Why do I always seem to be writing about Henry Kissinger?
I once listened to the man who helped prolong the Vietnam War for half a decade declare that its “tragedy” lay in the fact “that the faith of Americans in each other became destroyed in the process.” I later took to the (web)pages of the New York Times to suggest that perhaps “the pain endured by millions of survivors in Vietnam who lost family, the pain of millions who were wounded, of millions who were killed, of millions driven from their homes into slums and [refugee] camps reeking of squalor” was a greater tragedy.
Then there was that book review for the Daily Beast on the forgotten genocide in Bangladesh. Wouldn’t you know that Kissinger was completely wrapped up in it? He and his boss President Richard Nixon, in fact, conspired to support “Pakistan’s fiercely anti-communist Muslim military ruler in the face of his 1971 mass murder of mostly Hindu Bengalis who were seeking political autonomy and, ultimately, their own independent nation.” Frightening as it may seem, during this episode Nixon proved to be the voice of reason as Kissinger apparently pushed to escalate the conflict into a showdown with the Soviets.
Earlier this year, in the pages of The Nation, I found myself writing yet again about the former national security adviser and secretary of state, this time for his role in Rory Kennedy’s Oscar-nominated documentary, Last Days in Vietnam:
“Kissinger — architect of the secret, murderous bombing of neighboring Cambodia and top adviser to a president who resigned rather than face impeachment — is given carte blanche to craft his own self-serving version of history and to champion another former boss, President Ford, as a humanitarian.”
Of course, Kissinger’s name and handiwork also show up in my book on American war crimes in Vietnam, Kill Anything That Moves. And here I am again writing about the man, an activity that’s starting to look almost obsessive, so let me explain. One day in the early 2000s, I found myself on a street in New York City watching as Kissinger was hustled away amid a sea of roiling vitriol. “War criminal,” shouted the protesters. “You’ve got blood on your hands, Henry.” It wasn’t quite clear whose blood they were referring to. It might have been that of Cambodians. Unless it was Vietnamese. Or Laotians. Or Chileans. Or Bangladeshis. Or East Timorese. From one corner of the world to another, Kissinger seems to have had a hand in a remarkable number of untoward acts of state.
And as TomDispatch regular Greg Grandin suggests today, that’s only the beginning of a grim list of nations. Just as the United States was extricating itself from its long debacle in Indochina, Grandin points out, it was embarking on what would become another festering fiasco. If George W. Bush blew a hole through the Greater Middle East, Henry Kissinger lit the fuse. Today, we’re still dealing with the hellacious fallout of Kissinger’s in-office foreign policy machinations and out-of-office wise-man advice as the Greater Middle East hemorrhages lives and refugees.
This revelation and a raft of others figure in Grandin’s latest book, Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman, which paints a stunning portrait of that consummate political chameleon and offers answers about how and why the world is so destabilized and why so much of it can be traced, at least in part, to the United States and its senior statesman, Henry the K. Andrew Bacevich calls Grandin’s book a “tour de force” and Publisher’s Weekly says ardent Kissinger foes will be “enthralled,” so pick up a copy after you’re done reading about the CEO emeritus of Debacle, Inc.