Henry Kissinger reached 100 years old today, May 27, 2023, offering proof that world-class war criminals can escape punishment if they commit their crimes in the service of U.S. imperialism.
Kissinger was National Security Adviser to President Richard Nixon and then Secretary of State under Nixon and President Gerald Ford. Many of his well-wishers in the ruling class and its media are using this birthday to note his role in U.S. “diplomacy” during that period, 1969-77.
Like the late Zbigniew Brzezinski, the global strategist who served Democratic Party presidents, Kissinger was a European migrant to the U.S., who provided the intellectual framework for imperialist policies during the Cold War. Kissinger provided the rationale for the mass murders committed under Republican presidents; Brzezinski for the Democrats.
Most in the ruling-class media will praise him. Some may point out flaws. For those, like Workers World, who evaluate his role from the point of view of the working and exploited peoples of the world, what stands out are his crimes and that the goal of these crimes was to continue the domination of much of the world by a tiny group of superrich capitalists and bankers.
His greatest, though not his only crimes, were committed against the peoples of Southeast Asia, specifically the Vietnamese and Cambodians.
Yes, it was the Democrats in the Lyndon Johnson administration, who escalated the war and sent more than a half million U.S. troops to Vietnam by 1968. But the January-February Tet Offensive that year showed the weakness of the U.S. intervention. By late 1969, besieged by protests, the Nixon administration had already begun to withdraw troops; negotiations became inevitable.
Kissinger and Nixon began negotiations, but their policy included stepping up the bombing of the Vietnamese people. In an attempt to stop the Vietnamese from liberating their country, Kissinger even threatened to use nuclear weapons against them. In the end, the U.S. rained more tonnage of bombs on Vietnam than all the allied bombers dropped on Germany in World War II, costing millions of Vietnamese lives.
Kissinger pushed for the bombing of Cambodia, overthrowing the neutral government and killing hundreds of thousands of Cambodians in the countryside. This policy left a chaotic situation that eventually led to the deaths of many more Cambodians.
In an insult to the Vietnamese people fighting for their liberation, in 1973 the Nobel Committee tried to offer the Peace Prize to Kissinger and to the Vietnamese patriot, Le Duc Tho, as they had both signed the peace treaty. Le Duc Tho, then-spokesperson for the North Vietnamese delegation to the Paris Peace Talks, refused to jointly accept it with the war criminal. The Vietnamese communists were not only heroic; they were principled.
As Secretary of State, Kissinger oversaw the CIA’s overthrow of the elected government of President Salvador Allende in September 1973 in Chile. Replacing Allende was the military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, which murdered tens of thousands of Chileans and opened the country to a takeover by imperialist banks and corporations.
Kissinger’s policies gave a green light to the generals in Argentina to torture, murder and arrest tens of thousands of Argentines. Despite its love of the Argentine generals, Washington still backed its junior partner, British imperialism, in the war to reconquer Argentina’s Malvinas islands in 1982.
That list omits many of Kissinger’s crimes. But it’s enough for a conclusion.
The important question is not whether Kissinger was an effective strategist for U.S. imperialist interests. That’s a question of interest only to the ruling class.
The important question involves what happened as a result of his conduct. Our conclusion: To expand the interests of a tiny class of billionaires, Kissinger provided the strategy for carrying out war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Those who fought against those crimes did the right thing. Those who defend those crimes and celebrate the birthdays of their centenarian perpetrators are the enemies of the vast majority of the world’s people.