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Henry Kissinger

Henry Kissinger

Henry Alfred Kissinger, (born May 27, 1923) former United States Secretary of State in the Nixon and Ford Administrations and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, who played a dominant role in foreign affairs between 1969 and 1977.

An admirer of realpolitik, Kissinger pioneered the policy of détente, began strategic arms reduction talks, "opened" China, ended the protracted Vietnam War, maintained friendly diplomatic relationships with anti-Communist military governments in the Southern Cone, approved of covert CIA intervention in Chilean politics, and ended the U.S. doctrine of undifferentiated containment of the Soviet Union through direct military intervention. Kissinger's foreign policy record has made him a controversial figure amongst anti-war liberals and conservative anti-Communist hawks alike. Some of Kissinger's critics accuse him of having committed war crimes while in government; although these allegations have not yet been proven in a court of law, it is considered legally dangerous for Kissinger to enter many countries in Europe and South America.

Table of contents

Personal background

Kissinger was born in Fürth, Germany as Heinz Alfred Kissinger into a family of Jewish religion. In 1938, fleeing Adolf Hitler's persecution, his family moved to New York, New York. Kissinger was naturalized a U.S. citizen on June 19, 1943.

He spent his high school years in the Washington Heights section of upper Manhattan but never lost his pronounced German accent. Kissinger attended George Washington High School at night and worked in a shaving-brush factory during the day. While attending City College of New York, in 1943, he was drafted into the army, trained at Clemson College in South Carolina, and became a German interpreter for the 970th Counter Intelligence Corps.

Henry Kissinger received his BA degree summa cum laude at Harvard College in 1950. Kissinger is rumored to be the only person to receive a perfect grade point average from Harvard, but in fact he received one B in his senior year. He received his MA and Ph.D. degrees at Harvard University in 1952 and 1954, respectively. His doctoral dissertation was titled A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace 1812–22. It is often said that his Ph.D. dissertation is the longest among Harvard Ph.D. dissertations.

A liberal Republican and keen to have a greater influence on American foreign policy, Kissinger became a supporter of and advisor to New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who sought the Republican nomination for President in 1960, 1964 and 1968. After Richard Nixon won the presidency in 1968, he offered Kissinger the job of national security adviser.

With his first wife, Ann Fleischer, he had two children, Elizabeth and David. He currently lives with his second wife, Nancy Maginnes Kissinger, in Kent, Connecticut. He is the head of Kissinger and Associates, a consulting firm.

Political History

On October 31, 1973, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmi meets with Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger about a week after fighting ends in the Yom Kippur War

Kissinger was Nixon's national security advisor (1969-73) and later his secretary of state (1973-74). He also stayed on as President Gerald Ford's Secretary of State from 1974-77.

While working for Nixon, Kissinger established the policy of détente with the Soviet Union. He also negotiated the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (culminating in the SALT I treaty) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. In July and October 1971, Kissinger made two secret trips to the People's Republic of China to confer with Premier Zhou Enlai and to set the stage for the groundbreaking 1972 summit between the PRC and the US as well as the normalization of relations between the two countries. Today, Kissinger is often called by Chinese leaders "the old friend of the Chinese people." His talk with Zhou Enlai was highly secretive. Recently declassified documents show that the talk highly focused on the Taiwan issue.

Kissinger, shown here with Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong, negotiated the normalization of relations with the People's Republic of China.

Kissinger was awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize along with Le Duc Tho of Vietnam for their work on the Vietnam peace accords. Kissinger and Nixon had come to office in 1968 on a promise of a quick end to the Vietnam War, but the intervening years saw an escalation in conflict as well as the extension of the US bombing campaign (overseen by Kissinger) in Laos and Cambodia. Le Duc Tho refused the prize on the grounds that there was as yet no peace.

In 1973, Kissinger negotiated the end of the Yom Kippur War, which began with Egypt's invasion of the Sinai and Syria's invasion of the Golan Heights.

Kissinger may have played a role in the September 11, 1973, coup by Augusto Pinochet against the government of Chilean President Salvador Allende. Documentary evidence shows CIA interest in promoting a coup, but Kissinger says he reversed his initial position supporting a coup well before it happened.

Despite occasional allegations of underhanded dealings in foreign countries, Kissinger was largely popular with the public and became one of the better-liked members of the increasingly unpopular Nixon administration. Kissinger had little involvement with the Watergate scandal that would eventually ruin Nixon and many of his closest aides – a fact which greatly increased Kissinger's reputation as the "clean man" of the bunch. At the height of his popularity he was even regarded as something of a sex symbol and was seen dating starlets such as Jill St. John, Shirley MacLaine, and Candice Bergen.

In December 1975, Kissinger and Ford met with President Suharto of Indonesia; on that occasion they gave their approval for his invasion of East Timor, which led to the massacre of 200,000 Timorese. Until the release of documents confirming his foreknowledge of the invasion, Kissinger claimed that he was unaware of Suharto's intentions when he left Jakarta. Kissinger still maintains that the nature and influence of his "approval" of the invasion are presented radically out of context. He argues that the invasion was already a foregone conclusion planned well in advance, and was not simply something that he convinced Suharto to do on the spot. However, Kissinger's apparent strong dislike of discussing the issue remains a source of controversy (see below).

Kissinger is updated on the latest situation in South Vietnam on April 29, 1975, one day before its government falls.

Kissinger left office when former Georgia governor Jimmy Carter defeated Ford at the 1976 elections. He played a relatively minor role in the Reagan (1981-89) and first Bush (1989-93) administrations, mainly because the neo-conservative groups which dominated the Republican Party by 1981 considered Kissinger's detente policy to have been a form of appeasement of the Soviet Union. He continued to participate in policy groups such as the Trilateral Commission and to do political consulting, speaking, and writing.

In 2002, President George W. Bush appointed Kissinger to chair a committee to investigate the events of the September 11 attacks. His appointment led to widespread criticism, generally taken from the position that Kissinger has never been supportive of the public's right to know, but also because some vocal groups have alleged that some of his actions undertaken in the Nixon and Ford administrations were war crimes (see "Accusations Against Henry Kissinger," below).

In response, Congressional Democrats insisted that Kissinger file financial disclosures to reveal any conflicts of interest. Both Bush and Kissinger claimed that Kissinger did not need to file such forms, since he would not be receiving a salary. When Congressional Democrats insisted, however, Kissinger resigned from the commission. On December 13, 2002, he stepped down as chairman, citing conflict of interest with his clients.

Legal problems

In the first years of the new millennium, Kissinger became dogged by legal problems stemming from actions he took while in government. These ranged from requests from judges simply wishing to question him about atrocities which occurred while he was in office to suits charging him with complicity in human rights violations. There are now many countries in Europe and South American to where Kissinger avoids travel due to vulnerability to legal action. He is known to take legal advice before traveling anywhere.

On May 31, 2001, French Judge Roger Le Loire had a summons served on Kissinger at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, where Kissinger was staying. The judge wanted Kissinger to answer questions about the death of French citizens under the Pinochet regime and about his knowledge of Operation Condor. Rather than appear before the magistrate the next day, Kissinger fled Paris that same evening and directed all inquiries to the US State Department. [1] [2]

In July 2001, the highest court of Chile granted investigating judge Juan Guzman the right to question Kissinger about the 1973 killing of the American journalist Charles Horman, whose execution by forces loyal to General Augusto Pinochet was dramatized in the 1982 Costa-Gavras film, Missing. The judge’s questions were relayed to Kissinger via diplomatic routes but went unanswered. Representative Cynthia McKinney (D-Georgia]] later wrote to Secretary of State Colin Powell, asking for help in persuading Kissinger to take the stand. The Chilean courts later announced that if they continued to meet with no response to their requests for co-operation, they would seek Kissinger's extradition. Sergio Corvalan, a lawyer involved in the case, said: "[Kissinger] has never answered to justice and he had an important role in the coup in Chile and an influence in the Chilean military government." [3]

In August 2001, Argentine Judge Rodolfo Canicoba sent a letter rogatory to the US State Department, in accordance with the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), requesting a deposition by Kissinger to aid the judge's investigation of Operation Condor. [4]

On 10 September 2001, a civil suit was filed in a Washington, D.C., federal court by the family of Gen. René Schneider, former Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Army, accusing Kissinger of arranging his 1970 murder for opposing a military coup. The suit asserts that Kissinger gave the order for the elimination Schneider because he refused to endorse plans for a military coup. The prosecution case is based solely on a U.S. government declassified documents. Schneider’s two sons are suing Kissinger and CIA director Richard Helms for $3 million. [5] [6] [7]

On September 11, 2001, the 28th anniversary of the Pinochet coup, Chilean human rights lawyers filed a criminal case against Kissinger along with Augusto Pinochet, former Bolivian dictator Hugo Banzer, former Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla, former Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner, and several other US, Chilean, and Argentine officials for their role in Operation Condor. The case was brought on behalf of some fifteen victims of Operation Condor, ten of whom were Chilean. Several international organizations also joined the suit as plaintiffs, including the US National Lawyer’s Guild, the American Association of Jurists, and the Guatemalan Rigoberta Menchu Foundation. Kissinger and the others were charged with being intellectual or material authors or accomplices to crimes against humanity, war crimes, violations of international treaties, conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping, and torture.

In late 2001, the Brazilian government canceled an invitation for Kissinger to speak in São Paulo because it could no longer guarantee his immunity from judicial action.

In 2002, during a brief visit of his to the UK, a petition for Kissinger's arrest was filed in the High Court in London, citing the destruction of civilian populations and the environment in Indochina during the years 1969 to 1975. According to media reports, the High Court ruled in such a manner as to leave room for a further application. At the same time, supported by judges in France, the Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, who engaged in a failed attempt to get Pinochet extradited from the United Kingdom for questioning, also requested Interpol to detain Kissinger for questioning during his visit. British authorities refused his request.

Activists from the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) have repeatedly sought to question Kissinger during his book tours, accusing him of supporting Indonesia's 1975 bloody occupation of the former Portuguese colony East Timor. A subsequent human rights commission proposed that the UN itself set up a war crimes tribunal. ETAN as argued that the tribunal to extend back to the original invasion and could become a tool to find out what actually happened, and a mechanism for trying Kissinger. "I believe a criminal case can be made against him," says John Miller, a spokesman for the group. "One country invaded another. He aided and abetted genocide. He provided a political go-ahead and was instrumental in continuing the flow of U.S. weapons."

Observers note that in many cases, Kissinger is not being sought as a defendant; he is wanted first and foremost as a witness, but his refusal to cooperate, they claim, suggests he has something to hide. Kissinger's position is complicated by the fact that documents declassified by the State Department have contradicted his own statements. A declassified verbatim conversation between Kissinger and General Suharto on the day of the invasion of East Timor in 1975 reveals Kissinger giving approval to the proposed annexation, and also promising to keep a flow of weapons coming to Indonesia. Declassified records also indicate, for example, that Kissinger had urged the apartheid regime in South Africa to intervene in Angola before a single Cuban soldier had landed, which contradicts earlier statements by him. [8] [9]

Recently declassified documents obtained by the National Security Archive also show that Kissinger did not raise objections to the practices of the dictatorial Argentine military junta; the junta was exercising total authority over combatting active Marxist guerrilla groups such as the Montoneros and ERP. It is known to have "disappeared" approximately 10,000 to 30,000 Argentines, many believed to be nonviolent dissidents, and tortured thousands more at documented secret detention centers. However, the junta's restrictions on free speech were somewhat relaxed by new Chairman General Leopoldo Galtieri in 1981.

In a meeting, Secretary Kissinger told Argentine Foreign Minister Admiral César Augusto Guzzetti:

"Let me say, as a friend, that I have noticed that military governments are not always the most effective in dealing with these problems. ...So after a while, many people who don't understand the situation begin to oppose the military and the problem is compounded. The Chileans, for example, have not succeeded in getting across their initial problem and are increasingly isolated. You will have to make an international effort to have your problems understood. Otherwise, you, too, will come under increasing attack. If there are things that have to be done, you should do them quickly. But you must get back quickly to normal procedures."

He also assured Guzzetti that the U.S. would not cause the junta any "unnecessary difficulties" and urged them to complete their mission and get back to normal procedures before Congress reconvened and had a chance to consider sanctions.

The war crimes accusations of Christopher Hitchens

The February and March 2001 issues of Harper's Magazine featured a two-part series of articles by British journalist Christopher Hitchens on the case for charging Kissinger with war crimes (the articles were later published as a book, The Trial of Henry Kissinger, ISBN 1859846319) Hitchen's charges were extensively reported on and sparked widespread discussion. In the pieces, Hitchens charged Kissinger with conspiracy to commit murder and war crimes. He argues that (1) on at least one occasion, Henry Kissinger conspired to commit murder, and (2) on numerous other occasions, Kissinger was the primary force behind certain acts that could quite plausibly be considered war crimes.

Hitchens' primary charges against Kissinger include:

  • In illegal talks with representatives of the South Vietnamese government in 1968, Kissinger advised them to pull out of the Paris Peace Talks, as they would get a better deal under an incoming Nixon administration.
  • As United States National Security Advisor to President Nixon, he directed the first phase of the illegal and secret U.S. bombings in Cambodia (1969-1975), and is thus complicit in the resulting 200,000 casualties.
  • As Nixon's National Security Advisor, he gave support to General Roberto Viaux's 1970 coup plot in Chile to prevent incoming President Salvador Allende's inauguration. The coup failed with the botched kidnapping attempt on constitutionalist Chilean Army Commander-in-Chief General René Schneider, who ended up dead at the hands of the coup-plotters. Hitchens thus implicates Kissinger in Schneider's murder.
  • As Nixon's National Security Advisor, he did not object to West Pakistan's genocide against Bengalis in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) during the third Indo-Pakistani War because Pakistan was a Cold War ally.
  • As Nixon's secretary of state, he supported the Chilean military junta headed by General Augusto Pinochet following a 1973 coup, despite his involvement in human rights abuses directed towards suspected Marxists and political opponents.
  • As Nixon's Secretary of State, he was complicit in the anti-Communist Greek military junta's backing of an attempted Greek Cypriot coup attempt in Cyprus in 1974. The failed plot provoked Turkey to occupy the northern 40% of the island, which it still controls to this day. It also led to the downfall of the Greek junta.
  • As Ford's Secretary of State, he supported continued U.S. arms sales to Indonesia while it was annexing East Timor in 1975, and is thus complicit in the Army's subsequent mass atrocities against the East Timorese.

Rebuttals to Hitchens' charges include:

  • Though the secret first bombing phases were illegal, North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong units were operating out of bases in the area, and ignoring them would have given them a free advantage in the ongoing conflict. Further, that to ignore them would make him complicit in all the U.S. and South Vietnamese deaths caused by NVA activity out of these countries.
  • Regarding the coup, Kissinger, as chair of the 40 Committee overseeing foreign operations, said to Nixon on October 15, "This looks hopeless. I turned it off. Nothing could be worse than an abortive coup." Viaux's failed coup took place a full week later without direct CIA support. The Church Committee (see: Senator Frank Church), normally highly critical of the Nixon administration's foreign policy, found that the weapons used by Viaux's subordinates "were, in all probability, not those supplied by the CIA to the conspirators." [10]
  • There is no evidence that Kissinger bears direct responsibility in the U.S.'s failure to condemn Pakistani President Yahya Khan during the crisis.
  • There is no evidence that Kissinger supported the junta's moves in Cyprus. In his book Years of Renewal, Kissinger says of the elected President of Cyprus, "...Makarios, the proximate cause of most of Cyprus's tensions, was also the best hope for a long-term peaceful solution..." Hitchens takes the quote out of context and says that because Kissinger has described Makarios as "the proximate cause of Cyprus's tensions" he must have sought his removal.
  • The policy toward Indonesia was consistent with Cold War containment policy at the time, and Kissinger feared that a FRETILIN-controlled East Timor would be a destabilizing influence in the Indonesian archipelago. U.S. arms sales to a Cold War ally were not an endorsement for mass atrocities against the East Timorese.

Documents released in late 2001 regarding East Timor revealed that Kissinger had given Suharto support for the invasion of East Timor (in which as many as 200,000 people may have died) during a visit to Indonesia in 1975, refuting his claim in a 1999 interview that he had not discussed the matter in advance and only found out about it as he was leaving the country. Although it was illegal for the arms that the US supplied to Indonesia to be used for offensive purposes, the documents revealed that Kissinger was unconcerned over the illegality of their use; his primary concern was over manipulating the public perception of what happened. "We would be able to influence the reaction in America if whatever happens, happens after we return", he was quoted as saying.

Kissinger has refused to respond to Hitchens's charges point by point. In a speech before the National Press Club he was asked about the charges and his response is that in the cause of world peace, serious people can have legitimate disagreements about the means. However, Kissinger claims that in attempting to create a war crimes charge, Hitchens used selective quotations and documents without taking into account the context and the situation in which those documents were written. Further, Kissinger claims that Hitchens ignores the significant advances in world peace that were taken under his tenure, such as the Anti-Ballistic Treaty, détente and arms reduction treaties with the Soviet Union, the opening to China, and the withdrawal from Vietnam. He adds that Hitchens's charges are nothing more than the politics of revenge and that they cheapen and mock the concept of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Moreover, Kissinger claims that this mockery of the concept of war crimes is an obstacle to creating the just and peaceful world that Hitchens claims to wish to create, and thus will not respond to him.

Other critics of the war crimes charges similarly dismiss the allegations as overtly partisan, and poorly researched. Conservative commentator David Horowitz described Kissinger as a "political deus ex machina" whom members of the political Left increasingly use to explain the cause of any foreign conflict, violence, or coup during the 1970s. Supporters of Kissinger point out that Kissinger himself has detailed his own versions of the events in question in his memoirs and writings, and has fully justified his past actions.

Hitchens's book inspired a feature-length documentary, "The Trials of Henry Kissinger", directed by Eugene Jarecki, which also highlighted the charges against Kissinger.

Business interests and public service

He has his own consulting company Kissinger and Associates, and also Kissinger McLarty Associates with Mack McLarty, former Chief of Staff to President Clinton. He also serves on various boards of directors including Hollinger International.

In 1998 Kissinger became a Citizen of Honour of his hometown Fürth. During his whole life he has been a supporter of the football club Spielvereinigung Fürth. In 2004, he visited his hometown again.

He has served as Chancellor of the College of William and Mary since February 10, 2001.

From 1995–2001, he served on the board of directors for Freeport-McMoRan (commonly referred to as Freeport,) a U.S. company that owns a mine in West Papua, Indonesia.

Partial bibliography

  • Foreign policy
    • Rescuing the World: The Life and Times of Leo Cherne by Andrew F. Smith, Henry A. Kissinger (2002) ISBN 0791453790
    • Does America Need a Foreign Policy?: Toward a Diplomacy for the 21st Century (2001) ISBN 0684855674
    • Diplomacy (1994) ISBN 067165991X
    • On Men and Power: A Political Memoir by Helmut Schmidt, Henry Kissinger (1990) ISBN 0224027158
    • Observations: Selected Speeches and Essays 1982–1984 (1985) ISBN 0316496642
    • For the Record: Selected Statements 1977–1980 (1981) ISBN 0316496634
    • American Foreign Policy: Three Essays (1974) ISBN 0393055256
    • A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace, 1812–22 (1973) ISBN 0395172292
    • The Troubled Partnership: A Re-Appraisal of the Atlantic Alliance(1965) ISBN 0070348952
    • The Necessity for Choice: Prospects of American Foreign Policy (1961) ISBN 0060124105
    • Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (1957)
  • Memoirs
    • Crisis: The Anatomy of Two Major Foreign Policy Crises: Based on the Record of Henry Kissinger's Hitherto Secret Telephone Conversations (2003) ISBN 0743249100
    • Vietnam: A Personal History of America's Involvement in and Extrication from the Vietnam War (2002) ISBN 0743219163
    • Kissinger Transcripts: The Top Secret Talks With Beijing and Moscow by Henry Kissinger, William Burr (1999) ISBN 1565844807
    • Years of Renewal (1999) ISBN 0684855712
    • Years of Upheaval (1982) ISBN 0316285919
    • The White House Years (1979) ISBN 0316496618
  • Biographies
    • The Flawed Architect: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy by Jussi M. Hanhimaki (2004) ISBN 0195172213
    • The Trial of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens (2001) ISBN 1859846319
    • Kissinger: A Biography by Walter Isaacson (1992) ISBN 0671663232
    • The Nixon-Kissinger Years: Reshaping of America's Foreign Policy by Richard C. Thornton (1989) ISBN 0887020518
    • The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House by Seymour Hersh (1983) ISBN 0671447602
    • Kissinger by Marvin L. Kalb, Bernard Kalb (1974) ISBN 0316482218
    • Kissinger on the Couch by Phyllis Schlafly (1974) ISBN 0870002163
    • Kissinger: Portrait of a Mind by Stephen Richards Graubard (1973) ISBN 0393054810

External links

Wikiquote quotations related to:
Henry Kissinger


Preceded by:
Walt Rostow
United States National Security Advisor
1969—1974
Succeeded by:
Brent Scowcroft
Preceded by:
William P. Rogers
United States Secretary of State
1973—1977
Succeeded by:
Cyrus Vance









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