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Last night, the news broke: Henry Kissinger passed away in his home.
The former US Secretary of State held almost unthinkable influence within US foreign policy for decades.
Victims of those policies and their surviving loved ones span the globe. In every time zone, people went to bed or awoke to the news of his death.
Responses have ranged from eulogies to memes to outright celebrations.
We want to begin by acknowledging that no coverage of Kissinger’s death is going to outdo Rolling Stone‘s article.
“Henry Kissinger, War Criminal Beloved by America’s Ruling Class, Finally Dies,” is a title as powerful as it is accurate. We’d be hard-pressed to match it without straight-up ripping off Spencer Ackerman.
Rolling Stone had a while to think it up — initially publishing the article without his date of death or his age at the time. Like countless others throughout the world, Rolling Stone had clearly been waiting for this moment.
Born in Germany in 1923, Henry Kissinger escaped Nazi Germany with his family when he was 15 years old. With that backstory, he seems like an unlikely candidate for someone with such a deadly legacy.
As a geopolitical consultant, he served as Secretary of State and national security adviser under both Nixon and Ford.
On Wednesday, November 29, Kissinger’s consulting firm reported that he had passed away at his home. He was 100 years old. Technically, 100 and a half.
In Cambodia alone, estimates put Kissinger’s civilian victims at as many as 150,000. Note, those are the civilian deaths, not the total kills.
It’s true that Kissinger did not initially support the bombing of Cambodia. But, as is so often the way of politics, Nixon decided to do it — and Kissinger made it worse.
Unfortunately, this is only a fraction of the death toll that Kissinger’s direct and indirect actions exacted from the world. From brutality in Chile to helping make Laos the most bombed country in history, Kissinger has left an indelible mark upon the world.
We must note that we are well aware that foreign policy of any kind is complex. Politics is a tangled web. And, frankly, the term “war criminal” is sometimes misused in appalling ways.
But none of those are really viable excuses for Kissinger.
Journalist Steven Talbot once interviewed former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara ahead of an interview with Kissinger. Upon telling the latter that he’d met with the remorseful McNamara, Kissinger began mock-crying and joking about McNamara “still feeling guilty” for atrocities under that administration.
With that in mind, perhaps more people can understand why there is so much schadenfreude, celebration, and outright glee throughout the world today.
Above, you can see a Twitter account whose sole purpose has been to track whether Henry Kissinger has died yet. For years, tragic deaths of celebrities and civil rights leaders have prompted cries of “why did they die while Kissinger still lives?“
Wonderful people have died young. Many, through Kissinger’s own policies. His longevity seemed like an increasingly cruel joke.
There is a trend in our culture in which people avoid speaking ill of the dead. Even when the dead did great harm in life. This can mean relatives, celebrities, or some of the most prolific mass murderers of the past half-century.
(War crimes are rampant and it is always a horror on any scale. But to put things into perspective, the cost in innocent lives from Kissinger’s policies might make Vladimir Putin or Benjamin Netanyahu blush)
One nice thing about recent decades is that this is slowly going away. More and more people are refusing to sanitize the stories of the world’s most evil men just because they are dead. Or the world’s most evil women, for that matter.
Amidst the celebrations (and even discourse) of Kissinger’s passing on social media, three names have come up repeatedly: Jimmy Carter, Anthony Bourdain, and Mitch McConnell.
In the case of President Carter, many people feel relief that, no matter what becomes of his health battle, he will outlive Kissinger. Sometimes, you have to celebrate the small victories.
As for the late Anthony Bourdain, the beloved celebrity chef once wrote: “Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands.” Many people thought of him almost immediately.
As for Mitch McConnell, who has demonstrated some hard-to-miss health problems lately, the reasoning is simple.
With Kissinger gone, a lot of people are going to need a new go-to lamentation when a beloved public figure dies.
McConnell has done significant and lasting harm to the United States and its citizens. But we’d caution people against getting their hopes up. Morality does not alter one’s life span, one way or the other. Look no further than late centenarian Henry Kissinger.
Henry Kissinger Dies: Infamous Architect of War Was 100 was originally published on The Hollywood Gossip.
Written by: 98bpm Radio
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