Nixon was disgraced in office, but Kissinger has escaped ignominy.
It should no longer be debatable that the Nixon-Kissinger duo was a wrecking crew but that they wished to be proclaimed by historians as descendants of the great god Titan. So, while they did do tremendous damage in office, they have been largely successful in getting the world to believe, post Watergate, that they were/ are good men who wished to shape the world according to the designs of cosmic forces. Nixon had been transformed into an “elder statesman” before he died and Republican talking heads and Conservative academics, have air-brushed the man’s peculiar, if not sociopathic, traits as merely the responses of a good leader caught in the trap of the 1960s and 1970s American and Cold War political dynamics.
Nixon as president became the target of blame and quit office in disgrace. Kissinger, his manipulative national security adviser and later secretary of state, however, has managed to wiggle out of attempts, mostly led by maverick social activists/ academics like Chomsky and journalists like Christopher Hitchens and Seymour Hersh, to pin him down. After all, it is difficult to tar and brush someone who has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize! In case the Nobel does not work, he also has a slew of other “prestigious” medals and awards that have armour-plated his reputation and assured him of enormous clout.
Thus, last week’s news reports, based on documents released about the 1971 Bangladesh war, contain information that will be grist for the media mill only for about a week or so and for email discussion lists, a couple more weeks. Nixon calling Indira Gandhi a bitch and Kissinger labeling Indians as bastards were not isolated and unique instances of the display of their sociopathic tendencies. If Nixon called Indira Gandhi a bitch, let us not forget that Nixon called a lot of people a lot of ugly names. For instance, Kissinger, as Nixon’s adviser, was doing what Nixon wanted to do to Allende, whom Nixon called “that son of a bitch Allende”. Kissinger performed the task he either advised Nixon to pursue, or which Nixon wanted in Chile – of getting rid of the inconvenient socialist Allende. “We’re going to smash him, ” Nixon proclaimed and that is what his henchman, Kissinger, accomplished.
Nixon infamously used racist terms against Jews, blacks and others. Kissinger, the Jew, did not seem to be bothered for Kissinger was also a bigot and a racist. In his book, The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House, Seymour Hersh writes: “Kissinger repeatedly made clear his lack of respect for the intelligence of blacks. When the state department appointed C. Clyde Ferguson, a black law professor from Rutgers University, special relief coordinator during the Nigerian civil war, Kissinger asked fatuously, ‘Do you think he’ll understand the cables?’”
Kissinger, despite attempts by college Democrats, hardnosed journalists like Hersh and Hitchens and political activists like Peter Kornbluh, whose book, The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability, created a storm, has remained a formidable figure in world politics. Was it not during the NDA’s political innings that Kissinger visited India and delivered lectures?
Why should it gall us now about Kissinger’s intemperate remarks of 1970s vintage? Just a couple of years ago this chameleon and dangerous sociopath was given the red carpet welcome by Indian business houses. Why? Because money was to be made in the US and good old abusive but influential Henry could pull the right strings for them. Kissinger has been since then making the right noises about India being an open and vibrant democracy and that terrorism is the bane of all open societies. Not just businessmen, but senior netas – BJP-wallahs and Congress-wallahs alike – met with him and talked politics. It has been reported that L.K.Advani, A.B.Vajpayee and their advisers discussed the delicate Kashmir issue with this mastermind and trickster.
Kissinger not only advocated realpolitik but he is a deft practitioner of hard ball politics. When a balanced review of Kornbluh’s book was published in the influential Foreign Affairs journal published by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Kissinger applied enough pressure on its editor, James Hoage, that Maxwell, the book’s reviewer and senior Council member, had to tender his resignation as a CFR member.
Kissinger has trained, co-opted and given jobs to so many, that he is almost invincible politically. Robert Blackwill, the former US ambassador to India, concluded his remarks to the Alumni Association of IITians at San Jose in 2003 quoting Kissinger, “As I draw to a close, I am reminded of my former boss Henry Kissinger’s observation in his book Diplomacy, that ‘Intellectuals analyze the operations of international systems; statesman build them. And there is a vast difference between the perspective of an analyst and that of a statesman. The analyst can choose which problem he wishes to study, whereas the statesman's problems are imposed on him. The analyst can allot whatever time is necessary to come to a clear conclusion; the overwhelming challenge to a statesman is the pressure of time. The analyst runs no risk. The statesman is permitted only one guess; his mistakes are irretrievable. The analyst has available to him all the facts; he will be judged by his intellectual power. The statesman must act on assessments that cannot be proven at the time he is making them; he will be judged by history on the basis of how wisely he managed the inevitable change and above all, how well he preserves the peace." Remember, Kissinger was referring to himself as “statesman” and Blackwill and others do believe that the man is/ was a statesman.
So, if we were referred to as “bastards” and if we get all riled up, just remember that Kissinger will indeed die a ripe old bastard: he was born in 1923 and is a hardy 82. All our ire will not change that outcome a bit. He may not be able to visit every college campus where he is invited to give his expensive lectures, like it happened at the University of Texas at Austin last year, nor will he be assured a safe sojourn in or passage through some countries, but at this age he does not really want to travel all that much: he is happy delivering his gruff assessments to respectful TV journalists in his gravelly voice sitting in the luxurious library at his home in Connecticut. The man may have hastened the death of hundreds of thousands and he may be directly or indirectly responsible for the starvation and disease of millions more. But the cosmic forces have been kind to him in this life. Only some Hindus may want to believe that he will be born a leprous outcaste in his next life.