MAKICHUK: Kissinger ... great statesman or 'murderous' villain?

Henry Kissinger with President Nixon and Vice-President Ford at the White House.
Henry Kissinger with President Nixon and Vice-President Ford at the White House.Courtesy Nixon Library

There is a great story — an epic story — about former Secretary of State and national security advisor Henry Kissinger, who passed away this week at the ripe old age of 100 at his home in Connecticut.

An assistant was preparing a report for the big man, an important White House report that was classified. When the assistant presented it, Kissinger yawned, looked at it briefly, and said, “Is this the best you can do?”

The assistant, of course, said no. Well then, re-do it, Kissinger replied.

And so, the assistant went back to the drawing board, putting his best into the report, which he would again present, to the great man.

Again, Kissinger said, “Is this the best you can do?”

Well, no, said the assistant.

Well then, re-do it again, Kissinger said.

This time, the assistant gave everything he could to the report, staying up all night to pen the most perfect report possible.

Exhausted, he once again faced the great man.

Kissinger looked it over, flipping pages. “Is this the best you can do?”

“Yes,” said the exhausted assistant, “it is sir.”

“OK,” said Kissinger, “Now I will look at it.”

Such was the perfection demanded by the man, who served as America's top diplomat and national security adviser during the Nixon and Ford administrations and played a pivotal and polarizing role in US foreign policy during the Cold War.

Despite leaving office in the mid-1970s, he continued to be consulted by generations of leaders for decades.

Kissinger's Realpolitik style made him a controversial figure, with critics accusing him of war crimes when he and President Richard Nixon conducted a bombing campaign against Vietnamese communists in Cambodia, as reported by the BBC.

And over the years, he was subject to scathing criticism from those who accused him of prioritising rivalry with the Soviet Union over human rights and supporting repressive regimes across the world, including that of Augusto Pinochet in Chile.

According to declassified documents, Kissinger was the chief architect of efforts to overthrow the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile.

US Special envoy Henry Kissinger meets China’s Prime Minister Zhou Enlai in Beijing in July 1971.
US Special envoy Henry Kissinger meets China’s Prime Minister Zhou Enlai in Beijing in July 1971.File Photo

Peter Kornbluh, director of the Cuba and Chile Documentation Projects at the National Security Archive, told NBC News that “Henry Kissinger’s legacy in Latin America is a dark one, and that’s because he didn’t give a damn about human rights."

"He had no problem dealing with and supporting some of the most cutthroat dictatorships in the history of the region. And Chile will be known as his Achilles’ heel, forever.”

“He [Kissinger] became the chief enabler of Gen. Augusto Pinochet when he took power in 1973. The documentation that has been declassified on this is unequivocal.”

Under Pinochet's regime in Chile, thousands of people were tortured and more than 3,000 people died or disappeared due to political violence. An estimated 200,000 Chileans fled into exile in Europe and the US.

According to one Calgarian, whose identity I will protect, her father was in the Chilean secret police and she remembers, as a child, being taken to a “scary” lit up stadium, at night.

Her father wanted her to witness something — the excecution, on site, of those arrested for various reasons.

He thought it educational, that she see how political opponents are treated, if they buck the system.

Your basic lesson in terror.

And to this day, she is still dealing with PTSD from this night, and more.

“In Latin America, Kissinger will be remembered and recognized for undermining democracy and human rights,” Kornbluh told NBC News.

This contrasts the glowing comments following his death.

Former US President George W. Bush led tributes, saying the US had "lost one of the most dependable and distinctive voices on foreign affairs."

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair described him as an artist of diplomacy, saying Kissinger was motivated by "a genuine love of the free world and the need to protect it."

President Richard Nixon's daughters, Tricia Nixon Cox and Julie Nixon Eisenhower, said Kissinger's life story was "so unique — and so thoroughly American."

China's state broadcaster CCTV dubbed Kissinger — known locally as a “double centenarian” for both his age and the fact that he'd visited the Middle Kingdom 100 times — a “legendary diplomat,” highlighting his key role in establishing ties with Communist China in the heat of the Cold War.

Hours after news of the death broke, the related hashtag became the most searched trend in China, with millions of views.

And then there are those who starkly disagree.

Kissinger warmly greets Augusto Pinochet in 1970, shortly before he assumed power in the coup against Salvador Allende.
Kissinger warmly greets Augusto Pinochet in 1970, shortly before he assumed power in the coup against Salvador Allende.File photo

Kissinger "oversaw, overlooked and at times actively perpetrated some of the most grotesque war crimes the United States and its allies have ever committed," HuffPost reporters Travis Waldron and George Zornick wrote in a scathing obituary of Kissinger, calling him "America's most notorious war criminal."

"The former led to perhaps the most infamous crime Kissinger committed: a secret four-year bombing campaign in Cambodia that killed an untold number of civilians, despite the fact that it was a neutral nation with which the United States was not at war," they write.

The campaign killed between 150,000 and a half-million Cambodian civilians, per various estimates, and, according to a Pentagon report released later, Kissinger personally "approved each of the 3,875 Cambodia bombing raids” that occurred between 1969 and 1970.

But perhaps the worst criticism, came from late author and TV host Anthony Bourdain.

An excerpt ripping Kissinger from Bourdain's book, A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal, published after his death in 2018, circulated online this week, according to HuffPost

"Once you've been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands," Bourdain wrote.

"You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking.”

"Witness what Henry did in Cambodia ― the fruits of his genius for statesmanship ― and you will never understand why he’s not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to [Serbian President Slobodan] Milošević,” Bourdain wrote.

Despite being behind the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, Kissinger had been seen in amicable exchanges with notable figures from President George W. Bush, Nixon, Oprah Winfrey and Princess Diana, reported.

“Any journalist who has ever been polite to Henry Kissinger, you know, f—k that person,” Bourdain said. “I’m a big believer in moral grey areas, but, when it comes to that guy, in my view he should not be able to eat at a restaurant in New York.”

Alas, nobody comes close to Kissinger’s impact on foreign policy — current Secretary of State Antony Blinken is a total lightweight in comparison.

And there is no question that Kissinger was one of the most capable and talented statesman in American history. But there is equal evidence, that the man has a terrible legacy — a legacy of blood on his hands.

All in the name of democracy.

Late TV host, Anthony Bourdain.
Late TV host, Anthony Bourdain.Handout photo

Related Stories

No stories found.
Western Standard