Henry Kissinger

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Yeah, School of the Americas? I'd like to order two Latin American dictators, five death squads and a Cherry Coke.
The white man's burden
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The empires strike back
Veni, vidi, vici
Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.
—Henry Kissinger
Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands. You will never again 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. 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. While Henry continues to nibble nori rolls & remaki at A-list parties, Cambodia, the neutral nation he secretly and illegally bombed, invaded, undermined, and then threw to the dogs, is still trying to raise itself up on its one remaining leg.
—Anthony Bourdain[1]

Henry "The Wanderer"[2] Kissinger (27 May 1923–29 November 2023),[3] who was not a friend of Bernie Sanders,[4] was the National Security Advisor and later Secretary of State under US presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. He was most famous for orchestrating the establishment of relations with China and for engineering campaigns that massively screwed over numerous Third World countries. (We're talking about millions of deaths here.) Hitch called him a war criminal.[5]

Very Serious People, who tend to consider his shenanigans in Southeast Asia features rather than bugs, remember his tenure most fondly.[6]

Foreign policy screw-jobs[edit]

The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.
—The Top 10 Most Inhuman Henry Kissinger Quotes[7]

The good[edit]

  • Helped Tricky Dick open relations with China and begin détente policies such as Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT).
  • Took part in the negotiations to end the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
  • Did try to encourage Rhodesia to end their Apartheid-like system of white minority rule.[8]
  • Criticized wingnuts who still want to blow the hell out of Russia.[9]
  • Had military experience (doing some of the most dangerous American counterintelligence missions in Germany during World War II), so avoids the chickenhawk label.[10]
  • Found Tricky Dick's idea of hitting North Vietnam with nukes to be "too much."
  • Advocate of nuclear disarmament and a world free of nuclear weapons.

The ugly[edit]

Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Tom Lehrer[11]
  • 1969: Involved in prolific illegal wiretapping campaign orchestrated by Nixon.[12]
  • 1969-70: One of the architects of the secret bombing campaign in Cambodia, which both led to an ultimate death toll in the hundreds of thousands which played an important role in bringing the Khmer Rouge to power as an unintended side-effect.[13] After the US racked up an additional 40,000+ casualties in Cambodia, Kissinger entered into ceasefire negotiations with Le Duc Tho of North Vietnam. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for this in 1973. The whole affair has since been widely considered a joke, and even Kissinger himself has stated he didn't deserve it; the Nobel committee at the time did not consider it likely that the negotiations would result in peace.[14] He tried to give the award back after South Vietnam collapsed in 1975, but the Nobel Committee told him not to bother.[15]
  • October 27th, 1969: In accordance with his so-called "Madman Theory",[16] had Nixon send 18 B-52 bomber planes armed with nuclear warheads to the eastern Soviet border as part of Operation "Giant Lance",[17] in the hopes that the Soviets would panic and pressure North Vietnam to accept US peace demands at the Paris peace negotiations.[18] Whether you consider this to be truly ugly or not depends on one's faith in game theory, but it certainly deserves a spot on this list.
  • 1971: Maintained economic and military aid to Pakistan (in violation of a US Congressional arms embargo) as it indiscriminately massacred over a million civilians during the Bangladesh Liberation War. Called Indira Gandhi "a bitch"[19] while he did so (though her conduct during The EmergencyWikipedia a few years later vindicated him on that one).[20][21]
  • 1971-1974: Helped Tricky Dick to lead the way to the international de-recognition of Taiwan.
  • Dramatically increased the amount of aid and military funds sent to Indonesia in support of Suharto's brutal dictatorship.
  • Was involved in Watergate.[22][23] Couldn't even escape that. However, Kissinger somehow managed to avoid being indicted or sent to prison, and unlike Nixon and the rest of his staff ended up with his reputation pretty much intact. "That Kissinger had lied about his role ... was widely assumed in the Washington press corps, and even inside the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, but Kissinger was permitted to slide by with his half-truths and misstatements. Only Richard Nixon, Alexander Haig, some of the men around them, and a few Watergate prosecutors fortunate enough to have learned what was on the White House tapes understood the truth: Kissinger was involved."[24]
  • 1973: Engineered a coup d'etat against the democratically-elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile, installing a brutal military dictatorship in its place, all so that America could sell Pepsi (no, seriously).[25] This resulted in the torture and murder of thousands of Chilean citizens, as well as two Americans named Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi, who were deliberately executed by the Junta because they knew too much about the "links between the CIA and Chile's military"[26][27] simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Kissinger, who as National Security Adviser was "the principal policy architect of U.S. efforts to oust"[28] Allende, would later be charged with "complicity"[29] in Horman's death in a lawsuit. He was also legally implicated in the kidnapping and murder of Chilean General René Schneider in 1970 "because he stood in the way of a military coup"[30] which was orchestrated by the CIA to prevent Allende from assuming power in the first place.
  • Supported Operation Condor, a campaign designed to synchronize the secret police of the fascist dictators in South America and support coups and drug dealing in the region. Kissinger was particularly fond of Augusto Pinochet, as well as Jorge Rafael Videla's junta in Argentina.
  • December 1975: Approved the Indonesian invasionWikipedia of Timor-Leste, resulting in 100,000 to 180,000 Timorese conflict-related deaths and approximately 300,000 forced relocations (from a total population of approximately 682,000 at the time of invasion). Also agreed to the illegal sale of US arms which were used in the invasion.[31]
  • 1976: Wanted to "smash Cuba"[32] (because that worked so well before).
  • Helped Enron set up energy projects across the world as a consultant. Many of these deals failed to pan out, and the developers were often motivated more by personal greed and the desire to make a quick buck without any consequences rather than altruism.[33]:78-79
  • Buddied up with Dubya to dispense advice on Iraq.
  • Became a board member of Theranos,Wikipedia which turned out to be a scam that seriously impacted the health of patients and lost investors billions; Kissinger's attorney lost $6 million and was directly responsible for recruiting other investors who got conned.[34] In this case Kissinger was one of a lot of high profile people who got involved, there's no evidence he was personally in on any of the fraud, but his presence helped get even more people into it than there otherwise would have been.
  • Proving that even at 99 he's still not too old to continue to dispense shitty takes, he said that Ukraine should cede territory to Russia in order to end the 2022 war.[35] Because appeasement worked out so well the last time.
  • Because you know he had to be involved somehow, Henry Kissinger's name is on Jeffrey Epstein's black book.[36]

Madman Theory[edit]

As mentioned above, Kissinger was the architect of "Madman Theory",[16] the doctrine that sought to discard traditional game theory assumptions about the actions and possible retaliation of the USSR during the cold war by casting US president Richard Nixon as a short-tempered, irrational man with such an obsession with communism that he would threaten his own nation's existence simply to get rid of it.[37] This was based on Eisenhower's previous doctrine of "massive retaliation",[38] in which he hoped to deter aggression by showing the Soviet Union that America was capable of responding with a force overwhelming enough to protect it and its allies.

Nixon liked the idea, and even encouraged Kissinger to present him as a "madman"[39] whenever Vietnam came up in diplomatic talks, and that he should shake his head and say "I am sorry, Mr. Ambassador, but he [Nixon] is out of control."[40] He also told Haldmen that "I want the North Vietnamese to believe that I've reached the point that I might do anything to stop the war. We'll just slip the word to them that 'For God's sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about Communism. We can't restrain him when he's angry—and he has his hand on the nuclear button.' And Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace."[41][42]


Along with being labeled a war criminal, some historians and political commentators have suggested that Kissinger's reputation as some sort of maverick foreign policy genius has been oversold. Historian David Greenberg has described him as "the most overrated public figure of our times",[43] and states that he is wrongly credited "with being the mastermind behind Nixon’s foreign policy achievements. In fact, Nixon drove his own foreign policy and very much wanted to open relations with China and achieve détente with the Soviet Union. Nixon was the grand strategist, Kissinger the tactician."[43] Greenberg also states that "most of his ideas have been fairly conventional. His ideas have never exerted great influence in the academic world, and in foreign policy he often just goes with the Republican flow, as when he counseled Bush to avoid withdrawals from Iraq, lest the public become addicted to them “like salted peanuts.”"[43] However, Greenberg has also downplayed Kissinger's brutality, claiming that his "worst crime was apparently testifying falsely to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about his involvement in Watergate—specifically his authorization of illegal wiretaps of the phones of journalists and government officials."[43] Apparently, fomenting coups and arranging illegal carpet bombings don't count as actual crimes as long as the victims are from Chile, or Cambodia, or some other country which most Americans can't find on a map.

Conspiracy theories[edit]

Kissinger was a conspiracy theorist's wet dream for the fact that he was:

Thus, he often had a supporting, if not starring, role in all sorts of international Jewish conspiracy, New World Order, and Illuminati theories. Among the more anti-Semitic Truthers, he was claimed to have played a major role in a Shrub whitewash as he briefly[44] held a seat on an investigation panel for 9/11. There was long a notion that the Kisser might be the Antichrist himself.

Oh, and he appeared in TV commercials. Sinister. Though lately he had trouble preventing Stephen Colbert from breaking into his office.[45]

Tell me who your friends are … or the other way around?[edit]

Kissinger stated that he wished to die before Helmut SchmidtWikipedia because Kissinger wouldn't want to live in a world without him. This really makes one wonder about the adage: "Tell me who your friends are, and I'll tell you who you are.“ To most this constitutes a very backhanded compliment to Schmidt. The wish was not granted. Schmidt died 10 November 2015 at the relatively young age of 96 after a lifetime of heavy smoking.

Kissinger and Danial Ellsberg knew each other from Harvard in the 1950s, and Ellsberg, a holdover from the Johnson administrstion, briefed Kissinger on Vietnam after Nixon was elected. It was Kissinger who fingered Ellsberg to Nixon as the probable leaker of the Pentagon Papers.[46] According to Charles Colson, Kissinger was "more alarmed over the leaks than the President",[47] and persuaded Nixon that Ellsberg "must be stopped at all costs".[47]

Bernie Sanders was proud that he didn't consider Henry Kissinger to be his friend.[48] Hillary Clinton, by contrast, adored Henry; their families spent Christmas week together most years, roughing it at Oscar de la Renta's villa. She fawned over his books and was quite content to overlook that little matter of his multiple war crimes.[49]

His Jewishness[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Judaism

Rabbi Norman Lamm of Yeshiva University noted Kissinger's antipathy towards Jews in multiple ways, his elimination of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as holidays for Jewish employees of the State Department when he became Secretary of State in 1973, and his failure to even mention the Holocaust.[50] Lamm was so infuriated by Kissinger's behavior that he effectively excommunicated (herem)[51] him:

Let us openly disassociate from him [Kissinger]. He wants not to be a part of our people — its history and its destiny, its suffering and its joys. So be it. Let us never again, in our talk or in our publications, make reference to this man's Jewishness. And let us insist that he be done with his occasional shrewd remarks to the press or to diplomats that, of course, he would not jeopardize the lives of Jews or other oppressed peoples because he too is a refugee from oppression. A man who 'forgets' millions of his fellow sufferers, has lost the moral right to make use of their suffering and his own refugee status in furthering his own ends.
"In his assembly let our honor not be united." Our Kavod (honor) ultimately will be better served if Henry Kissinger will succeed in severing whatever frail and residual bonds still tie him to the House of Jacob and the Children of Israel. Let us grant him his obvious wish to be dis-united with us.
—Norman Lamm[50][52]

Callous quotes[edit]

Fred Branfman at Alternet wrote about Kissinger that he “has a history of saying outrageous things that reveal a dark and unusual callousness and hostility to the lives of innocent civilians across the planet”,[7] and provides a sampling of ten quotations.[53] Here are the top three:

The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.[54]

[Nixon] wants a massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. He doesn't want to hear anything about it. It's an order, to be done. Anything that flies on anything that moves.[55]

It's wave after wave of planes. You see, they can't see the B-52 and they dropped a million pounds of bombs [...] I bet you we will have had more planes over there in one day than Johnson had in a month [...] each plane can carry about 10 times the load of World War II plane could carry.[56]

And a few other gems:

[A]fter a year, Mr. President, Vietnam will be a backwater. If we settle it, say, this October [1972], by January ’74 no one will give a damn.[57]

You should tell the Cambodians (i.e., Khmer Rouge) that we will be friends with them. They are murderous thugs, but we won’t let that stand in the way.[58]

It is an act of insanity and national humiliation to have a law prohibiting the President from ordering assassination.[53]

I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.[53]

If it were not for the accident of my birth, I would be anti-Semitic. … "any people who have been persecuted for two thousand years must be doing something wrong."[10]:561

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. Anthony Bourdain, A Cook's Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal (2001), p. 162. ISBN 9781582341408
  2. A delightful Kissinger tune
  3. David E. Sanger, Henry Kissinger Is Dead at 100; Shaped Nation’s Cold War History. The New York Times, 29 November 2023.
  4. It Was All Worth It to Hear Bernie Say Five Years Ago, “Henry Kissinger Is Not My Friend”, Micah Uetricht, Jacobin 12 February 2021
  5. Hitch on Kissinger
  6. It is no surprise why policymakers adore him while the actual academics want to punch him in the face.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Fred Branfman, The Top 10 Most Inhuman Henry Kissinger Quotes. Archived from Alternet, 12 February 2016.
  8. Ian Smith of Rhodesia and Henry Kissinger meet in Pretoria, South African History Online
  9. Kissinger urges policy, not posturing, on Ukraine crisis, CBS
  10. 10.0 10.1 * 1992. Isaacson, Walter. Kissinger: A Biography. New York. Simon & Schuster (updated, 2005). ISBN 0-671-66323-2
  11. 'When Kissinger won the Nobel peace prize, satire died': Todd S Purdom on why songwriter Tom Lehrer has remained silent for 33 years by Todd S. Purdom (30 Jul 2000 20.26 EDT) The Guardian.
  12. https://www.nytimes.com/1976/03/11/archives/nixon-testifies-kissinger-picked-wiretap-targets-says-he-ordered.html
  13. Henry Kissinger’s bombing campaign likely killed hundreds of thousands of Cambodians − and set path for the ravages of the Khmer Rouge[a w]The Conversation
  14. Nobel panel knew Kissinger Vietnam deal unlikely to bring peace, files show: Accords negotiated by Kissinger and Le Duc Tho in 1973 sealed US exit from war but were soon flouted by North and South Vietnam (11 Jan 2023 12.28 EST) Reuters via The Guardian.
  15. https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/in-the-loop/wp/2014/01/24/kissinger-the-gift-that-keeps-on-giving/
  16. 16.0 16.1 https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/nukevault/ebb517-Nixon-Kissinger-and-the-Madman-Strategy-during-Vietnam-War/
  17. https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB81/index2.htm
  18. http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/ins/summary/v027/27.4sagan.html
  19. https://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/02/world/asia/kissinger-regrets-1971-remarks-on-india.html
  20. Collateral Damage, The New York Times
  21. The Bengali blood on Henry Kissinger’s hands by Ishaan Tharoor (December 1, 2023 at 12:00 a.m. EST) The Washington Post.
  22. Strangers in the Night: Nixon, Kissinger, and Sinatra, The New Yorker
  23. http://www.historycommons.org/context.jsp?item=a0569kissingerwiretap
  24. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2005/06/the-craft-and-craftiness-of-henry-kissinger/304011/
  25. https://www.theguardian.com/business/1998/nov/08/observerbusiness.theobserver
  26. https://theworld.org/stories/2014-07-01/american-journalist-charles-horman-was-murdered-help-us-government
  27. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/01/chile-us-intelligence-1973-killings-americans
  28. https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB437/
  29. https://ccrjustice.org/home/what-we-do/our-cases/horman-v-kissinger
  30. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2001/09/11/family-of-slain-chilean-sues-kissinger-helms/2439f3a4-dfe0-418c-9454-de6052e4df55/
  31. https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB62/
  32. Kissinger Drew Up Plans to Attack Cuba, Records Show, The New York Times
  33. McLean, Bethany and Elkind, Peter (2004). The Smartest Guys in the Room. Penguin Books. ISBN 1-59184-053-8
  34. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-11-02/kissinger-introduced-theranos-investor-to-holmes-opportunity
  35. Kissinger says Ukraine should cede territory to Russia to end war, Timothy Bella, Washington Post 24 May 2022
  36. Who Are the Newly Revealed Jeffrey Epstein Associates?, Chas Danner, Benjamin Hart, and Matt Stieb, Intelligencer 5 January 2024
  37. http://www.nuclearfiles.org/menu/key-issues/nuclear-weapons/history/cold-war/strategy/strategy-nixon-madman-theory.htm
  38. https://www.britannica.com/topic/nuclear-strategy/Massive-retaliation
  39. https://foreignpolicy.com/2014/03/25/madman-in-the-white-house/
  40. https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76v12/d94
  41. Perlstein, Rick (2008). Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America. New York: Scribner. p. 419. ISBN 978-0-7432-4302-5. 
  42. Jeremi Suri, The Nukes of October. Archived from Wired, 25 February 2008.
  43. 43.0 43.1 43.2 43.3 https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/10/henry-kissinger-history-legacy-213237/
  44. For like a month.
  45. Get Lucky
  46. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/09/vietnam-war-cambodia-ellsberg-pentagon-papers-kissinger/
  47. 47.0 47.1 https://www.nytimes.com/1974/04/30/archives/colson-asserts-kissinger-wanted-ellsberg-stopped-special-to-the-new.html
  48. http://www.vox.com/world/2016/2/12/10979304/clinton-sanders-kissinger
  49. Hillary Clinton and Henry Kissinger: It's Personal. Very Personal.
  50. 50.0 50.1 Henry Kissinger: ‘If it were not for the accident of my birth, I would be antisemitic.’: The former secretary of state was remarkable for his longevity — his policy record was another matter by Benjamin Ivry (November 29, 2023) Forward.
  51. Jewish Practices & Rituals: Excommunication Jewish Virtual Library.
  52. Kissinger and the Jews by Benjamin Ivry (December 20, 1975) The Jewish Center, Yeshiva University.
  53. 53.0 53.1 53.2 https://www.salon.com/2016/02/13/the_10_most_ghoulish_quotes_of_henry_kissingers_monstrous_partner/
  54. Adam Nagourney, "In Tapes, Nixon Rails About Jews and Blacks", New York Times, 10 December 2010
  55. The Kissinger Telcons, December 9, 1970
  56. TELCON, April 15, 1972
  57. Presidential Recordings, August 3, 1972
  58. State Department Memorandum, November 26, 1975