Doc of the Day: The Trials of Henry Kissinger Review - Dan Schindel

Doc of the Day: The Trials of Henry Kissinger

Posted in Days of Docs, Reviews by - May 27, 2012

“Hullo, my name iz Dr. Henry Kissinger, und zis… is my magic murder bag.”

Dir. Eugene Jarecki, 2002, 79 min

Dr. Henry Kissinger is the premier forebear of the legion of boring psychos that took over our country at the turn of the century, so it’s fitting that this film about him came right on the cusp of said takeover. Documentaries are frequently Cassandras standing on the edge of the culture, yelling in vain at the masses to pay more attention to the world they live in. Such is the case with this film. After 9/11, no one was interested in trying to hold our leaders accountable for anything they did. After all, there was communism terrorism out there.

Based on the recently-deceased Christopher Hitchens’ similarly titled book (Hitchens also helped write the film, and features in it prominently), The Trials of Henry Kissinger builds the case that Kissinger should be tried in an international court for war crimes. As National Security Advisor / Secretary of State under the Nixon and Ford administrations, he was the greatest advocate and practitioner of Realpolitik, politic maneuvering to counter the spread of communism, no matter what the cost to democracy or human life.

The long list of atrocities that Kissinger either directed or took part in include sabotaging Johson’s peace talks to end the Vietnam War, the bombing of Cambodia (and arguably the subsequent rule of the Khmer Rouge), Indonesia’s invasion and genocide in East Timor, and the fascist Augusto Pinochet’s takeover of Chile, overthrowing elected president Salvador Allende in the process. These are just the most provable crimes, the ones that Hitchens and the filmmakers believe have the strongest case against Kissinger. The doc doesn’t even get to his actions in Argentina, Angola, or Pakistan, among other places.

Kissinger operated with a frightening lack of conscience and an even more frightening lack of accountability. He committed most of his crimes in secret, cloaking himself by saying it was necessary for national security. The film brings on lawyers, journalists, and former associates of the man, including Alexander Haig (who is very nearly as heinous as Kissinger) to try and suss out what makes him tick. The film’s only big weakness is that too much of the testimony about Kissinger’s character feels like speculation or hearsay, and not terribly concrete. But most of his actions already speak for themselves anyway, so it may be a moot point.

It’s been ten years since this movie was released, and there’s been no progress towards putting Kissinger up for any kind of trial. He’s an old man, and will soon finish off his long, comfortable life in peace, without ever facing any sort of accountability for his actions. It’s our fault, just as it’s our fault that he ever got away with what he did in the first place. His kind run our world (military/corporate assholes, not Jews), so that’s how it goes. Maybe we can affect a shift soon, spurred on by the attention raised by things like this doc. Maybe not. Either way, it won’t make a difference to him. Such a shame.

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Dan Schindel loves movies more than you do.

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