Henry Kissinger, a former US secretary of state and a powerful force in shaping global politics after World War II, has died at age 100. Kissinger Associates, a consulting firm founded by Kissinger, released a statement on Wednesday night confirming his death at his home in Connecticut.
Throughout his career, Kissinger was known for his unapologetic support of American power and influence on the world stage.
It said that Kissinger’s family would hold a private funeral, with a memorial service to take place later in New York, where Kissinger grew up after his Jewish family fled Nazi Germany.
The statement did not provide a cause of death. Kissinger had remained active even as a centenarian, traveling to China in July to meet President Xi Jinping.
China was one of Kissinger’s most lasting legacies. Hoping to shake up the Cold War fight against the Soviet Union, Kissinger secretly reached out to Beijing, culminating in a historic 1972 visit by President Richard Nixon and later the US establishment of relations with the then-isolated country, which has soared into the world’s second-largest economy and growing competitor with Washington.
After the Watergate scandal brought down Nixon, Kissinger served under his successor, Gerald Ford. In an unprecedented arrangement, Kissinger served both as secretary of state and national security advisor.
Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in negotiating the end of the Vietnam War, but the conflict lingered. His North Vietnamese counterpart, Le Duc Tho, rejected the award, tainting the celebration of peace.
Despite being widely reviled in many parts of the world, Henry Kissinger remained a respected figure in the US political sphere, with even his political rivals, like Secretary of State Antony Blinken, attending his 100th birthday party in New York.
“America has lost one of the most dependable and distinctive voices on foreign affairs with the passing of Henry Kissinger,” former president George W. Bush said in a statement.
While Kissinger’s intellectual gifts were begrudgingly acknowledged even by his critics, he remains deeply controversial for his ruthless philosophy of realpolitik — the cold calculation that nations pursue their interests through power.
Declassified documents showed that Kissinger gave his blessing to the undermining of Chile’s elected Marxist president Salvador Allende and later the 1973 coup by General Augusto Pinochet.
Kissinger's policy of supporting Indonesia, a close ally against communism, led to a humanitarian disaster when Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975.
Over 100,000 East Timorese died between the invasion, which took place one day after Kissinger met with Indonesian leader Suharto, and the end of the occupation in 1999. In addition, Kissinger turned a blind eye to Pakistan's atrocities during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, prioritizing the relationship with Pakistan as a go-between with China.
To strengthen their negotiating position, Nixon and Kissinger secretly authorized a bombing campaign in Laos and Cambodia from 1969 to 1970. However, the campaign failed to halt rebel infiltration, killed thousands of civilians, and helped spawn the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. In addition, they showed little concern when a military junta in Greece deposed the elected leader of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios, and Turkey invaded the island in 1974, dividing it to this day.
Despite his role in international incidents, Kissinger has never faced legal repercussions, as demonstrated by a US judge's decision in 2004 to throw out a case related to the assassination of Chile's army chief. Kissinger gained praise for his diplomatic role in the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, establishing the US as the key mediator and security guarantor in the Middle East.
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