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Henry Kissinger Was A War Criminal, But Presidents And Celebrities Smiled With Him

Henry Kissinger, America’s most famous war criminal, died onWednesday at age 100. As secretary of state and national security adviser for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, he micromanaged, presided over or provided crucial support to deadly conflicts on three continents.

In his eight years in power, he unnecessarily prolonged the Vietnam War for five years, ordered the carpet-bombing of Cambodia and Laos, provided arms for Pakistan’s brutal war in Bangladesh, gave the green light to Argentina’s “dirty war,”endorsed General Augusto Pinochet’s deadly coup in Chile, enabled a genocide in East Timor and fueled civil wars in southern African countries.

Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet greets Kissinger.
Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet greets Kissinger.

Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet greets Kissinger.

The estimated death toll for foreign policy follies connected to Kissinger sits between 3 million and 4 million. The 350,000 to 500,000 Cambodians killed by American bombs, however, are most directly connected to him. As secretary of state, Kissinger personally approved thousands of bombing raids in the country while closely overseeing the campaign. Cambodia’s government collapsed amid the U.S.’s secret bombing, allowing the strongman Pol Pot to fill the vacuum. His short rule ended with the slaughter and starvation of 1 million more.

All those deaths came as part of Kissinger’s pursuit of a version of realpolitik that placed U.S. national interest above all other considerations― moral, ideological, political — and that made him an elder statesman, bestselling author and sought-after confidant for political figures of all partisan persuasions and nationalities over the years. 

The estimated death toll for foreign policy follies connected to Kissinger sits between 3 million and 4 million.

Kissinger was a private adviser to former President George W. Bush ― who initially offered him the role of 9/11 Commission chairman. He consulted with then-Vice President Dick Cheney on the Iraq War. He was a confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sought out his counsel and praised him during her 2016 presidential campaign. Kissinger visited the White House to advise President Barack Obama more than once. And in 2016, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter presented Kissinger with a distinguished public service award from the Defense Department.

All of the top 2016 Republican Party primary candidates, save for Donald Trump, met with Kissinger in hopes of gaining his foreign policy cred by osmosis. Trump later met with Kissinger multiple times. He remained, up to his death, a member in good standing of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Atlantic Council and the Aspen Institute. And he held a seat on the board of Theranos, the fraudulent Silicon Valley blood-testing corporation, from 2014 to 2016.

Unlike his predecessors President Joe Biden has not met with Kissinger since taking office. However, Secretary of State Antony Blinken,USAID administrator Samantha Power and CIA director Bill Burns attended Kissinger’s 100th birthday celebration in New York in 2023.

He also remained a cultural figure who dined and partied with the celebrities and socialites of Manhattan high society.

Kissinger’s history of evading any responsibility for war crimes also provided a generation of U.S. and global leaders with the knowledge that they would never face consequences for their actions in office, whether those be launching an illegal war, creating a torture regime, using drones to kill U.S. citizens, or operating concentration camps. He provided a visionary example for our 21st-century age of unaccountable power.

Below are some of the U.S. leaders and other public figures who rubbed shoulders with the now-deceased war criminal:

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President Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger during their meeting in the Oval Office on Oct. 10, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger participate in "Conversations on Diplomacy," moderated by Charlie Rose at the Department of State on April 20, 2011.

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President George W. Bush waves alongside former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger after speaking to the Economic Club of New York at the New York Hilton on March 14, 2007.

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President Richard Nixon clinks his glass with that of presidential adviser Henry Kissinger in Moscow on May 26, 1972.

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U.S. President-elect Jimmy Carter, U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and U.S. Vice President-elect Walter Mondale meet in Plains, Georgia, to discuss U.S. foreign policy on Nov. 20, 1976.

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Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger introduces Vice President Joe Biden during the 2016 World Jewish Congress Herzl Award Dinner at the Pierre Hotel on Nov. 9, 2016 in New York City.

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Henry Kissinger, Dennis Ross and Geraldo Rivera at Michael Jordan's Steakhouse on April 14, 2005, in New York City.

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Michael Bloomberg and Henry Kissinger attend Bloomberg Businessweek's 85th Anniversary Celebration at the American Museum of Natural History on Dec. 4, 2014 in New York City.

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Honoree Oprah Winfrey and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger attend the New York Public Library's Annual Library Lions Gala on Nov. 13, 2006 in New York City.

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Kirk Douglas, his wife Anne, and Henry Kissinger outside Spago in 1999.

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Henry Kissinger and Charlie Rose attend Bloomberg Businessweek's 85th Anniversary Celebration at the American Museum of Natural History on Dec. 4, 2014.

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Padma Lakshmi and Henry Kissinger attend Bloomberg Businessweek's 85th Anniversary Celebration at the American Museum of Natural History.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping meets former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at the Great Hall of the People, Nov. 8, 2018 in Beijing.

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Pope Benedict XVI greets former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger during a private meeting at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, on Sept. 28, 2006.

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Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) holds hands with Henry Kissinger on Jan. 29, 2015.

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Henry Kissinger and Brian Grazer attend TIME Magazine's 100 Most Influential People 2007 at Jazz at Lincoln Center on May 8, 2007.

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Henry Kissinger and Larry King.

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Malcolm Forbes, Elizabeth Taylor and Henry Kissinger.

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Henry Kissinger, producer Robert Evans and actress Ali MacGraw arrive at the premiere of "The Godfather" in New York, March 15, 1972.

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Donald Trump, Henry Kissinger and Melania Trump at the Four Seasons on April 10, 2007 in New York City.

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Henry Kissinger, David Miliband and Diane von Furstenberg attend the 2018 Rescue Dinner hosted by the IRC at New York Hilton Midtown on Nov. 1, 2018.

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Henry Kissinger with Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund during the 2018 Appeal of Conscience Gala at the Grand Hyatt New York on Sept. 26, 2018.

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Producer Lorne Michaels, Henry Kissinger and actress Cecily Strong attend the Hospital For Special Surgery 32nd annual tribute dinner at the Waldorf Astoria on June 1, 2015 in New York City.

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Barbara Walters and Henry Kissinger at the Museum of Television and Radio's Annual Gala at the Waldorf Astoria Grand Ballroom in New York City.

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Diana, Princess of Wales with Henry Kissinger at Christie's to launch the sale of her dresses.

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Presidential adviser Henry Kissinger shakes hands with House Minority Leader Gerald Ford (R-Mich.) after meeting with congressional leaders at the Capitol in Washington.

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President Lyndon Johnson at the White House on Dec. 5, 1968 with Henry Kissinger.

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Vice President George H.W. Bush and Henry Kissinger pose for photographers during their meeting on Nov. 5, 1985 in Washington.

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Sean Combs with Henry Kissinger and Uncle Kracker during an interview with Jay Leno on July 17, 2001.

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Henry Kissinger, David Rockefeller, Jay Rockefeller, Vishakha Desai, Charles Rockefeller and Roy Huffington attend an Asia Society dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria on Feb. 23, 2006 in New York City.

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Henry Kissinger greets German Chancellor Angela Merkel as she arrives for a conference at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin on June 21, 2017.

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Anthony Langdon, Kate Moss, Henry Kissinger and guest.