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Dirty Harry
‘First we will kill all the subversives; then, their collaborators; later, those who sympathize with them; afterward, those who remain indifferent; and finally, the undecided.’ - General Ibérico Saint Jean, governor of the Province of Buenos Aires under the military junta.

Anthony McIntyre • The Other View Autumn, 2002

The twilight years in our lives, if we reach them in reasonable health, should be a time for slowing down, sitting with the grandchildren, reflecting on a life from which we hope others learned something positive - in short growing old gracefully. And if we manage 79, then being pestered as a result of past misdemeanours is the last thing we seek.

Henry Kissinger, the former Secretary of State and Nobel peace prize winner, is having no such luck. Already facing accusations over crimes against humanity in Vietnam, Cambodia, East Timor, Chile, Cyprus and East Timor, recently released US State Department documents have linked him to Argentina’s Dirty war of two decades ago. The documents were made available to the authorities in Buenos Aires following a pledge made by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 2000.

Much of Kissinger’s woes he is inclined to blame on the writer Christopher Hitchens and his ‘cabal’ of Henry haters. True, Hitchens enhanced his reputation with his book The Trial of Henry Kissinger in which he made the case for prosecuting the former diplomat for war crimes. But Patricia Derian, an assistant secretary of state for human rights under President Carter - hardly one of Hitchens’ cabal - said of Kissinger‘s relationship to the Argentine military, ‘I think he was complicit. He was in a position to influence them greatly, both in and out of office. Mistreatment of citizens by a government was given the nod.' Nevertheless, it is symptomatic of the arrogance of power that those intoxicated by it invariably see a world of ‘bitter wee men’ intent on visiting misfortune on them.

The release of the documents will come as no surprise to Kissinger. He more than anyone else will have been familiar with their contents long before they came to public scrutiny. According to the Miami Herald the documents indicate that the Argentine military junta ‘believed they had the green light from Washington - and perhaps Kissinger - to carry out the brutal campaign’.

The international stage upon which Herr Henry once strutted with unbridled impunity has now become a dangerous arena where he now must proceed with care. The development of a growing international legal climate making it easier for judges to reach beyond the boundaries of their own nation states coupled with a greater ability of bereaved relatives to make themselves heard have combined to make the once surefooted Kissinger feel he is walking on eggshells. Already this year he has been forced to abort a trip to Brazil fearful that a Brazilian judge might order his detention. In Paris he fled his hotel in a bid to avoid French officials seeking to serve him with judicial papers relating to the murder of French nationals in Chile. In Chile itself, where he helped stage a coup thirty years ago this month against a democratic government, Kissinger is fast becoming a persona non grata with the Supreme Court which is considering questioning him about the events leading up to and including the atrocity of September 11, 1973.

On March 24, 1976 Argentine armed forces overthrew the government of President Isabel Martinez de Peron. A three-man military junta, headed by General Jorge Rafael Videla took charge. Under their reign the military waged a brutal campaign ostensibly against left wing guerrillas Up to 30, 000 people, most of whom were dissidents - including writers, lawyers, human rights activists and trade unionists - and civilians with no connection to guerrilla activity were arrested and disappeared. ‘Tex’ Harris, a US Political Officer in Buenos Aires during the military onslaught, spoke of ‘a massive, coherent, military effort to exterminate Argentine citizens.’

In 1983, with the collapse of the military regime, a national commission, appointed to investigate the disappeared, reported on the organised kidnappings of men women and children. It pointed to the existence of around 340 holding centres where torture and murder were practiced routinely. Now the released documents, which have been scrutinised by investigative reporters Martin Edwin Andersen and John Dinges, reveal how the efforts of the U.S. ambassador in Buenos Aires at the time to place a brake on the Argentine military were rendered useless by the refusal of Kissinger to endorse him. Dinges, who covered the Dirty War for the Washington Post claims to ‘now have contemporaneous documents that show that the message given to Argentina, as well as other South American dictatorships, by Washington was, at best, ambiguous and, at worst, encouraging of human rights violations.’

It is inevitable that Kissinger will escape any formal judicial punishment. The most that can be hoped for is that he will go down in the annals of history on a par with Milosevic and Himmler. But the manner in which US society responds to the cries for justice will help shape how Uncle Sam is perceived outside its own borders. In order to more securely protect all its citizens it should move collectively to acknowledge that at least one of them is a major war criminal.




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It is better to be defeated on principle than to win on lies.
- Arthur Calwell
Index: Current Articles

27 October 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Bloody Sunday
Seaghán Ó Murchú


Under the Ulster Hand

Brian Mór


Security Forces

Brian Mór


Selling Ideas
Liam O Ruairc


Dirty Harry
Anthony McIntyre


Thoughts On The Coming War (Part 2)
Sean O Torain


Academics on Independence (Part 3)

Paul Fitzsimmons


Reform By Imprisonment
Sam Bahour


24 October 2002


Stand Up And Be Counted
Mickey Donnelly


Read It And Weep

Mick Hall


Particularity Or Universality?
Liam O Ruairc


Time Has Run Out For An Armed IRA
Anthony McIntyre


Thoughts On The Coming War
Sean O Torain


The Letters Page has been updated.




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