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The strategies of a madman

By Dr George Venturini

Heinz Alfred ‘Henry’ Kissinger obtained a Ph.D. at Harvard University in 1954. His interest was on Castelreagh and Metternich – two empire builders. He devoted his life to sublimate them.

In an incendiary, studiedly defamatory book the late Christopher Hitchens described him as “a mediocre and opportunist academic [intent on] becoming an international potentate. The signature qualities were there from the inaugural moment: the sycophancy and the duplicity; the power worship and the absence of scruple; the empty trading of old non-friends for new non-friends. And the distinctive effects were also present: the uncounted and expendable corpses; the official and unofficial lying about the cost; the heavy and pompous pseudo-indignation when unwelcome questions were asked. Kissinger’s global career started as it meant to go on. It debauched the American republic and American democracy, and it levied a hideous toll of casualties on weaker and more vulnerable societies.”

The story is all here: from the martyrdom of Indochina to becoming the real backchannel to Moscow on behalf of his new client: Donald Trump.

Editor’s note: This outstanding series by Dr Venturini is published bi-weekly (Wednesdays and Saturdays). Today we publish Part Twenty-two. Here is the link to Part Twenty-one; The shadowy role of Kissinger in the Trump Administration.


Todd Gitlin is an American sociologist, political writer, novelist, and cultural commentator. He has written widely on the mass media, politics, intellectual life and the arts, for both popular and scholarly publications.

After teaching part-time 1970–77 at the New College of San Jose State University and the Community Studies programme at the University of California, Santa Cruz, he served for sixteen years as professor of sociology and director of the mass communications programme at University of California, Berkeley, then for seven years as a professor of culture, journalism and sociology at New York University. Since 2002 he has been a professor of sociology and journalism at Columbia University.

This long introduction is worthy, because prof. Gitlin has offered the shortest, lapidary almost, biography of Heinz Alfred ‘Henry’ Kissinger.

“Henry Kissinger – he wrote – rose to power as a banal, obsequious and sometimes hysterical cold warrior whose leap into the front ranks of America’s higher courtiers was launched by his advocacy of preparation for a nuclear war in central Europe – a “limited” one, in the perverse locution of the time, since in his scenario America would deploy ‘battlefield nuclear weapons’ of 500 kilotons, or 25 Hiroshimas – each.”

That he, a Jewish refugee from Hitler’s Germany, should second and promote the ‘selective’ thoughts of David Rockefeller – and of the family, too – on eugenics, may be astounding. What is not surprising is that he found the comfort of his position as Éminence grise at the Nixon White House. He had nothing but contempt for the parvenu from the rarefied air of Yorba Linda, California. But he served him well, and in the process served himself even better.

He was given an opportunity to put into practice his resurrected view of the world as an opportunity to ‘divide and rule’. The British had done that for quite some time with an imperially successful result, and the Austrians would follow. Kissinger saw himself as nothing less than Castelreagh + Metternich.

To that end, he cried wolf over Soviet power in a conception of international relations which would leave no room for mixed colours. Everything would be black and white, with the alarming result that America was in mortal danger of a surprise Soviet attack. There was no time, certainly no inclination, to think about the enormous sacrifices of a country which was trying to reconstruct after the loss of twenty-five million lives and the destruction of thousands of kilometres of the mother land.

Perhaps not out of feelings, which would not have made such an attitude justified, but would have gone a long way in explaining it, Russia was a ‘new threat’ to America.

Such hysteria moved the world to within a hair’s breadth of not-so-limited war during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

A cruel, dispirited, surprisingly crude view of humanity and its aspirations prevented Kissinger from seeing and understanding that Communist-led insurgencies like Vietnam’s were crucially nationalist and anti-colonial.

Kissinger offered his services for an adventure which propelled him into the heights and depths of a career as courtier-in-chief. It culminated in his partnership with Nixon in conducting the last six years of the Vietnam var. And that in the process more than 21,000 Americans died in those six years, along with up to 1.5 million Vietnamese, mattered not. But in the process there developed a little secret between Kissinger and Nixon. In Nixonian terms it was traduced to a matter of ‘deniability’, of keeping from the Americans, indeed the world’s public the ‘secret war’ and the consequent bombing of Cambodia and Laos. That they became the most heavily-bombarded countries in history, that they had for no reason – except the ‘madman strategy’ – to suffer the United States’ air power was a ‘secret’ between two brigands, tactically obtuse, morally unjustifiable. Kissinger dealt with that as a ‘sideshow’, with people expendable in the great game of large nations.

There followed the new, ‘peace-time enterprises’: genocide in Bangladesh, East Timor now Timor-Leste, Chile, Argentina, Cyprus – other places (Australia?). Christopher Hitchens has dealt with those subjects with clarity and great empathy in his book – and a sense that not much is left meaningfully to add.

Quite recently, Zach Dorfman, who is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, was scavenging through documents at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University, California. By accident he came upon a six-page memorandum of a conversation between the Chilean Junta’s Foreign Minister Hernán Cubillos Sallato and Kissinger. On 3 October 1979 Kissinger was making a private visit to those he had so actively assisted in taking power in Santiago.

The document is, of course, in Spanish, but a translation would appraise the reader about Kissinger’s opinion of personages and events of the time.

At the time President Carter had been in the White House since January 1977, when Kissinger had lost his position as Secretary of State under President Ford.



In August 1978, after a long and tortuous investigation, United States federal prosecutors had indicted three Chilean intelligence agents for masterminding the assassination, in Washington, D.C. on 21 September 1976 of Orlando Letelier, former ambassador to the United States and a refugee from the Junta and his assistant Ronnie Moffitt. Among the three were the former head of Pinochet’s intelligence services, Juan Manuel Guillermo Contreras Sepúlveda and his director of operations, Pedro Espinoza Bravo. President Carter’s Administration had formally requested that Chile extradite the three men to the United States to stand trial.

Just two days before the Cubillos-Kissinger conversation, the Supreme Court of Chile, yielding to intimidation by the Junta, had rejected the American extradition request.

President Carter was unsure on how to react. Some suggested that the United States should break diplomatic relations with the Junta, others proposed a nicer treatment of the Junta. Among the latter was Kissinger, of course. He had contributed, while Nixon’s Secretary of State, to the success of the coup against Allende. Kissinger had no time for Carter.

On 3 October 1979 Kissinger hosted the Junta’s foreign minister at his flat, at ‘River House’, 435 E 52n Street, New York, just next to the hoity-toity River Club, where one can rub shoulders with celebrities such as Sir Evelyn de Rothschild.

According to the record, that the Foreign Minister sent back to the Acting Minister, Digen-Diplan, in Santiago from the Chilean Delegation at the United Nations in form of a ‘secret’ diplomatic cable No. 678, 03 October 1979, Cubillos and Kissinger took breakfast and in seventy minutes made a kind of ‘world tour’, as it were. What follows is a translation of some passages of that cable.

Kissinger, who displayed “great affection for our country, and great admiration for what is being done there,” then moved on to express his opinion on Pope John Paul II: “I do not understand,” he said, “whether he is trying to manage the left,” or to “control the left.” Therefore, he added, “I am not completely convinced he will be good for humanity.” He added that he was suspicious of Cardinal Casaroli, who in order to save the Church was willing to compromise with communism.”

On Carter’s speech on Cuba, Kissinger “told [Cubillos] that he considered it a ‘disaster.’ He added that he found it unbelievable that a country with the power of the United States had been the first to say it would not accept Soviet presence in Cuba, and later ended up accepting it. He mentioned that Carter had called him to ask his opinion, but that what he decided did not correspond to his advice and for that reason he had criticised the measures taken.”

On his (Kissinger’s) memoirs: “ … to be published [the following] week, [they] will cause great discomfort among liberal circles in the United States, and among communists and their friends.” And when Kissinger mentioned the aspects of the memoires which touch on the Chilean situation, he said ironically that it was a dishonour to Allende that he should continue to be known as democratic, when in truth he was really a communist.”

On Chile-United States relations: “ … I asked him how we should handle our relationship with the United States. He said that was a very difficult question to answer, since the Carter government has “begun making enemies of all its friends and making friends of all its enemies.”

When the foreign minister mentioned the Letelier case and indicated the Junta’s puzzlement at the fact that the United States did not respect Latin America’s legal institutions, “[Kissinger] admitted we were right: that the Chilean legal decision was correct, but this was not a legal problem so much as a political one. “It needs to be managed,” he said. “with political criteria.” Apologising for his frankness, he said that this was a bad case for us, and had been badly managed politically.”

At this point Kissinger “added that his own advice was that we treat the current U.S. administration with ‘brutality.’ He suggested that “this is the only language they understand.” [Italics added]. He repeated this same suggestion several times during the conversation. He later said that we should make our positions public, and move forward decisively. However, he emphasised that until the election process was complete in the United States and a new administration elected, there was nothing we could do to improve our relations with the United States, given that the problem was being treated as a political one.”

The foreign minister noted: “ … He said, and I quote, ‘You will have to tough it out until then.’ “

“Regarding Pat Derian, in charge of humanitarian matters in the State Department, he said that she was “stupid” and should receive a tough treatment. He also spoke harshly about [a former colleague] and the State Department bureaucracy, which makes statements and sends cables with no control from above.”

“Of Brezinski (then an adviser to President Carter) he said that “if he worked with me he would be a good element, but I do not trust him by himself.” In any case, he promised to speak with him favourably about Chile. He later said he considered it a disgrace that the United States had helped Allende’s government more than the current Chilean government.”

“Next, Kissinger gave me some advice about the responsible U.S. organisations, with which it would be convenient to increase our contacts for the sake of future Chilean-U.S. relations, and indicated the names of some of the people in them: Institute for Strategic Studies, American Enterprise Institute, and Council on Foreign Relations.”

“Furthermore, Kissinger spoke harshly of the United States government’s approach in Latin America, where, he said, Carter insisted on eliminating military regimes, without understanding that elections should only be held when the political situation has matured, thus preventing the left from winning. ‘What do we achieve,’ he said, ‘by replacing the military if the communists are going to be left in power ?’ ”

According to Cubillos’ recounting, the two men also discussed the Letelier case extensively. First, Kissinger told Cubillos he believed that the Chileans made the “correct” decision in rejecting the U.S. government’s extradition request. And then, Kissinger went on to advise the Pinochet Junta on how to get what he wanted from Carter. You have to be tough, he told Cubillos – in fact, you must treat the Carter administration “with brutality.” This, Kissinger said, “is the only language they understand.” This was no idle slip of the tongue; according to Cubillos, Kissinger “repeated this same idea several times during the conversation.”

So, here was an American citizen of some weight, inciting the representative of those who had murdered President Allende and installed a military dictatorship to treat President Carter’s administration with ‘brutality’, for that was “the only language they understand.”

As the meeting ended, Cubillos invited Kissinger to visit Chile, and Kissinger volunteered to continue the conversation through the Chilean ambassador in Washington. All in all, Cubillos concluded, his meeting with Kissinger was a “fruitful and interesting” one.

In November 1979, the Carter Administration announced that it would punish Chile for its intransigence by banning trade assistance to the country through the Export-Import Bank. This was a far weaker response than many had hoped for, given the seriousness of the crime, and the thoroughness of the obstruction on the part of the Junta.

Hanging over the conversation between Cubillos and Kissinger was the unspoken implication that Kissinger himself might soon regain his old job as secretary of state, where he would once again be in charge of shaping American foreign policy towards Chile. (Zach Dorfman, How Henry Kissinger Conspired Against a Sitting President, 6 January 2017, Politico).

Kissinger predicted – wrongly in fact – that Ford would have won the 1980 election. Ronald W. Reagan did. Never mind. Before the election took place Kissinger had succeeded in a ‘deal’ whereby Ford would have become vice-president to Reagan and he, Kissinger, would have returned as secretary of state.

Over thirty years later, Kissinger was back to the same – if more elaborate – game, admired by Hillary Clinton and, semble, secretly advising Trump.

Since Trump’s election Kissinger has come close to the new president, first offering his opinion on key appointments and praising him in public – as he did in Oslo – while at the same time positioning himself as a reliable intermediary between the Kremlin, where he has close ties with President Putin, and the White House.

Not for the first time since November 2016 Kissinger has warned against expecting too much from Trump’s words.

Kissinger had previously said that he believes people should not expect Trump to stand by all of his campaign positions. During the Nobel Peace Prize Forum in Oslo in December 2016, Kissinger said that Trump is “a personality for whom there is no precedent in modern American history.” One wonders what Kissinger really meant by that.

He added then, in a rather sybilline way, “Before postulating an inevitable crisis, an opportunity should be given to the new administration to put forward its vision of international order.” Whose vision?

Not for Trump to stop and try to think how inappropriately anti-American had been Kissinger’s counsel to Cubillos. Not only did he praise Chile’s decision to stymie a murder trial related to a major act of international terrorism carried out in the American capital, but the former secretary of state also actively encouraged the Junta which had mandated that crime to take a hard line with the United States government, in order to hamper American prosecutors.

And one should wonder: would Kissinger or any of his Associates give similar kind of advice to a client? And could that not be obstruction of justice?

During the fifth Democratic presidential debate, on 4 February 2016, Hillary Clinton boasted that she was supported by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. She was obviously totally oblivious of the accusations laid against Kissinger of being a war criminal who oversaw policies which led to the deaths of millions of people.

“I was very flattered when Henry Kissinger said I ran the State Department better than anybody had run it in a long time,” she said.

While on one hand Clinton boasted openly of her close relationship to Kissinger, on the other another aspiring candidate, Senator Bernard ‘Bernie’ Sanders, used that relationship to criticise Clinton as a ‘warmonger’: “I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend. I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger. And in fact, Kissinger’s actions in Cambodia, when the United States bombed that country, overthrew Prince Sihanouk, created the instability for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge to come in, who then butchered some 3 million innocent people, one of the worst genocides in the history of the world. So count me in as somebody who will not be listening to Henry Kissinger.”

Clinton did not reply effectively, resorting instead to saying that as Secretary of State “you listen to all kinds of people.”

Sanders continued the ‘warmonger’ accusation:

“Now I think an area in kind of a vague way, or not so vague, where Secretary Clinton and I disagree is the area of regime change. Look, the truth is that a powerful nation like the United States, certainly working with our allies, we can overthrow dictators all over the world.

And God only knows Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator. We could overthrow Assad tomorrow if we wanted to. We got rid of Gadhafi. But the point about foreign policy is not just to know that you can overthrow a terrible dictator, it’s to understand what happens the day after.

And in Libya, for example, the United States, Secretary Clinton, as secretary of state, working with some other countries, did get rid of a terrible dictator named Gadhafi. But what happened is a political vacuum developed. I.S.I.S. came in, and now occupies significant territory in Libya, and is now prepared, unless we stop them, to have a terrorist foothold.”

Sanders even went back to the C.I.A. overthrow of the Iranian nationalist prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh, in 1953.

In another sally, almost as if it were one last coup de grâce, Sanders berated Clinton for saying that she appreciated the foreign policy mentoring she received from Kissinger. “I happen to believe,” retorted Sanders, “that Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country.”

Clinton went on to defend Kissinger, using the example of China. “His opening up China and his ongoing relationships with the leaders of China is an incredibly useful relationship for the United States of America,” she insisted. Maybe.

But Sanders responded that Kissinger scared Americans about communist China, then opened up trade so that American corporations could dump American workers and hire exploited, repressed Chinese. “First he warned us about the terrible, authoritarian, Communist dictatorship,” groaned Sanders. “Now he is urging companies to shut down and move to China. Not my kind of guy.”

In January last year thousands of emails released from Clinton’s time as Secretary of State for the Obama Administration exposed the very close ties between Clinton and Kissinger. One of the emails suggests that Clinton saw Kissinger as her role model.

Kissinger met regularly with Secretary Clinton, and applauded enthusiastically her hawkish foreign policy on many occasions, well beyond what an Anglophone would call chivalry or gallantry, of which Kissinger may be capable if the price is right, or better still Gemütlichkeit = peace of mind, which in the case of Kissinger seems an impossibility.

In a 7 February 2012 letter Kissinger wrote to Clinton:



The best one can make of such Chinoiserie is a compliment between hawks.

Whatever the reason – or the expected reward, Hillary Clinton was able to write in a review to Kissinger then latest work: World order, that “Kissinger is a friend, and I relied on his counsel when I served as secretary of state. He checked in with me regularly, sharing astute observations about foreign leaders and sending me written reports on his travels. Though we have often seen the world and some of our challenges quite differently, and advocated different responses now and in the past, what comes through clearly in this new book is a conviction that we, and President Obama, share: a belief in the indispensability of continued American leadership in service of a just and liberal order.”

Clinton’s abstract and fatuous rhetoric exemplifies the bipartisan, imperialist agenda formulated and propagated by the Council on Foreign Relations. There ‘humanitarianism’ is a guise for the ruthless pursuit of United States political and economic hegemony across the world. The people who belong to this élite club have internalised the imperialist worldview that America is an ‘indispensable nation’ which upholds ‘a just and liberal world order’, and uses this belief to rationalise its ‘Machiavellian’ exertions of power abroad.

The club is the equivalent of the ‘American Establishment’. The American Establishment which matters most is not limited to any one party, gender, or government organisation. It is limited to people who are involved, directly or peripherally, in formulating and carrying out the plans of a tiny élite class – plans which ignore the 99 per cent of the Americans in whose names they act, and the billions of people whose lives their decisions impact. Clinton, because of her professional career and her social relationships, is the embodiment of that Establishment.

The fact of the matter is that, whether one observes either the master-magician or the apprentice at work, one is entitled to draw the conclusion that, when it comes to applying rules of international law and ethics, the United States government, its statesmen – rather, statespersons. and its mainstream media operate with stunning hypocrisy – what might be called “moral idiocy.”

History professor Lawrence Davidson has provided a neat explanation of what he meant by combining those two words, as now chosen because applicable to Kissinger and Clinton.

Moral idiocy is not something that Davidson had simply made up. “It is a real concept in psychology that has been around for over a century. However, in our increasingly relativistic societies, it has fallen into disuse.

Briefly, it means the “inability to understand moral principles and values and to act in accordance with them, apparently without impairment of the reasoning and intellectual faculties.” The key word here is “understand.” It is not that moral idiots do not know, intellectually, that something called morality exists, but rather they cannot understand its applicability to their lives, particularly their professional lives. [Italics in original].

At best they think it is a personal thing that operates between friends or relatives and goes no further – a reduction of values to the narrowest of social spaces. This is paralleled by the absence of such values as guiding principles for one’s actions in the wider world.”

There are innumerable examples of such apparent moral idiots acting within the halls of power. The following short list specific to the U.S. reflects Davidson’s opinion: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton, Oliver North, Richard Nixon and, his favourite, Henry Kissinger. “Those reading this” Davidson continues “both in and outside of the United States can, no doubt, make a list of their own.”(L. Davidson, ‘America and the Plague of ‘Moral Idiocy’ – Consortiumnews).

Yes, thank you, professor Davidson. From Australia the list could be completed with John Winston Howard, and from Britain with Anthony Charles Lynton Blair.

Next installment Wednesday: The “Nobel Peace Prize for War”.

Dr. Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents.




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1 comment

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  1. Joseph Carli

    The tragedy is that we get these useless pricks “in-situ” and then the sycophantic media envelope them with a cloak of “intellectual cred” totally undeserved and they are eventually elevated to “hero status” in the eyes of the devious and gullible…for let’s face it, on a scale of one to ten on capacity to ACTUALLY do anything useful and of benefit to or for humanity, a three would be as high as the bagatelle ball would go.

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