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Ron Radosh

Henry Kissinger’s Vile and Inexcusable Remarks to Nixon

December 13th, 2010 - 6:45 pm

We all know that Henry Kissinger is one of the so-called “realists,” a misleading term that should be discarded, since the concept as they define it has been used most often as the reason to keep failed policies alive by advancing the illusion that they start by accepting the status quo as given.

Under that rubric, Richard M. Nixon and Henry Kissinger opposed the right of Soviet Jews to emigrate freely from their homeland prison. After all, they were trying to gain continued support for “détente,” and anything that stood in the way of accepting the USSR as a given power which the U.S. had to respect, had to be opposed. Thus they opposed the Jackson-Vanik amendment passed by Congress, that asserted American support for the right of Soviet Jews to leave their own country for sanctuary abroad, especially in Israel. The growing movement to save Soviet Jews, chronicled so well by Gal Beckerman in his new book, tells the story of the nascent protest movement that impacted the Soviet Union.

In one of his own books, Natan Sharansky wrote the following:

“…Kissinger saw Jackson’s amendment as an attempt to undermine plans to smoothly carve up the geopolitical pie between the superpowers. It was. Jackson believed that the Soviets had to be confronted, not appeased. Andrei Sakharov was another vociferous opponent of détente. He thought it swept the Soviet’s human rights record under the rug in the name of improved superpower relations…. One message he would consistently convey to these foreigners (the press) was that human rights must never be considered a humanitarian issue alone. For him, it was also a matter of international security. As he succinctly put it: “A country that does not respect the rights of its own people will not respect the rights of its neighbors.”

So we already knew for many years that as a man who favored realpolitik over upsetting the apple-cart, Henry Kissinger did not approve of moralistic movements that advocate achieving change by waging vigorous protest against oppressors.

Nevertheless, yesterday’s news story about Kissinger’s remarks, revealed in the latest Nixon tapes release, was a shocker:

The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy,” Mr. Kissinger said. “And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”

“I know,” Nixon responded. “We can’t blow up the world because of it.”

Of course, Kissinger had no idea that his chief and the American President was taping all the conversations held in the Oval Office. He would, if asked, ably defend the first sentence. But why did Kissinger, who with his own parents were émigrés from Nazism who had they stayed in Germany would have ended up in the gas chambers, even say anything like this to the Commander-in-Chief?

Did he really believe this, or was he just trying ineptly to assure Nixon that he was not subject to “dual loyalty,” the old bromide of anti-Semites about American Jews, so that the President would know he was fully on board with the policy of détente? Was he just capitulating to Nixon’s virulent personal anti-Semitism, so that his chief would see him as different than those other bad Jews he always railed about? Did he want to show him, that he, Henry Kissinger, was not really among those whom Nixon said shared a character trait with all other Jews, that they had to compensate for an “inferiority complex” since, as Nixon put it, they all have “latent insecurity?”

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