Kissinger, Israel, and Lies Too Big to Fail
In embracing the infamous Secretary of State, the establishment glamorized intentional failure and allowed everything to be justified.
Across eight months in 1971, one of the darkest chapters of the Cold War took place. Following the March victory of a Bengali nationalist group in an election held in what was then known as East Pakistan, the U.S.-backed Pakistani military regime launched a massive genocidal campaign against the Bengali people. Hundreds of thousands of Bengalis were killed. Hundreds of thousands more were raped. 10 million fled to India, and 30 million more were internally displaced. And throughout it all, the junta in Islamabad received unwavering diplomatic support (and illegal military aid) from the Nixon administration. Through a recently released recording of a June 1971 conversation between President Nixon and Henry Kissinger, his national security advisor, we can hear exactly what was on the minds of the two men as the made the decisions that led to the slaughter of millions. In the words of the President:
“Undoubtedly the most unattractive women in the world are the Indian women. Undoubtedly. The most sexless, nothing, these people. I mean, people say, what about the Black Africans? Well, you can see something, the vitality there, I mean they have a little animallike charm, but God, those Indians, ack, pathetic. Uch.”
The Bengali crisis would stretch on until December, when a military intervention by India routed the Pakistani army and forced the creation of an independent Bangladesh. And as documented by Princeton’s Dr. Gary J. Bass, this crude frat boy-level racism was a constant theme in the private remarks of the two men directing America’s foreign policy during this time. Nixon’s hatred was consistently sexual in nature. After meeting with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the November of 1971, he ranted about Indian women, repeatedly stating that they “turned [him] off” and that this made it “easy to be tough with them.” While Kissinger’s remarks weren't ever exactly this carnal, he was no less bigoted than his boss. In June of that year, he contemptuously labeled Indians “a scavenging people” because of their government’s support of the Bengali insurgents.
The reason I bring this story up isn’t to show that Kissinger was heartless or callous. Everyone knows that already. Especially his fans. They don’t deny that he was cold-hearted—they revel in it. It’s what makes him so appealing to them. Upholding Kissinger’s legacy allows them to roleplay as a classic American archetype. He may have been a bastard, but he was our bastard: the loose-cannon cop who got results, damnit. So when someone brings up all the people he killed or the countries he bombed or the democratic governments he overthrew, it doesn’t move the needle. In fact, it only makes them revere him more. The more depraved Kissinger’s actions are proven to be, the more the establishment sees him as a serious statesman who understood harsh truths. No causality lists, no matter how long, will be able to break this thinking. Given this, I think it’s best to address his legacy on their own terms.
What makes the India recordings so important is that they show Henry Kissinger for what he truly was. He was a fool. He was an incurious hack, a cretin who decided U.S. policy on a genocide based on how fuckable his boss thought the targeted women were. His actions were not only immoral and criminal, but they were stupid and self-serving. They not only failed at the narrow task of actually furthering American interests, but they never even tried.
This is the part of Kissinger’s legacy that has truly been forgotten, even by many of his critics. Many of those who excoriate him still buy into the myth of him as a mastermind—evil, yes, but an evil genius. One person can call him a pragmatic statesman and another may call him a literal demon from Hell, but at the end of the day, they’ll both agree that he got things done for someone out there. It’s important not to buy into this story. For the many in the world, particularly in the establishment, who proudly care about ends more than means, it provides them permission to continue to seek military solutions to political problems.
Call it the “Kissinger myth”: the idea that, because “great statesmen” like him were terrified to give any solutions other than violence, there must be no answers to any problem besides just that. Those who accept this myth, even critically, concede from the very beginning that only brutality alone is capable of accomplishing things. And they shouldn’t accept it, because this myth is a scam. It has led to countless catastrophes around the world, and it keeps them from ever being recognized for what they were.
Right now, the Kissinger myth is currently reaching its culmination as a fig leaf for the actions of a fascist Israeli government in Gaza. But while this may be the most pressing manifestation of this myth in the world right now, if you want to fully understand it, you can’t start there. Instead, you need to go back to the very beginning, half a century ago, when the world first chose to lie to itself about Kissinger’s catastrophic selfishness and idiocy.