Henry Kissinger has probably inflicted more suffering and death than any single public official in U.S. history. By now much of the evidence is public record, including the four years of relentless slaughter in Indochina and the murderous military coup he engineered against the democratically elected government of Chile. But there is also Kissinger's decision to back the Pakistani government during its slaughter of as many as a million Bengalis, and the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, which began just hours after Kissinger and President Ford finished a series of meetings with top Indonesian officials. The invasion resulted in the massacre of 100,000 Timorese. Seymour Hersh's recent book The Price of Power comprises an exhaustive indictment of Kissinger's crimes, including several lesser counts of illegal wiretapping and perjury.
In a recent issue of The Nation, political analyst Alan Wolfe writes that for the United States to "ever again be morally whole, it would have to convict Henry Kissinger of war crimes." But Kissinger committed his crimes thousands of miles away, by proxy and often in secrecy; therefore he has never been prosecuted or even seriously interrogated. Rather than being dragged into court, Kissinger is dragged into our living rooms via network television, where he is presented with deference and awe. Page after page of the prestigious news-weeklies are given over to his pronouncements as well, regardless of their newsworthiness or accuracy.
The media's treatment of Kissinger implies that he is the smartest man in America, and that if there were any justice he would rule at least the United States and perhaps the world. The fact that Kissinger shares this assessment seems only to add to the ironic charm that so bewitches the pundits. Time and again they remind us of Kissinger's urbane wit and the subtlety of his intellect.