It’s my practice not to use this blog for “personality” posts. However, I do allow myself the latitude of occasionally bemoaning the failings in both knowledge and action of the American Congress. By the way, has anybody seen that Congressional action on legislation supporting or defining the overall military campaign against ISIS ….or an updated AUMF for the President….or perhaps any meaningful discussion of the global jihadi situation…if you have let me know, I missed it.
In this instance I am bringing up a particular individual because it appears to me that recent remarks from Senator McCain once again reflect how limited Congressional knowledge of recent history – even among senior members who lived through it – can be. As a disclaimer I’m not urging that anyone shout at or revile Mr. Kissinger in public. However I do think that it’s time that his reputation and history is considered in light of the full historical record – which shows it to be something less positive than reflected in Senator McCain’s praise.
I will also admit that before I began researching Shadow Warfare, I had only a general sense that Kissinger record might have a bit of a darker side. Having served towards the last years of the Viet Nam war I had developed some discomfort in how the Nixon phase of that conflict had been managed and that sort of bled over to Mr. Kissinger. However, once I immersed myself in the actual records and history of the Laotian involvement, of the treatment of the Hmong, of the American personnel who were sacrificed in combat as literally a tool of political maneuvers and negotiations, my attitude began to harden.
What was a total surprise to me was Kissinger role in Latin America, his support and encouragement of military dictatorships, and a tacit acceptance of the practices that led to the growth of military death squads. It was discouraging to find actual records (which you can review in documents and oral history at the National Security Archives) which document his essentially advising Generals in Argentina that they needed to get their killing done before Congress came into session and constrained American aid – something they did, and then complained about when sanctioned because they felt they were only acting in accordance with the guidance they had received.
The Kissinger story gets even worse when you find his own State Department Staff and the CIA bringing him details on individuals, including American citizens, that the Condor Generals have targeted for assassination – and Kissinger takes a pass on warning the individuals or even officially chiding the governments involved.
Beyond Latin America, his story continues in Africa, in different nations but in particular in Angola. That particular experience exposes his apparent distain for the American Congress and for Congressional involvement in international relations. One can only wonder if Senator McCain would have responded with the same praise of Kissinger if he knew how the man actually viewed the institution of Congress in that respect?
In any event, Shadow Warfare taught me a lot about Mr. Kissinger, it’s available and cites sources – if you want to verify my remarks here. However I would also urge those who have read it to offer comments on this post and to chide me if they think I’m being too subjective, or too harsh.