May Henry Kissinger not rest in peace

Image: Julissa Helmuth


I always dreamed that a day would come when Henry Kissinger would have to stand before a court of law and answer for his crimes against humanity.

It is strangely appropriate that Henry Kissinger died in the year marking the fiftieth anniversary of the 1973 military coup that overthrew President Salvador Allende and ended Chile's fascinating attempt to create, for the first time in history, a socialist society without resorting to violence. As Richard Nixon's national security advisor, Kissinger fiercely opposed Salvador Allende and destabilized his democratically elected government by every means possible because he believed that if our peaceful revolution were successful, American hegemony would be undermined. He feared, according to him, that the example would spread and affect the global balance of power.

Not only did Henry Kissinger actively encourage the violent overthrow of a foreign leader elected by a sovereign nation and free people, he also later supported the murderous regime of General Augusto Pinochet, an endorsement that failed to take into account the massive violation of the human rights of his citizens by the dictatorship, whose most brutal manifestation was the cruel and terrifying practice of “disappearing” opponents.

It is those “disappeared” that I think of now, as Henry Kissinger is feted by Washington's shameless bipartisan elite. Fifty years after the coup d'état in Chile, we still do not know the final whereabouts of 1.162 men and women, and their bodies have not yet been buried by their families. The contrast is revealing and significant: while Henry Kissinger will have a memorable, likely stately funeral, many victims of his “Realpolitik” have not yet found a small place on earth where they can be buried.

If my first thoughts, upon hearing the news of Henry Kissinger's departure from the planet he plundered and dishonored, were filled with the memories of my missing Chilean compatriots – several of them, dear friends –, a torrent of other victims soon came to mind. : countless dead, injured and missing, in Vietnam and Cambodia, in East Timor and Cyprus, in Uruguay and Argentina. And I also remembered the Kurds that Henry Kissinger betrayed, and the regime of apartheid in South Africa that he reinforced, and of the Bangladeshi dead that he belittled.

I always dreamed that a day would come when Henry Kissinger would have to stand before a court of law and answer for his crimes against humanity.

It almost happened. In May 2001, while staying at the Hotel Ritz in Paris, Henry Kissinger was summoned to appear before French judge Roger Le Loire to answer questions about five French citizens who “disappeared” during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. However, instead of taking the opportunity to clear his name and reputation, Henry Kissinger immediately fled France.

Paris was not the only city he fled in 2001. He also escaped London when Baltasar Garzón asked Interpol to arrest the former United States secretary of state so that he could testify in Pinochet's trial (under house arrest in this city). Henry Kissinger also did not deign to respond to the Argentine judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral about his involvement in the infamous “Operation Condor”, nor to the Chilean judge Juan Guzmán about the knowledge that this “elder statesman” could have had of the murder of the American citizen Charles Horman by the henchmen of Pinochet in the days immediately following the coup (a case that inspired Costa Gavras' film, “Missing").

And yet I continued to harbor this impossible dream: Henry Kissinger in the dock, Kissinger being held responsible for so much suffering. A dream that will inevitably fade with his death.

All the more reason for this trial to take place in the court of public opinion, within these pain-filled words that I am writing right now. The disappeared of Chile, the forgotten dead of all the nations that Henry Kissinger devastated with his merciless strategies, cry out for justice or, at least, for that pretense of justice that is called memory.

So despite how we're supposed to react when someone dies, I don't want Henry Kissinger to rest in peace. I hope, on the contrary, that the ghosts of those multitudes whom he irreparably harmed will disturb his funeral and haunt his future. That this spectral disturbance occurs depends, of course, on us, the living, depends on humanity's willingness to hear the remote and silenced voices of Henry Kissinger's victims amidst the din and deluge of praise and praise, depends on us never let's forget.

* Ariel Dorfman is a writer, professor of literature at Duke University (USA). Author, among other books by The long goodbye to Pinochet (Company of Letters).

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.

Originally published in the newspaper Página12 [].

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