Oppose Henry Kissinger's Speaking Engagement at International House New York

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We, the undersigned residents, alumni, and friends of International House New York (hereafter, “I-House”), condemn and oppose the decision made by I-House administration to schedule for January 11, 2018 a speaking engagement and fundraising event featuring former U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, who also holds the title of “Honorary Trustee” on I-House’s Board of Trustees.

Our opposition to Kissinger’s being invited to speak at I-House is rooted in our strong commitment to and support for I-House’s mission to foster a “vibrant community of [leaders] from around the world” united in a “values-based culture built on the core values of respect, empathy, and moral courage.” I-House’s explicit, foundational dedication to these core values lifts its standard for acceptable speech above that which might be found at a similar but morally neutral institution, such as a university. Accordingly, and given Kissinger’s well-documented direction of and participation in crimes against humanity in countries ranging from Chile and Argentina to Vietnam and Cambodia (sources provided below), we believe that Kissinger's actions, policies, and depravities represent the antitheses of I-House’s core values and run counter to I-House’s stated mission. Therefore, we assert that any association with Kissinger by I-House – including especially the positive endorsement entailed by the granting of a prominent, fundraising-oriented speaking platform – fatally compromises the moral integrity of I-House as a values-based institution and egregiously violates the dignity of I-House residents as autonomous moral agents.

Thus, we call for the I-House administration to (1) immediately rescind its invitation to Kissinger and (2) revoke Kissinger’s status as honorary trustee of the institution. Furthermore, we urge the I-House administration to (3) create and include residents in a deliberative democratic process for the selecting of future I-House speakers and representatives consistent with I-House's own proudly proclaimed mission and values.

This third point is essential for repairing the damage that I-House, through its relationship with Kissinger, has already inflicted on its identity and its residents; it is also necessary for ensuring that such harm is not repeated in the future. Truly, the mere fact that Kissinger has been embraced by the I-House administration demonstrates a profound and intolerable ignorance of – or, at the very least, a reckless indifference toward – the ways in which Kissinger’s lifelong advancement of American imperialism and corporatocracy has directly afflicted many I-House residents and alumni and their respective homelands. As such, this incident suggests a deep rupture – tantamount to outright hypocrisy – in I-House’s core values. This breach must be repaired if I-House is to honestly adhere to the moral principles it publicly professes.

Finally, we wish to emphasize that the foregoing criticism flows from a place of love for and commitment to the values of respect, empathy, and moral courage. We also remain inspired by I-House’s vast, if imperfectly realized, potential for facilitating the emergence of a better, more peaceful world wherein “brotherhood [sic] may prevail.” Indeed, we so firmly hold these beliefs that we are willing to publicly confront a powerful political figure – and assume all the risks that come with doing so – in order to work toward improving the house we call home.

 

Sources

The following are but a sampling of condemnations of Kissinger’s actions as National Security Advisor and U.S. Secretary of State, roles that Eric Foner, Professor of History at Columbia University, claims “no one after [Kissinger] ever dominated as he had.”

  • Gary Bass, Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University: (1) Politico article, "Indefensible Kissinger"; (2)The New York Times review of Bass's book, "The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide"
  • Noam Chomsky, Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at MIT: (1) 1977 Columbia Daily Spectator newspaper article describing Chomsky’s criticisms of Kissinger; (2) dialogue with Lawrence Krauss, Professor of Physics at ASU, condemning Kissinger for authorizing genocide in Cambodia; (3) book excerpt describing Kissinger’s involvement in the 1973 Chilean coup d'état
  • Greg Grandin, Professor of Latin American History at NYU: (1) interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! describing Kissinger’s crimes against humanity; (2) The Nation magazine article criticizing Hillary Clinton’s support of Kissinger
  • Christopher Hitchens, journalist and social critic (deceased): (1) archival copy of Hitchens’s Harper’s Magazine article, “The Case Against Henry Kissinger”; (2) interview describing Kissinger’s crimes; (3) The Guardian newspaper book digest describing Kissinger’s crimes; (4) Slate magazine article calling for the ostracization of Kissinger
  • Naomi Klein, writer and social critic: (1) The Guardian newspaper article describing Kissinger’s activities in Argentina
  • Bernie Sanders, U.S. Senator and 2016 presidential candidate: (1) CBS News article describing Sanders’s criticisms of Kissinger
  • Sheldon Wolin, Emeritus Professor of Politics at Princeton University (deceased): (1) The New York Review of Books magazine article scrutinizing Kissinger’s tenure as Secretary of State
  • Howard Zinn, Professor of Political Science at Boston University (deceased): (1) book excerpt describing Kissinger’s activities in Vietnam in the 1970s; (2) The Guardian newspaper article criticizing Kissinger’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize


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