- Kissinger collaborated with Suharto to annex West Papua, leading to over four decades of genocidal policies.
- Pakistani military, supported by the US, executed a genocide leading to the deaths of up to three million Bengalis.
- Kissinger justified actions to forge Cold War alliances with China, neglecting the tragic consequences.
- Despite warnings, Kissinger withheld 2.2 million tons of food aid, causing over a million Bengali deaths.
- Dismissive stance in meetings, labeling Bangladesh as a “basket case,” prioritizing diplomatic strides over humanitarian crises.
Former US Secretary of State Heinz Alfred Kissinger, who termed Bangladesh as “basket case”, has died at the age of 100. The German-born diplomat breathed his last at his residence in Connecticut, constituent state of the United States of America. With his thick glasses and rough voice, Kissinger left an indelible mark on foreign policy, navigating the United States through tumultuous periods, from Vietnam to groundbreaking relations with China.
A Jewish refugee who fled Nazi Germany, Kissinger rose to prominent positions within the American political landscape. He held crucial roles as both secretary of state and national security adviser under two Republican presidents, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford, offering counsel and guidance to influential figures across the political spectrum in American politics over several decades.
However, Kissinger’s characterization of Bangladesh as a ‘basket case’ was inaccurate.
Heinz Alfred Kissinger, born on May 27, 1923, in Furth, Germany, faced severe antisemitism before fleeing Hitler’s regime in 1938 with his family to the US. He became a naturalized citizen in 1943, serving in the US Army during World War II.
After earning multiple degrees from Harvard University, Kissinger joined its faculty in 1954. His expertise in security led to advisory roles across government during Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson’s presidencies.
Advocating for a pragmatic approach to global conflicts, Kissinger influenced the Kennedy administration’s stance on Soviet relations, favoring flexibility over Eisenhower’s nuclear retaliation policy.
In 1968, Richard Nixon appointed him as national security adviser, marking a turning point. Facing challenges like the Vietnam War and Soviet tensions, Kissinger and Nixon reshaped US foreign policy based on their geopolitical instincts and power philosophies.
During the tumultuous period of Watergate, Kissinger’s sharp political insight propelled him into a quasi-co-presidential role, utilizing his influence amidst Nixon’s faltering leadership. His memoirs painted a portrait blending self-importance with an ominous foreboding, acknowledging the weight of his amplified authority.
His legacy showcased a spectrum of his diplomatic finesse. From pioneering “shuttle diplomacy” for Middle East peace to clandestine negotiations with China and the pivotal Paris talks on Vietnam, Kissinger displayed strategic prowess. Nevertheless, his association with the fall of Saigon and criticisms regarding support for oppressive regimes in Latin America stained his standing.
A practitioner of realpolitik, Kissinger’s pragmatic tactics drew both acclaim and censure. While advocates praised his strategies for serving US interests, critics lambasted them as Machiavellian, contradicting democratic values. His endorsement of wiretapping and involvement in the Cambodian bombings sparked vehement opposition.
Kissinger’s private life, including his relationships and public persona, often clashed with the gravity of his diplomatic stature. Notably, his marriages, particularly to Nancy Maginnes in 1974, sharply contrasted with his public persona.
Transformation and Controversy
Kissinger swiftly rose within the Nixon administration and gained further prominence when appointed the 56th secretary of state in the fall of 1973. His influence over American foreign policy and connections with global allies and adversaries were considerable.
His international legacy is sharply polarizing. Admirers credit him with pivotal diplomacy, such as the détente with the Soviets and the landmark SALT 1 nuclear nonproliferation agreement in 1972. They also applaud his role in Nixon’s groundbreaking visit to China, seen as reshaping global relations.
However, critics condemn Kissinger for authorizing a secretive, devastating carpet-bombing campaign in Cambodia during the Vietnam War, which scholars believe contributed to a genocide that claimed over 1.7 million lives.
His involvement extended beyond Cambodia as he was accused of supporting oppressive regimes in Bangladesh and East Timor and aiding Chile’s military coup against Salvador Allende in 1973.
Kissinger’s unlawful Involvement in Bangladesh
In 1969, Kissinger and associates collaborated with Suharto to unlawfully annex West Papua, securing Indonesian control with US backing at the UN, initiating over four decades of genocidal policies. Currently, the death toll nears 500,000 West Papuans—an average of nearly 100 deaths every week of Kissinger’s life.
Shortly after, his attention shifted to Bangladesh, where a genocide of the local Bengali population unfolded at the hands of the Pakistani military, aided and armed by the US, resulting in the deaths of up to three million people. Kissinger justified this as safeguarding US interests in the Cold War, using Pakistan to forge alliances with China. When Bengalis rebelled against General Yahya Khan, whom Kissinger and Nixon considered their “protege,” they anticipated his ability to suppress the uprising in East Pakistan through sheer military force. The ensuing military action caused the deaths of millions of Bengalis, prompting Kissinger to congratulate Nixon on “saving West Pakistan.”
In 1971, despite warnings of an impending famine in Bangladesh, Kissinger opted to withhold 2.2 million tons of food aid, leading to over a million Bengali deaths. Records of meetings now public reveal his dismissive stance, considering Bangladesh as someone else’s problem, dismissing it as a “basket case.” For the Kissinger-Nixon duo, success was measured solely in the diplomatic strides toward their China relations, disregarding the tragic plight of Bangladesh.
Meanwhile, here are 10 instances where Kissinger intervened in nations, regions, and conflicts, leaving a lasting, often blood-stained legacy that continues in many cases:
Vietnam: Kissinger won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for negotiating a ceasefire, but his enabling of Nixon’s obstruction potentially prolonged the war by four years, costing millions of Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians their lives.
Cambodia: His expansion of the war paved the way for the genocidal Khmer Rouge rule, resulting in the deaths of two million Cambodians, as people were driven towards the communist movement due to relentless carpet-bombing.
Bangladesh: Kissinger, who had once labeled Bangladesh a ‘basket case,’ eventually acknowledged that the US had misjudged its role in the events of 1971. Back then, Bengali nationalists in what was then known as East Pakistan had won elections in 1970. The military government in West Pakistan, fearing a loss of control, initiated a brutal crackdown.
During this crisis, Kissinger and Nixon firmly supported the slaughter, opting against cautioning the generals to restrain their actions. Despite the killing of three million people, their stance remained unmoved. Motivated by Pakistan’s strategic importance as a counterbalance to China and Soviet-leaning India, Kissinger showed indifference toward the human toll.
A secret recording captured his disdain for those who showed concern for “the dying Bengalis,” revealing a callous perspective on the tragic events.
Chile: Nixon and Kissinger actively worked to destabilize Allende’s government, investing millions in fomenting a coup that led to Pinochet’s dictatorship and the disappearance or death of thousands, with a lingering impact on Chilean society.
Cyprus: Encouraging a crisis between Greek and Turkish populations, Kissinger’s involvement resulted in thousands of casualties following the Greek coup and Turkish invasion.
East Timor: Kissinger greenlit Indonesia’s invasion, advising a brutal dictator to act swiftly, resulting in the deaths of 200,000 East Timorese.
Israel: Kissinger’s response during the October War and his diplomacy laid the groundwork for the Camp David Accords, aiming to isolate Palestinians from their Arab neighbors.
Argentina: Even after leaving office, Kissinger endorsed a neo-fascist military regime in Argentina, offering approval to a government responsible for the disappearance of thousands of opponents.
South Africa: While not initially focused on Africa, Kissinger’s visit to South Africa during apartheid’s peak and his support for certain rebel factions prolonged conflicts, contributing to substantial bloodshed.
China: Praised for brokering US-China relations, Kissinger’s realpolitik approach failed to condemn the Tiananmen Square massacre, emphasizing the pragmatic need between the US and China over human rights violations.
Kissinger’s passing marks the end of an era in global diplomacy. Survived by two children from his first marriage, Elizabeth and David, his legacy remains both an enigma and a subject of scrutiny, embodying the complexities and controversies of modern geopolitics.
Henry Kissinger, with his legacy of enduring controversy, leaves behind a legacy that will continue to provoke discussion and analysis for generations to come.