Mr. Kissinger, Have You No Shame?
Ignore the recent excuses. Henry Kissinger's entire career was a series of massacres and outrages.
Rationalization is a fairly objective word, calling attention to a novel or plausible attempt at an explanation of something, while expressing doubt as to its motives. In retrospect, perhaps the AJC would rather have concentrated their attention on the chief figure in this. (I lazily said that "almost half" of Harris' words on Kissinger were directed at Nixon; in fact it was rather more than half.) So I must still insist that a lot of the "straw" was already on the scene when I got there.
Talking of stray straws, this is the second time we are told that Harris was detained for his exemplary work for Soviet Jews. But I fail to see quite what bearing it has. I was inconvenienced myself, for the same reason, by the Yugoslav police during the post-Helsinki summit in Belgrade in 1977. It doesn't give me any particular standing in an argument over Kissinger's central and pivotal role in an administration that the AJC elsewhere concedes as having "normalized" racism.
It's perfectly true that I have been writing for years that Henry Kissinger has the mind and the record of a psychopathic criminal. It's also not the first time that I have written about his collusion with Nixon in the mouthing of anti-Jewish obscenities. But on this occasion, as I tried to point out, it was he who was the initiator and who went as far as any racist could go. That fact seemed to me to call for more than a routine comment—or a comment that occurred in Paragraph 4 of a four-paragraph statement.
I don't see that this focus entitles anyone at the AJC to imply that I am less revolted by gas-chamber talk than they are or that my individual revulsion is weaker than their "institutional" (somehow an odd choice) form of it. It's certainly not the first time that I have written about anti-Semitism as a lethal poison in its own right, and by whomsoever expressed.
Possibly the AJC still feels that its original statement said all that was needful. Something in the tone of this exchange, however, hints to me that they feel they could and should have done better. Which they now have. At any rate, I am grateful for the opportunity to clarify my own position.
Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was a columnist for Vanity Fair and the author, most recently, of Arguably, a collection of essays.
Photograph of Henry Kissinger by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.