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RE: Christopher Hitchens Christopher Hitchens has accused Henry Kissinger of war crimes. He talks to Matthew Craft about the fallout.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS is a journalist who charts his own course, regardless of public opinion. As a columnist for Vanity Fair and The Nation, Hitchens has earned a reputation for his biting wit and irreverent positions. In all the pique and fury that surrounded President Clinton in 1998, many liberals and most of Hitchens's colleagues at The Nation came to Clinton's defense. But Hitchens turned out scathing but detailed essays picking apart what he called the president's "ruthless vanity," the shady business deals, and the hasty bombing of Sudan, among other offenses. These formed the extended argument that was his best-selling book, No One Left to Lie To.

Hitchens is, plainly, a throwback, closer in spirit to a polemicist like Thomas Paine than to the modern reporter. One of his celebrated targets was the woman whom he nicknamed "the ghoul of Calcutta," familiar to many as the late Mother Theresa. His slim book about her bore the cringe-inducing title "The Missionary Position." He exposed her as a shill for despots such as Jean-Claude Duvalier, and criticized her fight against abortion and contraception. This "hell's angel" hoarded millions upon millions in donations while enforcing harsh poverty on both the dying and the nuns who worked in her missions.

Hitchens has most recently set his crosshairs on the �minence grise of the foreign policy establishment. In a series of essays in Harper's entitled "The Case Against Henry Kissinger," he argues that the national security adviser and secretary of state under Nixon and Ford ought to be prosecuted for war crimes for his role in assassinations, occupations, and executions in Indochina, Chile, Bangladesh, East Timor, and Cyprus.

The most devastating charges relate to Kissinger's involvement in Chile and, particularly, Vietnam. Hitchens makes the case that in 1968, Kissinger took part in an effort by the Nixon campaign to undermine the negotiations between the North and South Vietnamese governments, which were, at the time, close to an agreement. Nixon's team told the South Vietnamese that they would receive a better deal under a Republican presidency. The South Vietnamese backed out of the talks, undermining Hubert Humphrey's 1968 campaign and continuing the war. "The subversion of that election and the prolonging of that war," Hitchens said, make it "the single wickedest act in the history of the republic."

He also contends that Kissinger "bears direct responsibility" for murdering the chief of the Chilean army, General Rene Schneider, in 1970 as part of the CIA's effort to prevent Salvador Allende from assuming office.

In the course of a recent conversation on these essays and his upcoming book on the same subject, Hitchens described Kissinger as "a murderer, a liar, a pseudo-intellectual, a thief of government property, and a profiteer from said theft." Bold though these words might seem, Hitchens's indictment is buttressed by White House memos, FBI files, and recently released CIA cables. There are many other documents that could give a fuller picture of his actions, but Kissinger took most of his papers and put them in the Library of Congress, where, according to an agreement, they are safe from the public's gaze until he dies.


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