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 Adolf 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 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. Some sources tell us that all along he actually was a Soviet spy with the code name "Bor".
Henry Kissinger received his BA degree summa cum laude at Harvard College in 1950. Urban legend has it Kissinger is the only person to receive a perfect grade point average from Harvard, but in fact he received one 'B' in his senior year; others have gotten perfect GPAs, though it is exceptionally rare. He received his 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.
Both Nixon and Kissinger were loners, shy and introverted, who liked to think of themselves as cool and masterful strategic thinkers. Both men idealized strength and despised weakness.
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 Nixon's groundbreaking summit in 1972, and the normalization of relations between China 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. Le Duc To refused the prize for the immenently sensible reason that there was as yet no peace, and the satirical musician Tom Lehrer, retiring, famously said "Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize."
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmi, Richard Nixon, and Henry Kissinger Kissinger may have played a 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.
Despite occasional allegations of underhanded dealings in foreign countries, Kissinger was largely popular with the public, becoming one of the better liked members of the increasingly unpopular Nixon administration. Kissinger had little involvement with the Watergate scandal that would eventually bring down Nixon and many of his closest aides - a fact which greatly increased Kissinger's reputation as the "clean man" of the bunch. At the height of his popularity he was even regarded as somewhat of a sex symbol, and was seen dating starlets like Jill St. John, Shirley MacLaine and Candice Bergen.
When Nixon resigned in 1974 Kissinger remained Secretary of State under new President Gerald Ford.
In December of 1975, Kissinger and Ford met with President 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 Jakarta. Kissinger still maintains that the nature and influence of his "approval" of the invasion are presented radically out of context. He argues that the invasion was already a foregone conclusion planned well in advance, and was not simply something that he convinced Suharto to do on the spot. However, Kissinger's apparent strong dislike of discussing the issue remains the chief source of controversy.
Following the Ford Administration, he played a relatively minor role in subsequent governments (perhaps, some have alleged, due to a bad relationship with George Bush), although he continued to participate in policy groups such as the Trilateral Commission and do political consulting, speaking, and writing.
In 2002, President George W. Bush appointed Kissinger to chair a so-called committee to investigate the events of the September 11 attacks. 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). 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. On December 13, 2002 he stepped down as chairman, 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 is currently 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). Also, several 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
In The Trial of Henry Kissinger (2001), Christopher Hitchens 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 augues 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, he directed the first phase of US bombings in Cambodia (1969-1975) and thus masterminded the murder of an estimated 600,000 peasants there;
•He 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 to Hitchen's charges point by point. In a speech before the National Press Club he was asked about the charges and his response is that in the cause of world peace, serious people can have legitimate disagreements about the means. However, Kissinger claims that in attempting to create a war crimes charge, Hitchens used selective quotations and documents without taking into account the context and the situation in which those documents were written. Further, Kissinger claims 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. He adds that Hitchen's charges are nothing more than the politics of revenge and that they cheapen and mock the concept of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Moreover, Kissinger claims 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 thus will not respond to him.
It is worth noting that Hitchens is not the first 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.
A suit was filed September 10, 2001 by the family of Gen. Rene Schneider, once head of the Chilean general staff, accusing Kissinger of arranging his 1970 murder for opposing a military coup.
Quotes by Kissinger
"It is an act of insanity and national humiliation to have a law prohibiting the President from ordering assassination." - Henry Kissinger, National Security Council meeting, 1975.
"The absence of alternatives clears the mind marvelously."
"Foreign Policy is not missionary work."
"Power is the greatest aphrodisiac."
"Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation."
"Every civilization that has ever existed has ultimately collapsed."
"History knows no resting places and no plateaus."
"Nobody will ever win the Battle of the Sexes. There's just too much fraternizing with the enemy."
"There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full."
University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.
"The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer. "
"Each success only buys an admission ticket to a more difficult problem."