The Guardian • Issue #2082

Henry Kissinger: War criminal guilty of 3 million dead

Henry Kissinger.

Photo: David Shankbone – flickr.com Creative Commons (CC0)

Henry Kissinger died at home on 30 November, aged 100, never having been tried for his war crimes. He had been a leading diplomat, serving as Secretary of State and National Security Adviser to US Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, from 1969 to 1975. The Sydney Morning Herald told its readers that he had “left an indelible mark on US foreign policy.” The BBC’s headline, “Divisive Diplomat Who Shaped World Affairs,” was an understatement. Kissinger’s diplomacy with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai led to Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, establishing full relations with China in 1979. Kissinger had helped end the 1973 Arab-Israeli conflict and negotiated the Paris Peace Accords, with the US pulling its troops out of Vietnam. Vietnam was united under a socialist government in 1975. Kissinger and Nixon pursued agreements with the Soviet government, on nuclear arms control.

There was also a far darker side to Henry Kissinger. What Kissinger called “Realpolitik,” his critics called “immoral actions.” He supported the bloody coup against President Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973, with at least 4000 dead, and he turned a blind eye to the Argentine military’s ‘dirty war’ against its citizens, killing over 10,000 people. In 1974 he backed the Turkish invasion of Northern Cyprus. When the comedian Tom Lehrer heard that Kissinger had been awarded the Nobel Prize, he said, “political satire is obsolete.” For the demonstrators who marched against his foreign policies, he was known as “KILLINGER.”

Andrew Murray writes in People’s World: “Broadly, there was no regime so obnoxious, no tyrant too murderous, for Kissinger’s blessings to be withheld, provided only it upheld US strategic interests and stood firm against the USSR.” In The Trial of Henry Kissinger (2002), Christopher Hitchens writes 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.” He was “a stupendous liar with a remarkable memory.”

Lubna Z Qureshi writes in Nixon, Kissinger, and Allende (2010) that, “To Kissinger, the profound issues of war and peace and national security only concerned Europe and Asia. Latin America did not count.” In 2016,  Jon Lee Anderson called Kissinger “the ruthless cheerleader, if not the active co-conspirator, of Latin American military regimes engaged in war crimes.”

Few people have played a role in so much destruction and death as had Kissinger. He was a war criminal, not only for his actions in Chile, but also in East Timor, East Pakistan (Bangladesh) and Cambodia. He was responsible for the deaths of more than 3 million people.

Kissinger secretly extended the war in Vietnam into neighbouring Cambodia, as part of Operation MENU. He chose the bombing targets, including civilian settlements, clearly a war crime. In 1971 the US government supported genocide in East Pakistan, transferring weapons from Iran and Jordan to be used by West Pakistan in its attacks. This makes Kissinger liable for aiding and abetting that slaughter. Kissinger and Gerald Ford gave the go ahead for Indonesia to invade East Timor in 1975, and assisted the military which butchered hundreds of thousands of East Timorese.

Kissinger fully supported US imperialism around the world, no matter the human cost. He was never listed as a war criminal and was never tried in the ICC (International Criminal Court) in the Hague for his crimes. Kissinger could not be tried in war crime tribunals in those countries, because the US government would not allow it.

His career, and his lifelong immunity from consequences for the deaths and torture he caused, make Henry Kissinger a monument to US imperialism and exceptionalism.

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