The former US diplomat’s actions caused, among others, 150,000 Cambodian civilians to die, an outlet investigation has claimed.
Henry Kissinger, the foreign policy eminence grise who has advised half a dozen US presidents, has caused the deaths of over 3 million people, according to an Intercept report published Tuesday to mark the realpolitik strategist’s 100th birthday.
While critics of the Nixon-era secretary of state and national security adviser often describe him as a war criminal for his pivotal role in numerous US-backed genocides and coups, the report argues Kissinger’s body count has been widely underestimated, particularly regarding the secretive, highly illegal expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia in the 1970s.
Between the genocides he sponsored in East Timor and Bangladesh, continent-wide terrorism, coups and death squads in Latin America (known as Operation Condor), the fomenting of civil wars in Southern Africa, and the carpet-bombing of Cambodia and Laos under the guise of chasing the Vietnamese, Kissinger is believed to be responsible for over 3 million civilian deaths – more if one counts the casualties that have resulted from advice he gave the private sector.
Kissinger has ‘only’ acknowledged that his actions caused the deaths of 50,000 Cambodians and blames the Vietnamese, the supposed targets of the US bombing campaign (the coordinates of which were logged incorrectly so as to be recorded as legal strikes within Vietnam).
Intercept reporter Nick Truse argues the number is closer to 150,000, pointing to numerous documented examples of egregious and deliberate undercounting of civilian casualties. The figure represents over six times more civilians than the US has killed in airstrikes since 9/11.
Transcripts from the Intercept’s “exclusive archive” of declassified US military documents from a secret Pentagon war crimes task force reveal it was Kissinger’s decision to relay then-president Richard Nixon’s often drunk, belligerent trash talk about Cambodia into coherent instructions to the Pentagon to begin a “massive bombing campaign” in the country in 1970.
Kissinger’s now-infamous directive to shoot “anything that flies on anything that moves” exploded the secret war, tripling the number of bombings by the end of the year. He allegedly approved all 3,875 individual bombings of the war, and the bombers dropped over 257,000 tonnes of explosives on Cambodia in 1973 alone.
The Intercept’s archive also revealed numerous brutal ground raids on Cambodian villages that have since been all but memory-holed; Truse confirmed via interviews with survivors that the raids were far deadlier than reported. While the airstrikes were frequently hushed up as “pilot error” – “errors” that were nevertheless repeated thousands of times – the US Army, in an internal investigation, actually blamed its press corps when ground troops were caught looting a village they had just raided.
Kissinger’s carpet-bombing of Cambodia paved the way for the Khmer Rouge, the genocidal dictatorship that killed 2 million Cambodians – 20% of the country’s population – which he privately (and approvingly) referred to as “murderous thugs” while helping them secure regional allies.
Kissinger has never been prosecuted – or even officially charged – with war crimes, nor has the US military made any systemic efforts to hold accountable the troops who actually did the killing.