Richard Stampfle's excellent review of this book, posted over two years ago, nails the central issue of Henry Kissinger's criminal conduct. He draws on the old saw analogy of money owed to a bank - if you owe a small amount, the problem is yours; if you owe megabucks, it's the bank's problem. Likewise, if you are high on drugs, and kill one person, you have the problem; but if you are high on the arrogance of power, and cloak your actions in "statecraft," and are responsible for the death of millions, it is unlikely that you will be prosecuted, particularly if your country does not lose a war.
Christopher Hitchens wrote this indictment, in polemic form, almost ten years ago. He admits that he is (or at least was, when he wrote it) a political opponent of the "Doctor," and points out how, as one of his "achievements," Kissinger managed to have virtually everyone call him by that honorific, even though he is not a medical doctor. In the preface Hitchens eliminates from his indictment certain Kissinger actions that might not be indictable offenses, but are despicable enough, such as encouraging the Kurds to rise against Saddam Hussein, as well as his support for apartheid South Africa. Setting these aside, Hitchens details Kissinger's bloody hand in the events in Indochina, Chile, Bangladesh, Cyprus, East Timor, and the murder of a journalist in Washington, D.C. Prior to Hitchens' book, I was most aware of Kissinger's malevolence in the events in Indochina and Chile. Hitchens details Kissinger's efforts to prolong the Vietnam War by encouraging South Vietnamese obduracy at the Paris Peace talks in 1968, so that Richard Nixon could be elected. My personal involvement in the Vietnam War, serving as a medical corpsman, during a period of that prolongation, places me also in that "political opponent" camp. Considering that half the names (some might quibble- and have - that it is only a third) on the black wall in Washington D.C. might be alive today if "Dr." Kissinger had not practiced his "statecraft" in Paris is enough to beg for a revision of Dante, and create a special 10th circle of Hell, for his exclusive residence. And if that is not enough, consider that one to two million Vietnamese who died during that period, or the auto-genocide of the Khmer Rouge, attributed in large portion to the horrific B-52 carpet bombing that Kissinger orchestrated. His hand in the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende, as well as the murder of General René Schneider, which occurred, ironically in retrospect, on September 11, has also been fairly well known, particularly since the fall of the Pinochet regime, and the release of Chilean government papers on this CIA conducted coup. The less well known crimes, at least to me, but certainly not to the victims, were Kissinger's actions involving Bangladesh, Cyprus and East Timor, and only serve to pile more brimstones into that 10th circle.
I read all the 1 and 2-star reviews, searching for some sort of refutation to the charges, and found none. I only found excuses, and rationalizations, such as others have been as bad, like Stalin and Mobuto, or that the presidents are also responsible. And then there was the classic cover for all crimes made by people who had never experienced a B-52 strike, the old stand-by, with shrug, "you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs." Even Kissinger himself, as included in the appendix, does not provide refutations, only dissimulations, in the infamous style of the "doctor" who still nourishes his foreign accent... a la Strangelove?
Overall, Hitchens has provided a strict legal brief, examining Kissinger's actions by the standards that the United States has held others, primarily defeated military powers. Hitchens engages in the more that occasional rhetorical flourish however, which I would consider hard not to do, and is probably better than a deadpan bureaucratic document. He has shown considerable courage for taking on a subject that the mainstream media, still showing the Doctor immense deference, would consider "too hot to handle." But there is a major postscript that has been omitted from this book, and that is the transformation of Hitchens himself, from a contrarian gadfly of the establishment outlook to a major promoter of right-wing Islamophobia. That story, however, as they used to say in college is "beyond the scope of this course," (or, in this case, the particular merits of this book, which deserves a solid 5-stars).
Siegfried Sassoon's famous poem, "Base Details," concerning the scarlet majors at the base (who were more prosaically known at REMF's in Vietnam) concluded with the line: "And when the war is done, and the youth stone dead, I'll toddle safely home- and die in bed." Another architect of the wars, Robert McNamara, who at least showed partial remorse, has already safely exited via his bed, at a ripe old age, as no doubt will Kissinger. But he almost certainly will pass without even the partial remorse.
My standard quip remains, which denotes the possibility of the most unlikely events: "In a world in which Henry Kissinger can win the Nobel Peace Prize, anything is possible."
(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on January 18, 2010)