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.
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—Henry Kissinger

Henry "The Wanderer"[1] Kissinger (1923–), who is not a friend of Bernie Sanders, was the National Security Advisor and later Secretary of State under US presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. He is 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.[2]

Very Serious People, who tend to consider his shenanigans in Southeast Asia features rather than bugs, remember his tenure most fondly.[3]

Foreign policy screw-jobs[edit]

The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.
—The Top 10 Most Inhuman Henry Kissinger Quotes[4]

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.[5]
  • Criticized wingnuts who still want to blow the hell out of Russia.[6]
  • Had military experience (doing some of the most dangerous American counterintelligence missions in Germany during World War II), so avoids the chickenhawk label.[7]
  • 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]

  • 1969: Involved in prolific illegal wiretapping campaign orchestrated by Nixon.[8]
  • 1969-70: One of the architects of the secret bombing campaign in Cambodia, which played an important role in bringing the Khmer Rouge to power as an unintended side-effect. 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.[9] He tried to give the award back after South Vietnam collapsed in 1975, but the Nobel Committee told him not to bother.[10]
  • October 27th, 1969: In accordance with his so-called "Madman Theory",[11] had Nixon send 18 B-52 bomber planes armed with nuclear warheads to the eastern Soviet border as part of Operation "Giant Lance",[12] in the hopes that the Soviets would panic and pressure North Vietnam to accept US peace demands at the Paris peace negotiations.[13] 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 as it indiscriminately massacred over a million civilians during the Bangladesh Liberation War. Called Indira Gandhi "a bitch"[14] while he did so (though her conduct during The EmergencyWikipedia a few years later vindicated him on that one).[15]
  • 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.[16][17] 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."[18]
  • 1973: Engineered a coup d'etat against the democratically-elected government of Salvadore Allende in Chile, installing a brutal military dictatorship in its place, all so that America could sell Pepsi (no, seriously).[19] 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"[20][21] 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"[22] Allende, would later be charged with "complicity"[23] 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"[24] 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.[25]
  • 1976: Wanted to "smash Cuba"[26] (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.[27]:78-79
  • Buddied up with Dubya to dispense advice on Iraq.
  • 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.[28] Because appeasement worked out so well the last time.

Madman Theory[edit]

As mentioned above, Kissinger was the architect of "Madman Theory",[11] 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.[29] This was based on Eisenhower's previous doctrine of "massive retaliation",[30] 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"[31] 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."[32] 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."[33][34]


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",[35] 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."[35] 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.”"[35] 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."[35] 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 is a conspiracy theorist's wet dream for the fact that he is:

Thus, he often has 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 is claimed to have played a major role in a Shrub whitewash as he briefly[36] held a seat on an investigation panel for 9/11. There was long a notion that the Kisser might be the Antichrist himself, but he's a bit old for that position now.

Oh, and he's appeared in TV commercials. Sinister. Though lately he's having trouble preventing Stephen Colbert from breaking into his office.[37]

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.[38] According to Charles Colson, Kissinger was "more alarmed over the leaks than the President",[39] and persuaded Nixon that Ellsberg "must be stopped at all costs".[39]

Bernie Sanders is proud that he doesn't consider Henry Kissinger to be his friend.[40] Hillary Clinton, by contrast, adores Henry; their families spend Christmas week together most years, roughing it at Oscar de la Renta's villa. She fawns over his books and is quite content to overlook that little matter of his multiple war crimes.[41]

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”,[4] and provides a sampling of ten quotations.[42] 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.[43]

[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.[44]

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.[45]

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.[46]

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.[47]

It is an act of insanity and national humiliation to have a law prohibiting the President from ordering assassination.[42]

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.[42]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. A delightful Kissinger tune
  2. Hitch on Kissinger
  3. It is no surprise why policymakers adore him while the actual academics want to punch him in the face.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Fred Branfman, The Top 10 Most Inhuman Henry Kissinger Quotes. Archived from Alternet, 12 February 2016.
  5. Ian Smith of Rhodesia and Henry Kissinger meet in Pretoria, South African History Online
  6. Kissinger urges policy, not posturing, on Ukraine crisis, CBS
  7. * 1992. Isaacson, Walter. Kissinger: A Biography. New York. Simon & Schuster (updated, 2005). ISBN 0-671-66323-2
  8. https://www.nytimes.com/1976/03/11/archives/nixon-testifies-kissinger-picked-wiretap-targets-says-he-ordered.html
  9. 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.
  10. https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/in-the-loop/wp/2014/01/24/kissinger-the-gift-that-keeps-on-giving/
  11. 11.0 11.1 https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/nukevault/ebb517-Nixon-Kissinger-and-the-Madman-Strategy-during-Vietnam-War/
  12. https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB81/index2.htm
  13. http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/ins/summary/v027/27.4sagan.html
  14. https://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/02/world/asia/kissinger-regrets-1971-remarks-on-india.html
  15. Collateral Damage, The New York Times
  16. Strangers in the Night: Nixon, Kissinger, and Sinatra, The New Yorker
  17. http://www.historycommons.org/context.jsp?item=a0569kissingerwiretap
  18. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2005/06/the-craft-and-craftiness-of-henry-kissinger/304011/
  19. https://www.theguardian.com/business/1998/nov/08/observerbusiness.theobserver
  20. https://theworld.org/stories/2014-07-01/american-journalist-charles-horman-was-murdered-help-us-government
  21. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/01/chile-us-intelligence-1973-killings-americans
  22. https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB437/
  23. https://ccrjustice.org/home/what-we-do/our-cases/horman-v-kissinger
  24. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2001/09/11/family-of-slain-chilean-sues-kissinger-helms/2439f3a4-dfe0-418c-9454-de6052e4df55/
  25. https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB62/
  26. Kissinger Drew Up Plans to Attack Cuba, Records Show, The New York Times
  27. McLean, Bethany and Elkind, Peter (2004). The Smartest Guys in the Room. Penguin Books. ISBN 1-59184-053-8
  28. Kissinger says Ukraine should cede territory to Russia to end war, Timothy Bella, Washington Post 24 May 2022
  29. http://www.nuclearfiles.org/menu/key-issues/nuclear-weapons/history/cold-war/strategy/strategy-nixon-madman-theory.htm
  30. https://www.britannica.com/topic/nuclear-strategy/Massive-retaliation
  31. https://foreignpolicy.com/2014/03/25/madman-in-the-white-house/
  32. https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76v12/d94
  33. 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. 
  34. Jeremi Suri, The Nukes of October. Archived from Wired, 25 February 2008.
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 35.3 https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/10/henry-kissinger-history-legacy-213237/
  36. For like a month.
  37. Get Lucky
  38. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/09/vietnam-war-cambodia-ellsberg-pentagon-papers-kissinger/
  39. 39.0 39.1 https://www.nytimes.com/1974/04/30/archives/colson-asserts-kissinger-wanted-ellsberg-stopped-special-to-the-new.html
  40. http://www.vox.com/world/2016/2/12/10979304/clinton-sanders-kissinger
  41. Hillary Clinton and Henry Kissinger: It's Personal. Very Personal.
  42. 42.0 42.1 42.2 https://www.salon.com/2016/02/13/the_10_most_ghoulish_quotes_of_henry_kissingers_monstrous_partner/
  43. Adam Nagourney, "In Tapes, Nixon Rails About Jews and Blacks", New York Times, 10 December 2010
  44. The Kissinger Telcons, December 9, 1970
  45. TELCON, April 15, 1972
  46. Presidential Recordings, August 3, 1972
  47. State Department Memorandum, November 26, 1975