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News + PoliticsWar criminal who cared nothing for the lives he destroyed is dead...

War criminal who cared nothing for the lives he destroyed is dead at 100

Henry Kissinger represented that worst of the United States. We should remember the lessons of his life of cold brutality.

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It’s hard to outdo the Rolling Stone headline: “Henry Kissinger, war criminal beloved by America’s ruling class, finally dies.” The subhed notes that “The infamy of Nixon’s foreign policy advisor sits, eternally, beside that of history’s worst mass murderers.”

The mainstream news media has been generally somewhat laudatory toward the guy who oversaw the worst of the Vietnam War, launched a coup to overthrow the democratically elected government in Chile, reveled in his own power with little thought for the tens of thousands of people whose lives he ruined.

2019 State Department photo by Ron Przysucha

But a few pieces out there are worth remembering. This 2006 open letter by Fernando Torres, who was imprisoned by the military junta Kissinger installed in Chile in 1973, tells part of the story, including this quote, which pretty much sums up the old Cold Warrior’s attitude:

“I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.” – Henry Kissinger

Steve Talbot, the documentary filmmaker, told me he interviewed Kissinger once, in 2002, and “it didn’t go well.” Actually the story of that interview is fascinating, and you can read it here.

One of the most amazing parts is the end:

As we packed up our gear, I asked Kissinger one last question. Something I really wanted to know. “What if the United States had allowed Vietnam to go communist after World War II?”

“Wouldn’t have mattered very much,” Kissinger muttered. Lights off. No camera recording what he was saying. “If the Vietnam domino had fallen then, no great loss.”

With that he rose, stiffly, from his chair and left the room.

Fifty-eight thousand Americans died in the Vietnam War — nearly 21,000 of them during Kissinger’s watch. More than 600,000 Vietnamese soldiers were killed during the Nixon-Kissinger years. No one is certain how many civilians died.

And yet Kissinger had just told me that none of these deaths were necessary, from a geopolitical point of view.

He didn’t care. It was all about power. That was a terrible chapter in our history, and as Rolling Stone warns, “A deeper shame attached to the country that celebrates him.”

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Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

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