Why the Kissinger Connection Matters

“Once you’ve been to 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. 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 Milošević.”
Anthony Bourdain, A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines

While Armchair Firebrand does not condone, endorse or encourage acts of violence, this publication certainly understands the sentiment Mr. Bourdain expressed in the quote above.

For me, the moment of truth on Hillary Clinton was when Sen. Bernie Sanders called her out for praising Henry Kissinger as her mentor during one of the primary debates.

At the time, my first thought was that Sen. Sanders overstepped because no Democrat Secretary of State would ever overtly state such a close relationship with a well-documented war criminal. Instead, Clinton replied by saying something to the effect of, “Yes, I take advice from him and I am proud to call him my friend.” My jaw hit the floor. It was like a spell had been broken.

For the first time, I actually started researching Clinton’s history, and was disgusted by what I found. Her record is disturbingly Nixonian, right down to the dirty tricks, militarism, and power-driven paranoia.

Given Ms. Clinton’s neoconservative foreign policy positions, it makes sense that G.W. Bush’s foreign policy team is lining up right behind her. That fact should give any responsible citizen pause.

Some Kissinger defenders seem to imply that the ends justified his destructive means. That argument makes me curious about what we actually gained from roughly 60,000 American deaths, over a million Vietnamese deaths, roughly a million Laotian deaths, and roughly 700,000 Cambodian deaths.

Did those deaths make the world any safer? Were our vital national interests ever really at stake in Indochina? In Iraq? In Afghanistan? In Libya? In Syria? Or do these disasters primarily serve the needs of well-connected energy conglomerates and defense contractors.

Kissinger’s illegal excursion into Cambodia led to the rise of Pol Pot, and the ensuing genocide that destabilized the region for decades. And then there’s Chile, East Timor, and Operation Condor to consider.

Kissinger’s well-documented actions go far beyond those of a usual Secretary of State. Christopher Hitchens, hardly a pacifist himself, makes a compelling case for Kissinger’s indictment as a war criminal.

It’s no wonder Mr. Bourdain feels the level of animosity towards Kissinger demonstrated in the quote above. The fact that Kissenger’s favorite disciple is already sounding the drums of war should alarm all Americans.

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Biden Strikes Back

Yesterday, after suffering years of media portrayal as a gaffe-prone gaffe-machine and incessant lampooning by humor magazine The Onion (to hilarious effect), Vice President Joe Biden finally struck back.

This Sunday’s political talk show circuit revolved around the debate between Biden and his predecessor Dick Cheney. Their discussion spanned three networks, focusing mostly on the Iraq War and national security policy.

The current and former Vice Presidents squared off in separate segments on NBC’s Meet the Press and ABC This Week, respectively. Then Biden delivered his decisive rebuttal, live on CBS’s Face the Nation.

After almost seven years, the War in Iraq has cost over 4,000 American troops and nearly 100,000 Iraqi civilians their lives, not to mention the countless others scarred for life or the trillions of dollars squandered.

Despite those grim facts, Cheney still refuses to admit that invading and occupying a sovereign nation-state under false pretenses constituted poor judgment on the Bush administration’s part. On the contrary, he actually demanded a “thank you” from his successor.

As he often does, the former Vice President also cited the 2007 troop surge as an example of his administration’s “success” in Iraq. However, this is a half-truth at best.

While the surge was an integral part of our Iraq War policy, it was the Sunni Awakening movement in Al-Anbar province that turned the tide in our favor.

If anyone should get credit for this reversal of fortune, it’s General David Petreus, former Commanding General in Iraq, current chief of U.S. Central Command and architect of our military’s counter-insurgency strategy. He’s the one who deserves a “thank you,” not Bush or Cheney.

On the national security front, Cheney hammered the Obama Administration for prosecuting Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the alleged Christmas Day bomber, as a criminal terrorist instead of an enemy combatant.

This designation ensures that his case will be heard in civilian court rather than before a military tribunal. According to the former Vice President, trying suspects in this fashion will make America “less safe.”

Biden responded by exposing the obvious hypocrisy in Cheney’s accusation, pointing out that Abdulmutallab has been treated exactly the same way that convicted shoe bomber Richard Reid was back in 2001.

Then Biden went on the offensive, challenging the Bush administration’s dismal record of trying terror suspects in military court. Of the three defendants who were eventually brought before these tribunals, he noted, two went free and are currently “walking the streets.”

Meanwhile, over three hundred convicted terrorists are currently locked up in American prisons, having been found guilty in federal court during the Bush years. By comparing these results, the more effective strategy becomes obvious.

“He’s not entitled to rewrite history. He’s not entitled to his own facts,” Biden said of Cheney before declaring him to be “factually, substantively, wrong on the major criticisms he is asserting.”

As to what his predecessor’s motivations might be for obscuring the truth, Biden correctly concluded that, “He is either misinformed or misinforming.”

It’s refreshing to see a Democrat, especially one as high-profile as the Vice President, finally come out swinging in the fight against Republican propaganda. In doing so, Joe Biden also struck a forceful blow against those who seek to characterize him as bumbling and incompetent. Above all, he bolstered my belief that our current administration will soon make good on its promise of change.