Saturday, May 23, 2015

the american conscience is dead...,

thenation |  the US bombed Cambodia, a sovereign nation Washington was not at war with, from 1965 to 1973. When Nixon and Kissinger entered the White House in early 1969, they greatly intensified (in terms of bombing rate and amount of munitions dropped) and expanded (in terms of extent of territory targeted) the air assault. They did so both because Cambodia reportedly housed the headquarters of the National Liberation Front and because they wanted to send a message to Hanoi that Nixon was “mad” and unpredictable. Between 1969 and 1973, the US dropped at least 500,000 tons of bombs on Cambodia, killing over 100,000 Khmer civilians, according to Ben Kiernan, the founding director of Yale’s Cambodian Genocide Program. Broadly speaking, Nixon’s and Kissinger’s Cambodia bombing comprised two named operations. The first, Operation Menu, ran from March 18, 1969, to May 1970. The second, Operation Freedom Deal, ran from May 1970 to August 1973. Menu was the phase that was most secret, carried out with the deception protocol put into place by Kissinger. Freedom was less covert, justified by requests for support from the Cambodian government to fight the growing insurgency. Still, the extent and intensity of Freedom Deal was under-reported in the US press, which was often fed confusing and mixed messages by the administration.

It wasn’t until 1973 that Congress and journalists began to investigate Operation Menu, around the same moment that the Watergate scandal was unfolding. At the time, some members of Congress were “convinced that the secret bombing of Cambodia will emerge as another, perhaps more dangerous, facet of the Watergate scandal,” as Hersh, then a New York Times reporter, wrote in July of that year.

But investigators couldn’t identify the person (it was Kissinger) in Nixon’s staff that presided over the cover-up nor find the link (Sitton) connecting the conspiracy to the White House. “Who ordered the falsification of the records?” one senator asked General Creighton Abrams, the commander of military operations in Vietnam. “I just do not know,” he answered.

Hersh didn’t give up. Nixon resigned, Ford finished his term, and Kissinger left office in 1977 having largely escaped association with Watergate. Compared to the preverbal thuggery of the rest of Nixon’s inner circle—Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell—not to mention actual thugs like G. Gordon Liddy, Kissinger’s reputation was intact: “prodigiously intelligent, articulate, talented, witty, captivating and imposing man…. he is not mean-spirited, he seems drawn to telling the truth, and he wants to serve his country well. He also appears to have a historical vision,” as none other than The New Yorker’s William Shawn wrote (in 1973).

Hersh, though, kept digging, researching a book that still remains the defining portrait of Kissinger. As Colonel Sitton, recalling his encounter with Hersh, said: Hersh “was so upset with Kissinger’s first book he had decided to write an exposĂ©, a counter if you will.” Sitton here is referring to Kissinger’s The White House Years. Published in 1979, that first volume of Kissinger’s memoirs won the National Book Award for history. Today, most honest historians would place it in the category of fantasy. In it, Kissinger devotes, as he does in nearly every subsequent book he’s written, a good many pages distorting the catastrophe he helped visit on Cambodia.

Hersh “countered” in 1983 with The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House. An “authorized” biography of Kissinger will be out soon, but Hersh’s Kissinger is still the one to top. He gives us the defining portrait of the man as a preening paranoid, tacking between ruthlessness and sycophancy to advance his career, cursing his fate and letting fly the B-52s. Small in his vanities and shabby in his motives, Kissinger, in Hersh’s hands, is nonetheless Shakespearean, because the pettiness gets played out on a world stage with epic consequences. The Price of Power covers all of Kissinger’s many transgressions—from Bangladesh to Chile, from wiretapping his own staff to giving Suharto the greenlight to invade Timor.

But the secret bombing of Cambodia is the book’s centerpiece, fueling the paranoia that drives Nixon’s downfall.


makheru bradley said...

"The American conscience is dead." LOL Something which never existed cannot die.

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