Days before the 100th birthday of Henry Kissinger, the National Security Archive published declassified documents to contextualize his foreign policy approach. Kissinger supported coups all over the world and collaborated with right-wing militias. In Chile, he led efforts to help destabilize the Salvador Allende government and assured Augusto Pinochet of Washington’s support.
On the eve of Henry Kissinger’s 100th birthday, the George Washington University’s National Security Archive published a synthesis of his legacy, including actions to foment and consolidate a dictatorship in Chile.
Kissinger served as US Secretary of State from 1973 to 1977 and national security adviser before that.
While he is revered by policy-makers around the world, others call him a war criminal due to his open or tacit support for coup d’états in Latin America, genocide in Indonesia, sabotaging talks to end the Vietnam war, his role in a bombing campaign that destroyed Cambodia, and others.
Kissinger oversaw covert operation FUBELT, which led to the killing of General René Schneider and involved infrastructure sabotage by right-wing militias to help destabilize the Salvador Allende administration. As part of these efforts, publications like El Mercurio also received funds to survive competition and to distribute propaganda.
Previously declassified documents show that President Richard Nixon and CIA director Richard Helms hatched the plan. They and Kissinger were concerned about US investments, with Kissinger also subscribing to the Domino Theory, which holds that if one state falls into the sphere of influence of a rival superpower, other states will follow. The superpower at the losing end of this development would lose clients and crumble.
Although reality has shown that international relations do not work this way – nor did Soviet foreign policy – the theory was popular among US policymakers during the Cold War because it could be used to facilitate Washington’s expansionism.
After the military junta took power in Chile, Kissinger told his staff that “I think we should understand our policy – that however unpleasant they act, this government is better for us than Allende was.”
Documents also show that during meetings, Kissinger and Nixon made light of Allende’s death.
In 1976, Kissinger went to Santiago to talk about human rights at an Organization of the American States meeting.
Despite being advised by his aides to confront Pinochet on human rights violations, Kissinger did the opposite. “My evaluation is that you are a victim of all left-wing groups around the world and that your greatest sin was that you overthrew a government which was going communist,” Kissinger told Pinochet during a private meeting, according to a declassified document. “We want to help, not undermine you. You did a great service to the West in overthrowing Allende.”
Chongyang Zhang is pursuing an Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s program in journalism, media and globalisation. His interest lies in the relations among the United States, Latin America and China. He is currently doing an exchange semester at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.