Originally published August 30, 2016 on Paste
As usual, the Left has its workers-collective-manufactured panties all up in a bunch over Henry Kissinger. This time, the furor is over rumors that Hillary Clinton may be seeking an endorsement from the former Secretary of State.
But, to be fair, for many people, Henry Kissinger just can’t do anything right these days…or for the last four decades. If it’s not one thing, like backing a coup against the democratically elected Chilean government and ushering in a brutal dictatorship and cutting-edge torture techniques, or extending the Vietnam War by five years, or secretly bombing Cambodia and Laos, it’s another thing, like green-lighting the invasion of East Timor, which killed over 100,000 people, or wiretapping his political opponents, or supporting Pakistan’s military dictatorship, which killed between 200,000 and 3 million Bangladeshis.
We learn more and more about Kissinger’s accomplishments all the time. Earlier this month, newly declassified documents showed that Kissinger was even more supportive of the Argentine dictatorship than we knew. He didn’t merely ignore the government’s killing and/or disappearing as many as 30,000 people between 1976 and 1983; when he visited Argentina for the 1978 World Cup, as a guest of junta leader General Jorge Videla, he lauded the government for doing “an outstanding job in wiping out terrorist forces.” This praise, according to National Security Council official Robert Pastor, was “the music the Argentine government was longing to hear.”
And on Wednesday, the CIA released 2,500 previously classified President’s Daily Briefs (PDB) from the administrations of Nixon and Ford, both of which Kissinger served.
So, stay tuned for more revelations and more left wing hysteria. The good news is that some cooler heads are trying to prevail, and are making the bold case that Clinton’s wooing of the social butterfly of a war criminal would not be a “big f***ing deal,” to quote Joe Biden on the Affordable Care Act.
Let’s take a look at some of their most persuasive points.
1. The guy is a monster but…
Michael Cohen, known on Twitter as speechboy71, opens his article “How Democrats Can Learn to Stop Worrying and Still Hate Kissinger,” by saying, “Let me make one thing clear at the outset of this piece: I consider Henry Kissinger to be, morally speaking, a monstrous figure.”
Much like the phrase “I’m not racist but,” signals that a racist statement is soon forthcoming, Cohen’s condemnation suggests that a defense is imminent.
He cites Kissinger’s “backing of the Nixon administration’s illegal bombing campaign in Cambodia and the invasion of the country in 1970, along with his support for right-wing coups in Latin America and anti-Communist leaders in sub-Saharan Africa and the Far East, have deservedly defined his sordid legacy. And that’s not even counting perhaps his worst act while in public office—his actions in 1970 in support of the Pakistani genocide of Bengals in what is today Bangladesh.”
But Cohen goes on to say, “Why should we care about the foreign policy legacy of a guy who hasn’t held public office in 40 years? Well, it seems that in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, being pro- or anti-Kissinger has become a foreign policy litmus test for Democrats.” What gives, Dems?
2. Criticism is also monstrous.
Cohen notes that “the outcry among American liberals” over rumors of Clinton’s Kissinger-courting “was significant.” He deems the “antipathy” from the Left as “completely understandable,” and yet, simultaneously, “more than slightly outsized.” What is totally inappropriate and uncalled for, it should go without saying, is verbal lashing of any sort, especially the ones to which Clinton was subjected. As if we needed any reminding, Cohen takes us on a stroll down a dark and twisted memory lane: “Back in February, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was lacerated by her then-rival Bernie Sanders for saying she considered Kissinger a friend.”
Cohen, is wrong, actually. Clinton in no way referred to Kissinger as a friend. The #HumbleKissingerBrag Clinton dropped during the Feb. 4 New Hampshire debate was professional, not personal: “I was very flattered when Henry Kissinger said I ran the State Department better than anybody had run it in a long time.”
Sanders did not strike back right away. Nebbish predator that he is, he waited until the next debate in Milkwaukee to pounce: “Secretary Clinton… talked about getting the approval or the support or the mentoring of Henry Kissinger. Now, I find it rather amazing, because I happen to believe that Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country.”
Of all the sexist “violence” Bernie and his bros unleashed against Hillary Clinton, this ranks among the worst. If Hillary were a man, would Bernie have had the chutzpah to denounce…Henry Kissinger?
3. We’re all on the monster spectrum.
Cohen cautions us against judging Kissinger for his war-crime tendencies. After all, we’re all on a spectrum and lots of other political figures have dabbled in human rights violations. With a couple million deaths under his belt, Kissinger is, of course, especially prolific. But, Cohen writes, Kissinger “is hardly the first U.S. foreign policy figure with an odious past.” Cohen then goes through a who’s who list of powerful people with bloodied hands:
“The Eisenhower administration routinely supported anti-communist dictators… John F. Kennedy tried… to have… Fidel Castro assassinated and supported a coup attempt in South Vietnam that led to the death of the country’s president… Lyndon Johnson… initiated the U.S. war in Vietnam that ultimately led to the deaths of more than 1 million Vietnamese… Jimmy Carter, urged on by National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, began American arms shipments to the Afghan mujahedeen, with the clear goal of bloodying the nose of the invading Soviets and prolonging the conflict. The Reagan years saw support for the contras in Nicaragua and a right-wing government in El Salvador under which death squads massacred thousands of civilians.”
This is true. And yet… a bit apples and oranges in a few different ways. On a technical level, five of the six examples offered by Cohen are presidents, not the major foreign policy makers. Also, the whole “routinely support[ing] anti-communist dictators” is hardly unique to the presidency of Eisenhower. It was kind of a Cold War thing.
Sure, Eisenhower, LBJ, JFK, and Reagan all have some blood on their hands. You know what else they have in common? They’re dead. And, with all due respect to the dead, ghosts aren’t as easy to find and prosecute as the full-bodied, still-living Henry Kissinger. The human rights violations committed by our dearly departed lack the urgency of those committed by a man who has never apologized for a single crime against humanity and yet continues to be revered, respected, quoted, awarded, published, and invited to conferences, lecture halls, and fabulous parties.
4. You need to check your monster-dar, fam.
What Michael Cohen seems most outraged by, ironically enough, is the lack of outrage at people who are way worse than Kissinger.
All of this is not to say it’s wrong to loathe Kissinger. Indeed, I count myself among those who view him with contempt. But there are far worse people to get upset about when it comes to endorsing—and counseling—Clinton, many of whom have escaped the wrath of liberals now up in arms over her alleged outreach to the former secretary of state.
What’s odd is that nowhere in the entire piece does Cohen point to anyone “far worse,” who has or might endorse Clinton. You’d think this would be a good thing to include.
5. The guy is a war criminal but Clinton isn’t seeking his endorsement
The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky chose a headline so cavalier it makes Cohen’s look like it was written by a relative of a desaparecido: “Clinton Has Not Sought Henry Kissinger’s Support. But So What if She Had?”Tomasky wants readers to know there isn’t that much truth behind the rumor about Clinton’s seeking a Kissinger endorsement. “First things first: A source close to the Hillary Clinton campaign tells me that there has been no outreach to Henry Kissinger.” Like Cohen, Tomasky includes the obligatory “I get it. This guy has his issues” disclaimer about Kissinger. Using the whimsical tone that befits discussions of human rights violations and genocides, Tomasky writes:
Granted, Kissinger occupies a, ah, unique position. He’s a war criminal. Not convicted of course, but in my view and the view of millions. And although he has never faced the bar of international justice over East Timor or Chile or his sabotaging of the Paris Peace Talks, he is very careful about where he travels and lives with the ignominy of knowing that when The New York Times posts his obituary, there are going to be some well-earned negative adjectives in the very first paragraph.
This guy’s got some major negative adjectives coming to him… once he’s dead.
6. Endorsements! Good god, y’all! What are they good for?