Note: This article was first posted in April, 2002 at Indymedia.
Reprinted below is a remarkable text by that remarkable man, Henry
Kissinger. It was posted online at washingtonpost.com not much more
than twelve hours after the first airliner struck the north tower of
the World Trade Center. The text is notable for a number of reasons,
but has gone largely unnoted to date. It seems to express the measured,
even reassuring, view of a major, widely (not universally!) respected
statesman, calling for a new approach to the threat of terrorism, reassessed
in the light of the morningšs events. Its publication didnšt elicit
much comment -- it was just a drop in a mass media tidal wave.
Since September 11, however, a long list of unanswered questions and
suspicions have floated to the surface. The unrelenting media flood
still serves to distract most people, but many are starting to wonder.
Coming out of a state of shock as time has passed, with difficulty shaking
off the mesmerism induced by television and corporate newspapers, a
growing number of people are starting to look more carefully at the
situation we find ourselves in. As part of this process, I'd like to
look more closely at this short utterance of Henry Kissinger, posted
at 9:04 pm on September 11.
A quite extraordinary aspect of the text is its succinct expression,
before Pres. Bush had collected his breath after his day's extensive
travels, of the entire "anti-terror" battle plan. With no time for the
many experts on terror in the many branches of the federal government
to discuss what had happened, let alone what to do, with Bush back in
DC for just a couple of hours, Cheney hunkered in a bunker somewhere,
and everyone presumably in a state of shock at the unexpected calamity,
Henry Kissinger is able to articulate in careful, composed tones the
overall structure of the US response, from which there has been no official
deviation since: a war on the terrorists wherever they lurk, including
attacks on "any government that shelters" them. It's as if Henry had
won the lottery. Good guess, big guy!
As a Washington "insider", of course, it isn't surprising that Kissinger
still has the clout to post his views immediately at the Washington
Post. We are supposed to accept at face value that his statement was
inspired by and written after the horrific mass murders of the morning.
It is a very well-written statement, calm, rational, and broad-minded.
Kissinger's considerable experience at top levels of state decision-making
and intelligence analysis authorizes him to draw probative conclusions
very rapidly, such as his very first sentence: "An attack such as today's requires systematic planning, a good organization, a lot of money, and
a base." Not much to argue with here; maybe his moderate adjectives
("systematic", "good", "a lot") could be upgraded a bit (you know, like
"incredible", "superb", "unlimited"). But he is being measured; not
a guy to fly off the handle, despite the PROVOCATION!
So cool is he in fact that he doesn't forget, in this moment of our
agony, to mention others in a "similar" situation: "we should henceforth
show more sympathy for people who are daily exposed to this kind of
attack." Daily?! Who? Where? Oh, he means the Israelis! Palestinian
suicide bombers commit atrocities like this on a daily basis (oh please!),
and "we" just don't show enough "sympathy" for the state of Israel ($3
billion a year is not enough!). Funny he should interpolate this digression.
But maybe AIPAC paybacks are never digressions.
Then he's straight back to business. Providing now historical perspective,
he calls for a "systematic response" by the US Government "that, one
hopes, will end the way that the attack on Pearl Harbor ended." It appears
Henry isn't keeping up with recent historical evaluations of the attack
at Pearl Harbor, now known to have been encouraged and permitted by
FDR and the Chiefs of Staff to rally the domestic population behind
US entry into World War II. As a member of the Council on Foreign Relations,
however, Kissinger should be sensitive about mentioning Pearl Harbor.
His co-member on the Council, Zbigniew Brzezinski, in his book The
Grand Chessboard (1997), called for the US to launch a conquest
of Central Asia, pointing out repeatedly that such a venture would require
an attack on the US comparable to Pearl Harbor to noodge the population
into a "supportive mood." This naked imperialist Machiavellianism raised
a bit of a stink when the book was published, that Henry should be careful
to avoid being tarred by, don't you think?
Finally Kissinger gets to the point. He briefly outlines the main parameters
of the subsequent US Government consensus on how to "respond" to the
terror. "Of course there should be ... retaliation, ... but it cannot be
the end of the process and should not even be the principal part of
it. The principal part has to be to get the terrorist system on the
run; any government that shelters groups capable of this kind of attack,
whether or not they can be shown to have been involved in this attack,
must pay an exorbitant price. It is something we should do calmly, carefully,
Just like Henry Kissinger. Calmly, carefully, and inexorably he lays
out our future. The plan hatched full-grown from his wrinkled bald brow,
while those woosses in the Government are still hiding under tables
and flying from one underground bunker to another. Yeah right.
Destroy the Network
By Henry Kissinger
Tuesday, September 11, 2001; 9:04 PM
An attack such as today's requires systematic planning, a good organization,
a lot of money and a base. You cannot improvise something like this,
and you cannot plan it when you're constantly on the move. Heretofore
our response to attacks, and understandably so, has been to carry out
some retaliatory act that was supposed to even the scales while hunting
down the actual people who did it.
This, however, is an attack on the territorial United States, which
is a threat to our social way of life and to our existence as a free
society. It therefore has to be dealt with in a different way with
an attack on the system that produces it.
The immediate response, of course, has to be taking care of casualties
and restoring some sort of normal life. We must get back to work almost
immediately, to show that our life cannot be disrupted. And we should
henceforth show more sympathy for people who are daily exposed to this
kind of attack, whom we keep telling to be very measured in their individual
But then the government should be charged with a systematic response
that, one hopes, will end the way that the attack on Pearl Harbor ended
with the destruction of the system that is responsible for it. That
system is a network of terrorist organizations sheltered in capitals
of certain countries. In many cases we do not penalize those countries
for sheltering the organizations; in other cases, we maintain something
close to normal relations with them.
It is hard to say at this point what should be done in detail. If a
week ago I had been asked whether such a coordinated attack as today's
was possible, I, no more than most people, would have thought so, so
nothing I say is meant as a criticism. But until now we have been trying
to do this as a police matter, and now it has to be done in a different
Of course there should be some act of retaliation, and I would certainly
support it, but it cannot be the end of the process and should not even
be the principal part of it. The principal part has to be to get the
terrorist system on the run, and by the terrorist system I mean those
parts of it that are organized on a global basis and can operate by
We do not yet know whether Osama bin Laden did this, although it appears
to have the earmarks of a bin Laden-type operation. But any government
that shelters groups capable of this kind of attack, whether or not
they can be shown to have been involved in this attack, must pay an
The question is not so much what kind of blow we can deliver this week
or next. And the response, since our own security was threatened, cannot
be made dependent on consensus, though this is an issue on which we
and our allies must find a cooperative means of resistance that is not
simply the lowest common denominator.
It is something we should do calmly, carefully and inexorably.
The writer is a former secretary of state.
Š 2001 The Washington Post Company