The late journalist Oriana Fallaci had a dubious final chapter to her life when in the wake of 9/11, she lived in fear a Muslim planet. But in her younger days, she was one of the greatest interrogators in all of journalism. It’s not likely in this self-conscious age that many of today’s bigwigs would suffer her substance and style, but it’s not like too many interviewers are even trying.
In 1972, as the war in Vietnam raged, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger sat down for an interview with Fallaci and regretted it almost immediately. The piece was published in the New Republic and anthologized in Interview with History. Here’s an excerpt:
“Oriana Fallaci: And what do you have to say about the war in Vietnam, Dr. Kissinger? You’ve never been against the war in Vietnam, it seems to me.
Henry Kissinger: How could I have been? Not even before holding the position I have today…No, I’ve never been against the war in Vietnam.
Oriana Fallaci: But don’t you find that [Arthur] Schlesinger is right when he says that the war in Vietnam has succeeded only in proving that a million Americans with all their technology have been incapable of defeating poorly armed men dressed in black pajamas?
Henry Kissinger: That’s another question. If it is a question about whether the war in Vietnam was necessary, a just war, rather than…Judgements of that kind depend on the position that one takes when the country is already involved in the war and the only thing left is to conceive a way to get out of it. After all, my role, our role, has been to reduce more and more the degree to which America is involved in the war, so as then to end the war. In the final analysis, history will say who did more: those who operated by criticizing and nothing else, or we who tried to reduce the war and then ended it. Yes, the verdict is up to history. When a country is involved in a war, it’s not enough to say it most be ended. It must be ended in accordance with some principle. And this is quite different from saying that it was right to enter the war.
Oriana Fallaci: But don’t you find, Dr. Kissinger, that it’s been a useless war?
Henry Kissinger: On this I can agree.”