the Shah of Iran’s secret police, the brutal Pinochet years in Chile, the secret U.S. bombing of Cambodia that made possible the Khmer Rouge’s genocidal killing fields (1.5 to 2 million dead), the bloody 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus (an estimated 150,000 refugees), the betrayal of the Kurds in 1974-75, the Indonesian slaughter of some 100,000 East Timorese, the war against the government of Angola, the entrenchment of apartheid in South Africa.

No one will ever know how many millions of ordinary citizens were killed, maimed, tortured, brutalized or displaced in these merciless operations.

Caplan wondered whether anyone would attend the Munk debate in order to make a citizen’s arrest. Alas, the good burghers of Toronto were too polite for that. Less polite, but perhaps more law-abiding citizens did try to arrest Kissinger in London and Dublin, while judges in Spain and France have issued formal, international arrest warrants.

The highlights from the Munk debate that CBC broadcast showed that Kissinger commands great respect. Ideas host Paul Kennedy referred to the panel Kissinger was on as “a distinguished line-up” — although perhaps he meant only that Kissinger’s distinction lay in his escaping punishment (or even official censure) for his crimes. Instead, as Caplan pointed out, he’s treated as an intellectual star:

Kissinger is among America’s most admired celebrities. He has been consulted by every president for the past four decades, he’s lionized by other celebrities, he’s a media darling quoted with awe by pundits and reporters, his company is eagerly sought by Washington and New York’s most exclusive hostesses, his own consulting business is booming, he’s offered huge bucks to sit on corporate boards like the one Conrad Black once controlled which then crow lustily about their great coup.

Not even his shameless public support for the dictators in Beijing during the Tiananmen massacre, at the exact same time they were making him rich by opening their doors to his American corporate clients, could sully his reputation, a fact neither his new book on China nor the fawning reviews have thought fit to mention.

Yesterday, a few hours before broadcasting the Kissinger debate, CBC Radio carried stories about the international criminal court issuing an arrest warrant for Libya’s Gadhafi. Perhaps one is coming for Kissinger too, though I doubt it.

Shakespeare’s famous line applies all too readily: “Fishes live in the sea, as men do a-land; the great ones eat up the little ones.”

And might makes right.

About Bruce Wark

Bruce Wark is a freelance journalist and retired journalism professor who lives in Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada. He taught the history and ethics of journalism at the University of King's College in Halifax, Nova Scotia for 15 years. Before that, he worked for 19 years at CBC Radio news serving as a producer in charge of such network programs as World at Six, World Report and The House. He also produced Media File, a national program that looked critically at the performance of the news media. Along the way, Wark also worked as CBC Radio's legislative reporter in Ontario and as its National Reporter in Canada's Maritime provinces.
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