Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer
If you happened to be an anti-war protester during the Vietnam War, then the following interchange between the late President Richard Nixon and his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, is telling:
[T]he President told Kissinger: “At Kent State there were 4 or 5 killed today. But that place has been bad for quite some time – it has been rather violent.” Kissinger suggested that the Nixon administration would be blamed for the killings and he noted that thirty-three university presidents were appealing to the President to leave Vietnam.
The President asked about the student strike, observing: “If it’s peaceful it doesn’t bother me.” Still, Nixon worried if the students were “out of classes they’ll be able to raise hell.” Kissinger thought they would hold teach-ins and possibly march on Washington. Nixon hoped “we can get some people of our own to speak out.”
Kissinger stated that “The university presidents are a disgrace,” to which Nixon replied: “They still get an inordinate amount of publicity, like the students. We have to stand hard as a rock. Everybody’s been through this – de Gaulle, Marcos… If countries begin to be run by children, God help us.” Kissinger suggested that “of course, student disorders hurt us politically.”
The President responded: “They don’t if it doesn’t appear we caused them.”
(Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 363, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File) (“May 4, 1970: Nixon & Kissinger’s Kent State phone call,” TheDaily Kos, May 4, 2011).
Nixon’s observation that Kent State “has been bad for quite some time—it has been rather violent,” is a complete revisionist version of the anti-war movement at Kent State. The “worst” that can be said about the events leading up to the massacre of students at Kent State is that some students threw rocks at the armed occupying force of the National Guard, most rocks falling harmlessly to the ground. Few massacres of unarmed civilians are justified because a few people threw rocks at an armed occupying force.
It’s not such a surprise to those who know the history of the period, or the obvious terror of Kent State and Jackson State, but what demands scrutiny is the fact that the architect and the advisor of many wars and covert operations is now being flaunted as a trusted and respected statesman by Hillary Clinton, who will most likely be the next president of the United States. Bernie Sanders knew enough to stay away from Kissinger like poison and he said as much during the presidential primary season. Senator Sanders:
“I happen to believe that Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country,” Sanders said at Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate, referring to Clinton citing the former secretary of state’s praise for her work in that same position.
“I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend. I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger,” he added, (“Bernie Sanders Ties Clinton To Henry Kissinger: ‘Not My Kind of Guy,’” TPM Livewire, February 11, 2016).
Kissinger comes across in the Nixon interchange like a true Machiavellian. Neither Nixon nor Kissinger gave a damn about the kids who had just been killed. Here students have been killed in cold blood and these two extraordinarily powerful men are discussing how best to handle the situation as it were some minor irritant or issue that needed to be managed into historical oblivion. It is cynicism of the democratic process at its lowest common denominator. And it’s not so much that Kissinger was out of step with the haters around him during that historical era, it’s just that he was in such an important position in government and he had the ear of the president while student unrest in the face of the Vietnam War and the U.S. incursion into Cambodia were causing the explosion of student protest across the nation. And the vast and overwhelming majority of that protest movement was peaceful no matter what the historical revisionists would like that revised history to read.
Nixon called student protesters “bums.” The governor of Ohio, James Rhodes, called them “brown shirts.” The governor of California, Ronald Reagan, called for a “bloodbath” of students who protested the war. The director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, said “the students invited (the shootings) and got what they deserved.” With hate speech like this, it is not difficult to draw a straight line between the protest of wars and the massacre of protesters.
Hillary Clinton pays homage to Kissinger, one of the architects of Nixon’s “secret” plan for peace that killed millions of people in Southeast Asia and thousands of Americans. She values Kissinger for his “belief in the indispensability of continued American leadership in service of a just and liberal order,” (“Does Hillary Clinton see that invoking Henry Kissinger harms her campaign?” The Guardian, February 13, 2016). Is Hillary Clinton delusional in her homage of Kissinger? That homage is both nauseating and a perversion of the history of the Vietnam era.
And this from the New York Times:
Mrs. Clinton’s dogged pursuit of Republican votes has especially rankled progressives, and highlights the divisions within the Democratic Party, even as they see a victory more likely. They have grumbled at her eager promotion of endorsements from veterans of the George W. Bush and Reagan administrations, including that of John D. Negroponte, a top diplomat and intelligence official under Mr. Bush. They worry aloud that Henry Kissinger, of whom Mrs. Clinton has often spoken fondly, could be next (“Hillary Clinton’s Edge in a Donald Trump-Centric Race Has Liberals Wary,” August 14, 2016).
The presidential race is not a choice between an evil and a lesser evil. It is more fully understood as a race between two proponents of the status quo, which means business as usual in the conduct of unending wars, of which Kissinger was an active proponent. His philosophy of Machiavellian Realpolitik can be seen in conflicts in Chile, East Timor, and Bangladesh during his tenure as national security advisor and secretary of state.
Who knows where Hillary Clinton’s propensity to rely on the use of force will lead the government? More war in Syria? Renewed U.S. war in Libya? Continued war in Afghanistan? Expanded war in Iraq? The possibilities are limitless and could even involve provocative action with Russia. Much profit and “glory” are to be made from war and the preparations for war, as was anticipated in the warning of Dwight Eisenhower about the immense power and danger of the military-industrial complex.