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Shedding light on Kissinger’s dark legacy

by Cesar Chelala

NEW YORK — Recently released documents from the U.S. National Security Archive shed important light on former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s role in Argentina. These documents indicate that Kissinger approved of the Argentinian military junta’s ruthless tactics to eliminate any opposition to its rule. The information serves as a severe indictment of the Nobel Peace Prize winner, lending support to journalist Christopher Hitchens’ denunciation of Kissinger’s alleged responsibility for human rights abuses worldwide — a case Hitchens makes in his book “The Trial of Henry Kissinger.”

One key document, dated Oct. 19, 1976, indicates that Argentina’s then foreign minister, Navy Adm. Cesar Augusto Guzzetti, returned from Washington, D.C., “in a state of jubilation” when he became convinced, after meeting with Kissinger, who was then secretary of state in the Ford administration, that U.S. officials approved of the terror campaign against the opposition.

Although Guzzetti assured Kissinger that the campaign against “terrorist organizations” would soon be finished, the killings increased in late 1976 and harsh repression continued until 1978.

According to transcripts of that conversation released under the Freedom of Information Act, Kissinger told Guzzetti: “Look, our basic attitude is that we would like you to succeed. I have an old-fashioned view that friends ought to be supported. What is not understood in the United States is that you have a civil war. We read about human rights problems but not the context. The quicker you succeed, the better.”

Says Carlos Osorio, director of the Argentina Documentation Project at the National Security Archive, “This is final, definitive evidence that Kissinger gave a green light to Argentina’s generals.”

William Rogers, Kissinger’s lawyer, strongly rejected any suggestion that Kissinger had approved of human rights abuses. Rogers, who served as assistant secretary of state for Latin America under Kissinger, said: “It’s show business. This stuff is utterly tendentious. There has never been a credible objective analysis that he [Kissinger] has committed an international crime.”

Rogers’ defense of Kissinger is under increasing attack, particularly as new evidence has emerged of Kissinger’s connections to human rights abuses in countries such as Chile and Indonesia.

Kissinger is facing legal troubles related to the late Salvador Allende’s rule in Chile and to former U.S. President Richard Nixon and Kissinger’s support for a coup that installed a bloody military dictatorship that ruled in Chile until 1990.

In addition, two sons of Gen. Rene Schneider, a Chilean military commander slain in Chile in 1970, have filed a lawsuit in Washington, D.C., charging Kissinger with complicity in the murder of their father.

According to the lawyer for Schneider’s sons, the suit is based on documents declassified over the last two years that appear to implicate Kissinger as a coordinator of a “Track II” plan that gave $35,000 to those who carried out the assassination.

Documents obtained by the National Security Archive of George Washington University indicate that both former U.S. President Gerald Ford and Kissinger gave Ali Suharto, the Indonesian dictator, the green light to invade East Timor in 1975. Indonesian forces invaded East Timor the day after a conversation between Suharto and Kissinger in Jakarta in which Kissinger told Suharto, “It is important that whatever is to be done should be done quickly.”

In the following five years, almost a third of the population of East Timor was killed by the Indonesian military.

In a speech in London in April 2002, Kissinger tried to respond to suggestions that in the future he would be obliged to defend his foreign policy record: “No one can say that he served in an administration that did not make mistakes. The issue is whether 30 years after the event courts are the appropriate means by which determination is made.”

Despite Kissinger’s statement, this recently released information is a searing attack on Kissinger’s record, and makes a mockery of his Nobel Peace Prize. It is a sad paradox that Kissinger would receive the prize several years before former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, a true democrat who, from the time he assumed office until today, has campaigned relentlessly for human rights worldwide.