Off the Record

Seymore Hersh writes a posthumous, must-read expose of one of Clown World’s most insidious and destructive clowns, the late Henry Kissinger:

When I arrived at the Washington bureau in the spring of 1972, my desk was directly across from the paper’s main foreign policy reporter, a skilled journalist who was a master at writing coherent stories for the front page on deadline. I learned that around 5 pm on days when there were stories to be written about the war or disarmament—Kissinger’s wheelhouse—the bureau chief’s secretary would tell my colleague that “Henry” was on the phone with the bureau chief and would soon call him. Sure enough, the call would come and my colleague would frantically take notes and then produce a coherent piece reflecting what he had been told would invariably be the lead story in the next morning’s paper. After a week or two of observing this, I asked the reporter if he ever checked what Kissinger had told him—the stories he turned out never cited Kissinger by name but quoted senior Nixon administration officials—by calling and conferring on background with William Rogers, the secretary of state, or Melvin Laird, the secretary of defense.

“Of course not,” my colleague told me. “If I did that, Henry would no longer deal with us.”

Please understand—I am not making this up.

Kissinger, who had made no public remarks about my writings on the My Lai massacre and its cover-up, suddenly invited me to the White House for a private chat. I had just returned from a reporting trip to North Vietnam for the Times—I was the second mainstream American reporter in six years to be given a visa by Hanoi—and we were to discuss it. I had written about North Vietnam’s view of the secret peace talks Kissinger was conducting with the Vietnamese in Paris, but that was not the issue. He wanted, so I concluded, to stroke me. There was no question that, as a total loose cannon suddenly installed at the Times, I was of special interest.

He asked me about my impressions of the North Vietnamese, as seen in a closely watched three-week visit to Hanoi and elsewhere in the North. I had been taken to areas that were under heavy American bombing attacks and witnessed the North’s amazing ability to repair bombed-out rail lines within a few hours after an attack. Extra rails and the equipment needed to make repairs were hidden every few hundred yards along the tracks from Hanoi to the main harbor in Haiphong.

He asked about the morale of the residents in Hanoi. I told him I had seen no signs of panic, fear, or desperation in my many unguarded (so I believed) walks throughout the city. Every morning, in fact, a group of schoolboys en route to class who had seen me when I first arrived would walk by my hotel in central Hanoi at the same hour—I made a point of being outside then—and cheerfully say ‘Good morning, sir!” in English to me. But I was always aware that I was in enemy territory.

The schoolboys and other anecdotes prompted Kissinger to summon a prominent former ambassador who was his senior aide for matters related to the war and say to him, in front of me, in obvious mock anger: “This fellow is giving me more information about the morale in the North than I get from the CIA.” I remember thinking “Is this it? Is this all he’s got? Does the guy really think this kind of obvious flattery is going to win me over?”

I met Henry Kissinger on the same night, and at the same party, that I met Donald Trump. What was fascinating that it was not Trump who was the center of attention, despite his wealth, fame, and Ivana looking rather slinky despite her age. It was Kissinger upon whom all of the wealthy and powerful were fawning, and around whom they were clustered.

Apparently they knew quite well where the power was centered. And while I was not at all favorably impressed with the man himself, I was impressed by everyone else’s reaction to him.

This quote, I believe, epitomizes everything one needs to know about Henry Kissinger.

The deadline for the front page was around 7 pm and close to that time Al Haig telephoned me. “Seymour,” he said, which got my attention—those who knew me, including Al, called me Sy—and said the following words, which I will never forget: “Do you believe that Henry Kissinger, a Jewish refugee from Germany who lost thirteen members of his family to the Nazis, could engage in police state tactics such as wiretapping his own aides? If there is any doubt, you owe it to yourself and your beliefs and your nation to give us one day to prove your story is wrong.”

Needless to say, Kissinger not only did it, but was caught red-handed while doing it by the FBI.