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17/04/2012 | Ambassador Robert C. Hill, Henry Kissinger's ''green light'' for Argentina's 'dirty war,' and ethical dissent in the U.S. Foreign Service

Martin Edwin Andersen

"Tell me, Mr. Navasky," [Kissinger] said in his famous guttural tones, "how is it that a short article in a obscure journal such as yours about a conversation that was supposed to have taken place years ago about something that did or didn't happen in Argentina resulted in sixty people holding placards denouncing me a few months ago at the airport when I got off the plane in Copenhagen?"

 

In Victor S. Navasky's A Matter of Opinion (p. 298). The article in question, "Kissinger and the 'Dirty War,'" published in The Nation, October 31, 1987, broke the story about Henry Kissinger giving Argentina's "dirty warriors" the green light for their unfolding massacre.

As seen in the Victor S. Navasky quote above, Henry Kissinger thought he could manipulate a reality in which State Department documents were still classified in order to cover up the "green light" he gave to the Argentine military regime--many pro-Nazi sympathizers--for their conduct of the so-called "dirty war"--which was no real "war" at all, despite the tens of thousands of disappearances and deaths. 

(A reprint of the October 31, 1987 story in The Nation can be found in the Third World Traveler (http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Kissinger/Kissinger_DirtyWar.html0.) 

As if additional proof is needed, attached are two letters Kissinger sent to Navasky, one written by the then-Secretary of State himself. (The other by William D. Rogers, a Kissinger sycophant and an assistant secretary for Latin America.)  

The Kissinger letter shows how the winner of a Nobel Peace Prize for the Vietnam War baldy lied and defamed an already dead ambassador, Robert C. Hill, whose life and times are the focus of a Ph.D dissertation and eventual biography I am in the process of writing, about the importance of ethical dissent and moral solvency in U.S. foreign policy. 

Shortly after The Nation piece was published, the Secretary of State claimed to Navasky (Kissinger had refused to take my phone call before my article was published) that no one ever remembered the conservative Republican envoy as a "passionate human rights advocate," despite Hill's now documented willingness to be fired by Kissinger, who knew him very well, when he bravely but internally protested the latter's "green light."

(The story is all the more poignant as the New Hampshire native and his family were themselves the object of several assassination attempts by leftwing Argentine terrorists. The early death of one-time noted athlete Hill was due in large part, according to several friends and associates, to the extraordinary stress he suffered while serving in Buenos Aires.)

Following The Nation's publication of "Kissinger and the 'Dirty War,'" Luigi Einaudi, a former Kissinger aide and at the time still a State Department official--(and currently a National Defense University (NDU) Distinguished Visiting Fellow) dutifully told Foggy Bottom associates he had been in the Santiago, Chile, hotel room when the okay allegedly was given to the Argentine generals, and that Hill's version was wrong. 

(Einaudi also went around the State Department labeling the author of The Nation article [me] a dangerous "radical."  In fact, I am a lifelong Robert F. Kennedy Democrat. Just months before publishing The Nation piece I had gotten into a shouting match in Buenos Aires with a supposed Cuban "diplomat" on the fate of what he claimed were "non-existent" political prisoners on the island).

After The Nation article was printed Einaudi pointed out--as supposed proof that it was wrong--that he, together with Rogers, were with Kissinger at the Hotel Carrera (later made famous in the chilling movie Missing) during the June 1976 meeting with Argentine Foreign Minister Cesar Guzzetti, where--as Hill found out--the "green light" was given. 

Unfortunately for Einaudi and his fumbling effort to defend Kissinger and defame Hill, a cable published on June 11, 1976 in the conservative Argentine newspaper La Nacion from ANSA, the Italian news agency, clearly stated:

"A few hours before leaving for Mexico, after a period of intense activity in Santiago, Kissinger held his longest interview with a foreign minister, that of Argentina, Admiral Cesar Guzzetti. The meeting took place at a very early hour in the Hotel Carrera, where Kissinger was staying. Both Kissinger and his colleague spoke in their own languages, but Guzzetti demonstrated a good knowledge of English. .... The most serious part of the conversation can be synthesized into two points: a) a frank understanding by Kissinger of the current Argentine political stance; b) his promise to support the Argentine economic plan. ... During the meeting, attended by four American officials, including Deputy Secretary for Inter-American Affairs William D. Rogers, Kissinger spoke alone with Guzzetti for a few minutes." (Italics added.)

(On December 14, 2010, a few months after Einaudi told me in the hallway at National Defense University that Hill was one of the "sleaziest" U.S. diplomats he had ever met, I tried to interview him about Hill for my dissertation and book. By that time Einaudi claimed he could not remember Hill.)

As you will see in the two letters attached, Rogers wrote up a provably false letter that Kissinger ended up passing on (confidentially, of course; why leave fingerprints?) to The Nation publisher. 

The most important point Rogers made about Hill was the claim: "Hill never told us during the last six months of 1976, while he was working the human rights issue so energetically, that you had misled Guzzetti, or that the junta was under a dangerously misguided impression about your attitude."  

Ironically, this was later shown to be false by none other than once and future Kissinger aide Henry Shlaudeman, later ambassador to Buenos Aires, who told William E. Knight, an oral historian working for the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project, that: 

"It really came to a head when I was Assistant Secretary, or it began to come to a head, in the case of Argentina where the dirty war was in full flower. Bob Hill, who was Ambassador then in Buenos Aires, a very conservative Republican politician -- by no means liberal or anything of the kind, began to report quite effectively about what was going on, this slaughter of innocent civilians, supposedly innocent civilians -- this vicious war that they were conducting, underground war. 

"He, at one time in fact, sent me a back-channel telegram saying that the Foreign Minister, who had just come for a visit to Washington and had returned to Buenos Aires, had gloated to him that Kissinger had said nothing to him about human rights. I don't know -- I wasn't present at the interview."

In the first article that came out on Kissinger and the dirty "war"--in October 1987 in The Nation--the information there was not just based on the memorandum of conversation with Hill given to me by Patt Derian, President Jimmy Carter's crusading Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights.

The original Nation article was also the result of several interviews I had both before and after meeting with her at her home in Alexandria, Virginia--with senior Argentine military officials, all of whom said that Kissinger had indeed given the 'green light,' and supported by my old friend and mentor Juan de Onis who, as The New York Times South America correspondent, had also heard the story.

(Reproduction of the charge about Kissinger's role was contained in my, "The Military Obstacle to Latin Democracy," Foreign Policy, No. 73. (Winter, 1988-1989), pp. 94-113, and in Dossier Secreto: Argentina's Desaparecidos and the Myth of the " Dirty War," published in 1993.)

(Despite how it was later played by Uki Goni, Cynthia Arnson, The Miami Herald and others, it was not until 2003 that the National Security Archives, following up on my suggestions and a specific request, did not "break" the Kissinger "green light" story, but rather came up additional, and important, documentary evidence about what went on. www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB104/index.htm

Perhaps all the more so in a poisoned Washington, D.C. political atmosphere, Hill story continues to be a crucial example of the importance of those willing to tell truth to power and who see human rights and human dignity as something that necessarily extends to foes as well as to friends, no matter what, or how personal, the threat. 

In the U.S. context, it also shows how these fundamental principles are not "owned" by liberals or conservatives, Republicans or Democrats. They are inherent in our Founding Documents, and in examples reaching back to General George Washington--something Bob Hill appreciated.

As Tex Harris, the crusading human rights official in the embassy in Buenos Aires during the Carter Administration, recently noted: 

"Ambassador Hill is a hero to Patt Derian. He briefed her on Argentina early in her tenure ... with an impact. [It] put Argentina early on her list of concerns."

"It sickened me," Patt Derian told me as I was writing the original October 31, 1987 Nation story, "that with an imperial wave of his hand, an American could sentence people to death on the basis of a cheap whim. As time went on I saw Kissinger's footprints in a lot of countries. It was the repression of a democratic ideal."

For additional reading, please see:

 "Argentina Crying Over 'Hired Guns'" (http://www.icai-online.org/56592,46136.html)

"The Winter of Dr. K's Discontent" (www.icai-online.org/xp_resources/icai/kw15.pdf),  

"Kissinger Had a Hand in 'Dirty War'" (http://www.tni.org/archives/pin-docs_040102), and 

Christopher Hitchens' "Kissinger Declassified" (www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2004/12/hitchens200412

 

Offnews.info (Argentina)

 

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