At 100, Kissinger basks in US praise with no accountability

Ms Hillary Clinton after serving as secretary of state called Mr Kissinger “a friend” and said she “relied on his counsel,” while the incumbent, Mr Antony Blinken, teased Mr Kissinger about his stylishness when the elder statesman attended a State Department luncheon last year.

But for many, Mr Kissinger was seen as an unindicted war criminal for his role in, among other events, expanding the Vietnam War to Cambodia and Laos, supporting military coups in Chile and Argentina, green-lighting Indonesia’s bloody invasion of East Timor in 1975 and turning a blind eye to Pakistan’s mass atrocities during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence.

“To me, there’s no doubt that his policies have caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and have destroyed democracy in many countries,” said Mr Reed Kalman Brody, a veteran human rights lawyer whose cases have included working with victims of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

“I’m bewildered that he has gotten away with it,” he said.

Mr Kissinger has never faced serious legal jeopardy, with a US judge in 2004 throwing out a lawsuit related to the assassination of Chile’s army chief and the United States boycotting the International Criminal Court.

But Mr Brody said there would be a strong legal case on East Timor, where Mr Kissinger not only approved the invasion but ensured US weapons kept flowing to Indonesia’s military.

Mr Brody also pointed to a recording, released over Mr Kissinger’s objections, in which Mr Kissinger tells Mr Nixon that the air force had orders in Cambodia to hit “anything that moves”. Indiscriminate bombing of civilians is a war crime.

Late writer Christopher Hitchens published a book calling for Mr Kissinger to be tried on grounds including tacitly backing Turkey’s 1974 invasion of Cyprus.

Belief in larger goals

For Mr Kissinger, most important was always the larger goal. On Cyprus, he prioritised solid relations with Turkey.

On Bangladesh, Mr Kissinger wanted to preserve Pakistan as a secret channel between the United States and China.

Muntassir Mamoon, a prominent history professor at the University of Dhaka, said that Kissinger “actively supported genocide in Bangladesh”.

“I don’t find any reason to praise Kissinger,” he said, adding that the view was shared in many other countries, including Vietnam.

Mr Kissinger was controversially co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating a ceasefire in Vietnam alongside Hanoi’s Le Duc Tho, who refused to accept the award.

“The irony is that he gets remembered for making peace, but all the ways he contributed to an escalation of the war not only in Vietnam but in Cambodia and Laos get lost,” said Professor Carolyn Eisenberg, a historian at Hofstra University who wrote a book on Mr Kissinger.

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