It's hardly news that Henry Kissinger is a war criminal. Not convicted, of course. And as long as he avoids landing in hostile territory like, say, Spain, for the rest of his life, he never will be.
A newly declassified memo offers another tidbit of evidence in the voluminous file of the former Secretary of State, bloody bon vivant and serial liar. As Peter Kornbluh at the National Security Archive points out, the documents prove that, despite his later claims, Kissinger rescinded unimplemented instructions to U.S. ambassadors that they were, in a diplomatic démarche, to warn several dictators in the Southern Cone of Latin America not to engage in "a series of international murders." The cable Kissinger sent told them to "take no further action."
These assassinations were part of Operation Condor, whose overall death toll is estimated to have been as high as 80,000.
"The September 16th 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," according to ... Kornbluh, the Archive's senior analyst on Chile and author of the book, The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability. "We know now what happened: The State Department initiated a timely effort to thwart a 'Murder Inc' in the Southern Cone, and Kissinger, without explanation, aborted it," Kornbluh said. "The Kissinger cancellation on warning the Condor nations prevented the delivery of a diplomatic protest that conceivably could have deterred an act of terrorism in Washington D.C."
On September 21, 1976, just five days after the instructions to ambassadors were rescinded, former Chilean foreign minister Orlando Letelier and a 26-year old American, Ronni Karpen Moffitt, were killed in a bombing in Washington, D.C., ordered by Augusto Pinochet, who became military dictator of Chile in a coup. Members of the Chilean secret police, DINA, were later convicted of the crime, along with CIA agent Michael Townley, who confessed that he was the one who had contracted with the car bombers. He was convicted, served a brief sentence and now lives in the United States under the Federal Witness Protection Program. He has been implicated in several other assassinations in Latin America and Europe.
The newly released documents show that Kissinger not only lied about having nothing to do with rescinding the instructions to the ambassadors to deliver the démarche to the dictators, but also that he applied pressure through close associates on the editor of the publication Foreign Affairs. FA had published a review by Senior Council on Foreign Relations Fellow Kenneth Maxwell of Kornbluh's 2004 book, in which he mentioned the undelivered démarche. The late William D. Rogers, an assistant secretary of state under Kissinger, contested the reviewer's interpretation, stating, "Kissinger had nothing to do with the cable." Maxwell wrote a reply. Rogers got a second letter charging Maxwell with "bias" published, and Kissinger used his high-powered pals to keep the Maxwell's reply out of the publication. Maxwell then resigned from both FA and the CFR.
Now we know that Maxwell was right. Kissinger ordered the ambassadors not to warn the dictators to end their murderous operations. But then it's hardly the first time he's lied about what he did and didn't do in a career noteworthy for its trail of blood. Yet he continues to be treated as an elder statesman. And he will no doubt arrive at his grave without justice having been done, just as the Pinochet did.
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[Full Disclosure: I used to edit Kissinger's syndicated column for the Los Angeles Times.]