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Henry Kissinger

Henry Alfred Kissinger (born May 27, 1923) is an American diplomat who played an important part in foreign affairs via his role in several Republican administrations between 1968 and 1976.

Kissinger was born in Fuerth[?], Germany. In 1938, fleeing Hitler's persecution of Jews, his family came to New York City; Kissinger was naturalized a United States citizen on June 19, 1943.

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

Henry Kissinger received the BA Degree Summa Cum Laude at Harvard College in 1950. There is an urban legend that Kissinger is the only person to receive a perfect grade point average from Harvard. This is incorrect in that Kissinger actually received one 'B' senior year. He received the 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.

Politically ambitious, he cultivated relations with Nelson Rockefeller. When, in 1968, it became clear that Richard Nixon would be elected President, Kissinger became an advisor to Nixon.

But both men were loners, shy and introverted, who liked to think of themselves as cool and masterful strategic thinkers. Both men idealized "strength" and despised weakness.

Table of contents

The Nixon administration

While working for Nixon, Kissinger established the policy of detente[?] 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 of 1971, Kissinger made two secret trips to the People's Republic of China to confer with Zhou Enlai and set the stage for the groundbreaking summit undertaken by Richard Nixon in 1972, and the normalization of relations between the PRC and the United States.

He was awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize along with Le Duc Tho of Vietnam, for his 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 its extension to an illegal bombing campaign (overseen by Kissinger) in Laos and Cambodia. Tho refused the prize rather than share it with Kissinger, and the satirical musician Tom Lehrer famously said "Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize."

Kissinger served as the U.S. Secretary of State from 1973 to 1977 in the Nixon (1973-1974) and Ford administrations.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmi[?], Richard Nixon, and Henry Kissinger

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

In December of 1975, Kissinger and Ford met with General Suharto of Indonesia, approving 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 East Timor.

Following the Ford Administration, he played a relatively minor role in subsequent governments (perhaps, some have alleged, due to a bad relationship with George Herbert Walker Bush), although he continued to participate in policy groups such as the Trilateral Commission and do political consulting, speaking, and writing.

In November 2002 Henry Kissinger was appointed as the chairman of the independent panel investigating the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America. 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 from the position that Kissinger is viewed by some as a war criminal in his own right (see "Accusations Against Henry Kissinger", below). On December 13, 2002 he stepped down as the chairman of a panel citing conflict of interest with his clients.

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


His writings include Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (1957), The Necessity for Choice (1961), The Troubled Partnership (1965), and Diplomacy (1994). Memoirs, The White House Years (1979), Years of Upheaval (1982), and Years of Renewal (1999); biographies by S. R. Graubard (1973) and W. Isaacson (1992); study by B. and M. Kalb (1974).

Accusations Against Henry Kissinger

The book The Trial of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens (2001) accuses Kissinger of conspiracy to commit murder and war crimes. The February and March 2001 issues of Harper's Magazine[?] feature a series by Hitchens on the case for charging Kissinger with war crimes. Hitchens presents an argument 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.

The primary charges against Kissinger:

  • As National Security Advisor to President Nixon directed the first phase of US bombings in Cambodia (1969-1975) and thus masterminded the murder of an estimated 600,000 peasants there;
  • helped engineer and then protect the Augusto Pinochet coup of 1973 and subsequent regime of torture and murder.
  • Under President Ford Secretary of State Kissinger gave the go-ahead to Indonesia's invasion of East Timor and subsequent massive war crimes there;

Regarding East Timor, previously secret documents released in late 2001 revealed that Kissinger indeed gave Suharto his support for the invasion of East Timor during a visit to Indonesia in 1975, thus 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. As many as 200,000 people may have died as a result of the invasion. 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 point by point to Hitchens's charges. However, in a speech before the National Press Club he was asked about these charges and his response was that in the cause of world peace, serious people can have legitimate disagreements about the means. In attempting to create a war crimes charge, Kissinger claims that Hitchens is taking selected quotations and documents without taking into account the context and the situation that those documents existed in and that Hitchens ignores the significant advances in world peace that were taken under his tenure, such as the Anti-Ballistic Treaty, detente and arms reduction treaties with the Soviet Union, the opening to China, and the withdrawal from Vietnam. Kissinger stated that this is nothing more than the politics of revenge and vendetta and that it cheapens and makes a mockery of the concept of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Kissinger stated 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 as a result, he will not respond to Hitchens.

It is worth noting that Hitchens is neither the first nor only person to accuse Kissinger of war crimes. As of May 2002, he is wanted for questioning in Chile (related to the Pinochet coup) and Spain.

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

In 2002, President George W. Bush appointed Kissinger to chair a committee to investigate the events of the September 11 attacks. 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 the Democrats insisted, however, Kissinger resigned from the commission.

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