Exhuming the Disappeared


Over at Vanity Fair's spiffed-up new website Christopher Hitchens has an angry essay about new evidence linking Henry Kissinger to South America's murderous 1970s dictatorships.

New and democratic governments, assisted by principled lawyers and judges and forensic investigators, are disinterring and identifying the maimed and twisted corpses of men and women, and of boys and girls, who were lost to their friends and families about a quarter of a century ago. […] At the same time, in Washington, D.C., the declassification process for government documents is entering the disclosure phase. And, in a horrible way that is not being faced, the two excavations have begun to converge. From the standpoint of their victims, the death squads of Argentina and Chile were going about their busy work with the approval—no, the encouragement—of the secretary of state of the United States of America. […]

A suit has also been filed in a federal court in Washington, D.C., by the family of General Rene Schneider, charging Kissinger with orchestrating his killing. Every single paper in the prosecution dossier is a United States government declassified document.

The Schneider family has standing in this matter, not just morally, but legally-because of the Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows non-Americans to seek redress in American courts. This act dates from the 18th century and was one of the first laws of the American Republic. The Bush administration recently tried and failed to have the Supreme Court strike the ancient legislation down … If I add that Henry Kissinger was offered the chairmanship of the 9/11 commission, and declined the honor only when he realized that he would have to disclose his unsavory client list at Kissinger Associates, you might start wondering which country is the real banana republic.