"YOU CAN SAY one thing about Germany's ethnic cleansing during
World War II. It brought Henry Kissinger to our shores," said Rabbi
Arthur Schneier, president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation. He presented
the World Statesman Award to the former secretary of state at the New York Hilton.
Kissinger revealed that five years before she died, his mother Paula
suffered a stroke. He rushed her to the hospital where she lay unconscious for three days.
On the third day she opened her eyes, but she couldn't talk.
She wrote: What day is this? He said Thursday.
She wrote: What time is it? He said 9 a.m.
She wrote: I have a dentist appointment at 10. If you don't cancel it I'll have to pay.
Percy Barnevik of Sweden, a top business leader in Europe who accepted
the Appeal of Conscience Award, was convulsed with laughter along with such guests as Inge
and Ira Leon Rennert, Abba Eban, Dr. Ruth
Westheimer, Carroll Petrie, Howard Rubenstein, Mortimer
Zuckerman, Joseph and Leonard Wilf, and Farah
Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran's widow.
Kissinger, the former secretary of state, observed that America is a strange country to
conduct foreign policy. "This is the only country in the world populated by
immigrants." (I'll have to remind him about my native land, Canada.)
Alluding to Bill Clinton's past efforts to resolve the Balkan crisis
peacefully, Kissinger said, "It's an American thing. You take the Serbs and the
Muslims, hand them an 80-page document, and tell them this is the final solution to your
400-year problem. Only in America can this happen."
He recalled the time he was trying to mediate between the Turks and the Greeks over the
Cyprus crisis. The Turks proposed an idea that sounded workable.
"But Greece would never accept it coming from Turkey," he said. "So I
told the Turks to let me propose the idea as originating from the US and they agreed.
Kissinger delivered the proposal to the Greeks as his own brilliant idea, and they
readily accepted it.
Then he went back to the Turks with the proposal, and they promptly rejected it.
"It was their own idea!" Kissinger exclaimed.
Kissinger questioned the notion of a just war, remarking that theologians have wrestled
with it for a long time.
"More lives have been lost in crusades than in the national interest."
John Whitehead, former deputy secretary of state and former
co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, presided over the awards dinner. He said he heard Kissinger
speak three times this week and he didn't contradict himself once.
"If he did, I doubt we'd know the difference," Whitehead said.
Schneier, the rabbi of Manhattan's prestigious Park East Synagogue, created the Appeal
of Conscience Foundation in 1965 to promote religious freedom around the world.
He offered a story about his own mother.
A Holocaust survivor from Vienna, Schneier said his mother always encouraged him to try
to become president of the US some day.
"Ma," he would tell her, "that's impossible. I'm not native born."
That did not deter her. She would tell him to set his sights on the White House.
The day John F. Kennedy was assassinated she frantically called her
son: "Arthur, you must promise me never to become president of the United