Discover more from The Zero Hour Report: A Newsletter from Richard (RJ) Eskow
Memorial Day and Living Memory
Kissinger lives; they didn't.
To paraphrase John and Yoko: So now it is Memorial Day, and what have we done? Another war over, a new one just begun.
It seems appropriate that Henry Kissinger’s 100th birthday fell so close to Memorial Day, since he’s been a major supplier of war dead to mourn. Kissinger’s prolonged existence feels like a violation of nature’s laws; it certainly violates the moral order. It is “monster,” in that word’s original meaning: something unnatural, ominous.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once defined “monster” as “not one with the blowing clover or the falling rain.” Such is the unnatural world of Henry Kissinger.
The Congressional Research Service says that, despite Memorial Day’s reputation for barbecues and department sales, it is intended as “a day of reflection and remembrance of those who died while serving in the U.S. military.” Let us reflect, then, on the cause of so many of those deaths.
Families like mine who were awarded a “Gold Star” for a loved one lost in World War II have been succeeded by generations of new mourners, thanks to Kissinger and his ilk. (The civilian toll has, of course, been much higher.)
And yet, this monster has enjoyed a kind of rehabilitation among the liberal class. He has advised both Bill and Hillary Clinton. Kissinger, along with the Bush Administration’s malefactors, is now celebrated by Democrats eager to embrace anyone not named Donald Trump. He was even included in one of Democratic mainstreamer Stephen Colbert’s self-congratulatory silly dances.
They insist that Nixon’s former henchman is, in fact, brilliant. Is he, really? The evidence suggests otherwise. His “peace deal” in Vietnam was effectively a surrender. Nixon’s visit to China was made possible, not by Kissinger’s supposed gifts, but by the Republican hawkishness that gave Nixon the political latitude to knock on Mao’s door.
It’s hard to disagree with the assessment of Princeton professor Gary Bass, who wrote that "Kissinger's policies were not only morally flawed but also disastrous as Cold War strategy."
Then there are the crimes. Kissinger reportedly fed confidential information to then-candidate Richard Nixon, who used it to sabotage the 1968 Vietnam peace talks. That created even more Gold Star families while killing more civilian men, women, and children.
It was Kissinger who delivered the illegal order to bomb Cambodia and Laos. More bomb material rained down on these tiny nations than was used in all of World War II. His actions cost countless lives and gave rise to the mad, massacring Pol Pot regime.
It was Kissinger who ignored the pleadings of a US diplomat and gave the green light to Pakistani atrocities in what is now Bangladesh, ridiculing those who "bleed" for "the dying Bengalis."
It was Kissinger who supported the violent overthrow of the Chilean government by a right-wing dictator.
It was Kissinger gave the go-ahead to the Indonesian government's massacre of from 100,000 to 230,000 people in East Timor.
There’s more, of course. Kissinger’s been a busy fellow during his 100 years on our planet.
Today, Kissinger’s disciples are carrying on his work. Consider, for example, the under-reported fact that US generals — the presumed experts on waging war — have been consistently overruled by Anthony Blinken, Kissinger’s successor as Secretary of State.
Blinken is a Kissinger fanboy. A Harvard classmate recalls that young Tony interviewed Kissinger for his senior thesis:
“The fact that he would seek an interview respectfully with Henry Kissinger was like the epitome of being a moderate in our generation. Most Harvard people of the early ’80s wanted to meet Henry Kissinger so they could put him on trial for war crimes.”
Blinken uses “Kissinger-like” as a compliment, and once tweeted this about Kissinger and fellow war criminal Condoleezza Rice: “I am grateful for the leadership of my predecessors and for their service to our country.” Blinken added, “I learn from the examples they set at the @StateDept and their counsel today.”
Tragically, that seems all too true. A Politico article entitled “How Biden got to yes on F-16s and Ukraine” reports that Blinken was “a key driver in getting the president to relent” on sending the fighter jets, overruling “the Pentagon, including top military officials, (who) have long worried about the potential of escalation on the Russian side should the West take such a step as giving Ukraine F-16 capabilities.”
In other words, the Joint Chiefs and other military leaders are concerned that the introduction of these jets could lead to another dangerous escalation. Not Blinken. From Politico:
“… Blinken had observed over the past year that Russia rarely escalates beyond rhetoric, even as the West has introduced more military offerings into Ukraine.”
Rarely escalates? Putin invaded Ukraine — something we were also assured he wouldn’t do. Blinken now insists he’s all talk and no action — despite his very specific actions of the past year. That is Kissinger-level blundering, the kind that could lead to nuclear war.
And so it is Memorial Day. By all means, commemorate those we have lost. But the dying goes on and on, a current of loss in the slipstream of endless war. Kissinger, too, goes on and on. Only the victims are gone, ripped from this earthly life to be mourned until the end of time.
Or the end of humanity, which may come much sooner than we think.
Addendum: Kissinger took a reasonable position on the new Cold War with China in 2021, which I wrote about here. He also suggested Ukraine cede territory to Russia in May 2022 to end the current war, although I don’t know his current position on that issue. The full addendum is here.
Some of the above material has been adapted from an earlier essay on Kissinger, which is here. Nick Turse and Greg Grandin did a good job summarizing Kissinger’s record on Democracy Now. Greg Grandin’s book is Kissinger’s Shadow.