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Kissinger and bin Laden: Takes One To Know One

There is a remarkable symmetry between the conduct of Kissinger and bin Laden. Both believe that innocent civilians must sometimes be sacrificed to a higher geopolitical cause.
 
 
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President Bush believes Henry Kissinger is the best choice to head up an investigation into the adequacy of our defenses against al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. He may be right. As the schoolyard taunt goes, "It takes one to know one."

There is a remarkable symmetry between the conduct of Kissinger and bin Laden. Both believe the ends justify the means. Both believe that innocent civilians are pawns on a global chessboard and sometimes must be sacrificed to a higher geopolitical cause.

Back in 1975, as a favor to the Shah of Iran, Secretary of State Kissinger fomented a Kurdish uprising against Saddam Hussein only to abruptly abandon the Kurds when the Shah made a peace agreement with Hussein. When asked about this later, Kissinger declared, "Covert action should not be confused with missionary work."

Osama bin Laden despises the north and the west for hijacking and perverting history. Henry Kissinger has contempt for the south, which would include all Islamic countries, as inconsequential players in world history. Almost 30 years ago Kissinger informed a startled Chilean Foreign Minister, "History has never been produced in the South. The axis of history starts in Moscow, goes to Bonn, crosses over to Washington, and then goes to Tokyo. What happens in the South is of no importance."

For Henry Kissinger, the south serves only to test the mettle of great powers. Consider the case of Cambodia.

In early l969 Prince Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia was engaged in a diplomatic balancing act to keep his nation neutral and insulated from the Vietnam War. Kissinger and Nixon stripped away that insulation when they initiated the secret bombing of Cambodia. In l970 they helped Lon Nol overthrow Sihanouk. U.S. troops moved into Cambodia. By early l972, two million of Cambodia's seven million residents were displaced. Twenty percent of the nation's property was destroyed. In l975 the Khmer Rouge seized power and murdered a million Cambodians.

Why did Cambodia have to suffer such pain? William Safire remembers Kissinger telling his staff in l970, "We're trying to shock the Soviets into calling a [summit] conference, and we can't promote this by appearing to be weak."

In l970, Salvador Allende, an unsuccessful candidate twice before, finally won Chile's highest office. Kissinger was furious.

"The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves," he announced. Former National Security Council staff member Roger Morris remembers, "I don't think anybody in the government understood how ideological Kissinger was about Chile ... Allende was a living example of democratic social reform in Latin America. Chile scared him."

All aid to Chile was cut off. The CIA spent at least $8 million to bring down Allende. In September l973 our efforts finally bore fruit. A military coup assassinated Allende and destroyed democracy in a country that had enjoyed nearly l50 years of democratic government. Thousands were killed. Tens of thousands were tortured.

Kissinger had sent another message to Moscow. (A footnote to this history: In July 2001 Chilean judge Juan Guzman filed an international subpoena for Henry Kissinger to appear for questioning regarding the coup and its aftermath.)

In Africa, Angola became still another pawn in Kissinger's global chess game. In April l974 a revolution inside Portugal liberated its colonies. In Angola, rival tribal groups vied for power.

As John Stockwell, then head of the CIA Angola Task Force, remembers, "Uncomfortable with recent historic events, and frustrated by our humiliation in Vietnam, Kissinger was seeking opportunities to challenge the Soviets." The decision "to continue to try to put a government of our choosing in Angola by force was made by Secretary of State Kissinger."

The U.S. spent $l40 million to aid the opposition. In 1975 we supported an invasion by South African troops. In his book, "Endless Enemies," Wall Street Journal reporter Jonathan Kwitny concludes, "Fair elections might have been held in l975 as they were later in Zimbabwe. But back in l974, the U.S. thought it could do better by political sabotage."

Latin America, Africa, the Middle East -- and Asia, if we include Henry K's sordid involvement in Indonesia. Like Osama bin Laden, Henry Kissinger's was a worldwide initiative.

Of course, you might say the comparison is unfair. Henry Kissinger was overthrowing governments and aiding and abetting the murder of civilians to protect us. Osama bin Laden is trying to overthrow governments and is aiding and abetting the murder of civilians to destroy us.

True enough. But the message that Kissinger's appointment sends the rest of the world is so poisonous and antithetical to our announced intention of promoting justice and democracy that I wish President Bush had exercised a bit more wisdom before taking this drastic step.

David Morris is vice-president of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.