-By Eric Monder

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As the filmmakers Eugene Jarecki and Alex Gibney point out, Henry Kissinger remains a celebrated figure for all these years since acting as Secretary of State in the Nixon and Ford administrations. According to their documentary The Trials of Henry Kissinger, the veteran statesman relishes the limelight and has always craved power and position. In expert fashion, Jarecki and Gibney further point out that Kissinger has used his celebrity to shield his nefarious political activities. So while many consider Kissinger a distinguished diplomat with a swinging lifestyle, they rarely get to hear about or see what the real Kissinger is doing behind closed doors.

According to journalists Christopher Hitchens and Seymour Hersch, Kissinger's secret operations include sabotaging President Johnson's Vietnam peace talks in order to get Richard Nixon elected in 1968; masterminding the deadly mass bombings of innocent Cambodians in 1969; helping General Pinochet plot a right-wing coup in Chile that killed thousands, including the democratically elected leader President Allende, in 1970; and illegally securing weapons for Indonesia's President Suharto to slaughter 100,000 East Timorese in 1975.

To be fair, Jarecki and Gibney also interview Kissinger defenders and apologists, including Alexander Haig, Brent Scowcroft and William Safire, yet the sheer weight of evidence that Kissinger is a war criminal makes it hard to believe the hysterical denials, including Haig's comment that Hitchens' is 'a sewer-pipe sucker! He sucks the sewer pipe!' One only needs Kissinger's own words at times to believe the worst, such as his self-incriminating dismissal of Chile's democratic elections: 'I don't know why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its people.'

There are two flaws in this fascinating film. One is that Gibney and Jarecki give some ammunition to their detractors by not laying out all the facts. Of course, some material is still top-secret. (Kissinger demanded his private papers be sealed until five years after his death.) But a few more 'smoking guns' would have bolstered and substantiated the various cases. (For instance, what are the records that British and Spanish authorities hold in the recent Pinochet case, targeting Kissinger as a reluctant trial witness?)

The filmmakers also miss the opportunity to better illustrate how the Establishment has protected Kissinger for so many years. There are some surprisingly revealing moments, nonetheless, including a peep into publisher Michael Korda's office, with Korda--on the phone to Kissinger--reassuring his author-client that Kissinger's enemies have nothing on him. The fact that Kissinger has lasted as a major policy wonk in the media proves not only Kissinger's effectiveness in achieving and maintaining power, but also how one can get away with literal murder as long as one has friends in high places. (Sadly, this is why the charges against Kissinger will probably never go anywhere.)

For a real shocker, The Trials of Henry Kissinger saves the best for last: a potentially explosive connection between Kissinger's haunted past and the inauspicious date some damning information about him was announced publicly...see this part for yourself!

Trials is more unconventional for its daring subject matter than its technique (all talking heads and archival footage), but perhaps the simpler the better to make such bold points. And like the best "60 Minutes" expos, the film (at 80 minutes) is actually quite entertaining.

-Eric Monder

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