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The Mass Media

Henry Kissinger’s Legacy of Death

Whenever a famous politician dies, dozens of heartfelt memorials are published in newspapers across the country, regardless of the paper’s political affiliation; Henry Kissinger’s death has been no different. Just Google “Remembering Henry Kissinger” and you’ll find dozens of pieces everywhere, from the Washington Post to the Foreign Policy Research Institute, praising his devotion to realpolitik—the idea that practicality trumps morality—and urging us to remember his strategic thinking. [1] [2] Even when articles acknowledge his “complicated” past, there is always a “but”: Yes, his actions caused innumerable deaths—but think of how brilliant he was as a foreign policy advisor! Today, let’s remember Henry Kissinger for who he really was: Not a selfless, patriotic diplomat who made impossible choices to save our country, but an ignorant, self-serving man with the blood of millions on his hands.

Kissinger loved to partake in one of America’s favorite national pastimes—involving himself in other countries’ affairs. Erin Phuong Steinhauer, the executive director of the Vietnam Society, in an article for USA Today, writes about her experience with the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, which Kissinger was largely influential in accomplishing as his role as national security advisor for the Nixon administration. According to her, “Kissinger undermined the opportunity for a resolution to the war in 1968 and negotiated the Paris Peace Accords that betrayed both the American people and the people of Vietnam.” [3] Fighting continued between North and South Vietnam, and 50,000 American and countless Vietnamese deaths later, America had accomplished nothing. [4] Phuong Steinhauer fled Vietnam with her family when Saigon fell in 1975—two years after the supposed end of the war. 

Before the Accords, according to the BBC, Kissinger ordered 500,000 tons of bombs to be dropped on neutral Cambodia to flush out the Viet-Cong. [5] The Pentagon reported that Kissinger explicitly instructed the hundreds of thousands of deaths to be kept out of the newspapers. Also reported by BBC, in 1970, he told a deputy, “It’s an order, it’s to be done. Anything that flies, on anything that moves. You got that?” Unexploded bombs still lie in wait in Cambodia, injuring and killing hundreds more civilians who never even knew Kissinger’s name. These bombings callously paved the way for the Khmer Rouge, which carried out the mass genocide of 1.7 million Cambodians, according to a top Khmer Rouge official: “Mr. Richard Nixon and Kissinger allowed the Khmer Rouge to grasp golden opportunities.”

Henry Kissinger’s actions at home were no better. He contributed to the extremely damaging anti-Communist sentiments of the time that led to military coups in outwardly socialist and left-leaning countries, as well as the establishment of the HUAC. Despite being a Jewish refugee from Germany, he was openly antisemitic, even going as far as to say, “Any people who has been persecuted for two thousand years must be doing something wrong,” according to the New Republic. [6] He was also dismissive of the plight of Jews fleeing Soviet Russia, saying, “If they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.” That’s the reality of realpolitik: millions of easily preventable deaths in the name of American interests. 

A clear theme has emerged surrounding coverage of Kissinger’s death: American media treats him as practical—immoral at times, but fundamentally rational—and ignores the millions whose lives are still deeply affected by his actions. Kissinger’s actions in Vietnam and Cambodia, and later his influence on the Obama Administration’s drone bombing in the Middle East, are boiled down to a “controversial” history by people who have never known the horrors Kissinger enacted on the other side of the world. Remember Kissinger’s legacy: genocide.


[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/12/03/henry-kissinger-remembrances/  

[2] https://www.fpri.org/article/2023/12/remembering-henry-kissinger/  

[3] https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2023/12/05/henry-kissinger-death-legacy-vietnam-war-cambodia/71797183007/  

[4] https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/honor-paris-peace-talks-and-release-pows/  

[5] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-67582813 

[6] https://newrepublic.com/article/177334/did-henry-kissinger-hate-jews 

[7] https://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/11/us/politics/11nixon.html  

About the Contributor
Elijah Horwath, Opinions Editor