Wednesday, December 29, 2004

"Henry Has A Very Dark Side"

Kenneth Maxwell, former book reviewer for the Western Hemisphere at Foreign Affairs magazine and senior fellow and director of Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, learned first hand about Henry Kissinger's "dark side," and why his then editor James F. Hoge, Jr. warned him in such a manner. The imbroglio involving Maxwell, Kissinger, Hoge and Kissinger's associate, William D. Rogers, stemmed from the review Maxwell penned for the November/December 2003 issue of Foreign Affairs of a book entitled The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability, written by Peter Kornbluh . The fallout from this fracas left Maxwell with no option other than to resign both his position at the magazine as well as his endowed chair as a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in May 2004, positions he had held for fifteen and eleven years respectively. The controversy has left both institutions tarnished and compromised in the eyes of many. Maxwell recounts the details of this convoluted tale in a must-read working paper for the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University where he now teaches.

The Book

The author of the book at the center of the maelstrom, Peter Kornbluh, is one of the lead researchers and co-founders of the National Security Archive, a non-profit, non-partisan research library dedicated to the acquisition and cataloguing of declassified government documents. Kornbluh himself has played a leading role in efforts to get the US government to declassify documents relating to US foreign policy in South America during the 1970s - over the strenuous objection of people like Henry Kissinger who served as National Security Advisor and later Secretary of State in both the Nixon and Ford White Houses during the period in question.

Kornbluh and others like him eventually succeeded, after lengthy legal challenges, and in 2003 vast quantities of previously classified documents, including conversations among the principals in the White House, were made publicly available through the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA). Kornbluh then proceeded to compile the evidence from these documents, and reproduce many of them in the book that Maxwell eventually reviewed. Amongst the findings Kornbluh derived from the declassified documents, three disturbing episodes in US foreign policy in relation to Chile stood out:

First, Kornbluh discovered details pertaining to the CIA's involvement in a kidnapping that resulted in the murder of Chile's chief of staff, General Rene Schneider, in 1970. Schneider's elimination, which came three years before the coup, according to Maxwell's review, "was regarded as essential by the Nixon administration, since Schneider was a strict constitutionalist and therefore an obstacle to U.S. efforts to promote a military intervention before Allende could take office."

The second chapter of US-Chile relations examined by Kornbluh was the CIA's extensive involvement in the coup that toppled Chile's democratically elected president, Salvador Allende, which resulted in the installation of the brutally repressive despot, General Augusto Pinochet. In a coincidence that neither Kornbluh nor Maxwell dismiss outright as mere chance, the coup that toppled Allende was undertaken on September 11, 1973 (in fact, Maxwell's review is entitled "The Other 9/11"). While the coup itself was carried out by Chileans, the CIA provided logistical support and financial contributions to the cause, as well as actively setting the conditions by engaging in numerous actions intended to destablize Chile and make the situation ripe for the toppling of a democracy in favor of a dictatorship. In turn, Pinochet regime's rule spanned two decades and resulted in the torture, repression, and death of tens of thousands of Chilean citizens. From Maxwell's review:

But what is very clear in all of this is that the coup in Chile is exactly what Kissinger's boss wanted. As Nixon put it in his ineffable style, "It's that son of a bitch Allende. We're going to smash him." As early as October of 1970, the CIA had warned of possible consequences: "you have asked us to provoke chaos in Chile. ... We provide you with a formula for chaos which is unlikely to be bloodless. To dissimulate the U.S. involvement will be clearly impossible." The Pinochet dictatorship lasted 17 long and brutal years.
The third installment of US policy exhumed by Kornbluh from the declassified documents deals with the knowledge and involvement on the part of the CIA and the White House in Operation Condor - an international state-sponsored terror network set up by the Pinochet regime to track and eliminate opponents living abroad with the cooperation of the governments in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, and, later, Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador. US policymakers even knew that a Chilean assassination team had been planning to enter the United States to carry out the infamous car bomb assassination on September 21, 1976 of Orlando Letelier, Allende’s foreign minister and later minister of defense, who perished along with Ronni Moffitt, his American assistant. This brazen act of cross-border violence occurred in Washington DC less than fourteen blocks from the White House.

Maxwell summarizes Kornbluh's findings:

Kornbluh's bill of particulars and the supporting documents he has uncovered confirm the deep involvement of the U.S. intelligence services in Chile prior to and after the coup. In outline, this story has been known for many years and will be no surprise to Chileans. The extent of the involvement was originally hinted at during the Senate hearings conducted by the late Frank Church in the mid-1970s. The scope and nature of these clandestine activities are significantly amplified by the documents released in the extensive declassification ordered by President Bill Clinton in 1999 and 2000 and reprinted in Kornbluh's book. These documents include: transcripts of top-secret discussions among President Nixon, Kissinger, and other cabinet members on how "to bring Allende down"; minutes of secret meetings chaired by Kissinger to plan covert operations in Chile; new documentation of the notorious case of Charles Horman, an American murdered by the Chilean military and subject of the movie Missing; comprehensive documentation of the Letelier case and the extensive CIA, National Security Council, and State Department reports surrounding it; and U.S. intelligence reporting on Operation Condor.
For many unfamiliar with the details of this sordid chapter in US foreign policy, the fact that the US government actively undermined a democracy in favor of a brutal military dictator may come as some surprise. Unfortunately, it was not a practice limited to Chile, or South America in general. A fair appraisal of this period in American history would also shed light on US tactics in other parts of the world for, as Maxwell points out, "US methodology in Chile was not that different from the tactics used to remove regimes from Guatemala City to Tehran deemed dangerous to the geopolitical status quo." Both Iran and Guatemala saw their democratically elected leaders, Mohammed Mossadegh and Jacobo Arbenz respectively, fall victim to coups instigated, engineered and supported by the CIA. Both cases were also confirmed through the release of documents made through FOIA requests, although the events were relatively well known to historians regardless of the corroboration. In the case of Iran, we are probably still living with the repercussions of our anti-democratic actions to this day.

The Review

Henry Kissinger and William Rogers, his long-term collaborator and vice chairman of his consulting firm Kissinger Associates, Inc. (Rogers had also served under Kissinger in the State Department in the 1970s, including a stint as Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs during the Ford administration from October 1974 to June 1976 and then as Undersecretary of State for Economic Affairs until 1977), both actively sought to preempt the critical reception of the Kornbluh book before its release, maintaining that the alleged connection between the US and the Allende coup was a mythical fantasy perpetuated by the Left - this despite the fact that the book was based on actual government documents. Kissinger even went as far as to try to place a favorable story in Foreign Affairs which sought to repudiate Kornbluh's findings, written by Mark Falcoff of - stop me if this sounds familiar - the American Enterprise Institute. According to Maxwell:

Rogers arranged for Falcoff to visit Kissinger in New York where he was granted access to Kissinger’s telephone transcripts of this period. But the ploy did not work. Foreign Affairs rejected the article. [The editor of Foreign Affairs James] Hoge told me he regarded Falcoff’s piece as "too narrow a defense of Kissinger." He then asked me to write a more wide-ranging review essay on Kornbluh’s book for the next issue.

Falcoff’s rejected article was subsequently published in Commentary magazine with the title "Kissinger & Chile: The Myth That Will Not Die."
Falcoff's article presented the dubious proposition that the Nixon White House was in no way complicit with the coup.

To prove his point Falcoff quoted from a conversation between Nixon and Kissinger on September 16, 1973, five days after the coup in Chile. Nixon asked Kissinger: "Well we didn't—as you know—our hand doesn't show on this one though." According to Falcoff, Kissinger answered: "We didn't do it."
The problem is, Falcoff was being rather selective with his recollection of that exchange. He deliberately left out the second part of Kissinger's statement which suggests an active involvement in the events of September 11, 1963, directly in contradiction to his main thesis.

As a result of the release of the full text of these telephone conversations by the National Security Archive on May 26, 2004, we now know what Kissinger actually said on that occasion was as follows: "We didn’t do it. I mean we helped them. _______ created the conditions as great as possible (??)" [ed note: according to Maxwell's footnotes, the blank underline and parenthesis with the double question mark are in the original transcript].
Although Maxwell anticipated some form of reaction from Kissinger and Rogers, the initial release of the review was met with little controversy, as many considered Maxwell's appraisal to be balanced, and the underlying subject matter relatively well known at the time in any case.

My review of Kornbluh’s book in Foreign Affairs was not inflammatory. Leslie H. Gelb, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, told me that he had read it three times and found it to be "straight down the middle." Nor did Hoge find it "biased" before Kissinger made known his displeasure. Hoge's editorial comment on the review, found in the table of contents of the issue in which it appeared, reads as follows: "Thirty years after the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile, The Pinochet File, a 'dossier' of declassified documents, lays out the true U.S. role."
After reading Maxwell's review, I agree with Les Gelb's appraisal, and would even fault the author for bending over backwards to present the facts in a light most favorable to the CIA and the Nixon and Ford administrations.

The Reaction

Shortly after the release of the issue of Foreign Affairs containing the review in question, Maxwell was informed that Rogers would be writing a response in the form of a letter to the editor to be published in the subsequent edition of the magazine. As is customary, Maxwell was given the opportunity to respond to Rogers' letter. But this is where the story takes an unanticipated turn. Rogers was granted the privilege to write a second response to Maxwell which significantly raised the ante by insinuating that Maxwell's judgment was clouded by personal bias, possibly influenced by his position at the Council. In addition, Rogers' response was replete with factual error used to bolster his claims (the details of each are well examined in Maxwell's
working paper). Astonishingly, Maxwell was denied the right to defend himself from these personal attacks and set the factual record straight by his own editor James Hoge (who, by way of background, is also the vice chair of the board of Human Rights Watch). Maxwell soon learned, through Hoge and others, that Kissinger had been exerting pressure on the Council and the editor of Foreign Affairs to end the discussion with Rogers' last missive. Maxwell recounts.
I now know that the die had been cast from the beginning. As Rogers himself inelegantly put it to Diana Jean Schemo of the New York Times, "[Hoge] promised me that I would have the last word and that Maxwell was shut off."
Kissinger preferred to stay above the fray on this matter, instead enlisting Rogers, as well as a pair of extremely influential friends with close connections to the Council and Foreign Affairs: Peter Peterson and Maurice Greenberg.

Peter G. Peterson, chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, publicly confirmed Kissinger’s anger and his own role in communicating it to Hoge. In fact, Peterson saw no conflict at all in his action:

[According to an article appearing in the Chronicle Of Higher Education discussing the matter] Mr. Peterson, who is also chairman of the Blackstone Group, a capital-investment firm, says he called Mr. Hoge in December merely to convey Mr. Kissinger’s unhappiness. "I didn’t ask him to do anything," he says. "I’m the chairman of the organization. If a member calls, and he's unhappy about something, I don’t think it’s unnatural for me to say, 'Jim, this is your area. You deal with it however you see fit.' ... But that I would interfere with anything specifically like that is really an outrageous suggestion. I have great respect for Hoge and for the independence of that magazine."
Kissinger, I was told, had not only enlisted Peterson to convey his anger, but also his old friend Maurice ('Hank') Greenberg, the vice chairman emeritus of the Council’s board and the powerful head of the giant American International Group (AIG) insurance conglomerate, the largest commercial underwriter in the United States.
According to Maxwell, Kissinger was careful in his selection of go-betweens.

Kissinger had chosen his messengers well. In addition to their central roles on the Council’s board of directors, Peterson and Greenberg have been highly engaged and generous benefactors of the Council, contributing more than $34 million between them directly in personal donations and indirectly, via the privately-held Blackstone Group in the case of Peterson, and, in the case of Greenberg, via the Starr Foundation, of which he is chairman. They had both provided major funding for Hoge’s endowed chair, the Peter G. Peterson Chair. Peterson had also been a generous contributor to the endowment of the chair I myself held at the Council on Foreign Relations. Neither is a man to be crossed lightly.
That Kissinger was adept at selecting his emissaries was apparent from the reaction that Maxwell perceived in his editor James Hoge.

Hoge explained he had been subjected to great pressure from Henry Kissinger. He said that "Henry will not speak to me or shake my hand." He again told me Peterson had called on Kissinger’s behalf. He said he was called and "sworn at for half an hour" by Greenberg. He said of Kissinger: "Henry has a very dark side," and that Kissinger had sought to interfere before in Foreign Affairs during the editorship of his predecessor William ('Bill') Hyland. He said that he did not think that the breach that resulted between Kissinger and Hyland, who were old friends, had "ever been fully repaired." Very much on his mind, it seemed to me, was how far he could go in criticizing Kissinger without having a similar breach. [emphasis added]
The Permanent Stain

Having been denied a forum in his own periodical to respond to criticisms published therein, a right that is sacrosanct to editors and writers alike, Kenneth Maxwell chose to resign in protest, and on principle, after a long and distinguished career within each body. The credibility and integrity of Foreign Affairs and the Council on Foreign Relations will be undoubtedly tarnished by this affair. After all, as Maxwell went to great pains to communicate to Hoge and his peers at the Council, the story of Kissinger, Chile and Operation Condor was already out - in fact Maxwell had also
reviewed, for Foreign Affairs, John Dinges' book The Condor Years: How Pinochet and His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents, which detailed many of the same events as Kornbluh's tome. Perhaps most importantly though, both books, and numerous essays and articles on the matter, are based on factual accounts of actual documents released after being declassified and obtained through FOIA requests, not dubious accounts revealed through anonymous leakers with ulterior motives. Therefore, their reliability rises above the suspicions of partisanship and the unreliability of mere speculation. The emerging conventional wisdom is bound to gain more credence and circulation with the imminent release of even more declassified documents. The Council's craven capitulation will become more apparent with the passage of time, as the truth is revealed piece by piece.

It didn't take long for the Council's actions, and those of Hoge, to come under scrutiny and criticism from well respected quarters. Articles appeared in many periodicals and newspapers and the September/October 2004 issue of Foreign Affairs even contained a letter of protest signed by Harvard Professor John Coatsworth and ten other distinguished Latin Americanists who are members of the Council on Foreign Relations.

To the Editor:

We members of the Council on Foreign Relations have devoted much of our professional lives to the study of Latin America and the relations between the United States and this region. We read Kenneth Maxwell’s balanced and thoughtful review (November/December 2003) of the recent collection of official documents edited by Peter Kornbluh and published by the National Security Archive under the title The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability.

We were thus dismayed by the tone and the content of the two letters from former Undersecretary of State William D. Rogers (January/February 2004 and March/April 2004), and appalled by the journal’s decision not to publish a response by Maxwell to the second of the Rogers letters, which sought to impugn the motives and integrity of Maxwell, a scholar of impeccable rigor and honesty. This decision denied readers an opportunity to weigh competing views, contrary to the journal’s policies and traditions.
Though appreciative of the support, Maxwell, much to his chagrin, perceives the influence of Kissinger and Rogers in the way even this matter was handled.

The "Letters to the Editor" section where this exchange appears has not been posted on the magazine’s online edition of this issue, the first time such a letters column has been excluded. Rogers' letter attacking me for bias, for example, is posted online under the title "Crisis Prevention." Nor is there any acknowledgment in this issue of Foreign Affairs that book reviews on the Western Hemisphere are missing, the first time this has happened.

More seriously, Hoge, without the consent of the signatories, removed the final sentence of the letter sent to him. The uncensored version had concluded with a request:

We urge you to find an appropriate way to repair this lapse before it becomes a permanent stain on the reputation of Foreign Affairs.
In order to comprehend the magnitude of this matter, consider that the Council on Foreign Affairs has chosen to acquiesce to the will of a powerful member rather than finally vet and debate, accurately, the true story of Kissinger’s policy toward the Southern American military dictatorships of the 1970s, including Chile and Argentiana, much of which was less than savory by any standards.

In closing, I will give Maxwell the final say that was unfairly denied him by his own literary home.

I may be naive, but to me it is deeply shocking that Kissinger, who found refuge in the United States when his family escaped the Nazis, should as U.S. Secretary of State undermine the human rights protests of his own diplomats and of the U.S. Congress in private conversations with representatives of the murderous regimes of the Southern Cone, one of which (the Argentine) was virulently anti-Semitic. And it is no less shocking for Rogers to assert that Kissinger’s defense of human rights was "robust," and to claim for Kissinger the initiation of a human rights policy that was in fact begun and sustained by his Democratic and Republican successors and by the continuing pressure of U.S. Congress, if only for one very simple reason: subsequent U.S. policy saved lives. Kissinger’s evidently did not, not Letelier’s, nor many thousands other less notable victims of state terror. It is sad that an editor who I respected—especially one who is the vice chair of the board of Human Rights Watch—should let these misrepresentations and obfuscations stand without challenge.

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