|By: Martin Edwin Andersen |
Story Source: Insight on the News
Poor Henry Kissinger. He should have taken a cue from the disastrous example of his former mentor, the late vice president Nelson Rockefeller, and lain low instead of posing for posterity's statue.
Hours after "Rocky" died on Jan. 26, 1979, his spokesman pompously averred that the great man had expired while disinterestedly working late at night to bring low-cost reproductions of American art to the homes of his less-fortunate countrymen. In fact, the married Rockefeller went out, sans vêtements, in a romp with a 27-year-old female friend. The hypocrisy of this lugubrious flackery was too much for the usually discreet New York Times. It reported how the former governor was found at a town-house hideaway at 13 W. 54th St. by emergency-rescue personnel an hour after he collapsed from a heart attack. The usually impeccably dressed Rockefeller, it was reported, was wearing shoes, but no socks, and pants that were on backward.
It took a national tragedy (9/11) and Kissinger's own hubris to put to pad the former secretary of state's similar pretensions of selflessness and the self-propagated image of rectitude captured (appropriately enough) by cartoonist Peter Steiner in the New Yorker magazine. In it a woman comments to a man watching television: "For righteous indignation, no one can match Henry Kissinger."
Kissinger had been forced to withdraw as the head of the commission created to study the failures of Sept. 11 after refusing to disclose the client list of his international consulting firm -- a group that allegedly includes several notorious human-rights violators. Victims' families were concerned about potential conflicts of interest as he attempted to do the public's business while still raking in millions of dollars from unnamed foreign countries and corporations. After all, the core of Kissinger's much-celebrated brilliance was his big-picture thinking and ability to profit from seemingly unrelated events. In the words of his biographer Walter Isaacson, it was Kissinger's "ability to see the relationships between different events and to conceptualize patterns. He sensed how an action in one corner of the world would reverberate in another, how the application of power in one place would ripple elsewhere."
While burnishing a public claim to unselfish service, Kissinger's taste for behind-the-scenes manipulation in search of favorable news coverage was legendary. Following publication in 1987 of an exposé detailing the "green light" Kissinger gave to Argentina's military dictatorship for a vicious counterinsurgency effort opposed by conservative U.S. Ambassador Robert Hill, Kissinger and his minions went into full damage-control mode. In private Kissinger lampooned portrayals of Hill, who by that time had died, as a human-rights campaigner. "The notion of Hill as a passionate human-rights advocate is news to all his former associates," he wrote to one liberal magazine editor.
Former Kissinger aide and current Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States Luigi Einaudi dutifully told State Department associates he had been in the Santiago, Chile, hotel room when the okay allegedly was given to the Argentine generals, and that Hill's version was wrong. And in a detailed letter dated January 1988, another Kissinger chum, William Rogers, claimed the former secretary of state had been at his "most aggressive mood on human rights during your Santiago visit," something several other U.S. diplomats in attendance there dispute.
Kissinger circulated the letter privately to journalists, taking pains to point out in a handwritten note at the bottom that his former aide had supported 1972 Democratic presidential nominee Sen. George McGovern, in an apparent attempt to establish Rogers' independent credentials. Claiming "every one of the witnesses [cited by the article] had an ax to grind," Rogers pretended to remind Kissinger that Hill "never told us during the last six months, while he was working on the human-rights issue so energetically, that you had misled [Argentine Foreign Minister Adm. Cesar] Guzzetti, or that the junta was under a dangerously misguided impression about your attitude. ... If he had concluded you had given a 'green light' he certainly would have -- and should have -- said so sometime between June 1976 and Jan. 8, 1997, and not kept silent."
Declassified documents published by Insight [see "Kissinger Had a Hand in 'Dirty War,'" Jan. 28] show that Hill issued several démarches to Kissinger and his aides during that time and that posthumous criticisms of him to protect Kissinger were lies about a dead man. A three-page cable Hill sent to the State Department, dated Oct. 19, 1976, put his "bitter criticism" of Kissinger's handling of the meetings with Guzzetti on the record, according to a memo by another U.S. official who recommended an immediate response at that time
Kissinger once won the Nobel Peace Prize for signing a cease-fire with North Vietnam. His Pulitzer-class claims to rewriting history should be less successful.
Martin Edwin Andersen, an Insight reporter, broke the first story about Kissinger and the Argentine generals in October 1987.