Poor old Henry
Poor old Henry Kissinger. He just has had his 100th birthday and howls persist that it’s not too late to punish him, perhaps The Hague and jail, for political and war-mongering misdeeds, along with Tony Blair, George W. Bush and their kind over Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria and the rest of all the bad stuff in recent times.
The once foremost diplomat and negotiator lately has opined on the state of the world, Ukraine and China’s belligerent manoeuvres to get Taiwan back.
We quite liked the man when he shuttled down here to broker peace after the Americans’ messy departure from Vietnam. Charming and personable but hard-hearted in protecting US interests that had caused so much carnage all over the planet, we thought.
His trouble here was Africa, period. He didn’t get it at all. We were a different nest of crocodiles to what he was used to. Put cards on the table, shuffle them around and await results.
In their own words in this redacted document, you ‘push so many chips into the pot’ to get an outcome. Too clever by half, we thought.
Nada, nada. It didn’t work. Smith and Vorster were far too recalcitrant, as were the other side. After being burnt so badly in Vietnam Kissinger had left his big cheque book safely locked away in a cupboard of skeletons somewhere in Washington.
It was 1976 and he brought satellite photos of the terrain we were fighting over. Every gully, every ravine, every settlement, every mountain, every forest, every bush for a fighter’s concealment that was now flourishing after seasonal rains. Why, you could even see the medals on a general’s chest from space. How f*****g amazing was that that, exclaimed the Americans.
Sounded like bulldust to us photographers and hacks, members of the so-called Fourth Estate, who traipsed around following Henry’s every African move.
His secret service men brought their own water and food in C 130 freight planes because they didn’t want to get the shits from African graze.
Two Washington–registered Lincoln Continental limousines were leapfrogged by the said C 130s between the Secretary of State’s last and next destination.
Pretoria, Lusaka and, on the way home empty handed, to Kinshasa to see Mobutu Sese Seko and salvage something from the trip. Mobutu was a CIA stooge who had more money in foreign banks than his country’s entire national debt.
In the Congo, known as Zaire, Henry’s entourage told us the possibly apocryphal story of The Rumble in the Jungle, the heavyweight fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, staged in Kinshasa two years earlier. Ali gazed, it was said, from his luxury hotel suite at the open sewers and the shanty hovels of Kinshasa below and shrugged: ” I’m sure glad my granddaddy caught that goddamned slave boat.”
Visiting ‘Frontline States’ ranged against their white-ruled neighbours, Kissinger met presidents and the guerrilla leaders they hosted. Botswana’s President Sir Seretse Khama had had heart pacemaker surgery in South Africa. The pacemaker was probably bugged and Vorster’s people could be listening to “the whole f*****g pow-wow,” the Americans jived.
Apartheid lasted another 20 years. Mediation in the Middle East had its ups and downs that endure today. American foreign policy vouchsafed by Kissinger led to much bloodshed and tears other than in Vietnam and Cambodia – from Indonesia’s US-backed invasion of East Timor to US-fueled civil wars in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Foul-mouthed Richard Nixon, his boss, famously dismissed the idea of being nice to people in Latin America to win over their hearts and minds.
“Get ‘em by the balls and their hearts and minds will follow,” as Nixon put it.
After Watergate forced Nixon to resign, Kissinger had to wise up novice president-by-default Gerald Ford and reminded him of the importance of America’s global influence, quoting FDR on the Nicaraguan dictator Spinoza whom he liked but didn’t like.
“He may be a son of a bitch but at least he’s our son of a bitch.”
My Kissinger photo album:
Ian Smith arriving at South African prime minister John Vorster’s place to meet Henry K and last but not least, Henry K. admiring Dolly Parton.
About then, rememember, there was a Country and Western song by Maclean and MacLean doing the rounds that goes something like this …
I’d like to see the coyote eat a road runner, I’d like to see Evil Kneival blown to bits, but most of all I’d Iike to see Dolly Parton’s tits. Soft and round, they don’t make a sound. With my hands in my pockets, just thinkin’ of Dolly’s rockets.