FEATURE (continued)


Though it was a touching and not uncommon gesture for one of Hitchens's growing legion of devoted readers, why would the writer, one of the world's least craven, need courage on this day? After all, this is a man who has written a deliciously mean rant about Mother Teresa (The Missionary Position), calling her "cunning," "calculated," a friend to dictators like Duvalier in Haiti, and a money launderer for the likes of Charles Keating; who took on Bill Clinton at a time when all correct-thinking liberals were sworn to silence about the man (No One Left to Lie To); whose lonely voice pierced the "fiesta of back-slapping" that attended Colin Powell's recent confirmation as Secretary of State to remind anyone who would listen that the beloved Powell "played a direct role in suppressing the inquiry into the My Lai massacre" and "helped to deceive Congress about the trading in heavy weapons with Iran" and who, only days earlier, had told a public radio audience that the Bible was "a bunch of mumbo jumbo."

The medal for courage, it appears, has been offered to the wrong man.

Henry Kissinger is the one in need of a buck up. Henry Kissinger is the one with the yellow streak up his back.

Henry Kissinger has, alas, canceled his appearance at the library fundraiser. He doesn't even have the decency to be honest about it. Rather than simply admit that he doesn't wish to cross paths with Hitchens, that he finds the risk of being called on the carpet for the myriad sins, crimes, and misdemeanors delineated with almost cosmic precision in Hitchens's The Trial of Henry Kissinger too much to bear, he has opted for the lamest of lame excuses: "a previous commitment."

"Wouldn't it be nice to learn what that previous commitment was?" Hitchens is muttering under the awning between prodigious puffs on his cigarette. "I have heard that he is telling people he has houseguests. Perhaps his friends in the Indonesian death squad are in for the weekend, or perhaps he is merely choosing to stay at home reading his memoirs and calling out for a pizza. He would, of course, be reading them for the first time, as they were written from stolen documents."

It is clear from this snub that though Kissinger may go to his grave having been proclaimed a powerful man, he will not be able to show his face among his neighbors for a while.

He has let the bluebloods down.

The chairwoman of the "Library Luminaries Committee" is desperately trying to spin this exercise in deceit into something positive. She is straining even her most generous of blueblood supporters' credulity by insisting that "his conflict with house guests has nothing to do with controversy or replacement. Dr. Kissinger not being able to come has nothing to do with Mr. Hitchens whatsoever."

She is, in short, lying for a man whom Hitchens has depicted as a pathological liar, a man responsible for, among Hitchens's other convincing charges: the assassination of a democratically elected president in Chile and the propping up of the Pinochet dictatorship; the "incitement and enabling of genocide" in East Timor by the corrupt Indonesian government; the "personal involvement" in the assassination of leaders in Cyprus; and, most pertinent to the occasion, the aiding and abetting of Nixon's usurpation of power in the United States and expanding a war in Southeast Asia that resulted in "the deliberate mass killing of civilian populations." At last count, Kissinger may be responsible for the deaths of three million innocents in Indochina, a carnage for which he has never been held accountable and has never written about in what Hitchens calls "his fraudulent memoirs."

Hitchens had hoped that today would be that day. But Kissinger bolted. The gunfight never happened. Hitchens has won by default, which means he wins next to nothing. A booby prize. A bovine medal.

As for Kissinger, what's a few hundred bluebloods with their noses bent out of shape to him? They're just more "collateral damage" in a lifetime of the same.

For what it's worth, the jilted bluebloods extracted some revenge. The now-desperate library committee is in need of a luminary to replace Kissinger at the dinner that was to be held in the "Doctor's" honor. Enter Hitchens again. The same couple who had planned to host Kissinger at the luminary dinner following the cocktail reception at the library has asked Hitchens to sit in for the good doctor.

Hitchens, of the disheveled, stained sport jacket, wrinkled shirt, bloodshot eyes and nicotine fit. Every host and hostess's worst nightmare. He will do. One can't help but interpet this as how they, with impeccable propriety and peerless style, say "fuck you" to the likes of Henry Kissinger up in Washington, Connecticut.

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