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Explainer: What made Henry Kissinger America's most notorious war criminal?

By Press TV Staff Writer

The most notorious and hawkish America's former top diplomat, known more for his war crimes and export of imperialism than diplomacy, died on Thursday. He was 100.

Henry Kissinger, a key architect of America's Cold War foreign policy during the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, breathed his last at his home in Kent, Connecticut.

While in the United States, he is often lauded for bringing about rapprochement with China, around the world, he is known as an infamous war criminal with blood of millions of people on his hands.

It is estimated that the victims of his blatant war crimes number from several hundred thousand to several million, from Argentina, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chile, Cyprus, East Timor, Palestine, South Africa, to Vietnam.

In 1973, quite scandalously, he was handed a Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating a ceasefire deal in the Vietnam War, although the earlier flare-up and spread of the devastating war to neighboring Cambodia was entirely his handiwork.

In the eight years that he was the US Secretary of State, Kissinger shaped America's interventionist foreign policy, which later became a benchmark for his successors to export American hegemony and imperialism around the world.

Christopher Hitchens, the author of The Trial of Henry Kissinger, in his 2001 book called for the former top US diplomat to be prosecuted for conspiracy to commit murders, kidnappings and torture across the world.

"The US could either persist in averting their gaze from the egregious impunity enjoyed by a notorious war criminal and lawbreaker, or they can become seized by the exalted standards to which they continually hold everyone else," wrote Hitchens.

What are Kissinger's main crimes?

One of his most notorious roles was in Cambodia, where he masterminded the expansion of the Vietnam War through a secret bombing campaign in 1969 and ground invasions by US forces for years.

The US is believed to have rained down more than 540,000 tonnes of bombs in a campaign called Operation Menu that was executed without the backing or knowledge of the US Congress.

The deadly military adventure caused an eight-year civil war between the Cambodian government and the Khmer Rouge regime, which led to the killing of around 275,000–310,000 people and displaced millions of others.

In declassified cables in 1970, Kissinger was heard conveying this message to his deputy Alexander Haig after speaking to Nixon: “He wants a massive bombing campaign in Cambodia… It’s an order, it’s to be done. Anything that flies, on anything that moves. You got that?”

Author and TV personality Anthony Bourdain, after visiting Cambodia, wrote in his 2011 book A Cook’s Tour: “Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands”.

“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 Milošević."

He also played an instrumental role in the massacre of the East Timorese people by the Indonesian forces in the mid-1970s.

Kissinger and President Ford, during a meeting with the Indonesian dictator Suharto in December 1975, gave him instructions to invade East Timor, which triggered a civil war that left at least 200,000 people dead, according to 2001 declassified documents.

In Chile, Kissinger worked behind the scenes to destabilize and undermine the government of Salvador Allende who was seen as a threat to US hegemony in South America at a time when all other Latin American countries had US-installed military dictatorships.

Less than three years into Allende’s rule, amid skyrocketing inflation and massive strikes that were orchestrated by the CIA, a US-engineered coup led by General Augusto Pinochet toppled the democratically-elected government.

A Chilean government report later revealed that over 40,000 people were killed, tortured, or imprisoned during Pinochet’s murderous regime at the behest of the US government and Kissinger.

In Argentina, Kissinger militarily backed junta leader General Jorge Rafael Videla after he toppled the democratically-elected government of President Isabel Perón in March 1976, according to declassified cables.

These actions led to the Dirty War between 1976 and 1983, where Argentina’s military junta killed between 10,000 and 30,000 people. Many of them were subjected to enforced disappearances.

Kissinger was also involved in Bangladesh, previously known as East Pakistan, where he and Nixon backed the genocide of people by West Pakistan.

Following his death on Thursday, Bangladesh's Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said Kissinger backed the Pakistani military regime during the 1971 war and failed to apologize to the people of Bangladesh for his actions.

Kissinger was also responsible for consolidating the US vassal dictatorship in Iran in the 1970s, which had long-lasting unwanted consequences for Washington.

What role did Kissinger play in Iran?

Kissinger's political opportunism is particularly evident in the example of relations with Iran, which American diplomacy under his leadership saw, in the words of Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, as a "milking cow."

In the 1970s, accompanying then-US President Nixon, he traveled to Tehran and initiated massive military deals on the export of arms worth billions of dollars to Iran.

In his eyes, the best solution for Iran was a rigid military dictatorship that would spend massively on American weapons and other expensive products, and at the same time play the role of a US proxy against the regional countries that refused to lean toward Washington.

Such an attitude was formed partly as a consequence of the defeat in the Vietnam War, which is why the American authorities did not like the idea of repeating the same scenario in West Asia, with huge American casualties.

In 1975, when he held the position of Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, Kissinger was the key man in signing a $15 billion deal that included $6.4 billion for the purchase of eight US nuclear reactors.

The Shah's regime then planned to build a total of twenty nuclear power plants with the import of enriched uranium, for which Washington and its allies showed great enthusiasm, seeing it as a lucrative opportunity for their companies.

These treaties collapsed four years later due to mass popular discontent with the West-backed dictatorship and the success of the Islamic Revolution, the prospect of which Kissinger understandably dreaded.

He was among the loudest proponents of providing asylum to the deposed Shah, arguing that it was America's "moral obligation." On the aggression of the Baathist Iraqi regime on Iran, he said "It's a pity they both can't lose."

Three decades later, when Iran announced the continuation of the development of a civilian nuclear program, this time with its own technology and without multibillion-dollar contracts with American and Western companies, Kissinger turned the tables.

In an opinion piece for the Washington Post in 2005, Kissinger wrote that "for a major oil producer such as Iran, nuclear energy is a wasteful use of resources."

This radical switch once again confirmed that Americans have an essential problem with the technological prowess and progress of independent countries because they believe only the US has the right to a monopoly of advanced technologies.

In the 2000s, Kissinger became an advocate of American interventionism in West Asia and met regularly with then-US President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to advise them on the disastrous invasion of Iraq.

The collapse of American imperial ambitions in Iraq and other countries of the region culminated in his intensified anti-Iranian rhetoric.

In 2014, when Iraq and Syria were under the grip of Takfiri terrorism, he stated that "Iran is a bigger problem than Daesh," arguing that the latter's fall would open the door to Tehran's alleged "imperial agendas."

In addition to giving unequivocal support to anti-Iranian terrorism, he also strongly opposed the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, clinched during the presidency of Barack Obama.

He maintained the same stance after Obama's megalomaniac successor Donald Trump scrapped the deal, saying any attempts to reinstall the deal are "extremely dangerous."

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