Greg Grandin in The Nation takes a look at Hillary Clinton’s admiration for, of all people, Henry Kissinger.

Last night in the New Hampshire debate, Clinton thought to close her argument that she is the true progressive with this: “I was very flattered when Henry Kissinger said I ran the State Department better than anybody had run it in a long time.”

Henry Kissinger.

Let’s consider some of Kissinger’s achievements during his tenure as Richard Nixon’s top foreign policy maker. He (1) prolonged the Vietnam War for five pointless years, (2) illegally bombed Cambodia and Laos, (3) goaded Nixon to wiretap staffers and journalists, (4) bore responsibility for three genocides in Cambodia, East Timor, and Bangladesh, (5) urged Nixon to go after Daniel Ellsberg for having released the Pentagon Papers, which set off a chain of events that brought down the Nixon White House, (6) pumped up Pakistan’s ISI, and encouraged it to use political Islam to destabilize Afghanistan, (7) began the US’s arms-for-petrodollars dependency with Saudi Arabia and pre-revolutionary Iran, (8) accelerated needless civil wars in southern Africa that, in the name of supporting white supremacy, left millions dead, (9) supported coups and death squads throughout Latin America, and (10) ingratiated himself with the first-generation neocons, such as Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, who would take American militarism to its next calamitous level. Read all about it in Kissinger’s Shadow!

A full tally hasn’t been done, but a back-of-the-envelope count would attribute three, maybe four million deaths to Kissinger’s actions, but that number probably undercounts his victims in southern Africa. Pull but one string from the current tangle of today’s multiple foreign policy crises, and odds are it will lead back to something Kissinger did between 1968 and 1977. Over-reliance on Saudi oil? That’s Kissinger. Blowback from the instrumental use of radical Islam to destabilize Soviet allies? Again, Kissinger. An unstable arms race in the Middle East? Check, Kissinger. Sunni-Shia rivalry? Yup, Kissinger. The impasse in Israel-Palestine? Kissinger. Radicalization of Iran?  “An act of folly” was how veteran diplomat George Ball described Kissinger’s relationship to the Shah. Militarization of the Persian Gulf? Kissinger, Kissinger, Kissinger.

Yet Hillary Clinton values his praise.

It goes back to the Clinton presidency, Grandin says, the free trade-banker-loving Clinton presidency.

As First Lady, Hillary Clinton spent the early months of her husband’s administration drafting healthcare reform legislation, only to see it put on the back burner by the North American Free Trade Agreement. Kissinger, in his role as a global consultant, had played a critical role in bringing the various parties who would write that trade treaty together during the previous George HW Bush administration. Kissinger continued his NAFTA advocacy with Bill Clinton. As Jeff Faux writes in his excellent The Global Class War, Kissinger was “the perfect tutor” for Clinton, who was “trying to convince Republicans and their business allies that they could count on him to champion Reagan’s vision.”

By September 1993, Hillary’s healthcare bill was ready to be presented to the public and to congress. But so was NAFTA. All of Kissinger’s allies in the White House, including Mack McLarty, who would soon join Kissinger Associates, pushed Clinton to prioritize NAFTA over health care. Clinton did. It was Kissinger who came up with the idea of having past presidents stand behind Clinton as he signed the treaty.

Health care didn’t get that kind of push. It died. We got free trade, and banker-friendly policies, and Bernie Madoff, and the crash.

Clintonism is largely an extension of Kissingerism, so Clinton’s cozy relationship to Kissinger shouldn’t come as a surprise. Both Clintons have excelled at exactly the kind of fudging of their public-private roles that Kissinger perfected. Kissinger, the private consultant, profited from the catastrophes he created as a public figure. Beyond his role in brokering NAFTA, in Latin America his consulting firm, Kissinger and Associates, was a key player in the orgy of privatization that took place during Clinton’s presidency, enriching itself on the massive sell-off of public utilities and industries, a sell-off that, in many countries, was initiated by Kissinger-supported dictators and military regimes. The Clintons, too, both as private philanthropists and private investors, are neck deep in corruption in Latin America (especially in Colombia and Haiti)–corruption made worse, à laKissinger, by the policies they put into place as public figures, including the free trade treaties and policies that Hillary helped push through, first as Senator and then Secretary of State.

It all worked out very well for them. Not for most of the population, but for them.

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