The Bloody and Wealthy Legacy of Henry Kissinger

Image source: NARA via Wikimedia Commons.

This past November 29, the war criminal Henry Kissinger died at age 100. Former U.S. Secretary of State and National Security Advisor under Richard Nixon, and for more than 40 years head of Kissinger Associates consulting, he left behind a foreign policy legacy full of blood and violence.

His work led to the unnecessary extension of the Vietnam War, where rather than pull U.S. troops out of the conflict and end the needless suffering in 1969, the first year of the Nixon presidency, he chose to pursue “peace with honor,” which only really meant increasing the carpet bombing of North Vietnam and the prolongation of the war for another six years. The U.S. bombing of Cambodia ordered by Kissinger not only killed thousands of Cambodians directly, but destabilized that nation so that the infamous Khmer Rouge could come to power, leading to the killing fields in which somewhere between 1.75 and 2.5 million Cambodians died in a genocidal horror. And in Chile in 1973, he oversaw the destabilization of the Chilean economy and a C.I.A.-sponsored coup that overthrew the democratically elected President Salvador Allende and the assumption of power by General Augusto Pinochet, who led the killings of at least 3,000 of his regime’s opponents, with tens of thousands more arrested, imprisoned, and often tortured. And these are just his most well-known crimes.

None of these facts are controversial. Even his allies and defenders recognize the dark side of his foreign policy strategies (see examples: CNN and New York Times coverage of his death).

Despite this legacy, many defend it, or at best, label him a controversial figure. This is because there is still a myth that what Kissinger did, he did for the people of the U.S. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, among his crimes should be included the damage done to the working people of the United States.

Kissinger’s foreign policy led to the unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands of U.S. military personnel in Southeast Asia and directly diverted significant resources from national needs, contributing to rising inflation and a growing national debt. Moreover, his policies were key to the way our globalized capitalist economy works today. This pursuit of economic interests by the U.S. ruling class abroad (often working with authoritarian regimes such as Pinochet’s in Chile) has led to the outsourcing of jobs and the decline of many industries in the United States. Even outside of his government work, his management of Kissinger Associates used his reputation and contacts to benefit multinational corporations at the expense of the working class.

Some call Henry Kissinger a controversial figure. In fact, he was a criminal who only cared about making himself and the rich even richer, without any concern for the consequences his actions had for everybody else. He was a perfect policymaker for the U.S. ruling class.