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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Good Fucking Riddance: HK Finally Kicks His Bucket of Blood



By Abby Zimet, Common Dreams


In gratitude, we mark the death of Henry Kissinger, America's peerless war criminal. As U.S officials laud an "elder statesman" and "erudite strategist," the rest of us, and surely millions of brown-skinned people, celebrate the end of an "iconic napalm rights advocate" whose lies, hubris, towering inhumanity and many blood-soaked foreign policy follies left a legacy - in Vietnam, Chile, Cambodia, Argentina - of an "enormous pile of corpses" that may number four million. The consensus: "Burn hot, Henry."


The news of Dr. Death's demise at 100 was predictably, fawningly covered by an establishment press that the master of access journalism had long courted: "I'll tell you about some sleazy transgressions if you don't say I committed them and what it cost in lives or money." There were thoughts and prayers and cheesy accolades for a "towering American diplomat" who "shaped US Cold War history" and left "an undeniable legacy" - true but probably not the way they mean it. Tim Scott babbled, "While this is an incredible loss for our nation, his legacy will live on for generations to come." McConnell lauded "a titan among America's most consequential statesmen" whose "sheer force of will...changed the course of history." Chris Christie bemoaned "a very sad night" that "leaves a void all around the world." Echoing Trump's "many people say," the WaPo hedged their bets, queasily conceding with a Kissinger-like "'detached bloodlessness" that "critics held" he was kinda a sociopathic monster but who knows. Stephen Miller won the WTF-Are-You-Talking-About Award with, "May God bless Henry Kissinger, who devoted his life to the pursuit of peace," albeit with carpet bombing. Spencer Ackerman: "America, like every empire, champions its state murderers."


Some cited his inexplicable Nobel Peace Prize for ending a war that kept going - "Perhaps the vetting process needs a better vetting process"; Al Jazeera noted "the Nobel Prize-wining warmonger" had died; nobody mentioned the award was the reason Tom Lehrer retired: "Political satire became obsolete.” Few identified him as the ruthless architect of a murderous, empire-building "evil circle of power" now known as "a rules-based international order" whose deadly flaws and repercussions we still live with today, and whose crimes were so vast - of commission in Cambodia and Chile, omission in Iran and East Timor - he had to limit where he traveled to not land in the Hague. Still, Jeff Tiedrich insists, facts owe. "Good fucking riddance to Henry fucking Kissinger," he wrote of "the war criminal elephant in the room" who "never met a democratically-elected government he didn't want to topple" if they stood in his way. "There’s nothing complicated about (his) legacy. He overthrew democratic governments and bombed children on Christmas Eve" even as "DC's "power elite "sucked up to "the West Wing Playboy: "Everyone wanted this blood-spattered fuck at their dinner party." Sorry, not sorry. Voltaire: "We owe respect to the living. To the dead we owe only truth."

The truth, says historian Greg Grandin, is that during his years as National Security Adviser and then Secretary of State, Kissinger abetted or orchestrated the deaths of between three and four million civilians. His atrocities in Southeast Asia ranged from 1972's Christmas bombing of North Vietnam and Hanoi's main hospital, to devious efforts to sabotage the Paris Peace talks by passing information from them to Nixon in hopes of staying in power, to his apocalyptic, covert B-52 carpet-bombing of Cambodia, a country we were not at war with, with 540,000 tons of munitions - during all of World War ll, the U.S. dropped 160,000 tons of bombs on Japan - killing between 150,000 and 500,000 civilians in one of history's most deadly air campaigns. He and Nixon were reportedly "really excited" about the campaign - freakishly named Operation MENU, with BREAKFAST, LUNCH, SNACK, DINNER etc - born of Kissinger's order to hit "anything that moves," approving 3,875 sorties over what he claimed were unpopulated areas yielding "no significant civilian casualties." He thus galvanized Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge, laying the groundwork for a genocide that killed millions; once they came to power, he secretly said they were "murderous thugs" but the U.S. "won’t let that stand in our way."


Over 10 years ago, investigative reporter Nick Turse uncovered evidence from an archive of U.S. military documents that Kissinger, who for decades dodged questions about Cambodia's killing fields, was responsible for even more civilian deaths than was known. In interviews with over 75 Cambodian survivors and U.S. witnesses, he heard tearful accounts of daily, random massacres that would kill neighbors, relatives, half a hamlet's population; of Army Rangers wildly shooting women and children before grabbing chickens, duck, cigarettes, a motorcycle; of "terrifying" air attacks by "lobster-leg" Huey Cobras wiping out families even as U.S. forces abided by the Nixon argument that, "As long as we didn’t set foot on that ground, we basically weren’t there"; of systemic disregard for, and lies about, "civilian harm" and deaths. Over his ensuing decades of impunity, Kissinger became "a visionary example for our 21st-century age of unaccountable power," a sinister template for U.S. leaders who learned they'd never face consequences for their actions in office - starting illegal wars, approving torture, dispatching drones on Afghans at a wedding - thus setting the stage for the civilian carnage of our so-called War on Terror around the world.


First came the 1973 overthrow of Socialist Salvador Allende's democratic election in Chile because, Kissinger argued, the U.S. can't “stand idly by and watch a country go communist...We will not let Chile go down the drain." Cue 17 years of of terror delivered by his military junta: Santiago's football stadium turned concentration camp with two lines - "We called them the line of life and the line of death" - wiping out "a whole generation of the working class"; entire newspaper staffs gunned down; tens of thousands imprisoned and tortured; women standing daily at bridges to look for the bodies of disappeared husbands or sons floating downriver, headless corpses with arms tied behind, fingernails ripped out, legs broken, testicles smashed, eyes gouged by cigarettes; and, later, unions decimated, multinationals enriched. Before Allende, his palace surrounded, killed himself, he urged an aide, "Tell the world." Eventually Pinochet, living in London, was extradited but ultimately let off, even as his junta agents in Operation Condor killed a former ambassador and political opponent in a D.C car bombing. Still, Kissinger stood by Pinochet, a brutal kindred spirit, telling him, "You are a victim of all left-wing groups around the world.”


And he was everywhere. In 1970, he turned a blind eye to Pakistan's slaughter of 300,000 Bengalis, most of them Hindu. In 1975, he similarly ignored Indonesian President Suharto's brutal invasion of East Timor, a former Portuguese colony moving toward independence, that killed over 200,000. In 1976, he brushed aside a military junta in Argentina that overthrew Isabel Perón and launched a savage Dirty War that "disappeared" over 30,000 civilians; when a junta official told Kissinger their main problem was "terrorism," the esteemed elder statesman responded, "If there are things that have to be done, you should do them quickly.” A Republican truly ahead of his time, he even decried democracy in his own country, telling Nixon, "We’ve got to break the back of this generation of Democratic leaders (and) destroy the confidence of people in the American establishment." And he was a Jew who escaped the Nazis only to become the flunky for a vicious anti-Semite who blamed “dirty rotten Jews from New York” (Seymour Hersh) and "Jews at Harvard for exposing the My Lai massacre. "Well, Mr. President," Kissinger responded, "there are Jews and Jews." Another time he mused, "Any people who has been persecuted for 2,000 years must be doing something wrong."


Burn hot, Henry, indeed. It's equally forbidding to confront the "horrifying catastrophe" that was the man, the malignant machine that facilitated his rise to power, and the fact he was left free to shape history and the war-torn, post-truth, self-serving world we now inhabit. There was never a trip to the Hague for Wonder Warthog, but his awfulness didn't go unnoticed. One story has the venerable Gore Vidal coming upon Kissinger at the Vatican "gazing thoughtfully” at the Hell section of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment. “Look,” said Vidal to a friend, "he’s apartment hunting." The late great chef Anthony Bourdain was likewise not a fan. "Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands," he wrote in a 2001 memoir about "that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag." When he turned 100 last May and dreadful think pieces pondered "What He Can Tell Us About the World," The Nation noted he was "still at large (but) he should have gone down the rest of them. "Still a war criminal," reported David Corn. "As he blows out all those candles, let's call the roll" - Cambodia, Chile, Iran et al. "The Cubans say there is no evil that lasts 100 years," Grandin wrote. "Kissinger is making a run to prove them wrong."


With his death, many people, bitter to droll, chimed in. They suggested humans should have a shorter shelf life, he should've died "with a rope around his war criminal neck," his body should be airdropped on Cambodia "for them to defile it as they please, he belongs to the ash-heap. Many lamented they don't believe in hell but hope his apartment in the World to Come is a tiny, dark, 4th floor walk-up for groceries. They said, "Let he who has not carpet-bombed Cambodia throw the first stone," he "put Cambodia on the map and almost took it off," "Collateral damage tested much better with audiences than 'innocent victims.'" They cited Monty Python's song - 'Henry Kissinger/how I'm missing yer" - comparing him to a German parakeet and positing, like the parrot, he's "just resting" or "pining for the fjords." There were questions: Is Cheney the most evil living American now? Who gets the peace prize - Santos, Putin, Miller? Is there room for him in Hell with all the other fascist creeps? Did he have more blood on his hands than any other homicidal sociopath? When he signed a check, did he use a pen or the severed limb of a dead brown child? They said rest in piss, rest in perfidy, and in a lousy year, "It's a glorious day." And the person who runs a "Did-Kissinger-Die-Yet" account answered, finally, "YES."

Not a moment too soon, "the world awoke a little less poisoned," wrote Charles Pierce, who quoted the Revelation of St. John: "And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard (the) beast say, 'Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him." "Kissinger lived for over half a century in the world he had made. He was its hubris," wrote Spencer Ackerman in a fine, detailed piece on a "War Criminal Beloved by America’s Ruling Class," a headline he'd earlier prepped; it's also tagged, "Good Riddance." "The infamy of Nixon's foreign-policy architect sits, eternally, beside that of history's worst mass murderers. A deeper shame attaches to the country that celebrates him." Still, "no infamy will find Kissinger." Over 50 years, the millions of deaths didn't make a dent. He got rich, voiced no regrets, mocked his war criminal label, was extolled by the likes of Hillary Clinton as "a friend" whose counsel she sought in the name of a neoliberalism birthed in "Pinochet's torture chambers...a baby delivered bloody and screaming by Henry Kissinger" as U.S leaders today routinely bomb countries we're not at war with. The goal of Cold War statecraft: To maximize America's freedom to "inflict (its) will on the world, measured in impunity... The organizing principle of American exceptionalism: America acts; it is not acted upon." And it still is.


"He who lives only to benefit himself confers on the world a benefit when he dies." - the early Christian theologian Tertullian, (160-240 A.D) of Carthage, thought to have produce the first extensive body of Latin Christian literature.



Pinochet's terrifying Chile, with the help of the U.S.

Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, hauling water and writing before moving to Portland. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email: azimet18@gmail.com


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