MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In most of the post-New-Hampshire-debate punditry, a consensus seems to have emerged that Bernie Sanders won the domestic economic debate by appealing to aspirations, while Hillary Clinton beat him on gravitas and stature in the foreign policy field.
That "conventional wisdom," however, is morally bankrupt and tone-deaf. Why? Consider the fact that the corporate media hardly took note of Clinton's use of Henry Kissinger as a character reference for her self-proclaimed acumen as secretary of state. “I was very flattered when Henry Kissinger said I ran the State Department better than anybody had run it in a long time,” she proudly proclaimed Thursday night.
Last year, I interviewed historian and author Greg Grandin about his deeply disturbing book about Kissinger's responsibility for the deaths of millions of people through the implementation of his cynical and duplicitous exercise of unaccountable power. Kissinger's Shadow: The Long Reach of America's Most Controversial Statesman. I asked Grandin about a brief passage in the book concerning Clinton:
Mark Karlin: Help me out with this one. On page 223, you recall how in a 2014 review by Hillary Clinton in the Washington Post of Kissinger's latest book, World Order, she states that she "relies" on Kissinger for advice. You write that [Hillary believes that] "Kissinger's vision is her vision: 'just and liberal.'" Uh, what's up with that?
Greg Grandin: Well, Kissinger is 92, and at this point in life he is as much pure affect as he is power broker. The gestures Clinton mentioned in her review -- I rely on his council; he checks in with me and gives me reports from his travels - are ceremonial, meant to bestow gravitas. Ironically, the worse things get in the world, the more Kissinger's stock rises. He's seen with nostalgia by our political class, as a serious person who had a serious vision. Again, the reality is otherwise.
The headline for the interview was, "Millions Died Because Kissinger Prolonged the Vietnam War for Years After Betraying Peace Treaty." However, Kissinger's perfidious maneuvers to extend the killing in Southeast Asia - in order to secure powerful positions in the Nixon administration and implement his hitherto-academic proposals - represented only one of the geographic areas reached by his long arm of death.
Kissinger was a leader in the creation of the hawkish consensus to assert US empire through military conflict in the modern era, not infrequently supporting brutal dictators over democratically-elected leaders. Grandin responded to one of my interview questions with this devastating indictment of Kissinger:
At every single one of America's postwar turning points, moments of crisis when men of good will began to express doubts about American power, Kissinger broke in the opposite direction. He made his peace with Nixon, whom he first thought was unhinged; then with Ronald Reagan, whom he initially considered hollow; and then with George W. Bush's neocons, despite the fact that they all rose to power attacking Kissinger. The cliché goes that in the exception, one finds the rule, which I never really understood until I started studying Kissinger: his singularity as an individual helps illuminate the larger and steady drift to the right of the US, from the 1960s to this day.
In The Nation on Friday, Grandin wrote an article that ties the hawkish foreign policies of Kissinger and Hillary Clinton together. Grandin ends his Nation commentary with this anecdote:
“I greatly admire the skill and aplomb with which you conduct our foreign policy,” Kissinger wrote to Secretary of State Clinton in February 7, 2012, letter, not long after Clinton’s [advocacy for the] bombing of Libya had come to a conclusion and Qaddafi was dead.
Last year, Kissinger, reacting to a question about his role in overthrowing Salvador Allende—the democratically elected president of Chile in 1973—and his illegal, covert bombing of Cambodia—which started in 1969 and continued to 1973—pointed to ... the bombing in Libya and proposed bombing in Syria [which Clinton was also considered the chief advocate of initiating].
What’s the difference? he asked.
Grandin also underscores the lethal legacy of Kissinger's hubris:
A full tally hasn’t been done, but a back-of-the-envelope count would attribute 3, maybe 4 million deaths to Kissinger’s actions, but that number probably undercounts his victims in southern Africa. Pull but one string from the current tangle of today’s multiple foreign policy crises, and odds are it will lead back to something Kissinger did between 1968 and 1977. Over-reliance on Saudi oil? That’s Kissinger. Blowback from the instrumental use of radical Islam to destabilize Soviet allies? Again, Kissinger. An unstable arms race in the Middle East? Check, Kissinger. Sunni-Shia rivalry? Yup, Kissinger. The impasse in Israel-Palestine? Kissinger. Radicalization of Iran? “An act of folly” was how veteran diplomat George Ball described Kissinger’s relationship to the Shah. Militarization of the Persian Gulf? Kissinger, Kissinger, Kissinger.
At the New Hampshire debate, Hillary Clinton embraced the devastating impact of the individual that is the post-1950s icon of war and brutality inititated by often secret executive branch fiat. The current presidential candidate was seemingly totally unaware of how Kissinger is regarded outside of the bubble of DC cheerleaders for US empire - and the death toll he has left in his wake, as well as the time bombs that continue to explode as a result of his cynical exercise of fatal power.
That Hillary Clinton should publicly admit to being "flattered" that Kissinger unctuously praised her is a deeply troubling sign that, as president, she would serve the interests of a doctrine of empire and military interventionism that creates strife and cemeteries around the globe.
Not to be reprinted without permission of Truthout.