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<nettime> Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Jail no. 3: Kissinger


The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Jail: Enter the

MAR 11, 2014 AT 8:00 AM


Not long ago I requested and received White House Years, Henry
Kissinger's 1,500-page account of his stint in the Nixon
Administration, the Ford Administration being covered in a later
and no doubt less edifying volume. I was so excited that I wanted
to share a bit of my joy with my cellmate, Tom. Tom is a bank
robber who has the words "Game Over" tattooed on his knuckles,
which is to say by implication that at some point in his life he
happened to glance at his knuckles, noticed that the words "Game
Over" were not to be found on them, and said to himself, "I'd
better get that rectified." When I was first assigned to his
cell, I noticed that he was in possession of something called The
Anger Management Workbook, which is rather a cliche thing for
one's new cellmate to have lying around. I like to think that
before he came upon this textual remedy, he spent a great deal of
his time pummeling people to death while shouting, "Game Over!"

"Tom," I asked him now, "Would you like me to read to you from
Henry Kissinger's memoirs in Henry Kissinger's voice?"


"How do you know you don't unless you've tried it?"

"I just know."

I operate under the assumption that people don't know what's good
for them until I show them, so I began to read out loud. "In a
deep sense Nelson Rockefeller suffered from the hereditary
disability of very wealthy men in an egalitarian society," I
croaked Teutonically. "He wanted assurance that he had
transcended what was inherently ambiguous: that his career was
due to merit and not wealth, that he had earned it by achievement
and not acquired it by inheritance."

Tom got up and left. You can tell what a hard case this guy is,
unmoved as he was by Nelson Rockefeller's central anxiety. I
continued to read out loud for a few minutes. Then it occurred to
me that this might summon an evil spirit, so I stopped.

Whether you consider him a war criminal or you're a war criminal
yourself, there are any number of reasons to read White House
Years. Regardless of whatever else he may be, Kissinger is
certainly a sure hand at characterization:

	Nixon's fear of rebuffs caused him to make proposals in such
	elliptical ways that it was often difficult to tell what he
	was driving at, whether in fact he was suggesting anything
	specific at all. After frequent contact I came to understand
	his subtle circumlocutions better; I learned that to Nixon
	words were like billiard balls; what mattered was not the
	initial impact but the carom.

This is rather poetic for a German. And one has little choice but
to respect someone so thoroughly ruthless that he will deploy two
semicolons within a single sentence. Quibble with his methods,
but here is a man that gets results.

Not all of the book's gems are provided by Kissinger himself.
Here's a bit of folksy wisdom from Lyndon Johnson:

	"Read the columnists," he said, "and if they call a member of
	your staff thoughtful, dedicated, or any other friendly
	adjective, fire him immediately. He is your leaker."

As much as I enjoyed this magisterial treatise on U.S. foreign
policy in the Age of Spiro Agnew, it was nonetheless disturbing
to read under my particular, limited circumstances. Not having
access to the internet by which I might readily check Kissinger's
claims against the historical record, and my own knowledge of the
era being limited largely to the fact that Jefferson Airplane had
not yet evolved (suddenly and Pokemon-like) into Jefferson
Starship, I felt myself at the mercy of Kissinger, whose famous
advocacy of realpolitik and secret bombings and such things would
presumably also entail a not-entirely-thorough commitment to the
truth on such occasions as  when U.S. national security might be
better served by lies, which I gather is often the case. This was
not much of a problem during my similarly incarcerated reading
last year of Born Again, by Kissinger's fellow Nixon
Administration ne'er-do-well Chuck Colson, a book I reviewed or
at least made fun of for Vice. Being a reliably mediocre fellow,
Colson's attempts to conceal the truth are usually on the order
of "Whatever you do, don't look over there!" Ah, but Kissinger is
very much the Final Boss of the Obscurantist Establishment.

To catch out such a man as Kissinger, you must wait for him to
venture out of his impenetrable Fortress of Rhetorical
Competence. This he will do whenever he sees that some other
powerful U.S. official is being made to answer for his illegal
conduct by the citizenry or its elected representatives. On page
38, for instance, Kissinger throws out a few glowing words about
CIA Director Richard Helms and then adds, cryptically even for
him, "He deserved better than the accusations that marred the
close of his public career after 30 years of such distinguished
service." One can't help but detect that something is amiss here
when Kissinger feels compelled to denounce certain "allegations"
but cannot bring himself to even hint at what these might consist
of. Presumably he is not constrained by space considerations,
this being, after all, a 1,500-page tome in which 11 pages are
given over to a round of talks with the Japanese on textile

In this instance it might help to know that Helms was discovered
to have instituted a thoroughly illegal domestic surveillance
program, CHAOS, by which to keep tabs on dissent. Luckily I
happen to be a malcontent and thus also something of a walking
encyclopedia of illegal government activities, vintage and
otherwise, or I wouldn't have known this off-hand. But after
checking with a friend in the outside world, I learned that
Kissinger was more likely referring to Helms' criminal conviction
around the time when White House Years was being written for
misleading Congress over CIA activities overseas (for which he
received no jail time, naturally). Whatever it was, the bottom
line is apparently that Helms "deserved better" than to be
subject to "allegations" of having committed some of the crimes
against the public of which he was shown to be guilty, although
Kissinger does not explain why this should be the case; I assume
the reason is classified on grounds of national security.

Indeed, interference by mere congressmen into such things as the
CIA is a sore spot with Kissinger, who is still upset that the
Senate had the nerve to investigate the agency's involvement in
the 1973 overthrow of Chile's President Allende. Bizarrely, he
tries to claim that the mere act of criticizing its policies left
the CIA with no choice but to conduct even worse illicit
activities abroad: "Paradoxically, American intervention in the
domestic affairs of other countries has multiplied and become
less discriminating since the covert operations of the CIA have
come under attack. The earlier 'Cold War' period of CIA
activities observed certain limits: Its criteria were foreign
policy and national security dangers to the United States, of
which there were not that many." Kissinger makes no effort to
enlighten us on how opposition to the CIA's illicit conduct has
somehow caused it to drop its prior sense of restraint, which is
just as well since this claim is nonsense.

The democratically elected government of Iran that was overthrown
in 1953 with the active participation of the CIA, for instance,
was obviously not any sort of "national security" threat to the
United States, unless Kissinger defines U.S. national security as
requiring that former colonies of the British Empire refrain from
taking back the natural resources that its former masters seized
from them, as happened in Iran to prompt the CIA to intervene
(something it presumably did more in sadness than in anger). Come
to think of it, Kissinger may in fact define U.S. national
security in such a way, in which case I suppose I owe him an
apology. Wait, what just happened?

Kissinger is especially hilarious on the subject of the domestic
Vietnam debate. "There was no civility or grace from the antiwar
leaders; they mercilessly persecuted those they regarded as
culpable." In support of this, Kissinger points out, in apparent
seriousness, the following instances of merciless persecution:
"Walter Rostow was not reappointed to his professorship at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology.... William Bundy's
appointment as editor at Foreign Affairs was greeted by howls of
protest. Dean Rusk...could find no position for months until his
alma mater, the University of Georgia, appointed him to a
professorship and gave him a part-time secretary." And yet even
today, there is no Architects of the Vietnam War Memorial in
Washington to commemorate these fallen (or at least
un-reappointed) heroes. I suggest a statue of a man nobly typing
up his own lesson plans because his part-time secretary is off in
the afternoons. On a totally unrelated note, the name "Daniel
Ellsberg" does not seem to appear in the book, probably due to
some sort of editorial oversight.

My main complaint with The White House Years, aside from the
frankly incredible bullshit I just quoted, is the presence of
Henry Cabot Lodge, who shows up in several capacities, most
notably as Ambassador to Saigon. I have nothing against Lodge,
who I'm sure is a fine public servant, but for some reason I've
always been under the vague impression that he is actually a
mid-19th-century senator. Clearly I'm mistaken in this, for here
he is in the 1970s at the peak of his working life, but no matter
how often I read about him shuttling off to Paris to negotiate
some minor point with Le Duc Tho, I simply cannot shake my
original conviction that I've also seen him conferring in
Brookline with Daniel Webster. Then I begin to suspect that
perhaps he has done both of these things -- that Henry Cabot
Lodge is in fact a sort of St. Germain figure who cannot die, or
perhaps even some extra-dimensional entity who travels through
time at will and who has decided to champion the cause of our
republic in service to his own etheric agenda, incomprehensible
as it may be to our human linear thinking. One evokes this minor
deity, I suppose, simply by saying his name with due reverence. I
see Nixon, for instance, in the Oval Office, very much at the end
of his rope. Desperately he voices the age-old incantation passed
down from president to president: "HENRY CABOT LODGE!" Before the
last syllable is even spoken, he is simply THERE, standing
entirely motionless in a pose of ice-cold competence. The problem
is explained to him • simply a matter of habit, as of course he
knew all that was to come before the bodies were cold at Valley
Forge. "Leave it to me," says this fixer bound by neither space
nor time, and then 11 pages later we have a textile export
agreement with the Japanese that both sides can live with.
Needless to say this is all very distracting.


John Kiriakou, the former CIA employee who is now serving time on
charges related to his exposure of the agency's torture program,
is being systematically harassed by prison officials in
retaliation for the column he's been writing on his experiences
while incarcerated. Please help to spread the word by visiting and sharing this information with news outlets
and activist organizations.


Bible Verse of the Day: Deuteronomy 22:17

"When you go out to war against your enemies, and the LORD your
god gives them unto your hand and you take them captive, and you
see among the captives a beautiful woman, and you desire to take
her to be your wife, and you bring her home to your house, she
shall shave her head and pare her nails."

[Ed: This is installment No. 4 of "The Barrett Brown Review of
Arts and Letters and Jail." Here are his first{1} and second{2}
and third{3} submissions. Here is more about Barrett.{4}
Donate{5} to legal defense.]






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