Henry Kissinger

Henry Kissinger

Henry Kissinger, the son of a grocer, was born in Furth, Germany, on 27th May, 1923. His family were Jewish and became concerned about the emergence of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. In 1938 the family emigrated to the United States. During the Second World War Kissinger served in the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps.

Educated at Harvard University he obtained a PhD degree in 1954. He was a member of the teaching staff of Harvard and taught in the Department of Government and served on the Council of Foreign Relations (1955-1956), as Associate Director of Center for International Affairs (1957-1960) and as Director of the Harvard Defense Studies Program (1958-1971).

Kissinger also published several books including A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace 1812-22 (1957) and Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (1957).

In 1969 Richard Nixon appointed Kissinger as his adviser on National Security Affairs and he played an important role in the improved relations with both China and the Soviet Union in the early 1970s. He also arranged peace talks between the Arabs and the Israelis.

Kissinger later admitted that in September 1970, Nixon ordered him to organize a coup against the government of Salvador Allende. Kissinger also said that he called off the operation a month later. The government documents, however, indicate that the Central Intelligence Agency continued to encourage a coup in Chile.

In 1972 Nixon was warned that a victory in Vietnam was unobtainable. Kissinger was put in charge of peace talks and In October, 1972, he came close to agreeing to a formula to end the war. The plan was that US troops would withdraw from Vietnam in exchange for a cease-fire and the return of 566 American prisoners held in Hanoi. It was also agreed that the governments in North and South Vietnam would remain in power until new elections could be arranged to unite the whole country.

The main problem with this formula was that whereas the US troops would leave the country, the North Vietnamese troops could remain in their positions in the south. In an effort to put pressure on North Vietnam to withdraw its troops, Nixon ordered a new series of air-raids on Hanoi and Haiphong. It was the most intense bombing attack in world history. In eleven days, 100,000 bombs were dropped on the two cities. The destructive power was equivalent to five times that of the atom bomb used on Hiroshima.

The North Vietnamese refused to change the terms of the agreement and so in January, 1973. Nixon agreed to sign the peace plan that had been proposed in October. However, the bombing had proved to be popular with the American public as they had the impression that North Vietnam had been bombed into submission. As a result of bring the Vietnam War to an end Kissinger was controversially awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Kissinger became Secretary of State in 1973. On 9th August, 1974, Richard Nixon was forced to resign over the Watergate Scandal. Kissinger continued to serve under his successor, Gerald Ford. He held the post until Jimmy Carter became president in 1977.

After leaving government service Kissinger founded Kissinger Associates, an international consulting firm. He returned to public office in 1983 when President Ronald Reagan appointed him to head a bipartisan commission on Central America.

Books by Kissinger include The White House Years (1979), Years of Upheaval (1982) and Diplomacy (1994).

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) Richard Nixon, The Memoirs of Richard Nixon (1978)

John Mitchell arranged for Kissinger and me to meet on November 25 (1968) in my transition office in the Hotel Pierre in New York. Since neither of us was interested in small talk, I proceeded to outline for him some of the plans I had for my administration's foreign policy. I had read his book Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy when it first appeared in 1957, and I knew that we were very much alike in our general outlook in that we shared a belief in the importance of isolating and influencing the factors affecting worldwide balances of power. We also agreed that whatever else a foreign policy might be, it must be strong to be credible and it must be credible to be successful. I was not hopeful about the

prospects of settling the Vietnam war through the Paris talks and felt that we needed to rethink our whole diplomatic and military policy on Vietnam. Kissinger agreed, although he was less pessimistic about the negotiations than I was. I said that I was determined to avoid the trap Johnson had fallen into, of devoting virtually all my foreign policy time and energy to Vietnam, which was really a short-term problem. I felt that failing to deal with the longer-term problems could be devastating to America's security and survival, and in this regard I talked about restoring the vitality of the NATO alliance, and about the Middle East, the Soviet Union, and Japan. Finally I mentioned my concern about the need to re-evaluate our policy toward Communist China, and I urged him to read the Foreign Affairs article in which I had first raised this idea as a possibility and a necessity.

Kissinger said he was delighted that I was thinking in such terms. He said that if I intended to operate on such a wide-ranging basis, I was going to need the best possible system for getting advice. Kennedy had replaced NSC strategic planning with tactical crisis management; and Johnson, largely because of his concern with leaks, had reduced NSC decision-making to informal weekly luncheon sessions with only a few advisers. Kissinger recommended that I structure a national security apparatus within the White House that, in addition to coordinating foreign and defense policy, could also develop policy options for me to consider before making decisions.

I had a strong intuition about Henry Kissinger, and I decided on the spot that he should be my National Security Adviser. I did not make a specific offer to him then, but I made it clear that I was interested in having him serve in my administration.

I met with Kissinger again two days later and asked him if he would like to head the NSC. He replied that he would be honored to accept. He immediately began assembling a staff and analyzing the policy choices that I would have to address as soon as I took office. From the beginning he worked with the intensity and stamina that were to characterize his performance over the years.

(2) Henry Kissinger, speech when receiving the Nobel Peace Prize (1973)

To the realist, peace represents a stable arrangement of power; to the idealist, a goal so pre-eminent that it conceals the difficulty of finding the means to its achievement. But in this age of thermonuclear technology, neither view can assure man's preservation. Instead, peace, the ideal, must be practised. A sense of responsibility and accommodation must guide the behavior of all nations. Some common notion of justice can and must be found, for failure to do so will only bring more "just" wars.

In his Nobel acceptance speech, William Faulkner expressed his hope that "man will not merely endure, he will prevail".1 We live today in a world so complex that even only to endure, man must prevail - over an accelerating technology that threatens to escape his control and over the habits of conflict that have obscured his peaceful nature.

Certain war has yielded to an uncertain peace in Vietnam. Where there was once only despair and dislocation, today there is hope, however frail. In the Middle East the resumption of full scale war haunts a fragile ceasefire. In Indo-china, the Middle East and elsewhere, lasting peace will not have been won until contending nations realise the futility of replacing political competition with armed conflict.

America's goal is the building of a structure of peace, a peace in which all nations have a stake and therefore to which all nations have a commitment. We are seeking a stable world, not as an end in itself but as a bridge to the realisation of man's noble aspirations of tranquility and community.

If peace, the ideal, is to be our common destiny, then peace, the experience, must be our common practice. For this to be so, the leaders of all nations must remember that their political decisions of war or peace are realised in the human suffering or well-being of their people.

(3) Larry Rohter, New York Times (13th February, 2000)

With a trial of General Augusto Pinochet increasingly unlikely here, victims of the Chilean military's 17-year dictatorship are now pressing legal actions in both Chilean and American courts against Henry A. Kissinger and other Nixon administration officials who supported plots to overthrow Salvador Allende Gossens, the Socialist president, in the early 1970's.

In perhaps the most prominent of the cases, an investigating judge here has formally asked Mr. Kissinger, a former national security adviser and secretary of state, and Nathaniel Davis, the American ambassador to Chile at the time, to respond to questions about the killing of an American citizen, Charles Horman, after the deadly military coup that brought General Pinochet to power on Sept. 11, 1973.

General Pinochet, now 85, ruled Chile until 1990. He was arrested in London in 1998 on a Spanish warrant charging him with human rights violations. After 16 months in custody, General Pinochet was released by Britain because of his declining health. Although he was arrested in Santiago in 2000, he was ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial.

The death of Mr. Horman, a filmmaker and journalist, was the subject of the 1982 movie "Missing." A civil suit that his widow, Joyce Horman, filed in the United States was withdrawn after she could not obtain access to relevant American government documents. But the initiation of legal action here against General Pinochet and the declassification of some American documents led her to file a new suit here 15 months ago.

William Rogers, Mr. Kissinger's lawyer, said in a letter that because the investigations in Chile and elsewhere related to Mr. Kissinger "in his capacity as secretary of state," the Department of State should respond to the issues that have been raised. He added that Mr. Kissinger is willing to "contribute what he can from his memory of those distant events," but did not say how or where that would occur.

Relatives of General René Schneider, commander of the Chilean Armed Forces when he was assassinated in Oct. 1970 by other military officers, have taken a different approach than Mrs. Horman. Alleging summary execution, assault and civil rights violations, they filed a $3 million civil suit in Washington last fall against Mr. Kissinger, Richard M. Helms, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and other Nixon-era officials who, according to declassified United States documents, were involved in plotting a military coup to keep Mr. Allende from power.

In his books, Mr. Kissinger has acknowledged that he initially followed Mr. Nixon's orders in Sept. 1970 to organize a coup, but he also says that he ordered the effort shut down a month later. The government documents, however, indicate that the C.I.A. continued to encourage a coup here and also provided money to military officers who had been jailed for General Schneider's death.

"My father was neither for or against Allende, but a constitutionalist who believed that the winner of the election should take office," René Schneider Jr. said. "That made him an obstacle to Mr. Kissinger and the Nixon government, and so they conspired with generals here to carry out the attack on my father and to plot a coup attempt."

In another action, human rights lawyers here have filed a criminal complaint against Mr. Kissinger and other American officials, accusing them of helping organize the covert regional program of political repression called Operation Condor. As part of that plan, right-wing military dictatorships in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay coordinated efforts throughout the 1970's to kidnap and kill hundreds of their exiled political opponents.

(4) Julian Borger, The Guardian (6th July, 2001)

A judge in Santiago has drawn up a list of questions for the US statesman and Nobel laureate, Henry Kissinger, about the 1973 killing of the American journalist Charles Horman, whose execution by forces loyal to General Augusto Pinochet was dramatized in the Hollywood film, Missing.

The questions, drawn up by the investigating magistrate Juan Guzman and lawyers for the victims of the Pinochet regime, were submitted to Chile's supreme court, which must now decide whether to forward them to the United States.

The list is under seal but it is thought to cover the extent of Mr Kissinger's knowledge of the Horman case. Horman's family have repeatedly claimed that the Nixon government, in which Mr Kissinger was national security advisor and secretary of state, knew more about what happened when the journalist was murdered in Chile than it has ever admitted.

Mr Kissinger, awarded the Nobel peace prize for his role in bringing the Vietnam war to an end, is now under increased scrutiny for his leading role in a number of controversial US actions abroad, including the bombing of Cambodia and Washington's support for authoritarian rightwing governments such as Gen Pinochet's.

Charles Horman's widow, Joyce, said yesterday that Mr Kissinger was "ultimately the one who has to answer the questions for the disappearance of my husband".

She added: "He was really calling the shots, as far as I'm concerned, in questions of state and the CIA, with regard to the protection and knowledge of what happened to Americans there."

Encouraged by the success of international human rights cases against Gen Pinochet and Balkan war crimes suspects, human rights activists have recently drawn up allegations against Mr Kissinger.

While visiting Paris in May, Mr Kissinger was subpoenaed by a French judge to answer questions about the death of French citizens under the Pinochet regime. Mr Kissinger refused to appear in court to answer the questions, saying he had a prior engagement.

This year, a Washington-based British journalist, Christopher Hitchens, published The Trial of Henry Kissinger, in which he accused the veteran proponent of realpolitik of conspiring to sabotage 1968 Vietnam peace talks and pursuing an illegal war in Cambodia, among other charges. Mr Kissinger called the book "contemptible".