Henry Kissinger and the Jews
There hasn't been much buzz in official Washington about the most incendiary quote in the latest batch of Nixon tapes released a few days ago. There was some reporting on Nixon's stunning if unsurprising displays of equal-opportunity bigotry in his musings on the Irish, Italians, Jews and African-Americans. But the prize quote captured on the tape came not from Nixon but from Henry Kissinger. Plainly peeved that the efforts of human-rights activists to pressure the Soviet Union to allow Jews to emigrate might upset the administration's grand designs for détente (Metternich never had to deal with any such touchy-feely crap), Kissinger let fly with the following:
The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.
To which Nixon responded, "I know. We can't blow up the world because of it."
Now, it's clear from the Nixon tapes that his aides generally believed that a little verbal bigotry was a good way to ingratiate themselves with their boss and added to the general bonhomie. As a Jew serving an anti-Semitic president, Kissinger probably had to go farther than most to preserve his credibility (and career) with his (and our) pathological president.
And yet, after making all possible allowances for the good doctor, Kissinger's quote remains the most despicable thing to come out of the mouth of a major American official (not to mention the official in charge of American foreign policy) since God only knows when. Added to the secret war in Cambodia, the overthrow of the democratic government in Chile, the Christmas bombing of Hanoi -- I could go on -- it confirms Kissinger's standing as a abominable public figure and human being.
| December 14, 2010; 7:45 PM ET
Categories: Meyerson | Tags: Harold Meyerson
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