|Subject: Kissinger Protested in Minneapolis
Kissinger heaps praise on Bush
Published May 2, 2003 KISS02
In an event interrupted by protesters, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told a Minneapolis audience Thursday night that President Bush's leadership and the war in Iraq have the potential to be significant turning points for the better in world history.
Before a sold-out crowd of 1,700 at the Minneapolis Convention Center, Kissinger predicted that in the near future, Syria would moderate its anti-American conduct and its support for terrorism, that Iraq would become a democracy and that a breakthrough might occur in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Kissinger, 79, whose family fled Nazi Germany when he was a teenager, said that "anybody who has experienced a totalitarian state can never forget what America has meant to the world." He noted that the U.S. system is a product of unique historical experiences, difficult to duplicate or to transplant into Muslim societies where secular democracy has seldom thrived.
He was optimistic nonetheless about a U.S.-fostered transition to democracy in Iraq because, Kissinger said, "anyone who has seen the president in action knows he will fulfill the goals he has set for himself."
After he was introduced by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Kissinger gave a talk full of praise for Bush, which was delivered just as Bush was preparing to declare the end to major combat in Iraq from aboard an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. Bush's military actions in both Iraq and Afghanistan were "essential in light of the challenges we faced" after the Sept. 11 attacks, Kissinger said.
"I am convinced history will record that President Bush saved not only America's security but the world's prospects for progress by the courage with which he faced those challenges," he said.
Kissinger spoke at the annual dinner of the Center of the American Experiment, a conservative Minneapolis think tank, which has brought in big names for its annual banquet before, including Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, Colin Powell and former President George Bush.
Kissinger, 79, was national security adviser (1969-75) and secretary of state (1973-77) under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. He now chairs an international consulting firm based in New York.
Last year, President Bush nominated Kissinger to be chairman of a commission to investigate the Sept. 11 attacks. Kissinger accepted, then later declined on the grounds of possible conflicts with his consulting work.
Kissinger's speech was interrupted three times by protesters in the audience who tried to read a statement accusing him of war crimes during his years in power. Police quickly escorted them out. No arrests were made. Kissinger joked briefly about the protesters after each interruption, then resumed his remarks.
Before the banquet, about 75 protesters greeted arriving guests with chants of "Henry Kissinger, you can't hide. We charge you with genocide."
Dave Bicking, 52, a Minneapolis auto mechanic, along with his 17-year-old daughter was one of seven protesters ejected from the dinner. He said he has followed Kissinger's career since college and he "pretty much despised the guy from the beginning."
He considers Kissinger a war criminal based on his role as an architect of U.S. policy in Vietnam, Chile, East Timor and other matters. Kissinger's policies and actions share the responsibility for more than 1 million deaths, Bicking said.
"So when I heard that Kissinger was coming to town, I thought: 'This guy can't just be honored as a hero and go about his business like that.' If justice was done, he should be tried, convicted and behind bars. But if that can't happen, at least he shouldn't be able to have a fancy fundraising dinner in peace."
In the full text of the statement, the protesters noted that Kissinger is wanted for questioning in connection with international human rights cases by courts in several countries. Few in the audience could hear the protesters, who tried to direct some of their remarks to the attendees, including Pawlenty, accusing them of supporting Kissinger's alleged crimes.
Sister Jane McDonald from Minneapolis followed some attendees to the door saying, "He's a war criminal. You should know the truth about Kissinger."
A few people accepted the fliers she tried to give them, but most ignored her.
Sarah Janecek, a Republican analyst who attended the event, said she was a little surprised by the protesters and some of the signs such as one that read "Killionaires for Kissinger," but shrugged them off. "The guy has served our country, he's retired, so what's the point?" she said.
Tickets ranged from $150 for a single seat to $10,000 for a table of 10 seats. That price included opportunities for guests to attend a pre-dinner reception with Kissinger and to be photographed with him. The center declined to divulge how much Kissinger was paid for his hourlong talk.
Eric Black is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kavita Kumar is at email@example.com.
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