Depending on who you ask, Henry Kissinger will be remembered as a Nobel Peace Prize winner and peace maker. Others consider him a war criminal responsible for the deaths of countless Cambodians.
The former Secretary of State and National Security Adviser under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford died Wednesday at the age of 100.
The Committee of 100 credits Kissinger with inspiring the group of 100 prominent Chinese Americans to form to encourage better U.S. China relations. He urged famed architect I.M. Pei to organize C100 to address issues of mutual concern to both countries.
“In addition to his work as a pioneer in US-China relations at large, Dr. Kissinger served as an instrumental figure in shaping the history of our organization,” said Gary Locke, Committee of 100 Chair, former U.S. Ambassador to China, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce, and former Governor for the State of Washington. “Today, we here at Committee of 100 reap the benefits of this storied friendship with one of the great statesmen of our time. We will continue to honor his legacy, and his presence in our lives will be truly missed.”
Others, however, say the decisions Kissinger made led to the deaths of as many as 3 million people throughout Southeast Asia as well as Southern Africa and Latin Ameria, said his biographer Greg Grandin, according to The Intercept. Hundreds of thousands of those deaths occurred in Cambodia, The Conversation reported. He is blamed for authorizing the secret four-year bombing of Cambodia even though it considered itself neutral and not at war with the U.S, reports the HuffPost.
“Few people have had a hand in as much death and destruction, as much human suffering, in so many places around the world as Henry Kissinger,” said veteran war crimes prosecutor Reed Brody.
Kissinger also oversaw the illegal arm sales to Pakistan as it cracked down on its Bengali population in 1971.
Despite the heavy criticism, Kissinger remained in high regard among the Washington elite and was awarded the Pentagon’s highest honor by the Obama administration, the Distinguished Public Service Award.
He is also credited with opening the door to relations with China and engaging in diplomacy with the Soviet Union.
He was born Heinz Alfred Kissinger in Bavaria in 1923. He and his family immigrated to the United States to escape the mass killing by the Nazis of German Jews. He would later serve as a U.S. intelligence officer and helped to hunt down members of the Nazi secret police force-earning him a Bronze Star.
Kissinger’s bombing raid of Cambodia destabilized the government and some say made possible the rise of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot. The Khmer Rouge is blamed for the deaths of up to 3 million of its own people.
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