Ignore the recent attempts to explain away Henry Kissinger's "gas chamber" remarks; his career is a long list of…

A wartime lexicon.
Dec. 27 2010 12:37 PM

Mr. Kissinger, Have You No Shame?

Ignore the recent excuses. Henry Kissinger's entire career was a series of massacres and outrages.

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I did not suggest that the AJC failed to register any criticism of Kissinger. Indeed, were they not so eager to wrench my own words from their "context," they would notice that I took care to specify that only Mortimer Zuckerman and his co-signers were in such a rush to exculpation as to omit that formality. The opening of the Dec. 11 press release speaks of the AJC being "dismayed" by gas-chamber talk, and Harris goes so far as to describe it as "chilling." My article, which concerned the mutedness of so many responses, might have been strengthened if I had had space to include these ringing expressions, too.

The last sentence of Harris' statement states that "it's hard to find the right words" in which to express condemnation (of the "remarks," rather than their author). Perhaps for him it is. When he finds the right words, I shall be happy to draw attention to them.


( Return to the original sentence.)

From the American Jewish Committee: If there was ever a textbook example of a straw man argument, it is Christopher Hitchens' misrepresentation of AJC's response to the outrageous Kissinger-Nixon tapes.

Christopher denies suggesting that AJC failed to register criticism of Kissinger. But in his article, he kicks off his litany of "rationalizations" with a quote from our own David Harris, who was twice detained by the KGB because of his 15-year activism on behalf of Soviet Jews. Later on, he refers to Harris' comments as a "defense."

They key point is this: Before Harris speculated over the reasons for Kissinger's remarks, he stated, "That a German Jew who fled the Nazis could speak of a genocidal outcome in such callous tones is truly chilling." That is an unambiguous condemnation, and one we stand by.

Additionally, we expressed our revulsion at the graphic language concerning "gas chambers." Christopher was also struck by this, though he does not credit us for sharing both his observation and reaction.

Whether Kissinger experienced heightened anxiety by dint of being a Jew serving a President who clearly loathed Jews is a subsidiary factor here. What matters for AJC— an organization that helped spearhead the Soviet Jewry campaign, and one that, for decades, has worked tirelessly on the issues of Holocaust commemoration and memory—is that Kissinger's comments were shameful and disgraceful.

Christopher condemns those comments as part of his personal campaign against Kissinger. We condemn them because they touch upon the core of our very institutional being.

From Christopher Hitchens: Well, first let's be generous. "Shameful and disgraceful" are much less ambivalent than "dismaying" or "chilling" and seem intended to express real condemnation of the offender (which the preceding more neutral terms were designed to avoid doing). So I don't think that this has been a waste of time.