December 4 2002
Kissinger's shady record is a bad omen for his new job
From Cambodia to Chile, a career widely reviled
By Clarence Page
December 1, 2002
WASHINGTON -- President Bush hit a sour note Wednesday when he named former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger--of all people--to head a supposedly independent investigation into the federal response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
If anything, Bush should be naming a commission to investigate Kissinger instead.
The press assumes the (prone) position
The mainstream press has performed poorly, as predicted, in the face of Henry Kissinger's outrageous appointment to chair the "independent" commission on 9/11. Although a few mildly worded editorials have questioned Kissinger's past record and present conflicts of interest, notably in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, the media's investigation of the investigator has been noticeably limp.
In response to the very mildest questions about his private clients, the old reprobate spouts his usual non sequiturs: "No law firm discloses its clients," he declares in the New York Times today. Of course, that's false on two counts: his firm doesn't practice law, and law firms are required to disclose their lobbying clients on Capitol Hill, in every state capitol and most city halls. He also noted that he "had no clients in the government of Saudi Arabia," but he represents no governments at all – just corporations that want favors from governments. (I'm familiar with this phony routine because I investigated Kissinger's ties to the U.S. Iraq-Business Forum, a Washington lobby that fronted for Saddam, before the Gulf War. My editors at The New Republic received a furious letter from Henry that addressed none of the facts in the article.)
The Times story by Katharine Q. Seelye did nothing to advance public knowledge about Kissinger's clients or conflicts, although she did find a tendentious way to connect Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and a White House critic, to Kissinger Associates through H.J. Heinz, the condiment giant. (Kerry's wife Teresa is the widow of a Heinz heir and controls the fortune he left.)
Here's another worrisome sign about the Kissinger appointment: William Safire thinks his old pal Henry is just about perfect for this job, and waves away all the ethical questions. (I know this is a digression, but has anyone else noticed that Safire has taken to preening in almost every column now? It began with frequent references to his late-night phone calls with his pal "Arik" Sharon, and now it's getting worse. The other day he proclaimed himself a "shtarker," Yiddish for tough guy, and today he reminds us that he once appeared in a David Levine cartoon and sat in Edward Bennett Williams's Redskins box.) Meanwhile, more probing examinations of Kissinger's history can be found here and here (where Hitchens posted a column foaming with fury, though not exactly tough on the White House, on the same day I wondered what he would write.).
For real balance, maybe an investigative reporter who has covered Kissinger should be appointed to an open seat on the commission. Is Seymour Hersh available?