“The Trials of Henry Kissinger”: a provocative documentary

Posted in American, Asian, Film by Alex L. on June 3, 2009

Portrait of Henry Kissinger

The Trials of Henry Kissinger is a documentary by Eugene Jarecki, who also directed Why We Fight. This film has challenged my opinion of Henry Kissinger, who I previously admired for his reputation of being a brilliant diplomat. Genius strategist he was, the documentary admits, but Jarecki also makes the case that Kissinger had committed war crimes that resulted in the deaths of many innocent civilians. According to the documentary, Kissinger allegedly sabotaged peace talks to end the Vietnam War in 1968 (resulting in two more years of bloody conflict), authorized illegal bombings of Cambodia (destabilizing the country which led to the Khmer Rouge genocide), and armed the Indonesian army for mass-murder in East Timor, among other atrocities.

Kissinger has never faced trial for any of these charges. Future historians will judge – when more evidence has been released to the public – whether he was in actuality a war criminal who cared for nothing other than his political ambitions. Though Kissinger will most likely die a free, wealthy, and respected man (unlike the Ottoman sultan Beyazit, whose ambitions led to a degrading demise), if he was guilty, he still serves a sentence no criminal can avoid. This is the punishment suffered by Rodion Raskolnikov in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. The documentary ends with these words:

“I do think that somewhere down deep he knows what he was doing, he knows it was against a lot of first principles, which is why so much is masked and hidden. There’s so much distrust. It’s a very, very sad way to go through your life. Whatever he did, whatever he accomplished, I’m not sure it’s worth it, because he had to live a lot more years. He’s been out of power for a long time: 25 years now. In it’s own way, the reason I don’t worry about war crimes or anything else is he’s got his own sentence, he’s got to live with himself.”

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