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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 24 April 2017
After reading this excellent book, it beggars belief that Kissinger has STILL not been arrested for War Crimes.
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on 25 June 2017
Very good, very well researched.
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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)
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on 12 December 2012
This is a pretty shocking look at Kissinger's record over a period of roughly 10 years (late 60s to late 70s), during which time he held titles such as US National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Forty Committee and Secretary of State. Specifically, the book accuses Kissinger of:

-deliberate mass killing of civilian populations in Indochina
-deliberate collusion in mass murder ... in Bangladesh
-personal suborning and planning of murder of a senior constitutional officer in a democratic nation - Chile - with which the US was not at war
-personal involvement in a plan to murder the head of state ... of Cyprus
-incitement and enablement of genocide in East Timor
-and last of all, involvement in a plot to kidnap and murder a journalist living in the US Capital

The evidence against Kissinger is in the form of extracts from autobiographies of the key players and material eventually released from Justice Department records. Nobody has sued Hitchens for this book, and they obviously can't now; either Kissinger's people treated the entire work as contemptible, or there might just be a few stones that they wanted to leave unturned.

Either way, if you're a Hitch fan, or someone who's interested in this period or the abuse of power, I thoroughly recommend this entertaining book. It's also a very good history lesson if you're too young to remember 50 years ago.
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on 17 September 2001
If George Bush Jr. is seeking advice on the terrorist mind-set, then it would appear that he can find no better advisor than "Mr." Kissinger himself. If only one or two of Mr. Hitchen's multiple accusations prove correct, then Mr. Kissinger has, in addition to his other crimes, ample experience in the financing and arming of terrorist movements around the globe.
Accusations of this magnitude, this extensively researched, must surely be taken seriously by a credible governmental administration. In any case, quite independently of whether the accusations against Kissinger are correct, this book provides a shocking insight as to how vulnerable our basic rights and freedoms are.
Regardless of the extent of Kissinger's personal involvement in the deaths of the hundreds of thousands of innocent people around the world, Mr. Hitchen clearly shows that the decisions that determined the fate of these people were ultimately in the hands of few prominent politicians.
If Mr. Kissinger chooses to brush the accusations set out in this book aside, then he is not doing not only the victims a great injustice, but also the people and institutions of America who continue to engage him.
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VINE VOICEon 12 October 2007
In The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Vanity Fair columnist and Professor of Liberal Studies Christopher Hitchens, presents the prosecution case for the charge that former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger should stand trial alongside the likes of Slobodan Milosevic, Augusto Pinochet and Saddam Hussein for crimes of international aggression.

Such a charge against a Western politician seems outrageous, were one not acquainted with the gravity of the crimes and the substantial evidence of the complicity of a key figure in several presidential administrations. Indeed, Kissinger's crimes, according to Hitchens (and drawing primarily on Anthony Summers' and Robbyn Swan's superb biography of Richard Nixon, The Arrogance of Power), started from his involvement in the successful sabotage of the Johnson administrations' Vietnam peace talks of 1968. From there, the war crimes escalated through out Indochina with Kissinger's blessing and then on into genocide in Bangladesh, the overthrow of a democratically elected government and the installation and active support of an openly fascist regime in Chile, the support of a brutal dictatorship in Cyprus and the arming of a genocidal regime in Indonesia.

All of the above is substantially documented via internal declassified records and witness statements, both from the guilty, the guilt-ridden and the survivors of a such a terrible plague bestowed upon the innocent by such a cynical and aloof promoter of realpolitik.

Some might be tempted to dismiss this book summarily as "one-sided" - and indeed it is. This book does just what it says on the tin: it presents the charge against one of the most prominent of global citizens. Those who would speak in his defence can present their own case, as Kissinger himself undertook, in his three volumes of nostalgic apologia. If, as Professor Noam Chomsky has written, it is a basic moral truism that we should judge ourselves by the same standards that we apply to others (or if we are being completely honest, we should hold our selves to a higher standard), then Dr Kissinger should quite rightly be tried for war crimes in The Hague; as Hitchens phrases it: "...in the name of innumerable victims known and unknown, it is time for justice to take a hand."

This slim book, then, is reasonably provocative. What separates it from a normal piece of political analysis, is that Hitchens is quite rightly placing the responsibility on an individual: that laws cannot be broken by abstract theories, policies or administrations but by individuals; that monstrous and great though some crimes are, they are not beyond punishment. Were the laws established by the Nuremburg trials after the Second World War applied evenly, without discrimination, then it is quite possible that Henry Kissinger, amongst others, might have one day found himself swinging at the end of a (sturdy) rope - or if this is too absurdly, graphically obscene, then perhaps the lethal injection, the method preferred by his confidant George W. Bush, who has given the death sentence a green-light to those guilty of lesser offences.

What is not included in this book is this: this book was published in early 2001. After the obscene tragedy of 11th September 2001, Christopher Hitchens became perhaps the most unforeseen enthusiast of President George W. Bush. As recently revealed, Henry Kissinger has been a close advisor to this presidency, an administration that has shamed a nation, in the eyes of much of the world's population. Such was the closeness of Kissinger and Bush's relationship, that Kissinger was Bush's first choice to lead a blue ribbon investigation into these terrible events. However, the 9/11 Family Steering Committee interviewed Kissinger, seeking to reassure themselves that there was no conflict of interest betwixt Kissinger (and his consultancy business, Kissinger Associates) and any potential areas of investigation. Given the choice between serving his country or suffer a financial hardship (and possibly some loss of prestige) by revealing his client list - a list that could well have included Saudi clients, some by the name of Bin Laden - Kissinger patriotically opted to look after his business and let the families of the dead take their quest for justice elsewhere.

Written with clarity and élan, Christopher Hitchens never lets us forget that where there are victims, there are criminals and that where there is criminality there should be justice. Regardless of Hitchens' recent volte-face, this book will remain an enduring testament to the ageless concept of the need for power to be confronted with truth.
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on 7 March 2007
This book is hard hittting and to the point. It is essentially a 150 page indictment of Kissinger for crimes, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and it makes compelling reading. Particularly in these days of 'Iraq has weapons of mass destruction' and 'Iran is waging a proxy war against us' this book gives us insight into the terrible and murky world of realpolitik and the murderous capacity of unscrupulous politicians in powerful nations, liberal or otherwise. One of the gems about this gem of a book is it opens up many new planes of investigation for those interested in further examining the claims he makes therein. Credit therefore to the author for substantiating his claims with clear sources and referenced materials. It is a refreshing, no-frills read; necessary reading for the counter-hegemonic.
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on 21 September 2001
Hitchens opens by saying that he is a political opponent of Kissinger and that he dislikes him. After reading the book, it is impossible to have any form for respect for Henry Kissinger.

The book is very well written and Hitchens uses official, publizised documentation to make his case against Kissinger. A very convincing case.

Hitchens describes Kissingers role in sabotaging the Vietnam War peace negotiations in 67/68, his role in carpet-bombing Cambodia for no reason, hiring an assasin to kill a Chilean General with democratic tendencies (!) and approving Indonesias genocide in East Timor - and more!

He lists the options for taking Kissinger to court - any court - but understands that without US approval, it will never happen.

The book is well worth reading and if you didnt suspect any of this, your view on US foreign policy will probably change.
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on 21 February 2016
This is not an indictment. It is a polemic although no doubt it could be read to a Grand Jury in New York or a panel in The Hague and a convincing case made. CH polemics were always informative, relentlessly persuasive, entertaining and the Trial of Henry Kissinger (HK) is no exception. The facts and sources are remorselessly laid before us. The book, supported by a 20-page index, allows to see clearly the foot and finger prints of HK as he manipulated, initiated and controlled US foreign policy in Vietnam, Bangla Desh, Cyprus, East Timor, Chile and, indeed, on the streets of Washington DC. An important point made by CH is that at the relevant times the actions of HK could not be divorced from the foreign policies of Presidents Nixon and Ford.

However, for the 1st time in reading CH I felt his personal animosity against the eponym overshadowed his writing in the way that The Missionary Position did not paint the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. I should say I have not yet read No One Left to Lie to.

Within the first few pages CH quotes Joseph Heller as describing HK as an odious schlump and Ariel Dorfman refers to his unctuous presence. HK is ‘the pudgy man standing in black tie at the Vogue party’. His manners are described as rather gross. His writings are ‘heavily larded’ and he is a humourless toad. CH liked Joseph Heller’s comment ‘Even that fat little **** is writing a book’. There is critical comment on the fact that HK wanted to be called Doctor. CH’s scathing and hilarious comments about another doctor – post enema burial in a matchbox – were fine, and entirely apposite, for Jerry Fallwell. But HK was a different target and properly needed CH’s style of forensic incision without personal comment.

These are small points and my only complaints about the book.
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on 10 July 2001
After the character assassinations of Mother Theresa and the Clintons, Christopher Hitchens aims his sights at the Nobel Peace Prize winner and Richard Nixon's Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. As always, Hitchens refuses to pull his punches, and you are confronted with a barrage of vitriol from the outset - almost the first description of Kissinger is as "an odious schlump who made war gladly".
Indeed, this seems to be an accurate summary of Hitchens' overall position in 'The Trial of Henry Kissinger'; though he does bring wit and style to what actually amounts to a legal indictment of Kissinger for various war crimes. Following the Pinochet case, it seems that Hitchens is determined to see more international figures brought to justice for their actions. His main claim is that Kissinger deliberately prolonged the Vietnam War so that he could gain favour with Nixon and help to get the Republicans elected in 1968. As with the other claims, this is serious stuff that is being alleged and Hitchens uses all of his investigative powers to try and make his case.
All of the allegations are very intricately researched and detailed, often legalistic in the level of information and analysis that is provided. Although Hitchens never proves definitively that Kissinger is guilty of multiple war crimes, it is hard not to come away from reading this book with the conclusion that there were many atrocities committed by the American government in the name of 'realpolitik' during the late 1960's and early 1970's. There are too many awkward facts, mysterious documents and unanswered questions for this to be simply dismissed as an attack on a right-wing statesman by a political opponent.
If we ever see an active and effective international criminal court, Christopher Hitchens has provided enough material here to warrant Henry Kissinger appearing before it. And what's more, he's done so with verve and passion.
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