*Annals of the Rogue American University –- First in a New Series

American newspapers have been abuzz with the news that the President of Sudan, Omar Hasan al-Bashir, in whose name a warrant of arrest has been issued by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide, was able to flee South Africa with the connivance of its government despite a ruling by the country’s high court that he should have been detained. There is but no question that South Africa, which at the inception of the court was one of its most enthusiastic advocates, has reneged on its international obligations. What is not less pertinent is that the major world powers, for the most part, are not signatories to the convention that led to the establishment of the International Criminal Court, and indeed there is a large and vocal body of opinion in the United States that is vociferously opposed to American participation in the court. The opposition stems, quite predictably, from considerations such as the supposed fact that the US, being the world’s eminent superpower, cannot permit its politicians and officials to be held hostage to an international body, and that the United States holds its own laws to be sovereign over and above any international treaties and covenants. The court, according to its American opponents, may prevent the United States from the open pursuit of its foreign policy, which is another way of saying that the US cannot obviously permit an international body to exercise some restraint upon its war-mongering policy makers.

I do not, however, propose at this juncture to examine the politics of the International Criminal Court. The question that comes to mind, prompted by a news release from Johns Hopkins University some weeks ago, is why—the why here is to be read with its full rhetorical effect, rather than as a query only about the legal limitations of this international body— a warrant for the arrest of Henry Kissinger has never been issued by the court. This former Secretary of State is, to the contrary, still celebrated as a wise policy maker, and his idiotic punditry, which is a rather mild phrase for the ramblings of a criminally deranged man, earns him not merely the approbation but the purses of his admirers. The cormorant crew of harpies that follows every word of Kissinger as if it were the revealed truth includes among its numbers the former Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, who has gifted Johns Hopkins University in excess of US $500 million, much of it to endow dozens of “Bloomberg Professorships”.

Bloomberg’s latest gift to Johns Hopkins, according to a news release from the university in late April, is $20 million for the establishment of a Kissinger Institute at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). The proposed institution’s precise location within Johns Hopkins is of little interest; what is certainly germane is the fact that Bloomberg has sought to honor his “great friend” with a token of his esteem for a man who in numerous parts of the world is rightly recognized as a war criminal. Many others have documented Kissinger’s crimes against humanity, whether in Chile, where the US engineered a coup under his watch, or in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, where millions were killed by the mightiest military machine in the world that would in time be humbled and humiliated by a people fighting for their very independence. One is reminded of the verdict given by more than one observer at Nuremberg, namely that had the victors at the end of World War II been the Nazis and the fascists, the likes of Churchill and Curtis LeMay, the US Air Force general who bore responsibility for the fire-bombing of Japanese cities, could justifiably have been tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity. None of these considerations appear to have weighed upon Bloomberg, nor indeed upon the President of Johns Hopkins University, a certain Roger Daniels, who in a message to the wider Johns Hopkins University rejoiced in the gift with the usual anodyne words about “excellence” and facilitating research into conditions that might lead humankind towards “peace”. To place Kissinger and “peace” side by side is rather like putting vomit and nectar together. Mr. Daniels’ announcement moved me to send him this missive on 24 April 2015:

Professor Ronald J. Daniels

President, The Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, Maryland

Dear Professor Daniels,

I take the liberty of writing to you as a graduate of Johns Hopkins. I earned my BA in 1982 and my MA in the same year (though the latter degree was conferred in 1983), both from the Humanities Center. I later went on to earn my Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and have since 1993 been on the faculty in the history department at UCLA.

I read with great dismay, to put it mildly, of the creation of an institute in the name of Henry Kissinger at the behest of his friend and a major benefactor of Johns Hopkins, Michael Bloomberg. I am aware, as no doubt you are, that there can be conflicting opinions about people who have been influential if controversial figures in the course of history. But, not to mince words, I find it disgraceful that an institution should be established in the name of the former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who is justifiably viewed by many people around the world as a war criminal. His role in the secret bombing of Cambodia is well known; lesser known is his role in permitting a genocide in what was then East Pakistan, though the recent book [by Gary J. Bass] called The Blood Telegram leaves little doubt about his complicity in this matter. There have been calls for his prosecution in many countries and by several peoples’ tribunals. I will not enumerate the various other sins of the man called Henry Kissinger, rather repugnantly lionized in the United States as a “senior world statesman”.

The action of Johns Hopkins in accepting this gift is shocking and I call upon you to reconsider this decision. I can certainly say that I feel ashamed to be a graduate of Johns Hopkins and will wish to sever all my links to the university henceforth; moreover, I think it is my bounden duty to bring this matter before a wider public and to shame a university that, implicitly, makes light of the sufferings of millions who were the victims of the arrogance and brutal conduct of a man who, on account of American power, cannot be brought to justice. There is a lesson in this about how great universities get corrupted and I hope that you will not lead Johns Hopkins on a course which, though it cannot be understood now by most people, can only lead to its decline.

Best wishes,

Vinay Lal

Needless to say, President Daniels has not honored me with a reply. Like most other American university presidents, Mr Daniels claims to be solicitous of the views of alumni, but like nearly all of his peers he cannot see beyond the money dangling before his eyes. One should not, however, suppose that Johns Hopkins is distinct among American research universities in its unscrupulous conduct or in its susceptibility to blood money; indeed, it may not even be the most profligate offender among the major American universities. This series will, from time to time, document what Bill Readings so exquisitely described as the “university in ruins”.