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HAK Birthdays: Henry Kissinger Turns 100

“Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands.” Anthony Bourdain, A Cook’s Tour (2002)

If a heavy resume of crimes is a guarantee of longevity, then surely Henry A. Kissinger (HAK, for short), must count as a good specimen. The list of butcheries attributed to his centurion, direct or otherwise, is extensive, his hand in them, finger fat and busy. There were the murderous meddles in Latin America, the conflicts in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. (The interventions in Laos and Cambodia are said to have left 350,000 Laotians and 600,000 Cambodians dead.) Then came the selective turning of blind eyes in Indonesia and Pakistan, and the ruthless sponsorship of coups in Africa.

Regarding the Vietnam War, this pornographer of power’s deviousness, and attempt to inveigle himself into the favours of Richard Nixon, running as presidential candidate in 1968, knew no bounds. With privileged access as an advisor to the US State Department, he became the conduit for information to Nixon’s campaign to sabotage the Johnson Administration’s efforts to broker an earlier peace with North Vietnam. This involved convincing South Vietnam that the peace terms they could negotiate would be far more favourable under a Nixon administration. Peace prospects were scuppered; the war continued, eventually yielding a wretched Nobel Peace Prize for the Doctor in 1973. The US forces soon withdrew, leaving the impotent South Vietnamese to be overrun by their stronger Northern opponents.

Nixon’s electoral victory in 1968 ushered in an era of ruthless subversion of the international order, and one that bears repeating in these testy times of China ascending and US imperial anxiety. Kissinger, working with Nixon, thought that convincing North Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh to return to talks would be helped by targeting North Vietnamese supply routes in Laos and Cambodia. With stomach-churching cynicism, these bombing operations were given various gastronomic names: Operation Menu; Breakfast Plan. When the covert bombing program was exposed by the New York Times on May 9, 1969, Kissinger put the wind up FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to not only place a number of journalists under surveillance, but a select number of government officials, including his aides in the National Security Council. One of the latter, Morton Halperin, would subsequently sue his former boss, Nixon and the Department of Justice for illegal wiretapping of his home and office phones.

In Chile, Nixon and Kissinger poisoned the waters of that country’s politics, destabilising the democratically elected government of socialist President Salvador Allende and paving the way for a bloody coup that installed General Augusto Pinochet. A mere eight days after Allende’s election in September 1970, Kissinger, in conversation with CIA director Richard Helms emphatically stated that, “We will not let Chile go down the drain.” Three days later, Nixon, in a meeting including Kissinger, infamously told the CIA to “make the [Chilean] economy scream.” 

In November 1970, Kissinger demonstrated an almost callow level of expertise in claiming in a memorandum that Allende’s election “would have an effect on what happens in the rest of Latin America and the developing world; on what our future position will be in the hemisphere; and on the larger world picture.” To permit democratically elected socialist governments in the Americas along the “Titoist” lines of Allende’s government “would be far more dangerous to us than in Europe”, creating a model whose “effect can be insidious.”

Kissinger’s venality, and complicity as a deskbound suited thug, supply us a bottomless reservoir. To commemorate the occasion of his hundredth natal day, Nick Turse of The Intercept revealed a number of unreported attacks on Cambodian civilians during the secret war, suggesting that the program has been more expansive, and vicious, than had been previously assumed. “These attacks were far more intimate and perhaps even more horrific than the violence already attributed to Kissinger’s policies, because the villages were not just bombed, but also strafed by helicopters gunships and burned and looted by US and allied troops.”

The incidents are too numerous to list, leaving us a catalogue of cruelties ghoulish and despairing. Yet his own accounts do little to shed light on such exploits. The White House Years are barren on his blood-soaked achievements, the doorstop memoirs being a selective account drawing from memos, memcons and telcons that this faux Metternich had generated while in office. In 1977, in typical fashion, Kissinger made off with over 30,000 pages of daily transcripts of phone conversations he was involved in, documents he deviously called “personal papers”. In self-reflective glory, he could pilfer, cut and adjust.

Efforts to seek his richly deserved arrest have been made, though all have ended in a legal and practical cul-de-sac. In January 2015, CODEPINK protesters ventured to make a citizen’s arrest during a US Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. In the UK, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell also had a stab in April 2002, seeking a warrant from the Bow Street Magistrates’ Court under the Geneva Conventions Act 1957. The charges asserted that “while he was national security adviser to the US president 1969-1975 and US Secretary of State 1973-1977, [Kissinger] commissioned, aided and abetted and procured war crimes in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.”

The presiding District Judge Nicholas Evans was not willing to play along, hampered by higher powers. To proceed, the Attorney-General’s consent was needed. Lacking that, “there is nothing I can do.” That’s HAK’s way of operation, an oleaginous Brahmin above others. Let the likes of Pinochet be nabbed; the backer always makes his getaway.

Best, then, to conclude this natal day salutation to the man by reflecting on the remarks of that most raw yet delicate of culinary (and social) commentators, Anthony Bourdain. In visiting Cambodia for his Cook’s Tour series, he could only reflect about why such a man was not sharing dock space at The Hague with other war criminals. “You will never 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.” Sadly, for many in the Kissinger cosmos, they continue to do so without so much as flinching.


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  1. Canguro

    A man who has outlived his usefulness by 65 years, and will be remembered accordingly. There’s some truth in the saying that only the good die young – along with the not so true elements of that folksy pith – but in Kissinger’s case he would have done humanity a favour by pegging out before the Vietnam War.

    And a crying shame that he will never be tried for his war crimes, let alone his Machiavellian role as a behind the scenes Dr. Evil pulling the strings of the puppets as they dance across the global stage.

  2. leefe

    Best summary about this arsebucket is by James Fell. If you do know him, his FB page is, Kissinger is the second most recent post.
    The Bourdain line is quoted iin the comments.

    Kissinger is so deeply into cognitive dissonance he should have drowned in it decades ago. He and his family escaped from a genocidal fascist regime in Europe – one that was eventually defeated primarily by a nominally communist nation – and he wen t on to be a major fan and enabler of genocidal fascist regimes elsewhere in the world simply because their opposition was communist/socialist.

    People like Betty White and Tina Turner dying before this war criminal is proof that there is no such thing as justice in this universe.

  3. Phil Pryor

    Back home again, to catch up the backlogs.., and now to find this “ageing Kissinger” comment, so distasteful, for the one thing about Old Henry one could trust was his absolute untrustworthiness. Born into an ultrasuperstitious social-religious group and threatened by murderous fascist powers of life and death, Henry learned a wrong lesson, in that he became a fuhrer skin awaiting inflation. As he progressed, ambitiously and cleverly, he filled the skin out, to become fascistic, hubristic, fantastic. Such people are executive murderers, killing so many by orders, attitudes, policies, advice, decisions. all the while never handling a weapon.., nothing personal, just surviving, advancing, serving. A century of foul, fraudy, detached careerism leaves us sickened, disabled. Justice?

  4. Douglas Pritchard

    Once again we are reminded that it is the mainstream media that allows the truly evil to roam amongst us, while more worthy are made examples of.
    If we were the developed society that we claim to be in 2023, then pieces of silver would have been consigned to a more minor role.
    And true justice would be the light that lit our path.
    But then I do tend to dream.
    And Canguro if the good die young, then what are we doing still here?

  5. Andrew Smith

    Interesting, in early academic days he had been closely linked to Nelson Rockefeller (Standard Oil/Exxon fortune), then Chilean socioeconomic experiment & Pinochet coup, would have linked him to Koch’s ‘segregation economics’ muse James Buchanan while in recent year it’s been at one point in agreement with Chomsky on Ukraine, suggestion of ceding territory to Russia for ‘peace’; a bit of a career grifter?

  6. andyfiftysix

    the butcher of cambodia still alive? I hope he pees his pants everyday.

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