WASHINGTON – Henry Kissinger, the man who served as America's top diplomat under the Nixon and Ford administrations and who played a prominent role in US statecraft for much of his life, died Wednesday at the age of 100.
Kissinger, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany who was widely regarded as the US' most influential secretary of state, was credited with brokering the US opening with China capstoned by President Richard Nixon's landmark visit to Beijing in 1972, as well as beginning the policy of detente with the Soviet Union, which eased relations between the nuclear-armed Cold War rivals.
In addition to serving as secretary of state from 1973-1977 under Nixon and President Gerald Ford, he was also national security advisor from 1969-1975.
But Kissinger's legacy was far from pristine. His role in the US bombing of Cambodia and the 1970 invasion alongside the South Vietnamese in particular earned him widespread condemnation at home and around the globe.
The bombing campaign and invasion were aimed at breaking North Vietnamese supply lines, entailing a massive bombing campaign in which over 2.7 million tons of bombs are estimated to have been dropped on the Southeast Asian country, according to the United States Holocaust Museum.
In addition to causing widespread death among civilians and combatants, many of the bombs dropped on Cambodia were cluster munitions that continued to kill and maim civilians for decades after the war ended.
Celebrity chef and world traveler Anthony Bourdain reflected on Kissinger's legacy in Cambodia in his 2001 book A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines, saying that once anyone visits Cambodia, "you'll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands."
"You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking," he wrote.
"Witness what Henry did in Cambodia -- the fruits of his genius for statesmanship-- and you will never understand why he's not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Milosevic," he added, referring to Slobodan Milosevic, the president of the former Yugoslavia who died of a heart attack while being prosecuted for war crimes.
Reflecting on his writing 17 years later, Bourdain said on Twitter, now known as X: "Frequently, I’ve come to regret things I’ve said. This, from 2001, is not one of those times."
Kissinger's death was confirmed by his personal website.
His detractors also took issue with Kissinger's embrace of repressive governments in Latin America in bids intended to quash leftist forces during the Cold War. That included support for Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet after a socialist candidate won nationwide polls and support for coup forces in Argentina in the 1970s.
State death squads and disappearances aimed at eliminating dissidents came to define the post-coup period, known in Spanish as the Guerra Sucia, or the Dirty War, in Argentina. (Anadolu)