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Thursday, 28 November, 2002, 00:25 GMT
Profile: Henry Kissinger
Henry Kissinger

Henry Kissinger was a master tactician who pioneered detente during the Cold War but his name is also linked to some of the darkest episodes in modern US foreign policy.
Henry Kissinger once said that "90% of politicians give the other 10% a bad reputation".

Throughout his career, the German Jewish emigré who came to dominate US foreign policy under President Richard Nixon has bitterly divided opinion over which of these two categories he belongs to.

Now Mr Kissinger, 79, will lead an independent inquiry into the US intelligence failure over the 11 September attacks - and he has pledged to get hold of "all the facts".

Key role

According to President George Bush, Mr Kissinger is "one of our nation's most accomplished and respected public servants".

Kissinger with Nixon
He had a hold over President Nixon

Supporters point to Mr Kissinger's key role in US foreign policy under Presidents Nixon and Gerald Ford at the height of the Cold War.

He was the man who brokered detente with the Soviet Union.

He paved the way for Nixon's landmark visit to Chairman Mao's China.

And he negated the Communist threat in America's backyard, most notably in Chile.

With his famous "shuttle diplomacy" after the 1973 Yom Kippur war in the Middle East, he brokered the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

And he negotiated an end to the Vietnam War, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 jointly with Vietnamese negotiator Le Duc Tho.

Secret channels

Secrecy was a key feature of Mr Kissinger's style.

American B52 bomber over Cambodia
Kissinger sanctioned the bombing of Cambodia

His negotiations with Communist China took place behind the back of the then US ambassador to the UN - George Bush senior.

Mr Kissinger's fiercest critics go as far as accusing him of war crimes - pointing to the controversial carpet bombing of neutral Cambodia during the Vietnam War.

The bombing was designed to deprive North Vietnam of troops and supplies, but it is widely held to have sowed the seeds for the murderous Pol Pot regime.

In a 1983 biography - Kissinger, The Price Of Power - the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Seymour Hersh argued that the bombing also jeopardised America's atomic security.

'War criminal'

The British writer Christopher Hitchens, in his book The Trial Of Henry Kissinger, argues that Mr Kissinger is a war criminal who connived with brutal regimes allied to the US - most notably Pakistan, Greece and Indonesia - to embark on savage acts of repression.

Kissinger as US Secretary of State
He became a foreign policy guru during the Nixon years

Charges relating to Latin America have returned to haunt Henry Kissinger.

The CIA's involvement in the 1973 coup which toppled the elected Chilean leader Salvador Allende and brought General Augusto Pinochet to power is well documented.

"I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its people," Mr Kissinger once famously uttered.

Rise to power

Born Heinz Alfred Kissinger in Fuerth, Germany in 1923, he fled from Nazi Germany to the United States with his family in 1938.

He began his working life in a shaving brush factory in New York.

But after World War II he won a scholarship to Harvard University and went on to earn a master's degree and doctorate.

He served as a consultant to the National Security Council and State Department under presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

Nixon appointed him national security adviser in 1969 to try to achieve peace with honour in Vietnam, where half a million US troops were embroiled in a vicious war.

It was testament to Mr Kissinger's mastery of political in-fighting and his increasing hold over the president that, in all but the final year of the Nixon presidency, he ran foreign policy over the head of the Secretary of State, William Rogers.

And he was the man who kept American foreign policy on the rails after the Watergate scandal and maintained its momentum under President Ford.

Watergate - which brought down Nixon - barely touched Henry Kissinger.

In 1985-1990 he served on then President Ronald Reagan's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.

His wisdom is still sought after. His punditry on the current state of American foreign policy is aired by TV networks everywhere, and he is a regular on the highly lucrative lecture circuit.


A Spanish judge investigating crimes committed under the Pinochet regime - Baltazar Garzon - has been trying to question Mr Kissinger about the deaths of Spanish nationals in Chile during the 1970s.

Mr Kissinger has admitted that mistakes were "quite possibly" made by the administrations in which he served. But he has questioned whether, 30 years after the event, "courts are the appropriate means by which determination is made".

If it ever came to a trial, the prosecution would be hampered by Mr Kissinger's obsession with secrecy.

Not only did he execute much of his foreign policy by the back door, but when he left office in 1977, he deposited most of his personal papers in the US Library of Congress. They will remain sealed until five years after his death.

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