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Henry Kissinger

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Dirty Henry.

“Kissinger asked how long will it take you (the Argentines) to clean up the problem. Guzzetti replied that it would be done by the end of the year. Kissinger approved. In other words, Ambassador Hill explained, Kissinger gave the Argentines the green light.”

Another file for the war crimes prosecution: New evidence comes to light that Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, among his many other misdeeds, egged on Argentina’s Dirty War. “Kissinger watchers have known for years that he at least implicitly (though privately) endorsed the Argentine dirty war, but this new memo makes clear he was an enabler for an endeavor that entailed the torture, disappearance, and murder of tens of thousands of people.”

Goin’ Back to Maui.

If I got to choose a coast, I got to choose the East — I live out there, so don’t go there. That being said, as of this evening, I’m going (going) back (back) to Cali for an old friend’s wedding, followed by some vacationing (back) in Maui, for sun, sand, surf, and literally (as opposed to the usual metaphorically) swimming with sharks.

In any case, that’ll likely mean little-to-no updates around here for the duration. (Like that’ll be any different from recent months, amirite?) But, if for some unfathomable reason you find yourself in desperate need of GitM-style blathering, there’s always the dissertation. Until next time, here’s the inimitable Stephen Colbert, several cool friends, and one ginormous asshole grooving to the song of the summer. Feel free to sing along if the feeling strikes.

Looking the Other Way in Chile.

In the Sept. 16, 1976 cable, the topic of one paragraph is listed as “Operation Condor,” preceded by the words “(KISSINGER, HENRY A.) SUBJECT: ACTIONS TAKEN.” The cable states that ‘secretary declined to approve message to Montevideo’ Uruguay ‘and has instructed that no further action be taken on this matter’…The Sept. 16 cable is the missing piece of the historical puzzle on Kissinger’s role in the action, and inaction, of the U.S. government after learning of Condor assassination plots,’ Peter Kornbluh, the National Security Archive’s senior analyst on Chile, said Saturday.‘”

Another piece of evidence for the prosecution in the trial of Henry Kissinger: A recently declassified 1976 cable has Kissinger canceling a warning to Chile about political assassinations, one day before the Pinochet regime murdered another critic in downtown Washington DC. And let’s not even get started on Allende

The Patriot.

As gripping in its own way as a cloak-and-dagger thriller or John Grisham procedural, Daniel Ellsberg: The Most Dangerous Man in America, by co-directors Judith Erlich and Rick Goldsmith and about the famous Rand analyst turned Pentagon Papers whistleblower, is a smart, tautly-made conjuring of recent American history that’s well worth the trip. And, fortunately for me, it’s also a perfect movie to contemplate and write about this President’s Day.

On one hand, the film makes for an interesting moral counterpoint to The Fog of War: Ellsberg’s actions put the lie to a lot of McNamara’s convenient post-hoc rationalizing therein — clearly, SecDef could’ve done more at the time to end the war in Vietnam.) On the other, Ellsberg also works as a prequel of sorts to All the President’s Men — to say nothing of a generation of seventies paranoia epics like The Parallax View and Three Days of the Condor. But in the end, The Most Dangerous Man in America probably works best as an eloquent testament to the words of the late Howard Zinn (who appears here as an old friend of Ellsberg): “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.

Like Man on Wire, Ellsberg starts here in media res, and at the scene of the history-making crime. Furtive eyes scan back and forth as an old-school Xerox copier whirrs in the dark, its green light illuminating maps of Southeast Asia and the ominous words “Top Secret” from below. With no zip drives or electronic files to speak of, analyst Daniel Ellsberg is forced to copy the 7000 pages of the Pentagon Papers page by painstaking page. It’ll take months (and eventually he enlists the aid of his kids.) As the Xerox churns, we get up-to-date on the ramifications of the document being processed — bombs fall from the sky over North Vietnam and Cambodia, weary troops patrol the hot, fetid jungle, and Nixon and Kissinger obsess over the leaks in their war machine (with Kissinger giving Ellsberg his moniker: “the most dangerous man in America.”)

Cut back to several years earlier, when the future leaker of the Pentagon Papers seemed quite a different man indeed. A fresh-faced young ex-Marine with a crisp, no-nonsense Kennedy era haircut, Ellsberg began his tenure in government as one of the Best and the Brightest, with an enthusiasm for his 80-hour workweek matched only by his hawkishness. As one of McNamara’s boys, Ellsberg concedes to helping massage the data to create a casus belli for the war. His first day on the job is the Gulf of Tonkin incident that wasn’t, and he spends subsequent weeks trying to dredge up some, any, horrible atrocities in the region that might involve Americans.

But, over time, the scales fall away from Ellsberg’s eyes. In part because he makes the acquaintance of a luminous lefty-leaning journalist named Patricia, who eventually becomes his fiancee…twice. (Ellsberg has a great line about a guy he meets at a peace rally who’s a Trotskyist. He asks this fellow how in Hell he ever became a Trotskyist. The answer: “The same way anybody becomes anything. I met a girl.”) And in part because, driven with an analyst’s overriding compulsion to find the right answer, he starts going to Vietnam himself to lead recon missions on the side and get a better sense of the situation on the ground. Simply put, the Ground Game is not going well.

The rest, as they say, is history. Moved to throw a shoe into the gears of the war machine he had helped nurture into existence, Ellsberg goes rogue and decides to publish the top-secret history of the war. But, even if you feel like you know the story of the Pentagon Papers pretty well, and I thought I did, there are some fresh and intriguing insights here. For example, I’m not really one for Freudianism or overthinking coincidences, but it turns out Ellsberg suffered a tragedy at the age of 15 that made him uniquely primed to play the role in history he ended up playing. (His father fell asleep at the wheel during a road trip, prompting a crash that sheared the car in two and killed Ellsberg’s mother and sister. In other words, watch the authority figures at the wheel verrry carefully.)

And then there’s the man himself, who’s an engaging presence throughout (if perhaps with a touch of monomania — I could see him being a hard guy to get along with.) If The Most Dangerous Man in America has a flaw, it’s that the movie is quite one-sided in the end — Ellsberg even narrates much of the story, and you get the sense at various points there may well be some whitewash being applied. (Ellsberg has an ex-wife, and kids, that aren’t even mentioned for the first 45 minutes or so.) Still, I’m inclined to give Ellsberg — and Ellsberg — the benefit of the doubt (and not just because the man loves his movies.) Ever since George and the cherry tree, we’ve been smoothing the edges of our patriotic tales. And, whatever his misdeeds as a man, Daniel Ellsberg, the film makes clear, is a patriot, through and through.

I use this Cornel West quote rather often, but that doesn’t make it any less true: “To understand your country, you must love it. To love it, you must, in a sense, accept it. To accept it as how it is, however is to betray it. To accept your country without betraying it, you must love it for that in it which shows what it might become. America – this monument to the genius of ordinary men and women, this place where hope becomes capacity, this long, halting turn of the no into the yes, needs citizens who love it enough to reimagine and remake it.

Daniel Ellsberg is one of those citizens. He saw an obvious crime being perpetrated by our government across multiple presidencies, and he did his part to help put a stop to it. In many ways, the story told in The Most Dangerous Man in America seems quaint: Johnson actually asked Congress for authority to bomb Vietnam? The press wasn’t rolling over like a lapdog in the wake of obvious propagandistic lies? (In fact, the media types who show up late in Ellsberg clearly possess some of the narcisstic sense of self-entitlement that has been our undoing of late. Ellsberg the civilian sweats blood and tears to get this 7,000-page document out in public, and the press poobahs act like they’re both the knowing gatekeepers and the heroes of the story.)

But just because Ellsberg’s brand of patriotism has fallen out of fashion in the era of Judith Miller and the chattering class doesn’t make this story any less relevant. It makes it more relevant. If we’re going to keep our young republic through its third century, we need more men and women of Ellsberg’s stripe. Men and women who will buck the trend, risk the ridicule and wrath of their well-connected peers, and stand up against injustice done under our collective name when they are party to it.

Presidents will get their due on this and every subsequent Presidents Day to come. But, now and again, it’s good to honor those patriots who, through non-violent principle and sheer, dogged determination, help to keep our leaders in check when the separation of powers fails — ordinary folks like you, me, and Daniel and Patricia Elllsberg.

Nobel Warming.

So, as you probably know, the Nobel prizes, that century-long boon from a notorious arms manufacturer‘s deathbed pangs of guilt, were announced over the past few days. As the surprise winner of the literature prize, Doris Lessing, best known for The Golden Notebook. (Profoundly ungracious about the news was lit-critic Harold Bloom: “Although Ms. Lessing at the beginning of her writing career had a few admirable qualities, I find her work for the past 15 years quite unreadable…fourth-rate science fiction.” Snob much, Prof. Bloom?) And, following in the footsteps of such well-regarded peacemongers as Charles Dawes, Henry Kissinger, Yasser Arafat, and, of course, the inventor of dynamite himself, the Nobel Peace Prize goes to Al Gore, for his work in emphasizing the imminent catastrophe threatened by global climate change. “I want this prize to have everyone…every human being, asking what they should do.” Well, congratulations on the win, Mr. Vice-President. Hopefully, this will further encourage America and the world community to get serious about global warming. But please — please — don’t run.

Nixon versus the Diplomats.

Also among the intriguing recent disclosures of the Nixon years are newly released State Department records which reveal further Nixon’s contempt for his Foreign Service. “Just before saying he was going ‘to take the responsibility for cleaning up’ the department, the president told Kissinger on November 13 that he was determined that ‘his one legacy is to ruin the Foreign Service. I mean ruin it — the old Foreign Service — and to build a new one. I’m going to do it.’

Matters of State.

“The position of secretary of state is potentially the most fulfilling in the government short of the presidency. Its scope is global; ultimately it rests on almost philosophical assumptions as to the nature of world order and the relationship of order to progress and national interest.” In this past Sunday’s NYT Book Review, Henry Kissinger remembers his predecessor, Dean Acheson. “Acheson dealt with the issues Nixon put before him thoughtfully, precisely, without any attempt at flattery, in pursuit of his conception of national service and, unlike some other outside advisers, without offering advice that had not been solicited.

Republican Publicans.

More alarming were Richard Nixon’s last years at the White House. After a good many evening martinis, he would call Henry Kissinger, and the secretary of state would grin silently as he passed around the telephone so that others could listen to their commander in chief’s unbalanced ramblings. Since Nixon was in a position to blow us all up, this suggests a somewhat esoteric sense of humor on Kissinger’s part.” With the fall of Britain’s Charles Kennedy, Slate‘s Geoffrey Wheatcroft very briefly surveys the sordid history of alcoholism in politics. (He could, I think, have done more with The Alcoholic Republic.)

Resignations Aplenty.

Along with Kissinger’s resignation today from the 9-11 commission (Sorry, Walter), Mary Matalin has left Cheney’s office in order to spend more time with family. Must be a relief not to have had a veep heart attack on her watch.

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