Kissinger's 100th Marked With Tributes, New Accusations

Ex-secretary of state's sway over foreign policy isn't questioned, but calls of 'war criminal' still haunt him
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 27, 2023 10:45 AM CDT
Henry Kissinger Turns 100, and the Celebration Is Mixed
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger speaks during a meeting with then-President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House on Oct. 10, 2017, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Former diplomat and presidential adviser Henry Kissinger marks his 100th birthday on Saturday, outlasting many of his political contemporaries who guided the United States through one of its most tumultuous periods, including during the Vietnam War and his eight years as national security adviser and secretary of state under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Born in Germany on May 27, 1923, Kissinger remains known for his key role in American foreign policy of the 1960s and '70s, including eventual attempts to pull the US out of Vietnam, but not before he became inextricably linked to many of the conflict's most disputed actions, per the AP. In recent years, Kissinger has continued to hold sway over DC's power brokers as an elder statesman, providing advice to Republican and Democratic presidents, while maintaining an international consulting business through which he delivers speeches in the German accent he hasn't lost since fleeing the Nazi regime with his family when he was a teenager. More on Kissinger's complicated legacy:

  • Tribute from his son: First up is David Kissinger, who takes on his father's "miraculous" long life in an op-ed for the Washington Post. So what's his dad's secret to "enduring mental and physical vitality"? In the younger Kissinger's words, an "unquenchable curiosity," a mind that serves as a "heat-seeking weapon that identifies and grapples with the existential challenges of the day," and "his sense of mission." He writes: "I know that no son can be truly objective about his father's legacy, but I am proud of my father's efforts to anchor statecraft with consistent principles and an awareness of historical reality."
  • 'Still a war criminal': A completely opposite take comes courtesy of David Corn at Mother Jones, who asserts, "Forget the birthday candles, let's count the dead." Corn details Kissinger's "diplomatic conniving [that] led to or enabled slaughters around the globe," including in Cambodia, Bangladesh, Chile, Argentina, and East Timor, by Corn's assessment. "It's easy to cast Kissinger as a master geostrategist, an expert player in the game of nations," Corn writes. "But do the math. ... His hands are drenched in blood."

  • New allegations: In an extensive four-piece series, the Intercept dives deep into "Kissinger's Killing Fields," talking to more than 75 witnesses and survivors of US military assaults, and making the case that "Henry Kissinger is responsible for even more civilian deaths in Cambodia than was previously known."
  • Unparalleled influence: The Conversation acknowledges that Kissinger has been a polarizing figure, but also one whose importance as a foreign policy influencer can't be overstated.
  • Meme-worthy: All of the above controversy has served to place Kissinger at the center of an online meme factory of sorts, and the Washington Post covers some of the more notorious ones. A famous example: this scathing viral quote from the late Anthony Bourdain.

  • A 'troubled legacy' in pictures: The Guardian offers photos from some of Kissinger's most consequential moments, including meetings with Chilean dictator Pinochet and Chinese leader Mao Zedong.
  • Breaking open the archives: Slate notes that, to commemorate Kissinger's milestone birthday, the National Security Archive has reissued 38 documents and put up links to dozens more tied to Kissinger's tenure as secretary of state and national security adviser under Nixon and Ford.
  • Kissinger himself: The centenarian sat down recently for lengthy conversations with both the Wall Street Journal and the Economist to offer his takes on the state of the world today. In the wide-ranging interviews, Kissinger offers his thoughts on, among other things, President Biden's China policy ("very much the same" as President Donald Trump's); the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the latter of which he thinks now belongs in NATO after initially opposing the idea; and artificial intelligence, for which he offers a strong warning: "We are at the very beginning of a capability where machines could impose global pestilence or other pandemics—not just nuclear but any field of human destruction." Read both pieces in full.
(More Henry Kissinger stories.)

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