Henry Kissinger, an influential and controversial figure in US foreign policy for decades, has died at the age of 100. Known for his unapologetic promotion of raw American power during the Cold War, Kissinger left an indelible mark not only on US foreign policy but on global politics as a whole.
The polarizing foreign policy figure, who served as secretary of state and national security advisor under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, died on Wednesday at his home in Connecticut, according to a statement from his consulting firm, Kissinger Associates.
Having escaped Nazi Germany with his family in 1938, Kissinger later became a prominent political scientist and geopolitical consultant, and worked his way through the corridors of power in Washington.
The German-born Jewish refugee was notorious for his “realpolitik” approach to foreign policy, considering the legitimacy of international order as being premised on the agreement of the great powers, and ignoring morality as irrelevant.
Not surprisingly, Kissinger’s legacy is marred by controversial decisions and actions.
He is responsible for the ruthless campaign of carpet bombing in Cambodia from 1969 to 1973, which resulted in the deaths of between 150,000 and half a million Cambodians.
The purpose of the covert tactical bombing campaign in Cambodia was Washington’s desire, following Kissinger's advice to Nixon to “Hit them!”, to defeat both the South Vietnamese National Liberation Front and North Vietnam.
Notorious for his involvement in secret operations, Kissinger was the architect of a plan to potentially use nuclear weapons against North Vietnam in 1969 as part of an operation called Duck Hook.
Critics, including British author Christopher Hitchens, have accused him of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In his book “The Trial of Henry Kissinger”, Hitchens argues convincingly that Kissinger deserved prosecution “for war crimes, for crimes against humanity, and for offenses against common or customary or international law, including conspiracy to commit murder, kidnap, and torture.”
In their 1976 book - “The Final Days” - Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein revealed that when the idea of bombing North Vietnam was raised again, Kissinger “expressed enthusiasm at the size of the bomb craters.”
Kissinger had also personally supervised the schedules of the bombing runs and the allocation of planes from one area to the other.
“It's wave after wave of planes. You see, they can't see the B-52 and they dropped a million pounds of bombs,” Kissinger told Nixon after the April 1972 bombing of North Vietnam’s port city of Haiphong, as he tried to reassure the president that the strategy was working.
“I bet you we will have had more planes over there in one day than [former president Lyndon] Johnson had in a month... Each plane can carry about 10 times the load [a] World War II plane could carry,” Kissinger further said.
In 1973, a Pentagon report stated that “Henry A. Kissinger approved each of the 3,875 Cambodia bombing raids in 1969 and 1970” -- the most secretive phase of the bombing -- “as well as the methods for keeping them out of the newspapers.”
As for the Middle East, Kissinger, who was still seen as influential on the world stage until the last days of his life, helped turn Israel into a major US ally during the Nixon and Ford years, arming the occupying entity to the teeth during the 1973 war in order “to prevent an Arab victory”, and ensuring the perpetuation of Israeli colonization of Palestinian lands for decades to come.
He also crusaded against Palestinians for at least two decades, particularly by demonizing the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and hampering the settlement of the Palestinian issue.
Kissinger’s horrifying record, among other horrible moves, included his support for former Pakistani President Yahya Khan’s genocidal campaign against East Pakistan (Bangladesh) in 1971 and his endorsement of the Indonesian dictator Suharto’s genocidal war on the people of East Timor in 1975, in which a third of the population was killed.
Kissinger once famously said, “To be an enemy of the US is dangerous, but to be a friend is fatal,” referring to the US government's unfair and unsincere behavior even with its friends.
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