Thursday, October 8, 2020

Kissinger's Shadow by Greg Grandin Presents Henry Kissinger in a Most Unflattering Light

I'll start by saying I believe it is wrong to hate. There are people, however, whom I do not respect. Some I even find despicable.

It's somewhat amazing how many dubious and dark events have occurred in my life that seem to have Kissinger's fingerprints on them. Let's start with Chile. Watch the film Missing, in which Jack Lemmon goes to South America to find his son. It's a film about when "the generals seized Chile,' which Arlo sang about on his 1976 album Amigo in the song "Victor Jara." Lemmon begins the film as a patriotic American, and ends up coming home home disillusioned by the lies, red tape and obfuscation of our State Department.

In the year previous to this story the Bangladesh massacre occurred. What began as a tragic monsoon that ripped a swath through East Pakistan ended up in a slaughter carried out by the West Pakistani government using American supplied weapons. Kissinger was in the thick of it, defending American non-intervention in the name of detente. When I was younger I believed that the Concert for Bangladesh (George Harrison and friends) was about the monsoon. There was much more going on, and it was much darker.

The bombing of Cambodia and the secret war we were conducting was yet another U.S. mess that Nixon's sounding board and advisor defended. Of course "secret bombing" is no secret for those whose homes and livelihoods are being destroyed. The massive destruction of North Vietnam for no purpose was another Kissinger "achievement." 

I could go on, but I'd only be repeating content I shared in July extracted from a book titled Writings of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Greg Grandin, who teaches history at Yale University, was recipient of the Pulitzer Prize this year for his book The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America. He seems to specialize in Latin American studies, but not simply with regards to dates, events and places. His narratives explore the minds of those who decisions shaped their times.

That's what makes Grandin's book on Kissinger so powerful. The Amazon reviewer MM had this to say about Kissinger:
He was incredibly manipulative and exchanged one set of twisted truth and political position for another in order to keep himself on the inside of every administration from Nixon, to Ford, to Reagan and Bush I and the neoconservatives who hated him at the beginning of the Reagan years. He morphed and manipulated himself into them so they all eventually let him and Kissinger Associates into their inner sanctum, right through the George W. Bush Administration. Most recently he has had meeting with Donald Trump according to press reports.

What gets me is how this man who left waves of destruction in his wake was tapped for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973. Simply unbelievable.

When Seymour Hersh published his thoroughly researched indictment of Kissinger in the late 90s, the media defended Kissinger. A couple years later, Christopher Kitchens wrote The Trial of Henry Kissinger in which he details Kissinger's dirty deeds and calls for him to be tried for war crimes. 

* * * *

Why do I bother writing about these things? In part, I write in order to attempt a measure of understanding with regards to these matters. Also, I am making an effort to understand how Mr. Kissinger can be so applauded and heralded. Is it because he's a Celebrity in a Celebrity Culture? 

Voice 1: He's famous; he's a Somebody. 

Voice 2: Yes, but he behaved like a monster and hurt people with impunity.

Voice 1: Even so, when he dies he will be celebrated as a hero of our generation. 

Voice 2: (rolling his eyes) I think I'm going to be ill.

* * * *

Henry Kissinger was an American politician, diplomat, and geopolitical consultant who served as United States Secretary of State and National Security Advisor under the presidential administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. The primary aim of Glandin's book is to show Kissinger's influence with regards to America's expanding imperialism during the past 60 years.

(Photo: Discussing Vietnam at Camp David. National archives.)

* * * *

This review at Chegg Books is well worth reading and digesting.

A new account of America's most controversial diplomat that moves beyond praise or condemnation to reveal Kissinger as the architect of America's current imperial stance. In this fascinating book Kissinger's Shadow, acclaimed historian Greg Grandin argues that to understand the crisis of contemporary America, ”its never-ending wars abroad and political polarization at home”we have to understand Henry Kissinger. 

Examining Kissinger's own writings, as well as a wealth of secret recordings and government documents, many of them recently declassified, Grandin reveals how Nixon's top foreign-policy adviser helped to revive a militarized version of American exceptionalism centered on an imperial presidency even as he was presiding over defeat in Vietnam and a disastrous, secret, and illegal war in Cambodia. 

Believing that reality could be bent to his will, insisting that intuition is more important in determining policy than hard facts, and vowing that past mistakes should never hinder bold action in the future, Kissinger anticipated, even enabled, the ascendance of the neoconservative idealists who took America into crippling wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Going beyond accounts focusing on either Kissinger's crimes or accomplishments, Kissinger's Shadow by Greg Grandin offers a compelling new interpretation of the diplomat's continuing influence on how the United States views its role in the world.

You can find the book on most websites where books are sold. Here is a link to Chegg Books, where you either rent or buy.

No comments: