Making History

by Henry on June 25, 2004

“Via Bookslut”:http://www.bookslut.com/blog/archives/2004_06.php#002732, this “account”:http://chronicle.com/free/v50/i42/42a02502.htm of an interesting dust-up at _Foreign Affairs_ , the influential foreign policy journal run by the Council of Foreign Relations. Kenneth R. Maxwell, who was the journal’s book review editor resigned last month, claiming that the magazine had bowed to pressure from Henry Kissinger, and shut down a debate on its letters page about America’s role in the assassination of former Chilean foreign minister, Orlando Letelier and his wife in Washington DC by “Operation Condor.” Jeremy Adelman, who succeeded Maxwell, has just resigned too after only three weeks in the job. The editor of Foreign Affairs, James Hoge, has admitted receiving at least one phone-call from the head of the Council of Foreign Relations conveying Mr. Kissinger’s displeasure; if Maxwell is to be believed, Hoge also received repeated phone calls from Henry Kissinger. However, Hoge has denied that this had anything to do with his editorial decision to cut short debate.

Henry Kissinger’s historical legacy is very slightly more complicated than it might seem at first glance. Critics like Christopher Hitchens fail to acknowledge his very real contribution to the understanding of international relations – some of his early academic writings (“A World Restored,” “The Troubled Partnership”) are first rate. Nonetheless, his political career seems to have combined a particularly unpleasant variety of _Realpolitik_ with a gruesome eagerness to condone lies, murder, torture and other human rights violations. The greater part of his subsequent writing can be seen as a sustained effort to whitewash the record. Kissinger’s memoirs are mendacious and untrustworthy, even by the usual standards of statesmen’s self-justifications. Like Winston Churchill, he intends to ensure that history is kind to him by writing it. Given Kissinger’s track record, I’m not at all surprised that he seems to have used his clout to try to shut down debate about one of the nastiest aspects of his record as Secretary of State. I am surprised, and disappointed, that _Foreign Affairs_ seems very possibly to have knuckled under.

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04.21.05 at 12:38 pm

{ 12 comments }

1

chun the unavoidable 06.25.04 at 7:25 pm

Surprised? Oh my.

2

Ophelia Benson 06.25.04 at 7:34 pm

Hitchens may refuse to acknowledge, but he’s done admirable work in bringing the scandal of Kissinger’s reputation as a ‘statesman’ to more attention. It is disgusting the way American amnesia about history has allowed HK to become a (very highly-paid) talking head and bottomless source of pseudo-gravitas.

3

Henry 06.25.04 at 7:55 pm

bq. Hitchens may refuse to acknowledge, but he’s done admirable work in bringing the scandal of Kissinger’s reputation as a ‘statesman’ to more attention. It is disgusting the way American amnesia about history has allowed HK to become a (very highly-paid) talking head and bottomless source of pseudo-gravitas.

Agreed – the words “very slightly more complicated” were chosen carefully.

Chun – you were renouncing the blogosphere and all its works, _nicht wahr_ ? Recanting?

4

Ophelia Benson 06.25.04 at 8:02 pm

Yeh. I wasn’t disagreeing with you, Henry (sorry, I didn’t make that clear!), just…just ranting, I guess.

5

chun the unavoidable 06.25.04 at 8:05 pm

If I were still blogging, I’d be blogging about this:

http://www.maydaymystery.org

6

Randy Paul 06.25.04 at 9:03 pm

I think that it’s also important to include the role that the National Security Archives is playing in terms of setting the accurate historical record on Kissinger. They are essentially hoisting him by his own petard using declassified documents. This was the basis for the book that Maxwell reviewed and about which Rogers and Kissinger got their knickers in a twist.

They’ve recently released transcripts of telephone calls Kissinger made regarding Chile and cables that effectively show him giving a green light to the Argentine junta to commit acts of torture and murder while lying to the US ambassador to Argentina about what he told the Argentine Foreign Minister.

The historical record on Kissinger is a work on progress and I’m certain that the final result will present an image that nothing will be able to burnish.

7

Matt Weiner 06.25.04 at 9:55 pm

Least he didn’t wind up chair of the 9/11 commission. Get Your War On has more. (Although as Chun would no doubt point out if not preempted, the answers to “Does Bush even know who these motherfuckers are? Doesn’t he get suspicious when he sees Kissinger and Poindexter licking the blood off each others’ hands? are probably Yes and Why would he?)

8

Elaine Supkis 06.26.04 at 1:43 am

Kissinger loved playing Dr. Strangelove.

9

Randy Paul 06.26.04 at 4:02 am

Elaine,

Kissinger was largely unknown in 1963-64 around the time of Dr. Strangelove. The character is largely believed to be based on either Edward Teller, Werner Von Braun or a combination of the two.

10

Keith M Ellis 06.26.04 at 9:42 am

Anyone see Teller’s interview in “The Atomic Bomb” movie? God, I hate(d) that man. I’ve always been sure that he was the model for Strangelove. And I’m think General Turgidson was Curtis LeMay.

11

andrew 06.27.04 at 7:35 am

and also possibly john von neumann (strangelove)

12

Dan Hardie 06.28.04 at 1:45 pm

‘Like Winston Churchill, he intends to ensure that history is kind to him by writing it.’

There was an awful lot wrong with Churchill, as a man, politician and writer, but comparing him in any sense to Kissinger is frankly ridiculous. Anyone who has seriously studied World War 2 will agree that Churchill’s memoirs, in sharp distinction to Kissinger’s, contain much valuable revelation of the truth.

Not only that, but you betray your ignorance of what Churchill actually said: he never claimed to ‘ensure that history is kind to him by writing it’.
You’ve clearly got a very muddled recollection of a typical, and rather good, Churchill joke: ‘The judgement of history upon Stanley Baldwin will be harsh and heavy. I know this. (Theatrical pause). Because I will write the history.’ Embarrassing error, rather as if one were to describe Dean Swift as ‘the Irish author and advocate of child-cannibalism’.

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