by Kevin Gosztola
12 February 2016
(Photo by Hudson
In the midst of questioning the United States' history of
overthrowing and meddling in other countries' governments, Bernie
Hillary Clinton for befriending
and taking advice from former Secretary of State
Numerous media commentators reacted by mocking the Sanders campaign,
believing millennials could not possibly know anything about
Kissinger. They suggested millennials did not care about what
Kissinger did either.
It was typical of an establishment media class, which eschews
serious reflection on the record of any current or former official's
role in war crimes or atrocities. But Kissinger is someone who
Clinton has mentioned multiple times during debates and at campaign
She said during the last debate in New
"I was very flattered when Henry
Kissinger said I ran the State Department better than anybody
had run it in a long time."
The condemnation from Sanders was also
newsworthy because most of the elite international relations
scholars in foreign policy research consider Kissinger to be the
best secretary of state of the past 50 years.
Plus, despite all the inflicted
destruction he helped wreak, Kissinger is a Nobel 'Peace' Prize
Assessing Clinton's friendship with Kissinger not only forces her to
defend her support for a war criminal, who helped fuel genocide and
massive casualties in multiple countries, but it also forces her to
justify support for decades of U.S. foreign policy, involving
military intervention and a refusal to acknowledge systematic human
During the debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on February 11, Sanders
"I happen to believe that Henry
Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state
in the modern history of this country."
"I am proud to say that Henry
Kissinger is not my friend. I will not take advice from Henry
And in fact, Kissinger's actions in
Cambodia, when the United States bombed that country, overthrew
Prince Sihanouk, created the instability for Pol Pot and the
Khmer Rouge to come in, who then butchered some 3 million
innocent people, one of the worst genocides in the history of
So count me in as somebody who will
not be listening to Henry Kissinger."
A feeble attempt was made by Clinton to
turn this against Sanders.
"Well, I know journalists have asked
who you do listen to on foreign policy, and we have yet to know
who that is," Clinton replied.
Sanders quickly retorted,
"Well, it's not Henry Kissinger.
That's for sure."
The audience laughed.
Clinton attempted to approach the issue of her support for Kissinger
again. This time, she celebrated the role he played in "opening up
China" and how "incredibly useful" his "ongoing relationships with
the leaders of China are to the U.S.
Then, she suggested Sanders was
cherry-picking advisers, who she listens to on foreign policy, in
order to mount an opportunistic attack.
"Yes, people we may disagree with on
a number of things may have some insight, may have some
relationships that are important for the president to understand
in order to best protect the United States," Clinton stated.
"You're right, he opened up relations with China," Sanders
But he also,
"pushed various type of trade
agreements, resulting in American workers losing their jobs as
corporations moved to China.
The terrible, authoritarian,
Communist dictatorship he warned us about, now he's urging
companies to shut down and move to China. Not my kind of guy."
Sanders' campaign had a memo prepared
for U.S. media on Kissinger's record, which they sent out to
reporters immediately after this exchange occurred.
U.S. media outlet
chose to include the vast majority of the memo's contents in their
coverage. That is because pundits judged the attack on Kissinger as
silly and believed it would play no factor in convincing voters to
support either candidate.
Plus, few in media would disagree with
Clinton's praise for Kissinger before and during the 2016 Election.
In the memo, the campaign notes,
"Kissinger is known for,
involvement in secret coups against democratically elected
support of notorious dictators
the expansion of the
national security state
various human rights violations."
The memo quoted Greg Grandin,
author of "Kissinger's
Shadow," who wrote in The Nation that Kissinger
was responsible for the death of three, maybe 4 million people in
Vietnam, Cambodia, and other countries.
The deaths of millions occurred as
Kissinger colluded with,
"big corporations and wealthy
This is a stark indictment of
American imperialism and the role war has played in expanding U.S.
capitalism, whether Sanders would use those terms to describe his
comments or not.
It is important to consider the criticism of Kissinger within the
context in which it came up during the debate: when the U.S.
government's history of intervening and overthrowing governments was
raised by Sanders.
"In Libya, for example, the United
States, Secretary Clinton, as secretary of state, working with
some other countries, did get rid of a terrible dictator named
Gaddafi," Sanders recounted.
"But what happened is a political
vacuum developed. ISIS came in, and now occupies significant
territory in Libya, and is now prepared, unless we stop them, to
have a terrorist foothold."
"This is nothing new. This has gone
on 50 or 60 years, where the United States has been involved in
Mossadegh back in 1953. Nobody knows
who Mossadegh was, democratically-elected prime minister of
Iran. He was overthrown by British and American interests
because he threatened oil interests of the British. And as a
result of that, the shah of Iran came in, terrible dictator.
The result of that, you had the
Iranian Revolution coming in, and that is where we are today.
As highlighted in the memo, Kissinger
played a role in the coup by overriding,
"State Department and Pentagon
objections to allow Iran broad access to military equipment."
"authorized the CIA training of the
Shah's torturous secret police.
He exacerbated tensions with Tehran
after the Revolution (resulting in the hostage crisis) by urging
[President Jimmy] Carter to grant the Shah asylum in the United
On one hand, confronting Clinton over
her support for Kissinger makes it possible for Sanders to suggest
she supports overthrowing governments to advance U.S. foreign
policy, if officials deem regime change to be necessary.
It also allows Sanders to distinguish
himself from Clinton.
Presumably, if citizens condemn
Kissinger for his role in war crimes, it stands to reason that
Sanders can plot a course forward for U.S. foreign policy, which
rejects such a brutal foreign policy.
If Clinton has ever disagreed with Kissinger because of his past war
crimes or support for horrendous policies, she has not made her
disagreements well-known to the public.
Instead, Clinton has expressed pride
about being a member of a "fascinating club" of living former
secretaries of state, which transcend "partisan differences."
Another former secretary of state she celebrates is Madeleine
Albright, and Albright once soberly answered a question about
the impact of U.S. sanctions on Iraq, which resulted in the
deaths of half of a million children, by saying the price was
Kissinger helped Clinton find her footing as a secretary of state by
checking in with her regularly,
"sharing astute observations about
foreign leaders, and sending me written reports on his travels,"
she wrote in her book, 'Hard Choices.'
wrote a review of Kissinger's
"World Order" book in 2014.
She called Kissinger her "friend" and
also highlighted how he had helped her when she was secretary of
"Though we have often seen the world
and some of our challenges quite differently, and advocated
different responses now and in the past, what comes through
clearly in this new book is a conviction that we, and President
Obama, share: a belief in the indispensability of continued
American leadership in service of a just and liberal order,"
In 2009, Clinton and Kissinger were interviewed together by Jon
Meacham for Newsweek.
Aside from the moments in which she
appeared to flatter Kissinger, what is more troublesome is how she
approved of Kissinger's view of war.
"I would say the special experience
of American wartime policy in the last 40 years, from Vietnam
on, is that the war itself became controversial in the country
and that the most important thing we need in the current
situation is, whatever disagreements there may be on tactics,
that the legitimacy of the war itself does not become a subject
We have to start with the
assumption, obviously, that whatever administration is
conducting a war wants to end it," Kissinger argued.
"Nobody has more at stake than the administration in office,"
"But if you look at the debates we
had on Vietnam, Iraq, and so forth, ending the war became
defined as the withdrawal of forces and as the primary if not
the exclusive exit strategy. But in fact the best exit strategy
is victory. Another is diplomacy. Another is the war just dying
"But if you identify exit with withdrawal of American forces,
you neglect the political objective," Kissinger maintained.
"In such circumstances, you trap
yourself in a position in which the administration in office
gets assaulted for insufficient dedication to ending the war,
[and] it has to do things that can be against its better
We often found ourselves there."
Later, Kissinger stated,
"The debate ought to be in that
framework and not, do we want to end the war? How quickly can we
end the war? I take it for granted that the administration wants
to end it as quickly as is at all possible.
Why would they not?"
What Kissinger argued is it is never
reasonable or fair for there to be an antiwar backlash against the
government for perpetuating war.
The reason it is unfair is because every
presidential administration wants to end wars. Even when those
administrations start wars, if one believes Kissinger, part of the
objective immediately becomes working to end the wars that were
It's a variation of the "peace through
strength" mantra promoted by neoconservatives and a perfect
rationale for someone like Kissinger, who has been revered instead
of shunned for his role in atrocities.
bombing ISIS with a disproportionate amount of
U.S. military force because he believes that is what militants who
murder Americans on television deserve.
How much of this insight is wisdom,
which would influence Clinton when deciding how to drag America
deeper into war in Iraq? What sort of atrocities would she allow to
Here is the exchange between Sanders and Clinton on Kissinger:
Note: To the extent
that disagreements exist, they have been kept fairly private.
the full list of "egregious acts" committed by
which the Sanders campaign tried to convince the press to pay
attention last night.
In White House tapes released in
2010, Kissinger is heard telling Nixon in 1973 that helping
Soviet Jews emigrate, and escape oppression, was 'not an
objective of American foreign policy.'
He also said, "And if they put
Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an
American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern." Jewish
leaders and organizations expressed outrage over this.
Kissinger helped wage an illegal
war in Cambodia between 1969 and 1973. The war wrecked the
country through a huge bombing campaign that killed some
100,000 civilians, and set the stage for the rise of the
genocidal Khmer Rouge.
Kissinger hid the bombing from
the public and U.S. Congress by working with military
officers to falsify records.
Kissinger authorized the secret
bombing of Laos during the Vietnam War. There, U.S. forces
conducted over 580,000 bombing missions over nine years.
Laos' accounting of its
casualties cites more than 50,000 people killed and injured
by accidents and unexploded ordinance, more than 20,000 of
them after the end of the war.
In South Asia, Kissinger
supported Pakistan's military dictatorship and the bloody
crackdown in 1971 on what is today Bangladesh. Conservative
estimates say that roughly 200,000 were killed; the official
Bangladeshi estimate is three million.
Ten million Bengali refugees
fled to India, where untold numbers died in refugee camps.
Kissinger knowingly violated U.S. law in allowing secret
arms transfers to Pakistan during the India-Pakistan war,
despite warnings from White House staff and State Department
and Pentagon lawyers.
(Politico, New Yorker)
According to GWU's National
Security Archive, the Indonesian government's invasion of
Portuguese East Timor in December 1975 occurred with
Kissinger's blessing, and behind the backs of Congress.
Some 200,000 Timorese died
during the 25-year occupation.
Kissinger was aware that
Suharto planned to invade East Timor, but the invasion was
legally problematic because of Indonesia's use of U.S.
military equipment that Congress had approved only for
With billions of corporate
investment at stake, Kissinger helped plan a CIA-led coup in
Chile in 1973 that led to the assassination of
democratically elected president Salvador Allende.
Allende had pledged to lead his
country "down the democratic road to socialism."
He was replaced by the notorious
dictator, Augusto Pinochet, whose government killed at least
3,197 people and tortured about 29,000. Kissinger's top
deputy for Latin America advised him make human rights
central to U.S.-Chilean relations.
Instead Kissinger told Pinochet
that his regime was a victim of leftist propaganda. "In the
United States, as you know, we are sympathetic with what you
are trying to do here… You did a great service to the West
in overthrowing Allende."
In the late 1960s, Kissinger was
involved in the secret wiretapping of National Security
He urged Nixon to go after
Daniel Ellsberg for having released
the Pentagon Papers,
which resulted in government charges against The New York
Times for violations against the Espionage Act (the charges
did not hold).
In the mid-70s, Kissinger began
to urge apartheid South Africa, with which he was closely
aligned, to secretly intervene in Angola's civil war to
prevent (Marxist) MPLA from taking power.
The U.S. was
directly involved in the civil war.
In addition to training Angolan
combat units, U.S. personnel carried out reconnaissance and
supply missions, and the CIA spent over a million dollars on
its mercenary program.
The war took more than 300,000 lives.
Kissinger and Nixon's
orientation toward southern African states with white
majority leadership was outlined in a secret NSC policy
study called the "Tar Baby" report.
Anthony Sampson noted in Black
and Gold that "The Nixon-Kissinger policy effectively
condoned Pretoria's apartheid system, and left it to
corporations and banks to try to liberalize it."
to Grandin, such policies cost millions of lives.
The Shah of Iran was installed
into power as a result of a joint British-U.S. coup.
Kissinger engaged a policy of unconditional support for the
He overrode State Department and
Pentagon objections to allow Iran broad access to military
equipment, and authorized the CIA training of the Shah's
torturous secret police.
He exacerbated tensions with
Tehran after the Revolution (resulting in the hostage
crisis) by urging Carter to grant the Shah asylum in the
In 1975, Kissinger thought he
had worked out a balance of power between Iran and Iraq, and
thus withdrew support for the Kurds.
Iraq attacked the
Kurds, killing thousands, and implemented a program of
ethnic cleansing, relocating Kurdish survivors and moving
Arabs into their homes.
In 1980, Saddam Hussein invaded
Iran - a war that cost hundreds of thousands of lives.
Reagan supported Iraq, but also illegally trafficked weapons
to Iran (Iran-Contra scandal).
Raymond Tanter of the NSC
reported that at a foreign-policy briefing for nominee
Reagan in 1980, Kissinger suggested "the continuation of
fighting between Iran and Iraq was in the American
The U.S., he said, "should capitalize on
Newly released documents have
Kissinger mapping out secret contingency plans to launch
airstrikes against Havana and "smash Cuba."
Mr. Kissinger worried that the
U.S. would look weak if it did not respond. He had
previously planned an underground effort to improve
relations, but after Castro sent troops to Angola to help
the newly independent nation fend off attacks from South
Africa and right-wing guerrillas, Kissinger started to plan
a U.S. airstrike.