excerpted from the book:

The Trial of Henry Kissinger




Christopher Hitchins



Six years after he left office, Kissinger set up a private consulting firm named Kissinger Associates, which exists to smooth and facilitate contact between multinational corporations and foreign governments. The client list is secret, and contracts with "the Associates" contain a clause prohibiting any mention of the arrangement, but corporate clients include or have included American Express, Shearson Lehmann, Arco, Daewoo of South Korea, H.J. Heinz, ITT Lockheed, Anheuser-Busch, the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, Coca-Cola, Fiat, Revlon, Union Carbide, and the Midland Bank. Kissinger's initial fellow "associates" were General Brent Scowcroft and Lawrence Eagleburger, both of whom had worked closely with him in the foreign policy and national security branches of government.


Numerous instances of a harmony between this firm and Kissinger's policy pronouncements can be cited. The best-known is probably that of the People's Republic of China. Kissinger assisted several American conglomerates, notably H.J. Heinz, to gain access to the Chinese market.


The Chinese term for this zone of shadowy transactions is guan-xi. In less judgmental American speech it would probably translate as "access," or influence-peddling. Selling baby food in China may seem innocuous enough, but when the Chinese regime turned its guns and tanks on its own children in Tienanmen Square in 1989, it had no more staunch defender than Henry Kissinger. Arguing very strongly against sanctions, he wrote that "China remains too important for America's national security to risk the relationship on the emotions of the moment." Taking the Deng Xiaoping view of the democratic turbulence, and even the view of those we now suppose to have pressed Deng from the Right, he added, "No government in the world would have tolerated having the main square of its capital occupied for eight weeks by tens of thousands of demonstrators." Of course, some governments would have found a way to meet with the leaders of those demonstrators.... It is perhaps just as well that Kissinger's services were not retained by the Stalinist regimes of Romania Czechoslovakia and East Germany, which succumbed to just such public insolence later in the same year.


Another instance of the Kissingerian practice is the dual involvement of "the Associates" with Saddam Hussein. When Saddam was riding high in the late 1980s, and having his way with the departments of Commerce and Agriculture in Washington, and throwing money around like the proverbial drunken sailor (and using poison gas and chemical weapons on his Kurdish population without a murmur from Washington), the US-Iraq Business Forum provided a veritable slot-machine of contacts, contracts and opportunities. Kissinger's partner Alan Stoga, who had also been the economist attached to his Reagan-era Commission on Central America, featured noticeably on a Forum junket to Baghdad. At the same time, Kissinger's firm represented the shady Italian Banco Nazionale del Lavoro, which was later shown to have made illegal loans to the Hussein regime. As usual, everything was legal. It always is, when the upper middle class meets the lower Middle East.


In the same year - 1989 - Kissinger made his lucrative connection with Freeport McMoRan, a globalized firm based in New Orleans. Its business is the old-fashioned one of extracting oil, gas, and minerals. Its chairman James Moffett, has probably earned the favorite titles bestowed by the business and financial pages, being beyond any doubt "flamboyant," "buccaneering," and a "venture capitalist."


In 1989, Freeport McMoRan paid Kissinger Associates a retainer of $200,000 and fees of $600,000, not to mention a promise of a 2 percent commission on future earnings. Freeport McMoRan also made Kissinger a member of its board of directors, at an annual salary of at least $30,000. In 1990, the two concerns went into business in Burma, the most grimly repressive state in all of South Asia. Freeport McMoRan would drill for oil and gas, according to the agreement, and Kissinger's other client, Daewoo (which was then itself a venal corporate prop of an unscrupulous Korean regime), would build the plant. However, that year the Burmese generals, under their wonderful collective title of SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council), lost a popular election to the democratic opposition led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and decided to annul the result. This development - producing yet more irritating calls for the isolation of the Burmese junta - was unfavorable to the Kissinger- Freeport-Daewoo triad, and the proposal lapsed.


But the following year, in March 1991, Kissinger was back in Indonesia with Moffett, closing a deal for a thirty-year license to continue exploiting a gigantic gold and copper mine. The mine is of prime importance for three reasons. First, it was operated as part of a joint venture with the Indonesian military government, and with that government's leader, the now-deposed General Suharto. Second, it is located on the island of Irian Jaya (in an area formerly known as West Irian): a part of the archipelago which - in common with East Timor - is only Indonesian by right of arbitrary conquest. Third, its operations commenced in 1973 - two years before Henry Kissinger visited Indonesia and helped unleash the Indonesian bloodbath in East Timor while unlocking a flow of weaponry to his future business partners.


This could mean no more than the "harmony of interest" I suggested above. No more, in other words, than a happy coincidence. What is not coincidental is the following:

* Freeport McMoRan's enormous Grasberg mine in Irian Jaya stands accused of creating an environmental and social catastrophe. In October 1995 the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a Federal body that exists to help US companies overseas, decided to cancel Freeport McMoRan's investment insurance for political risk- the very element on which Kissinger had furnished soothing assurances m 1991. OPIC concluded that the Grasberg mine had "created and continues to pose unreasonable or major environmental, health or safety hazards with respect to the rivers that are being impacted by the tailings, the surrounding terrestrial ecosystem, and the local inhabitants."


* The "local inhabitants" who came last on that list are the Amungme people, whose protests at the environmental rape, and at working conditions in the mine, were met by Indonesian regular soldiers at the service of Freeport McMoRan, and under the orders of Suharto. In March 1996, large- scale rioting nearly closed the mine at a cost of four deaths and many injuries.

Freeport McMoRan mounted an intense lobbying campaign in Washington, with Kissinger's help, to get its OPIC insurance reinstated. The price was the creation of a trust fund of $100 million for the repair of the Grasberg site after it, and its surrounding ecology, had eventually been picked clean. All of this became moot with the overthrow of the Suharto dictatorship, the detention of Suharto himself, and the unmasking of an enormous nexus of "crony capitalism" involving him, his family, his military colleagues, and certain favored multinational corporations. This political revolution also restored, at incalculable human cost, the independence of East Timor. There was even a suggestion of a war crimes inquiry and a human rights tribunal, to settle some part of the account for the years of genocide and occupation. Once again, Henry Kissinger has had to scan the news with anxiety, and wonder whether even worse revelations are in store for him. It will be a national and international disgrace if the answer to this question is left to the pillaged and misgoverned people of Indonesia, rather than devolving onto a United States Congress that has for so long shirked its proper responsibility.


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