Divisive legacy of Henry Kissinger: War criminal or foreign policy hero?

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Published Dec 2, 2023


South Africa, like the rest of the world, is divided over the legacy of Henry Kissinger, the Nobel Prize recipient whose death has divided the world after he died at his home on November 29, 2023 at the age of 100.

Some people have described him as a war criminal who did not deserve to be honoured. Others have described him as a hard-working genius and prolific author who, at the age of 98, co-wrote a book on artificial intelligence.

The man who served under two American statesmen has been described as the most influential and controversial figures in American foreign policy.

Kissinger, who served as the national security adviser and the secretary of state under the administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, played a key role in shaping the relations between the US and the rest of the world during the Cold War era.

In a statement posted on social media this week, African Radical Economic Transformation Alliance leader Carl Niehaus described him as a “Zionist devil”.

Niehaus said he would not shed a tear for Kissinger.

“So the Zionist devil Henry Kissinger finally kicked the bucket yesterday, at age 100. There is a special place in hell reserved for this ruthless Cold War Warrior, who expanded the Vietnam war, backed right wing dictators, caused untold suffering in Angola through his support for Jonas Savimbi and UNITA, supported the Apartheid regime in SA to the hilt, and of course was one of the most full-out supporters and enablers of Apartheid Israel,” Niehaus wrote.

“If there was any justice in the world Kissinger should have died in jail, but instead the USA establishment shielded him from any accountability, and recently, on his last birthday, feted him as their hero. I will certainly not shed a tear, instead I celebrate. Finally one of the worst Satans is gone!”

Al Jazeera said there were not many Nobel Prize winners who could be described as warmongers “but the gravelly voiced, enigmatic diplomat Henry Kissinger was”.

The news channel said the contradictions of Kissinger, who died on Wednesday at home in Connecticut at age 100, were many.

“An academic who became a celebrity, Kissinger was a Jewish teenager who fled the Nazis, a self-confessed ‘secret swinger’ who dated pin-ups, a Machiavellian adviser to US presidents who changed the course of history and a workaholic who remained active beyond his last birthday,“ Al Jazeera said.

A short biography of the divisive leader says Kissinger was a geopolitical consultant and a prolific author who in 2021, at the age of 98, co-authored a book on artificial intelligence with former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and MIT computer scientist Daniel Huttenlocher.

“Henry Kissinger at the age of 90 knew nothing about the digital world, although he had a lot of opinions about it. But he has mastered the digital world and artificial intelligence with the alacrity and speed of people who are just getting into it now. That’s unique to him. It’s a gift”, Schmidt said of his co-author.

Saturday Star