The Trial of Henry Kissinger Book Summary - The Trial of Henry Kissinger Book explained in key points
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The Trial of Henry Kissinger summary

Christopher Hitchens

The dark side of American foreign policy

4.5 (84 ratings)
17 mins

What is The Trial of Henry Kissinger about?

In The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Hitchens shows a side of Henry Kissinger few would have imagined possible. He delves into the dark side of American foreign policy and shows first-hand examples of Kissinger’s criminal activities in Vietnam, Bangladesh and East Timor, and of his human rights violations and war crimes.

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    The Trial of Henry Kissinger
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    Kissinger may have sabotaged peace talks designed to end the Vietnam War for his personal gain.

    In 1968, after a decade of fighting in the Vietnam War, the United States was exhausted and bitterly divided. There were riots and protests against its involvement, and the president, Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson, had become hugely unpopular.

    Johnson therefore decided to try and negotiate an agreement between his North Vietnamese enemies and South Vietnamese allies that would end the war. For that purpose, he helped set up “peace talks” in Paris where the deal could be hammered out.

    If the talks had been a success, the war could have ended there. Yet it is very likely that one man present – a certain Henry Kissinger – was actively engaged in making them fail.

    At the time, Kissinger was working as an expert on Vietnam for the US negotiation team. But although he was working for Johnson’s team, he was also secretly working with Johnson’s political opponent, Republican Richard Nixon. During the talks, Kissinger was feeding Nixon inside information on the progress of the deals. His hope was that, if the talks failed, Nixon would stand a strong chance of winning the next election.

    Why did he do this?

    Because although Kissinger was guaranteed a job in Johnson’s Democratic administration, he thought he could get a better one working with Nixon.

    His sabotage helped the peace talks to fail and Nixon to become president. Thanks to Kissinger’s information, Nixon was able to persuade the South Vietnamese that he could get them a better deal than the Democrats. So they pulled out of the talks – just days before the presidential election. The failure of the talks helped sway the election for Nixon, and his first appointment happened to be his National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger.

    As a result of Kissinger’s desire for personal gain, the Vietnam War raged on for another seven years, costing the lives of several hundred thousand more people.

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    Best quote from The Trial of Henry Kissinger

    Between the failure of the peace talks in Paris in 1968 and the end of the Vietnam War, over half a million more people died.

    —Christopher Hitchens
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    About the Author

    Christopher Hitchens was an English author, debater and journalist. A self-acclaimed socialist, he liked to take controversial stands on famous public figures. In his later years, he became famous for his anti-religious writing and his strong support of the Iraq War. He passed away in 2011.

    Who should read The Trial of Henry Kissinger?

    • Anyone interested in the dark side of US foreign policy
    • Anyone interested in human rights
    • Anyone interested in the twentieth-century and Cold War history

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