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There exists today an impulse in political media—particularly in the realm of foreign policy—to accept cruelty as an inevitability and embrace those willing to make the ‘hard choices.’ By the same token, activists and peaceniks are dismissed as naïve idealists, too ideological to grapple with the realities of the world. A cousin of this impulse dictates that those with strong opinions on a subject have not given adequate consideration to the counterpoints.

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There is no better example of this trend than in the response to the death of Henry Kissinger from the ostensibly liberal-leaning Washington Post. The Post's sprawling obituary for a man who went to his grave an unrepentant war criminal borders on hagiography.

“With his German accent, incisive wit, owlish looks and zest for socializing in Hollywood and dating movie stars, he was instantly recognized all over the world, in stark contrast to most of his understated predecessors,” it read–certainly a zany picture of man who had a hand in no less than three genocides, in Bangladesh, in Cambodia, in East Timor, and the deaths of 3 million people across multiple continents.

While the obituary did note that Kissinger faced widespread criticism in life for his famous disregard for human rights in the foreign policy arena, it failed in the most fundamental of ways by not adequately grappling with his legacy of violence and brutality. The Post did allude to the human consequences of Kissinger’s realpolitik, but framed those as mere accusations from critics–not necessarily reality.

“Critics held Dr. Kissinger responsible for the 1969 ‘secret bombing’ of neutral Cambodia and for the American ground invasion of that country the following year, which expanded the conflict in Southeast Asia and led to a takeover of the country by the murderous Khmer Rouge,” the obituary read. “They said his policy of promoting the shah of Iran as the anchor of U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf encouraged the shah to raise oil prices and fed the megalomania that led to the Iranian revolution. They accused him of conniving at the 1974 coup that overthrew the government of Cyprus, and of supporting Pakistan’s brutal campaign to quash a secessionist rebellion in what is now Bangladesh because Pakistan was his secret conduit to the Chinese.”

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The article is so dripping with reverence for the deceased and disdain for human rights advocates that at one point, it goes so far as to call human rights considerations “high-minded values," inconsistent with the realities of the day.

At the very least, those who did not admire Dr. Kissinger felt that his focus on Cold War realities and his willingness to use force — openly or covertly — to advance U.S. objectives blinded him to humanitarian and human rights considerations...
...His willingness to place strategic interest ahead of high-minded values was demonstrated in July 1975, when he persuaded Ford not to meet exiled Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn at the White House. Solzhenitsyn was a living symbol of courageous resistance to Soviet oppression, but Dr. Kissinger feared a negative impact on his policy of détente with Moscow.
He was operating, he said, “in a world where power remains the ultimate arbiter.”

Awful retrospectives are inevitable whenever one of history's villains dies as their sycophants and ideological allies seek to launder their own reputations in the face of the inevitable historical review. The Post was certainly not alone in delivering an overly sanguine obituary for a man who saw the world as a cruel place and dispensed cruelty across multiple continents as a result. For more analysis of Kissinger obituaries, check out this piece by Discourse Blog.

The Henry Kissinger Obits are Ridiculous and Rage-Inducing
Telling the truth about his evils appears impossible for these people.
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Kissinger's "realism" was anything but, and the decisions he made in its name have aged like milk in the hot summer sun. For all of his fabled brilliance, Kissinger was a shortsighted and hollow man who made the world worse with his own personal emptiness. He is a cautionary tale. Sifting through the rubble and rebuilding what he broke will be the work of generations. The saddest part of his passing is the fact that he did so without ever facing justice.

OptOut's participating outlets did a much better job covering the death of Kissinger. Check out those pieces:

"A People's Obituary of Henry Kissinger," from The Nation.

"Henry Kissinger, Top U.S. Diplomat Responsible for Millions of Deaths, Dies at 100" from The Intercept.

"Henry Kissinger Died a Better Death Than He Deserved" from In These times.

"Kissinger: The World's Most Dangerous Man" from Counterpunch.

"War Criminal Henry Kissinger, First Jewish Secretary of State, Had a Lengthy History of Antisemitism" from Religion Dispatches.

"Henry Kissinger's South Africa" from Africa is a Country.

The OptOut Media Foundation (EIN: 85-2348079) is a nonprofit charity with a mission to educate the public about current events and help sustain a diverse media ecosystem by promoting and assisting independent news outlets and, in doing so, advance democracy and social justice.

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