HOW EASILY the war is forgotten. Forgotten are the thousands of Vietnamese who suffered as the direct result of the foreign policy of Henry A. Kissinger '50 and Richard Nixon; unremembered are the daily lies and misrepresentation, the secret bombing, the government by deception. In their place, a new Kissinger has burst upon the scene: married, honest, and above all, indispensable.
In recent weeks, the press has indulged in Kissinger coverage by adulation. Reporters and editors have placed the secretary of state on a pedestal. When a report drifted out of Washington two months ago that Kissinger might resign if Nixon were impeached, conservative newspapers rushed to their editorial pages with words of caution. Kissinger must stay, the papers warned; at a time of national crisis, the United States cannot afford to lose both Nixon--the choreographer of detente with Russia and China--and Kissinger.
Ignore, for the moment, that Kissinger reportedly planted the story to build support for a fading president. Consider, instead, the state of an American press which accepted at face value a man who has lied his way into the annals of American history, just as it treated his appeal last spring for "understanding" of the Watergate scandal, a week before he was caught secretly wiretapping his subordinates, as the sorrowful admonition of a wise old counselor. Why has Kissinger captured the imagination of Washington and diplomatic press correspondents? Probably because they think that compared to Nixon, Kissinger is next to godliness.
The press talks about Kissinger's openness. "Probably no secretary of state in history has had a closer relationship with the newsmen who cover him," diplomatic correspondent Bernard Gwertzman '57 wrote on March 4. "Newsmen are continually in contact with Mr. Kissinger. He likes to wander to the back of his aircraft to crack jokes and exchange impressions."
Good old Henry. Just one of the boys. He can laugh and smile. Could he really be the man who brought you Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and the Christmas bombings, the main architect of the foreign policy that brought senseless suffering to so many?
Kissinger would have the public believe otherwise. He has tried to give the impression that he did not condone Nixon's decision to carpet-bomb North Vietnam in December 1972. Several reporters have documented evidence to the contrary, and if Kissinger had felt strongly about the move, he could have resigned. But he stayed on, and one month later, the North Vietnamese and the United States signed a "peace" pact not substantially different from an agreement presented prior to the Christmas bombing--a high price for a few additional commas and some misplaced modifiers.
PERHAPS THE REPORTERS feel that this is all past history, that the new secretary of state deserves a second chance. But tough questions, unasked by most reporters, remain. Why does the United States continue sending aid to South Vietnam, enabling a corrupt and undemocratic government to continue fighting? What gives the Nixon administration a right to use $266 million found in "a clerical error" to wage an allegedly ended war, when it has impounded unspent money appropriated by Congress for poverty and education programs?
But the questions go unposed. Instead, newspapers give prominent placement to Kissinger's wedding, and reporters write feature stories on how exhausting it is to cover Kissinger. "Sleep is always in short supply on these trips," Gwertzman wrote. "The newsmen have to wait until Mr. Kissinger finishes his work for the night to put their stories together."
Recently, a new group of sycophants joined Kissinger's public entourage. A New York Times story in last Sunday's edition indicated that legislators "admit a desire to 'protect Henry' from the scandals of the Nixon administration." The story quoted Sen. Clifford P. Case (R-N.J.) as saying that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee did not make a strenuous effort to find out about Kissinger's involvement in setting up wiretaps. The committee did not want to embarrass Kissinger, Case explained.
If Vietnam meant nothing to Case and his fellow senators, what about the press? Which is more important--embarrassment or the truth? To a free and open society, the truth is never embarrassing. And the truth of the matter is this: by hiding behind "delicate negotiations," Kissinger has fooled the American public, the American press and the American legislators. He has become known as a saint as well as a warmonger. But he has not fooled the Vietnamese; in Southeast Asia, the war continues.