News and Politics

Henry Kissinger Dead at 100

Henry A. Kissinger, a scholar, statesman and diplomat who wielded unparalleled power over U.S. foreign policy throughout the administrations of Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald Ford, who offered opinions that shaped global politics, died in his home in Connecticut on Nov. 29. He was 100.

As a Jewish immigrant fleeing Nazi Germany, Kissinger spoke little English when he arrived in the United States as a teenager in 1938. Honing his mastery of history and his skills as a writer, he quickly rose from Harvard undergraduate to Harvard faculty member before establishing himself in Washington.

As the only person ever to be White House national security adviser and secretary of state at the same time, he exercised a control over U.S. foreign policy that has rarely been equaled by anyone who was not president.

China

The greatest achievement in Kissinger’s diplomatic career was establishing connections with China. Kissinger would make several trips to the People’s Republic, meeting with Premier Zhou Enlai, and setting the groundwork for relations with China. Kissinger would help organize President Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, which would officially formalize relations with China. 

Criticisms

While some mourn the death of Kissinger, others have made it a point to let everyone know that Kissinger was a war criminal who backed the killings of millions of people, with some calling him the Osama Bin Laden of the developing world.

Cambodia

In early 1969, shortly after Nixon moved into the White House and inherited the Vietnam War, Kissinger and others cooked up a plan to secretly bomb Cambodia in pursuit of enemy camps. “Operation Breakfast” as it was dubbed, authorized the carpet-bombing of Cambodia. The United States was not at war with Cambodia and Congress had not authorized bombings, which Nixon tried to keep a secret. The US military dropped 540,000 tons of bombs. They didn’t just hit enemy outposts; estimates of Cambodian civilians killed range between 150,000 and 500,000. Cambodia only had 6.6 million people. The destruction of Cambodia was felt for decades afterward with the late Celebrity Chef Anthony Bourdain saying, “once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands.”

Bangladesh

In 1970, a political party advocating autonomy for East Pakistan, or Bangladesh, won legislative elections. The military dictator ruling Pakistan, Gen. Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, arrested the leader of that party and ordered his army to crush the Bengalis. The army would brutalize or kill opponents, detaining Bengali leaders and intellectuals. At the time, Yahya was helping Kissinger and Nixon establish ties with China and they didn’t want to ruin the ties with China. The US diplomat in East Pakistan, Archer Blood, sent a cable detailing and decrying the atrocities committed by Yahya’s troops and reported they were committing “genocide.” Nixon and Kissinger declined to criticize Yahya or take action to end the attacks. Pakistan’s slaughter was 300,000 Bengalis, with most of them being Hindus.

Chile

President Nixon and Kissinger plotted to thwart the newly elected Chilean Socialist President Salvador Allende in 1970. Kissinger would supervise operations aimed at destabilizing Chile and triggering a military coup. Ultimately, this ended with the death of Salvador Allende in 1973. Eventually a military junta led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet seized power, killing thousands of Chileans, and implemented a dictatorship. After the coup, Kissinger continued to back Pinochet. During a private conversation with the Chilean tyrant in 1976, he told Pinochet, “My evaluation is that you are a victim of all left-wing groups around the world and that your greatest sin was that you overthrew a government which was going communist.”

East Timor

 In December 1975, President Suharto of Indonesia was contemplating an invasion of East Timor. On December 6, President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger stopped to meet with Suharto, who headed the nation’s military regime. Suharto signaled he intended to send troops into East Timor and integrate the territory into Indonesia. Ford and Kissinger did not object to the plan. Kissinger only offered the advice, “It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly.” Kissinger would point out that Suharto would be wise to wait until Ford and Kissinger returned to the United States, where they “would be able to influence the reaction in America.” Suharto’s brutal invasion of East Timor resulted in 200,000 deaths.

Argentina

In March 1976, a neofascist military junta led by Jorge Rafael Videla overthrew President Isabel Perón and launched what would be called the Dirty War: torturing, disappearing, and killing political opponents it branded as terrorists. Once again, Kissinger provided his “green light.” He did so during a private meeting in June 1976 with the junta’s foreign minister, Cesar Augusto Guzzetti. Guzzetti told Kissinger, “Our main problem in Argentina is terrorism.” Kissinger replied, “If there are things that have to be done, you should do them quickly.” 30000 dissidents would disappear during his time as de facto President of Argentina. The Dirty War would claim the lives of an estimated 30,000 civilians.

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