By most accounts, Henry Kissinger’s tenure as both Secretary of State and National Security adviser earned him the title of war criminal, though no charges were ever brought against the immensely powerful man.
On Monday, the White House and the Obama Administration sought to ignore all evidence to the contrary and elected instead to award Kissinger with the highest award possible for a private citizen from the Department of Defense.
During his time as Secretary of State, Kissinger worked to gain Nixon’s approval by encouraging diplomacy through violence. Kissinger practically invented the idea of bombing a country into submission, an idea which has been echoed by political leaders ever since. Due to Kissinger, between 1969 and 1973, the U.S. dropped half-a-million tons of bombs on Cambodia alone, killing at least 100,000 civilians. This was a direct result of secret plans which re-routed missiles from Vietnam to Cambodia on the orders of Kissinger and the paperwork these plans produced were promptly burned. Along with these bombs came the widespread use of Agent Orange which scarred and deformed a generation.
During the Gulf War, it was pressure from Kissinger on any and every news network which urged President George H. Bush to strike hard and fast. Similarly, during 9/11, the rhetoric of evil-doers was cemented into the public consciousness as President George W. Bush declared that “America’s responsibility” was to “rid the world of evil.” Due to the precedent set by Kissinger in Cambodia, Bush and the American people felt that any level of force used was necessary and justified.
“While Kissinger deserves real credit for some of America’s most important Cold War victories, including Nixon’s diplomatic opening to China, he is also responsible for some of its worst atrocities. Carpet-bombing Cambodia, supporting Pakistan’s genocide in Bangladesh, greenlighting the Argentinian dictatorship’s murderous crackdown on dissidents — all of those were Kissinger initiatives, all pushed in the name of pursuing American national interests and fighting communism.”
Considering the fact that George W. Bush was also a recipient of the same award, it’s safe to assume that the prestige is much more politically motivated than it may seem.
The Distinguished Public Service Award would seem like an award which would honor someone who has contributed a great deal to public welfare, either in America or internationally. Instead, it serves as a hollow irony for a war-mongering murderer to die with honor.
At Kissinger’s advanced age of 92, it’s safe to say that this could be one of the last accolades given to the former political leader, cementing his public legacy as one who did good rather than the dark reality of his crimes.
By the Obama Administration choosing to honor Kissinger in this way, it is ignoring the dark history of death and destruction which Kissinger waged. Yet another example of the ways that president Obama isn’t at all the “hope and change” we all believed him to be.