Monitor archives:
Copyrighted material

Christopher, Please Don't Sue Henry!

by Alexander Cockburn

Discovery process could drag skeletons from the monster's closet
Hitchens writes in Harper's, and in his new book, "The Trial of Henry Kissinger," that this same Kissinger is a war criminal. Kissinger responds to a Detroit radio talk show host, Mitch Albom, that Hitchens had "denied the Holocaust ever took place." Does that mean that Kissinger accepts he's a war criminal? Now Hitchens tells the New York Post that he and his wife Carol are Jewish, and that "Mr. Kissinger will be hearing from my attorney, who will tell him two things he already knows -- what he said is false, malicious and defamatory, and if he says it again, we will proceed against him in court."

That's a mistake, surely. Don't do it, Christopher! It makes you sound defensive. It also changes the subject from Kissinger's blood-stained rampages through the late twentieth century to precisely what Hitchens wrote about David Irving, and what he may have said to Edward J. Epstein. (Back in Clintontime, Epstein -- partisan of Sidney Blumenthal in the latter's face-off with Hitchens -- told the New York Observer that during dinner at Elaine's, Hitchens had told him and boon companions that actual evidence of six million Jews dead in gas ovens was in short supply. Hitchens adamantly denied Epstein's charge.)

The idea may be to get Kissinger into a libel action and then see what can be dragged out of the monster's archives in the discovery process. But such a suit would cost a fortune, and even though Hitchens is surely well paid by Vanity Fair for his monthly column, I doubt he wants to see $200,000 end up in a lawyer's back pocket (unless he has a Magic Christian or Magic Jew ready to finance the whole enterprise.) Better, surely, to make a joke about Kissinger's counter-slur and then refocus public attention on the desirability of putting Hitchens on trial.

In the wake of Hitchens's two articles in Harper's on Kissinger's war crimes, magistrates in three countries -- Chile, Argentina and France -- have summoned Kissinger to answer questions. Le Monde reported earlier this month that when French Judge Roger Le Loire had a summons served on Kissinger on May 31 at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, Kissinger fled Paris. The judge wanted to ask Kissinger about his knowledge of Operation Condor, the scheme evolved by Pinochet and other Latin American proconsuls of the American Empire to kill or "disappear" their opponents.

Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman, who put out the excellent Naderite publication, Multinational Monitor, wrote up an interesting account of Kissinger's recent appearance at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.

"Scattered throughout the ballroom at the Press Club were little white note cards for questions, and it appeared that perhaps 100 questions were scribbled and sent up to the moderator, Richard Koonce, a member of the Press Club's book and author committee. It was Koonce's job to sift through the questions, pick out some interesting ones, and ask Henry some probing questions."

Mokhiber and Weissman say they wrote down six questions -- about the report in the Times, Kissinger's interview with Albom, the incident at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, Hitchens's articles in Harper's, about the three magistrates and simply this one: "If you are indicted for war crimes, will you defend yourself in court?"

The fix was in. Koonce "lofted six or seven puff balls about Kissinger in China, about Kissinger on Nixon, and about his generic views of foreign policy. Nothing about war crimes, nothing about operating outside the law, nothing about Hitchens."

After the event, Mokhiber and Weissman confronted Koonce.

"Was there an agreement with Dr. Kissinger not to ask questions related to Christopher Hitchens and allegations of war crimes?"

Koonce did not deny it.

"There was a definite sensitivity to that," Koonce said. "He (Kissinger) was afraid that if we got into a discussion of that, for the vast majority of people that, it would take so much time to explain all of the context, that you know, he preferred to avoid that, and so ... "

And so Kissinger's wishes were accommodated, and the questions were avoided.

Be it noted, as a journalist and co-editor of a political newsletter, CounterPunch, I'm generally opposed to libel actions. But before you heap libelous mud upon my good name, be aware that I might make an exception if the suit stands a good chance of extorting large sums from bad people or represents the only avenue of successful counter-attack against aforementioned bad people. I should mention that after I wrote in CounterPunch some years ago that Kissinger tried to make off with a vase from his Chinese guesthouse during his first trip to China, lawyers for Kissinger wrote to me in threatening terms. Fearing protracted and costly litigation, I promptly retracted the slur, noting that in the same item I had described Kissinger as a war criminal, and Kissinger's lawyers had not contested this description.

© Creators Syndicate

Comments? Send a letter to the editor.

Albion Monitor June 30, 2001 (

All Rights Reserved.

Contact for permission to use in any format.