Friday, December 01, 2023

ING: Consumer not ready to change what they eat to help the environment

By ING December 1, 2023

By wasting less food and eating less meat and dairy, consumers can help to slow down climate change. However, consumers in the EU have barely changed their diets. Emission reduction targets give food companies a reason to encourage consumers to change, but without regulation, the economic incentive to move to a more climate-friendly diet remains weak.

Why changing the way we eat can be a big win for the climate.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the food system is responsible for 21% to 37% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, we all need to eat. But changing the way food is produced and what food is consumed can reduce the negative impact on the climate. Action is clearly needed and at COP28 this year, this subject will be addressed for the first time, with discussions centred on the changes needed to limit the rise in global temperatures to between 1.5 and 2 degrees.

While European consumers are increasingly aware of sustainability issues connected to food, changing actual behaviour remains challenging. That’s why in this article we take a look at how food manufacturers and retailers can influence consumers and what incentives they have to do so.

Consumers and scientists not aligned on most effective ways to make diets more sustainable.

European consumers can do many things to make their diets more sustainable. When we asked about the best approach, German consumers said that ‘eating more local products’ was the most effective route followed by reducing food waste. Dutch and Belgian consumers consider reducing food waste to be the most effective measure. The importance of reducing food waste is also aligned with the view of experts (see for example UN, IPCC). However, consumers tend to give less weight to reducing their consumption of meat and dairy. This is a surprising result since shifting towards a more plant-rich and less animal-rich diet is often considered by scientists and public institutions to be the most effective way for Europeans to reduce the climate impact of their diet.

Meat and dairy consumption largely unchanged.

Meat and dairy are a cornerstone of European diets, providing the majority of our protein and a range of other nutrients. But animal products like beef also account for a disproportionately large share of all food-related greenhouse gas emissions. Meat and dairy companies are very aware of this and are increasingly adopting net zero targets for their own operations and their supply chains in 2050. Yet for the time being, lowering consumption can be another route for consumers to reduce the climate impact of their diet, which also carries health benefits. While there is a certain level of willingness among consumers to reduce meat intake, actual meat consumption per capita in the EU has been fairly stable since the 1990s.

Less beef and pork, more poultry.

Still, there are changes in the type of meat that Europeans eat. Beef and pork consumption in the EU has dropped by 2.5% (beef) and -10% (pork) per capita in the past decade. Poultry consumption is growing (+16.5%) and poultry has a much lower environmental footprint compared to other types of meat. Because of this composition effect, the carbon footprint of a single European person's meat consumption is about 3% lower compared to 10 years ago. Nonetheless, total livestock-related emissions in the EU have been flat since 2010 because improvements in terms of carbon intensity per kilogram have been offset by increases in total production.

Meat consumption in Germany drops.

Meat consumption data for several countries shows only slight changes during the last decade. The downward trend in Germany since 2018 stands out. This might be explained by a combination of factors such as sustainability considerations, health reasons, inflation, improved availability of alternatives, negative media coverage and demographic changes (meat consumption per capita is generally lower among the elderly and people with a non-western background). However, these factors are not unique to Germany and we should point out that meat remains very popular, including in Germany.


Less milk but more cheese.

EU dairy consumption per capita has gone up during the last decade but seems to have stabilised more recently. Again there are shifts within the category. Consumption of liquid milk has dropped quite significantly in volume terms, for example by 8% in Germany and 12% in the Netherlands over the past 10 years. But at the same time, consumers have started to eat more dairy products, including cheese, which is supportive for milk demand since it requires about eight litres of milk to produce a kilogram of cheese.

For consumers, milk has proven to be one of the easiest animal products to substitute. There are more and more suitable alternatives available and the price gap between milk and plant-based alternatives has become smaller. However, for cheese, which is the favourite animal product for many, substitution has proven to be much harder.


Food waste decreasing, but further declines needed.

Reducing food waste provides another big opportunity to lower the environmental impact of food production and consumption. It’s estimated that almost 60 million tonnes of food waste is generated annually in the EU, with over half occurring within households. Trend data is scarce, but food waste data for Spain and the Netherlands hint at a declining trend. The extraordinary increase in food prices might give households a stronger financial incentive to reduce food waste, but in general, moral considerations (“waste is wrong”) mainly influence our behaviour. Since the EU Commission has proposed that member states should reduce household food waste by 30% in 2030 compared to 2020, it's very likely that additional actions, such as awareness campaigns and tools that enable consumers to change their routines, will be taken. For food companies, a reduction in household food waste aligns with the UN’s sustainable development goals and could help them lower some of their scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions.


Sales of food products with sustainable logos are booming,  Across Europe, the market for food and drink products with sustainable certification is booming. In the Netherlands for example, sales of certified food products have more than doubled in the past five years. They also increased by 50% in the UK between 2016 and 2021. Such certification generally signals that more attention is paid to the environment, labour conditions or animal welfare during production. So it’s not a given that certified products also have a smaller carbon footprint than products without a logo. Certified products are present in every food category, but German, Dutch and Belgian consumers in our survey mainly expressed a higher willingness to pay more for sustainable meat, fruit and vegetables.

But many consumers are not willing to pay a premium.

The sales growth of certified food products indicates that food manufacturers and retailers are succeeding in steering part of consumer spending towards more sustainable products. It is important to note that certified products are not on everyone’s shopping list. For many people, sustainable food needs to be affordable in the first place. Almost one third of all German and half of all Dutch and Belgian consumers in our survey said they were not willing to pay more for sustainable food products in any category. This can be either because they can’t afford to pay extra, don’t trust these claims or don’t see the benefits.


Many consumers tend not to trust sustainability claims on food products.

The increase of (inter)national sustainability-related labels and claims on food products has also attracted criticism. A study from the EU Commission found that 40% of claims on all products, including food, were entirely unsubstantiated. The EU Commission is working on stricter regulation which helps consumers to separate the wheat from the chaff. Our research shows that currently about one in five Spanish and Polish consumers don't trust sustainability claims on food while consumers in Germany and the Netherlands are even more sceptical.


Regulation: tougher on food waste and greenwashing, but hesitant on consumption taxes  Because of the share of the food system within total emissions and the far-reaching European ambitions on climate action (the 55% reduction target for the whole economy in 2030 and a recommendation for a 90% reduction target in 2040) it’s very likely that policymakers will closely look at all their instruments to make sure that there is a business case for a rapid reduction in food-related emissions.

Which options do policymakers have? Taxes and levies to deliver external effects These can be targeted at producers or consumers. The EU already has an emission trading system for carbon-intensive sectors and this might be extended to agriculture. Proposals for consumption taxes on certain food products like meat have shown that it can be a challenge to garner public support. Still, it’s not unthinkable that some countries introduce some form of taxation and recent scientific research on meat taxes argues that support can be raised by proper design.

Regulations and norms to raise standards Livestock farmers across the EU face additional (national) environmental regulations that drive up production costs and eventually drive up prices of animal products. The proposed EU targets on food waste and the proposal for the green claims directive are other examples of regulation.

Campaigns to raise awareness among consumers and companies Governments can raise awareness about sustainable diets and the benefits of reducing food waste by initiating campaigns and public-private partnerships.

Subsidies and compensation to stimulate change Governments can provide public funding for R&D, such as research into novel protein sources or carbon sequestration in farmland. For example, Denmark, a large meat and dairy producer and exporter, recently published its national action plan for plant-based foods.

How food manufacturers can take advantage of the need for more sustainable diets.

The growth in food products with sustainable logos shows that there are certain aspects of sustainability that consumers value. However, data on meat and dairy consumption shows that consumers often refrain from taking more drastic steps to green their diets. Meanwhile, for retailers, emission reduction targets provide a stronger strategic incentive to get consumers to change. Retailers increasingly consider the carbon footprint of food products an important metric and food manufacturers can do several things to take advantage of this trend.

It starts with establishing the environmental footprint of their products. Besides helping to determine actions to further reduce emissions, this data can also help food makers stand out from their competitors if they do better than the industry average. Furthermore, we expect that calls for a shift between animal- and plant-based categories will continue to influence market dynamics in Europe. Food manufacturers and retailers can do their part by developing and improving plant-based alternatives. But a more profound structural change in the consumption of animal products also depends on the effective use of policy instruments.

Content Disclaimer: This publication has been prepared by ING solely for information purposes irrespective of a particular user's means, financial situation or investment objectives. The information does not constitute investment recommendation, and nor is it investment, legal or tax advice or an offer or solicitation to purchase or sell any financial instrument. Read more


Surging U.S. Oil Production Brings Down Prices and Raises Climate Fears

American oil production is hitting record levels, delivering economic and foreign policy benefits but putting environmental goals further out of reach.

U.S. oil producers are cranking out a record 13.2 million barrels a day, more than Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Credit...Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

By Clifford Krauss
The New York Times
Clifford Krauss, who is based in Houston, has covered energy since 2006.
Dec. 1, 2023, 9:38 a.m. ET
Sign up for Your Places: Global Update. All the latest news for any part of the world you select. Get it sent to your inbox.

American oil fields are gushing again.

Only three years after U.S. oil production collapsed during the pandemic, energy companies are cranking out a record 13.2 million barrels a day, more than Russia or Saudi Arabia. The flow of oil has grown by roughly 800,000 barrels a day since early 2022 and analysts expect the industry to add another 500,000 barrels a day next year.

The United States Is Producing Historic Levels of Crude Oil

Rate of U.S. crude oil production over time

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

By The New York Times

The surge in output has helped push down gasoline prices, which have fallen by close to $2 a gallon since the summer of 2022 and are now back to levels that prevailed in 2021. It has also provided the Biden administration with substantial leverage in its dealings with oil-exporting foes like Russia, Venezuela and Iran while reducing its need to cajole more friendly countries like Saudi Arabia to temper prices.

But the comeback in U.S. oil production poses big risks, too. More supply and lower prices could increase demand for fossil fuels at a time when the world leaders, who are meeting in Dubai, are straining to reach agreements that would accelerate the fight against climate change. Most scientists say the world is far from achieving the goals necessary to avoid the catastrophic effects of global warming, which is caused mainly by the burning of fossil fuels like oil, natural gas and coal.

“We’re achieving energy security and reducing inflation by leveraging high-emitting, carbon-intensive oil production,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, director of the Energy, Climate Justice and Sustainability Lab at New York University. “We’re going to need to address that conflict.”

The United States now exports roughly four million barrels a day, more than any member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries except Saudi Arabia. On balance, the United States still imports more than it exports because domestic demand exceeds supply and many American refineries can more easily refine the heavier oil produced in Canada and Latin America than the lighter crude that oozes out of the shale fields of New Mexico, North Dakota and Texas.

Nearly every extra barrel of American crude produced is being exported, mostly to Europe and Asia, where supplies are tight. In addition, the natural gas that bubbles up with oil has also led to record exports of gas and helped to lower prices for that fuel and for electricity, much of which is produced at gas-fired power plants in the United States.

The surge in U.S. production has helped to end the energy crisis that gripped Europe after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 — at least for now. European countries have replaced much of the gas they were buying from Russia with gas from the United States, Qatar and other exporters. They have also reduced their use of natural gas, a phenomenon that was helped by a mild winter last year.

“There is a foreign policy dividend in keeping a lid on oil prices,” said David Goldwyn, who was a leading energy diplomat in the Obama administration.

Not long ago the U.S. oil industry was in deep trouble. It suffered repeated busts since 2015, culminating in a collapse of prices during the pandemic. Investors fled. Exxon Mobil was kicked out of the Dow Jones industrial average, and some European oil companies announced plans to pivot from fossil fuels to renewables more quickly.

With concerns over climate change growing, Joe Biden, during his 2020 campaign, promised to stop drilling on federal lands and federal waters offshore. He also pledged to accelerate the transition to renewable energy and electric cars to drastically reduce the emissions responsible for climate change.

But as president, Mr. Biden has taken a much different tack. While he has supported green energy and battery-powered cars, he has also hectored oil companies to increase production in an effort to drive down prices for consumers. He has approved a large drilling project in Alaska over the objections of environmentalists and a small number of offshore oil and gas permits.

Mr. Biden has been under pressure from some Democrats to trumpet gains in oil production as a way of reaching out to voters who are leery of high gas prices. He has yet to do so — but his administration has not complained about the production, either.

John Kirby, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said the administration was committed to keeping energy prices low.

Our business reporters. Times journalists are not allowed to have any direct financial stake in companies they cover.

“The president is going to keep focusing, as he has been, on a healthy global market that’s properly balanced and that can continue to bring the price of gasoline down here in the United States,” Mr. Kirby said.

The pandemic took a heavy toll on U.S. oil production, which fell from 13 million barrels a day at the end of 2019 to just over 11 million barrels a day a year later. Dozens of oil companies went out of business, and the number of rigs in use fell from 800 to 350 in 2020 as tens of thousands of field workers lost their jobs.

Most of the new U.S. oil production is coming from the Permian Basin, which straddles Texas and New Mexico. There are also some new projects and expansions in Alaska and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.

This week the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was $3.25 a gallon.
Credit...Maansi Srivastava/The New York Times

“It’s the mother of all comeback stories,” said Robert McNally, who was a senior energy adviser under President George W. Bush. “The last couple of years have shown that you should never bet against the U.S. oil sector.”

The bonanza has helped American consumers. This week the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was $3.25 a gallon, 25 cents below what it cost a year earlier and nearly $1.80 below the record price set in June 2022, according to AAA.

The American oil industry is now dominated by hydraulic fracturing of shale, a process that splits hard rock with pressurized water and chemicals. Shale wells are highly productive for only a couple of years, so a decline in drilling brings a quick, sharp decline in output. Conversely, a rapid return of drilling ignites a spurt of production.

Technological advances have enabled producers to drill faster with new rigs designed for the shale fields of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and North Dakota. Robotics and software improvements have cut costs, while lateral wells have been lengthened to expose more rock for fracture.

But price is what drives investment and production. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, oil prices climbed past $100 a barrel.

The biggest companies like Exxon Mobil and Chevron decided not to significantly increase drilling, fearing a price collapse. Instead, the companies spent billions of dollars buying back shares and handing out dividends.

By late 2022, however, smaller public companies and hundreds of privately owned firms began ramping up operations. Many small companies were bought by larger firms, which also spurred more production.

“The independents were back close to prepandemic activity,” said Raoul LeBlanc, a vice president at S&P Global Commodity Insights. “And the privates just went crazy.”

Mr. LeBlanc said the investments made during the second half of last year were now bearing fruit. He predicted that American production could rise to 13.7 million barrels a day by the end of 2024, unless there is a deep recession and prices drop below $65 a barrel, around $10 lower than the current price.

“I am very surprised by how much we have produced this year,” said Scott Sheffield, chief executive of Pioneer Natural Resources, a major producer in the Permian Basin that is being acquired by Exxon Mobil. He predicted that the country could produce 15 million barrels a day in five years.

Production is also growing in Canada, Guyana, Brazil and Norway.

Mr. Sheffield said “the big question” is how Saudi Arabia might respond if production in the United States and other countries continues to rise.

As the leader of OPEC Plus, a group of 23 oil-producing countries, which together produce nearly half the world’s oil, Saudi Arabia could pressure its allies to maintain production levels, as it did in 2014, rather than cut them to push down prices and cripple the soaring American shale production. That decision set up years of price swings that soured many Wall Street investors on the oil industry.

Investors have recently grown more fond of oil and the stocks of Exxon, Chevron and other companies are up a lot over the last two years. But that could be changing. The price of oil has been falling recently and is down by more than 15 percent since the summer.

Mr. Sheffield said the drastic swings in energy prices was a main reason investors were wary of his industry. “The reason for the lack of investor interest is the volatility of our business,” he said. “Discipline is not out the window but we need to solve this volatility issue and I don’t know when we are going to solve it.”

Jim Tankersley contributed reporting from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Clifford Krauss reports on the energy industry, focusing on the transition to renewable resources in a warming world. More about Clifford Krauss
COP28 UN climate gathering hijacked for fossil fuel agenda

December 1, 2023 

Sultan Al Jaber, the CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Co., speaks during the World Government Summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Feb 14, 2023. | AP

This year, a united dream of a cleaner, cooler planet is being threatened by Big Oil and Gas. COP28, arguably the UN and the world’s most important environmental summit, has been “comprehensively captured by the fossil fuel lobby to serve its vested interests,” Amnesty International cautioned. Internal notes leaked by a whistleblower have vindicated their warning.

The 2023 UN Climate Change Conference is being held in Expo City, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) between Nov. 30th and Dec. 12th. An intergovernmental initiative to limit global temperature rises and curb the ramifications of climate change, this year’s summit is controversial enough given the UAE’s penchant for gas and oil expansion, but recent records have been exposed that prove the COP28 team plans to exploit the conference to further that very agenda.

COP28 President Al Jaber happens to also be CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), which has recently conferred with many government and business leaders, aiming to use COP28 to ramp up ADNOC’s gas and oil exports.

The plans run utterly counterintuitive to the 2015 Paris Agreement, which is to reduce the earth’s warming to just 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial age temperatures. To that end, greenhouse emissions would need to be capped before 2025 at the latest, and decline 43 percent by 2030.

Amidst the struggle to achieve this, there have been previous controversies at the hands of fossil fuel proponents, such as former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s push in 2018 to double-count carbon credits, something that would have jeopardized the integrity and potential success of the agreement’s guidelines. What will be done in Dubai, however, makes that agenda pale in comparison.

Though it is not yet clear how many COP28 meetings Al Jaber has had with foreign governments, briefings uncovered by the Centre for Climate Reporting (CCR) – and seen by the BBC – indicate he discussed commercial interests with over 30 nations. An anonymous whistleblower for the CCR verified the authenticity of the plans, which Professor Michael Jacobs, a climate politics expert at Sheffield University, called, “breathtakingly hypocritical.”

“The UAE,” he remarked, “is the custodian of a United Nations process aimed at reducing global emissions. And yet, in the very same meetings where it’s apparently trying to pursue that goal, it’s actually trying to do side deals which will increase global emissions.”

Further meeting records and internal emails uncovered by the CCR show there is very little delineation between COP28 matters and the aims of ADNOC. COP28 team staffers have noted Al Jaber’s policy that talking points from ADNOC always be included in summit discussion.

Leaks contradict denials

The team has denied the allegations, but the leaks contradict such claims, as do discussion points from meetings with officials from Saudi Arabia, Senegal, and Venezuela, which attempt to justify the plans with ADNOC’s claim that “there is no conflict between sustainable development of natural resources and its commitment to climate change.”

Other countries involved in Al Jaber’s talking points include Mozambique, Canada, and Australia, which would see “liquified natural gas” opportunities evaluated. Colombia, meanwhile, would find ready support from ADNOC for its own fossil fuel developments, documents indicated. Talking points for other countries included China, Germany, and Egypt.

According to an editorial by Morning Star, a daily newspaper in Britain, these kinds of actions are “as predictable as they are symbolic. Predictable because why else would this despotic Gulf monarchy, whose huge wealth is entirely derived from its vast oil reserves, seek to host COP28 except to greenwash an economic model utterly dependent on continuing fossil fuel extraction?

“Symbolic because the UAE’s disgraceful conduct is not out of tune with the wider approach of Western governments which hand management of a ‘just transition’ to the very corporations that profit most from the status quo.”

Kaisa Kosonen, Greenpeace International policy coordinator, commented, “If the allegations are true, this is a real scandal. The climate summit leader should be focused on advancing climate solutions impartially, not backroom deals that are fueling the crisis. This is exactly the kind of conflict of interest we feared when the CEO of an oil company was appointed to the role. COP is an opportunity to secure our survival, not to strike business deals that fuel the crisis.”

An investigation in early November by Agence France-Presse (AFP) further uncovered an “energy transition narrative” drafted for the COP28 team by consulting firm McKinsey & Company; it outlines a reduction in oil use by only half over the next 25 years. “On average, 40-50 millions of barrels per day of oil are still expected to be utilized by 2050,” the uncovered document stated. The McKinsey energy scenario, said AFP, “reads as if it was written by the oil industry for the oil industry.”

A former consultant for the firm revealed to AFP that McKinsey “serves the world’s largest polluters,” putting it completely at odds with the mission of COP28. “The firm is best understood as possibly the most powerful oil and gas consulting firm on the planet posturing as a sustainability firm, advising polluting clients on any opportunity to preserve the status quo.”

Meanwhile, further documents were later attained by the CCR that are just as scandalous; they revealed that UAE bedfellow Saudi Arabia’s plans for an Oil Development Sustainability Programme (ODSP), which involved fossil fuel collaboration with African and Asian nations, as well. The CCR said: “The investigation obtained detailed information on plans to drive up the use of fossil fuel-powered cars, buses, and planes in Africa and elsewhere, as rich countries increasingly switch to clean energy.

Wants to accelerate supersonic air travel

“The ODSP plans to accelerate the development of supersonic air travel, which it notes uses three times more jet fuel than conventional planes, and partner with a carmaker to produce a cheap combustion engine vehicle. Further plans promote power ships, which use polluting heavy fuel oil or gas to provide electricity to coastal communities.”

Mohammed Adow, head of PowerShift Africa, remarked, “The Saudi government is like a drug dealer trying to get Africa hooked on its harmful product. The rest of the world is weaning itself off dirty and polluting fossil fuels and Saudi Arabia is getting desperate for more customers and is turning its sights on Africa. It’s repulsive.”

Germany’s foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, leader of that country’s Green Party, stated that we must “actually take stock of what we have achieved and the targets we set ourselves. We have to get out of fossil fuels, we have to dramatically reduce emissions. It is no longer about visions. It is about finally delivering on the pledges we made.”

Bill McKibben, environmentalist and leader of, concluded, “It’s difficult to imagine anything more systemically evil than this spate of bids by the oil companies and oil countries to keep wrecking the planet; it’s akin to the way that tobacco companies, facing legal losses in the U.S., pivoted to expand their markets in Asia instead. But this time the second-hand smoke is going to kill us all.”

We hope you appreciated this article. At People’s World, we believe news and information should be free and accessible to all, but we need your help. Our journalism is free of corporate influence and paywalls because we are totally reader-supported. Only you, our readers and supporters, make this possible. 


Blake Skylar

Blake is a writer and production manager, responsible for the daily assembly of the People's World home page. He has earned awards from the IWPA and ILCA, and his articles have appeared in publications such as Workday Minnesota, EcoWatch, and Earth First News. He has covered issues including the BP oil spill in New Orleans and the 2015 U.N. Climate Conference in Paris.

He lives in Pennsylvania with his girlfriend and their cats. He enjoys wine, books, music, and nature. In his spare time, he reviews music, creates artwork, and is working on several books and digital comics.

Why COP28 has already failed

Marta Schaaf & Kristine Beckerle
29 Nov, 2023

Repressive laws, a climate of fear & imprisoned domestic dissidents – all of which characterise COP28 host country UAE – can serve no purpose other than to support defenders of the status quo, write Marta Schaaf & Kristine Beckerle.

The UN chief urged world leaders to take decisive action to tackle ever-worsening climate change at the COP28 summit in Dubai. [GETTY]

To avert catastrophic climate change, an active and empowered civil society is necessary. The upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai is almost certain to provide further proof that we will fail if we rely on large, powerful institutions such as governments and multinational corporations.

Fossil-fuel companies have known about their contributions to climate change since the 1970s, yet they continue to drill and expand their operations. While governments have paid lip service to the problem by adopting the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris climate agreement, the latest Production Gap Report shows how little these commitments mean in practice. Between now and 2030, output in the top 20 fossil-fuel-producing countries will be more than double the amount consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5° Celsius.

Self-regulation by governments and fossil-fuel companies is woefully insufficient, not least because governments and fossil-fuel companies are often one and the same. For too long, both have sought to appease public concerns with greenwashing campaigns and the promise of future silver-bullet technologies such as carbon capture and storage. And when some segment of the public is not pacified by such ploys, many of these same governments and companies have been all too willing to resort to quashing freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.

''The government has continued its repression in the run-up to COP28. It has cut off communication between many prisoners and their families, prosecuted Emiratis who have been deported back to the country after seeking refuge abroad, and rejected the UN’s calls to release prisoners of conscience.''

Only through collective action, advocacy, and civil-society participation in policymaking will governments be forced to do what it takes to phase out fossil fuels, support the transition to renewable energy, and protect human rights in a world of increasingly extreme weather and drought. But civil society cannot thrive without civic space – public fora where citizens can jointly criticize and pressure the most powerful, without fear or suppression. And at COP28, outside the protected confines of the UN’s “blue zone,” there will be virtually no civic space at all.

Dubai is one of the most expensive cities in the world, which means that lodging, food, and other expenses will be prohibitively costly for most people, especially the disadvantaged and marginalised who are most affected by the climate crisis. Moreover, it is illegal in the United Arab Emirates even to criticise the government, or to say anything deemed to “harm the public interest,” and foreigners are sometimes detained for comments made while in the country. Minor signs of dissent during the 2011 Arab Spring were quickly and forcibly repressed. To this day, scores of human-rights activists and dissidents remain arbitrarily detained, including 60 members of the “UAE-94,” who were tried en masse in 2013. Four years later, the UAE imprisoned Ahmed Mansoor, the only remaining Emirati working publicly to defend human rights in the country.

The government has continued its repression in the run-up to COP28. It has cut off communication between many prisoners and their families, prosecuted Emiratis who have been deported back to the country after seeking refuge abroad, and rejected the UN’s calls to release prisoners of conscience.

The UAE is also infamous for its use of unlawful electronic surveillance. Mansoor is just one of many human-rights defenders who has been targeted with spyware developed by cybersurveillance companies such as NSO Group and Hacking Team.

Such abuses are more than sufficient to create a climate of fear among activists hoping to attend COP28. While the UAE promises to make “space available for climate activists to assemble peacefully and make their voices heard,” it remains to be seen what this will look like in practice. What risks might activists still face if they speak out about the UAE’s abysmal rights record or failure to phase out fossil fuels? We do not know, because the UNFCCC secretariat and the UAE have not even disclosed the Host Country Agreement – the bare-minimum standard of transparency for any COP.

Of course, the UAE is hardly alone in its hostile attitude toward civil society. Around the world, countries are cracking down on protesters, misapplying current law to stifle climate dissent, and enacting new legislation to criminaliSe protest – often at the behest of powerful fossil-fuel companies. Some of these laws target climate activists directly, indicating that summits like annual climate-change COPs are of particular concern to repressive governments.

Malak Altaeb

Despite 2023 being another year of record-setting heat and rainfall events, COP28 is unlikely to produce any meaningful outcome. That is as unjust as it is tragic. The people who suffer the most from climate change are not heads of state or fossil-fuel executives. In the UAE and around the world, those bearing the brunt of the crisis are often the same people facing discrimination, marginalisation, and a lack of basic protection from their governments.

Since it is their futures that will be discussed at COP28, their engagement, activism, and demands for accountability are essential. It is through civil society that we will expose greenwashing and achieve the solutions that have long been promised. International conferences to discuss an existential global threat will generate meaningful results only if everyone is free to criticize, gather, and peacefully demonstrate. Repressive laws, a climate of fear, and imprisoned domestic dissidents can serve no purpose other than to support defenders of the status quo.

Marta Schaaf is Director of the Program on Climate, Economic and Social Justice, and Corporate Accountability at Amnesty International.

Kristine Beckerle is Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights Adviser for Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Regional Office.

This article originally appeared on Project Syndicate.

World Bank to operate ‘loss and damage’ climate fund

December 1, 2023


The World Bank will “operate” an ambitious new climate change fund, but donors and recipients will likely control how the money is actually spent, the head of the development lender said Friday.

More than $400 million has been pledged initially to the new “loss and damage” fund for countries impacted by climate change since it was approved by nations attending the UN’s COP 28 climate summit in Dubai on Thursday.

The amount so far falls well short of the $100 billion developing nations say are needed to meet the costs of changing climate, but more pledges are expected in coming days.

“The reality is the bank is currently not planning to play the role of allocating the money,” World Bank President Ajay Banga told an event at the summit in Dubai.

“That will be done by a governing board that needs to be created, that should have representation from the donor countries as well as the recipient countries,” he added.

The World Bank will play a more limited role, managing the day-to-day operations of the fund, Banga explained.

“Our job is like a trustee: We run it, we operate it, we hope to make sure the money goes the right places — because we know how to do that,” he said, adding that the fund was still in its early stages.

The loss and damage fund has been hailed as a positive start to this year’s COP summit in the United Arab Emirates, which has been billed as the largest summit to date, with more than 140 world leaders due to speak on Friday and Saturday.

Climate finance has been a key sticking point, with wealthy nations most responsible for emissions not delivering on promises to support the vulnerable states who are worst affected but least responsible for global warming.

On Friday, Banga said the new loss and damage fund would initially look to help finance “technical assistance and analytics,” for countries impacted by climate change.

“If this gets done well, sometime next year is when you’ll start seeing money actually be put out to help countries on the ground,” he added.

Nuclear power seeks place in clean energy fold at Cop28

More than 40 countries back statement saying 'net zero needs nuclear power'

MOCHOVCE, SLOVAKIA - NOVEMBER 6: A general view shows the cooling towers of the Mochovce nuclear power plant on November 6, 2023 in Mochovce, Slovakia. The key to Slovakia's nuclear strategy, Unit 3 of Slovakia's Mochovce NPP, has achieved 100 per cent power. The power plant is expected to cover 13 percent of the country's electricity needs, making Slovakia self-sufficient, according to the plant's administrator Branislav Strycek, CEO of Slovenske Elektrarne.
 (Photo by Janos Kummer / Getty Images)

Tim Stickings
Dec 01, 2023

Live updates: Follow the latest news on Cop28

Nuclear power chiefs pitched fission as an indispensable clean energy source on Friday as they brought a “new momentum” behind the technology to Cop28 in Dubai.

More than 40 countries backed a statement by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, saying reactors could help build a “low-carbon bridge to the future” and that “net zero needs nuclear power”.

Their intervention at Cop28 comes with several countries building or planning new nuclear reactors, spurred on by a desire for clean and home-grown power after a period of turmoil on global energy markets.

“Nuclear power emits no greenhouse gases when it is produced and contributes to energy security and the stability of the power grid,” said the statement read by IAEA chief Rafael Grossi.

“The responsible advancement of innovative technologies, including small modular reactors, aims to make nuclear power easier to build, more flexible to deploy and more affordable, which is of particular importance to developing countries.

“To build a low carbon bridge to the future will require that we keep the operating nuclear power plants serving us today.”

The IAEA said the statement was “a further indication of a new momentum for nuclear power as a source of reliable low carbon energy”.

Finland’s Climate and Environment Minister Kai Mykkanen, from one of Europe’s prominent pro-nuclear countries, told The National he hoped to see “technology-neutral” calls to action at Cop28 that do not exclude nuclear.

Negotiators began work on Friday on a joint "global stocktake" text agreeing a way forward on climate action, in which finding consensus on energy is likely to be particularly tricky.

“We are very happy that it seems that at an EU level, but also at a global level, we are starting to have a bit more of a technology-neutral approach also recognising the importance of nuclear,” Mr Mykkanen said.

“It’s totally unrealistic to think that we could phase out fossils and nuclear simultaneously. We need more nuclear in several kinds of solutions.”

The push for more nuclear does not only include new power stations but smaller, windmill-sized reactors that could, for example, provide heat or electricity for a remote area or industrial site.

Opponents of nuclear power object to it being put in the same category as renewables such as wind and solar, because it requires uranium fuel, produces waste and conjures fears of disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima. Germany closed its last atomic power plant last year because of safety fears.

Pro-nuclear campaigners counter that the wind and sun do not always co-operate and that using fission reactors as an all-weather “baseload” is preferable to coal, oil and gas.

Updated: December 01, 2023, 


UN court bars Venezuela from altering Guyana’s control over disputed territory

A couple walks in front of a mural of the Venezuelan map with the Essequibo territory included, in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023. Venezuelans will attempt to decide the future of the Essequibo territory, a large swath of land that is administered and controlled by Guyana but claimed by Venezuela, via a referendum that the Venezuelan government put forth in its latest attempt to claim ownership, saying it was stolen when a north-south border was drawn more than a century ago. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The United Nations’ top court on Friday ordered Venezuela not to take any action that would alter Guyana’s control over a disputed territory, but did not specifically ban it from holding a referendum Sunday on the territory’s future.

Guyana had asked the International Court of Justice to order a halt to parts of the planned referendum. The court verdict did not refer to the referendum, but it ruled that Venezuela must “refrain from taking any action which would modify that situation that currently prevails” in the disputed Essequibo region, which makes up some two-thirds of Guyana.

The legally binding ruling remains in place until a case brought by Guyana against Venezuela on the future of the region is considered by the court.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The United Nations' top court is set to announce Friday whether it will order Venezuela to halt parts of a referendum planned for Sunday on the future of a disputed territory that makes up two-thirds of Guyana.

Venezuela does not recognize the International Court of Justice's jurisdiction in the decades-old dispute over the Essequibo region and is expected to press ahead with the referendum regardless of what its judges decide.

At urgent hearings in November, lawyers for Guyana said the vote is designed to pave the way for annexation by Venezuela of the Essequibo — a territory larger than Greece that is rich in oil and minerals. They called on the world court to halt the referendum in its current form.

But Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez defiantly told the court: " Nothing will prevent the referendum scheduled for Dec. 3 from being held.”

Venezuela has always considered Essequibo as its own because the region was within its boundaries during the Spanish colonial period, and it has long disputed the border decided by international arbitrators in 1899, when Guyana was still a British colony.

President Nicolás Maduro and his allies are encouraging voters to answer “yes” to all the questions in Sunday's referendum, one of which proposes creating a Venezuelan state in the Essequibo territory and granting Venezuelan citizenship to the area’s current and future residents.

After years of fruitless mediation, Guyana went to the world court in 2018, asking judges to rule that the 1899 border decision is valid and binding. Venezuela argues that a 1966 agreement to resolve the dispute effectively nullified the original arbitration.

The court has ruled the case is admissible and that it has jurisdiction but is expected to take years to reach a final decision. In the meantime, Guyana wants to stop the referendum in its current form.

“The collective decision called for here involves nothing less than the annexation of the territory in dispute in this case. This is a textbook example of annexation,” Paul Reichler, an American lawyer representing Guyana, told judges at last month's hearings.

Mike Corder, The Associated Press

Venezuela to vote on oil-rich region controlled by Guyana

Caracas (AFP) – "The Venezuelan sun rises in Essequibo," "Essequibo belongs to Guyana" -- the opposing camps' slogans say it all.

Issued on: 01/12/2023
Guyana says Venezuela's referendum is illegal under international law
 © Federico PARRA / AFP

A decades-old dispute over the oil-rich Essequibo territory reaches a new, potentially escalatory chapter on Sunday as Venezuela holds a referendum regarding the Guyana-controlled region.

Despite pending litigation at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over where the two countries' border should lie, Venezuela has decided to ask its citizens' opinion on whether or not it should create a new "state" in Essequibo -- a move Guyana claims would pave the way for its neighbor to "unilaterally and illegally" seize the region.

What's at stake?

The dispute

At 160,000 square-kilometers (62,000 square-miles), Essequibo makes up more than two-thirds of Guyana, which has administered the area for over 100 years.

In Georgetown, English-speaking Guyana's capital, the logo "Essequibo is ours" flashes frequently on TV screens and adorns building walls and banners.

The Guyanese government insists on retaining the border determined in 1899 by an arbitration panel, while claiming Venezuela had agreed with the ruling until it changed its mind in 1962.

Caracas, for its part, claims the Essequibo River to the region's east forms a natural border and had been recognized as such from 1777 when the so-called Captaincy General of Venezuela, an administrative district of colonial Spain, was established.

Venezuela claims the Essequibo river to the region's east forms a natural border 
© Patrick FORT / AFP/File

It also refers to the Geneva Agreement signed in 1966 ahead of Guyana's independence from Britain, which provided for a negotiated settlement on the region's final borders, which never came to pass.
The referendum

The plebiscite -- described as consultative and non-binding -- will pose five questions to Venezuelan voters.

They include whether or not to reject the 1899 decision, which Caracas says was "fraudulently imposed."

Also on the ballot is whether Caracas should reject ICJ jurisdiction over the dispute, and whether or not to grant Venezuelan citizenship to the people -- currently Guyanese -- of a new "Guyana Esequiba State."

It is not a vote on self-determination.

Georgetown however fears that Venezuela will use a majority "yes" vote as a defense to abandon the ICJ proceedings and resort to unilateral measures, including annexing the entire region by force.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro hopes the vote will yield a 'great consensus: to defend Venezuela' 

Guyana had filed a urgent application to the ICJ last month to stop the referendum, but a ruling has not been made.

President Nicolas Maduro said Wednesday he expects the vote to yield a "great consensus: to defend Venezuela."

Diplomatic sources told AFP the high-visibility campaign for a "yes" vote in the referendum, which comes ahead of presidential elections next year, essentially amounted to propaganda for Maduro on a rare issue transcending political party rivalries in Venezuela.

There was no counter campaign.

Guyana says the vote is a violation of international law, and has received backing from the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and the Organization of American States (OAS).

The real reason?

Some say the real issue is oil, with the dispute intensifying since ExxonMobil's 2015 discovery of crude in Essequibo.

Tiny Guyana has the world's biggest reserves of crude per capita, while economically ailing Venezuela, facing crippling international sanctions, sits on the largest proven reserves overall.

Just last month, Guyana announced a "significant" new oil discovery in Essequibo, adding to estimated reserves of at least 10 billion barrels -- more than Kuwait or the United Arab Emirates.

Guyana had filed a urgent application to the ICJ last month to stop the referendum in Venezuela
 © Federico Parra / AFP/File

At the same time, Georgetown awarded bids to eight companies, foreign and local, to drill for crude.

Maduro reacted by calling his Guyanese counterpart Irfaan Ali a "slave" of US oil giant ExxonMobil, which made the discovery.

Caracas called the referendum after Georgetown started auctioning off oil blocks in Essequibo in August.

Ripe for war?

The Guyanese side has vowed that "Not a blade of grass" will be yielded to Venezuela -- adopting the title of a song by the US pop group Tradewinds about the conflict.

The rhetoric has escalated in recent weeks, with the tone darkening.

Guyana President Irfaan Ali has called for 'common sense' to prevail 
© Keno GEORGE / AFP/File

Venezuela has increased its military presence near the border and Guyana has raised the possibility of allowing foreign military bases to be set up in the area.

Could the dispute turn to war?

"It is one scenario," Josmar Fernandez, a Venezuelan conflict resolution expert, told AFP.

"When one talks of territory one also talks of... nationalist sentiment," she said.

Guyana has warned of a "naked threat of territorial aggression" and Ali has repeatedly called for "common sense" to prevail.

On Thursday, Brazil expressed "concern" about the tensions, and said it was in contact with both parties in search of a "peaceful solution."

© 2023 AFP

A Tortured and Deadly Legacy: Kissinger and  Realpolitik in US Foreign Policy

Henry Kissinger, who died on Nov. 29, 2023, at age 100



 DECEMBER 1, 2023

Nixon and Kissinger at the White House. Photo: Presidential Material Staff, Nation Archives and Research Administration [NARA].

Henry Kissinger, who died on Nov. 29, 2023, at age 100, exercised more than 50 years of influence on American foreign policy.

I am a scholar of American foreign policy who has written on Kissinger’s service from 1969 to 1977 as national security adviser and secretary of state under the Nixon and Ford administrations. I have seen how his foreign policy views and actions played out for good and, mostly, for ill.

When Kissinger entered government as Richard Nixon’s national security adviser, he espoused a narrow perspective of the national interest, known as “realpolitik,” primarily centered on maximizing the economic and military power of the United States.

This power- and transactionalist-oriented approach to foreign policy produced a series of destructive outcomes. They ranged from fomenting coups that put in place murderous dictatorships, as in Chile, to killing unarmed civilians, as in Cambodia, and alienating potential allies, as in India.

Damaging approach

In his dissertation turned first book, Kissinger argued foreign policymakers are measured by their ability to recognize shifts in political, military and economic power in the international system – and then to make those changes work in their country’s favor.

In this model of foreign policy, the political values – democracy, human rights – that make the United States a distinctive player in the international system have no role.

This perspective, with its self-declared realistic agenda, along with Kissinger’s place at the top of the foreign policy establishment as national security adviser and secretary of state for the better part of a decade, made Kissinger into something of a foreign policy oracle for American policymakers of all stripes.

Yet Kissinger’s record reveals the problems with the narrow conception of national interest devoid of values. His time in government was characterized by major policy decisions that were generally detrimental to the United States’ standing in the world.

Cambodian carnage

When Nixon took office in 1968, he had promised an honorable end to the war in Vietnam.

Nixon faced a problem, however, in trying to gain control of the conflict: the porousness of Vietnam’s borders with Cambodia, through which supplies and soldiers from North Vietnam flowed into the South.

To address this problem, Nixon dramatically escalated a bombing campaign in Cambodia started under his predecessor, President Lyndon Johnson. Nixon later initiated a ground invasion of Cambodia to cut off North Vietnamese supply routes.

As William Shawcross details in his defining book on the subject, Kissinger supported Nixon’s Cambodia policy.

Despite the fact that Cambodia was not party to the conflict fought in Vietnam, U.S. bombing of Cambodia is estimated to have exceeded the total tonnage of all the bombs dropped by the U.S. during World War II, including the nuclear bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The campaign killed tens of thousands of Cambodians and displaced millions. The destruction caused by the bombing as well as partial American occupation in 1970 were crucial to creating the political and social instability that facilitated the rise of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. That regime is estimated to have killed 2 million Cambodians.

Supporting a genocidal leader

In 1970 and 1971, Nixon, with Kissinger’s advice and encouragement, supported Pakistan’s dictatorial president Yahya Khan in his genocidal repression of Bengali nationalists and war against India.

That conflict is estimated to have killed at least 300,000 and possibly more than a million Bengalis. Khan targeted for complete elimination the Hindus in what would become Bangladesh.

In frustration at pressure from India over the subsequent refugee crisis, Kissinger agreed with Nixon that India – a fellow democracy bearing the burden of millions of refugees from East Pakistan — needed a “mass famine” to put the country in its place.

The duo went so far as to send an aircraft carrier battle group to threaten India after it suffered a series of cross-border attacks by Pakistan.

Nixon and Kissinger’s policy in support of Pakistan during a period of unvarnished brutality and aggression played a significant role in pushing India toward an alignment with the Soviet Union. Nixon and Kissinger injected distrust of the United States into the foundations of Indian foreign policy, dividing the world’s oldest and largest democracies for decades.

Exploiting Kurds, empowering Saddam

In 1972, Kissinger agreed to a request from the Shah of Iran to provide military aid to Kurds in Iraq who were seeking an independent homeland. Iran’s goal was to put pressure on the Iraqi regime controlled by Saddam Hussein, while Kissinger sought to keep the Soviets out of the region. The scheme was predicated on the Kurds’ belief that the United States supported Kurdish independence, a point the Shah noted. But the U.S. abandoned the Kurds on the eve of an Iraqi offensive in 1975, and Kissinger coldly noted that “covert action should not be confused with missionary work.”

Ultimately, the Iraqi defeat of the Kurds would empower Hussein, who would go on to destabilize the region, kill hundreds of thousands of people and fight unprovoked wars with Iran and the United States.

‘Amoral vision’

After Kissinger left government service in 1977, he founded Kissinger Associates, a geopolitical consulting firm. Publicly, Kissinger consistently advised U.S. policymakers to bend U.S. policy to accommodate the interests and actions of important foreign powers like Russia and China.

These positions were consistent with Kissinger’s demonstrated willingness to trade away rights of others to gain advantage for the U.S. His positions also presumably enabled Kissinger Associates to maintain access with the foreign policy elites of those countries.

In May 2022, Kissinger publicly argued that Ukraine, a victim of unprovoked aggression by Russia, should cede portions of its internationally recognized territory seized by Russia – as in Crimea – or by Russian proxies such as the Donetsk People’s Republic.

Kissinger also maintained that the United States should accommodate China, arguing against a concerted effort by democracies to counter the rising power and influence of China.

Foreign policy is a difficult field, fraught with complexity and unanticipated consequences. Kissinger’s vision, however, does not offer a panacea to the challenge of American foreign policy.

Over decades, Kissinger’s amoral vision of national self-interest has produced its own set of disasters, a reality the American public and foreign policy leaders are well-advised to bear in mind.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Jarrod Hayes is an Associate Professor of Political Science at UMass Lowell.

Henry Kissinger: Snake Oil Salesman of Gangster Realism

“‘He’ll have ye smilin’,” an old Irish saying goes, “while he takes the gold out of your teeth’.”

— Charles Glass, London Review of Books, Oct 20, 2022

The obituaries of criminals, masterful or otherwise, are always going to be sordid matters.  Either one has time for the deeds, giving column space to their execution and legacy, or one focuses on the extraneous details: voice, accent, suit, demeanour. “He may have killed the odd person or two, but he did have style.”

Much of the Henry Kissinger School of Idolatry is of the latter propensity.  The nasty deeds are either misread or diminished – notably when they have to do with the global infliction of mass death, prolongation of conflict, or the overthrow of democratic governments.  Instead, time is given to the perceptions of what is supposedly meant to have been the workings of an oversized brain in international relations.  Rather than seeing the inside of a prison or being bothered to the gallows by overly fussy lawyers, Kissinger spent ample time at high level receptions receiving huge wads of cash for offering his inner expertise.  He was admired, adulated and pampered; the critics kept at bay.

As former National Security Advisor and US Secretary of State, he was meant to be the great exponent of realism, which, rebadged, might simply be described as elevated gangsterism at play.  His 1957 work, A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace 1812-1822 studied the Europe of the admired diplomat Prince Clemens von Metternich, revealing a mind keen on keeping international power in fine equilibrium.  Stability and order were primary goals; justice and human rights were concepts that had little to no role to play.

Metternich, alongside British Foreign Secretary, Viscount Robert Stewart Castlereagh, was to construct a post-Napoleonic order suspicious, even paranoid, of revolutionary movements.  It held social and political progress in check; doused the fires of freedom.  As a result, Kissinger reasons, Europe maintained stability from Napoleon’s defeat in 1815 to the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914. For all that, Kissinger would write that Metternich lacked “the ability to contemplate an abyss, not with the detachment of a scientist, but as a challenge to overcome – or perish in the process.” As if envisaging his own future role in US diplomacy, he suggested that “men become myths, not by what they know, nor even by what they achieve, but the tasks they set themselves.”

This gnomic drivel was precisely the sort that fed a media illusion of the big-brained sage in command.  His bloodied hands were washed on the international stage by such absurd titles as “Henry of Arabia,” one given to him by Time Magazine in 1974.  The same magazine would give him front-cover billing in February 1969 as one keen on “New Approaches to Friends and Foes”, and repeat the treatment on no fewer than fourteen other occasions.  Not to be outdone, Newsweek was positively crawling in depicting the German-Jewish émigré who made his name at Harvard and on the world stage as “Super K”.

As the Establishment Courtesan, Kissinger sought out such society reporters as Sally Quinn of The Washington Post to emetically inquire why she did not assume the master strategist to be “a secret swinger”.  Sadistic touches to his curriculum vitae could thereby be ignored, including a butcher’s bill that would eventually run into roughly 3 million souls from the Vietnam War to Cambodia, East Timor, Bangladesh, the “dirty wars” of Latin America, and a number of encouragements and interventions in Africa.

This also meant that abysmal contributions such as his spoiling role in prolonging the war in Vietnam by several years in order to satisfy the electoral lust of his eventual boss, Richard Nixon, could be overlooked in favour of “shuttle diplomacy ” in ending the Arab-Israeli War of October 1973.  In this, he resembled, as Charles Glass suggested with striking salience, a certain “American frontier archetype: the peddler whose wagonload of patent medicines promised to cure every ailment.  By the time the rubes realised that his bottles contained snake oil, he had left town.”

A far better appreciation of the Kissinger legacy would be gained by consulting such publications as that ever reliable, if bleak source of primary documents, the National Security Archive.  The Archive pursued the US government with admirable tenacity, alleging that Kissinger had sought to remove, retain and control some 30,000 pages of daily transcripts of his phone conversations (“telcons”) as “personal papers” when he left office in 1977.

As the director of the Archive, Tom Blanton, piquantly remarked, “Kissinger’s aides later commented that he needed to keep track of which lie he told to whom.”  But the telcons are also illustrative, less of Kissinger the realist who furnished his employer with fearless advice than that of a truckler, obedient to his paymaster.  When Nixon made the decision to commence the secret bombing of Cambodia to target Hanoi’s supply routes in March 1969, Kissinger conveyed the order to Secretary of Defence Melvin Laird without demur. He also states firmly that “there is to be no public comment at all from anyone at any level either complaining or threatening”.  When public comment did make its way to the New York Times in May that year, Kissinger badgered the FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to place a number of selected government officials and journalists under surveillance.

While one’s death is rarely a planned thing – the Grim Reaper makes calls at all unexpected hours – there was a sense in Kissinger’s case that he had cheated it just long enough.  He made it to a century without his collar being fingered.  He avoided, in the early 2000s, attempted legal suits for human rights violations in the UK and France.  Despite failing health, he was surrounded by the Establishment sycophants of which he had been one, worshipping power over principle while proffering snake oil.  And there were a goodly number of them for the sendoff.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.comRead other articles by Binoy.

Henry Kissinger, War Criminal Beloved by America’s Ruling Class, Finally Dies – Rolling Stone

November 30, 2023
By Harry Miller

Henry Kissinger died on Wednesday at his home in Connecticut, his consulting firm said in a statement. The notorious war criminal was 100.

Measuring purely by confirmed kills, the worst mass murderer ever executed by the United States was the white-supremacist terrorist Timothy McVeigh. On April 19, 1995, McVeigh detonated a massive bomb at the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, including 19 children. The government killed McVeigh by lethal injection in June 2001. Whatever hesitation a state execution provokes, even over a man such as McVeigh — necessary questions about the legitimacy of killing even an unrepentant soldier of white supremacy — his death provided a measure of closure to the mother of one of his victims. “It’s a period at the end of a sentence,” said Kathleen Treanor, whose four-year-old McVeigh killed.

McVeigh, who in his own psychotic way thought he was saving America, never remotely killed on the scale of Kissinger, the most revered American grand strategist of the second half of the 20th century.

The Yale University historian Greg Grandin, author of the biography Kissinger’s Shadow, estimates that Kissinger’s actions from 1969 through 1976, a period of eight brief years when Kissinger made Richard Nixon’s and then Gerald Ford’s foreign policy as national security adviser and secretary of state, meant the end of between three and four million people. That includes “crimes of commission,” he explained, as in Cambodia and Chile, and omission, like greenlighting Indonesia’s bloodshed in East Timor; Pakistan’s bloodshed in Bangladesh; and the inauguration of an American tradition of using and then abandoning the Kurds.

“The Cubans say there is no evil that lasts a hundred years, and Kissinger is making a run to prove them wrong,” Grandin told Rolling Stone not long before Kissinger died. “There is no doubt he’ll be hailed as a geopolitical grand strategist, even though he bungled most crises, leading to escalation. He’ll get credit for opening China, but that was De Gaulle’s original idea and initiative. He’ll be praised for detente, and that was a success, but he undermined his own legacy by aligning with the neocons. And of course, he’ll get off scot free from Watergate, even though his obsession with Daniel Ellsberg really drove the crime.”

No infamy will find Kissinger on a day like today. Instead, in a demonstration of why he was able to kill so many people and get away with it, the day of his passage will be a solemn one in Congress and — shamefully, since Kissinger had reporters like CBS’ Marvin Kalb and The New York Times‘ Hendrick Smith wiretapped — newsrooms. Kissinger, a refugee from the Nazis who became a pedigreed member of the “Eastern Establishment” Nixon hated, was a practitioner of American greatness, and so the press lionized him as the cold-blooded genius who restored America’s prestige from the agony of Vietnam.

Not once in the half-century that followed Kissinger’s departure from power did the millions the United States killed matter for his reputation, except to confirm a ruthlessness that pundits occasionally find thrilling. America, like every empire, champions its state murderers. The only time I was ever in the same room as Henry Kissinger was at a 2015 national security conference at West Point. He was surrounded by fawning Army officers and ex-officials basking in the presence of a statesman.

Seymour Hersh, the investigative reporter who was the most prominent exception to the fawning coverage of Kissinger, watched journalistic deference take shape as soon as Kissinger entered the White House in 1969. “His social comings and goings could make or break a Washington party,” Hersh wrote in his biography The Price of Power. Reporters like the Times’ James Reston were eager participants in what Hersh called “an implicit shakedown scheme” — that is, access journalism — “in which reporters who got inside information in turn protected Kissinger by not divulging either the full consequences of his acts or his own connection to them.” Kissinger’s approach to the press was his approach to Nixon: sniveling obsequiousness. (Although Kissinger could vent frustration on reporters that he never could on his boss.) Hersh quotes H.R. Haldeman, Nixon’s chief of staff, remarking that Kissinger was the “hawk of hawks” inside the White House, but “touching glasses at a party with his liberal friends, the belligerent Kissinger would suddenly become a dove.”

Reviewing one of Kissinger’s litany of books, Hillary Clinton in 2014 said Kissinger, “a friend” whose counsel she relied upon as secretary of state, possessed “a conviction that we, and President Obama, share: a belief in the indispensability of continued American leadership in service of a just and liberal order.” Kissinger told USA Today within days that Clinton, presumed then to be a president-in-waiting, “ran the State Department in the most effective way that I’ve ever seen.” The same story noticed a photograph autographed by Obama thanking Kissinger for his “continued leadership.”

It’s always valuable to hear the reverent tones with which American elites speak of their monsters. When the Kissingers of the world pass, their humanity, their purpose, their sacrifices are foremost in the minds of the respectable. American elites recoiled in disgust when Iranians in great numbers took to the streets to honor one of their monsters, Qassem Soleimani, after a U.S. drone strike executed the Iranian external security chief in January 2020. Soleimani, whom the United States declared to be a terrorist and killed as such, killed far more people than Timothy McVeigh. But even if we attribute to him all the deaths in the Syrian Civil War, never in Soleimani’s wildest dreams could he kill as many people as Henry Kissinger. Nor did Soleimani get to date Jill St. John, who played Bond girl Tiffany Case in Diamonds Are Forever.

KISSINGER’S ASCENT OCCURRED THROUGH AN OBSCENITY THAT TIME CANNOT DIMINISH. In 1968, Lyndon Johnson agreed to peace negotiations with the North Vietnamese in tacit recognition of the nightmare he, building on the works of his two immediate predecessors, brought to life in Vietnam. Kissinger, an influential Cold War defense intellectual at Harvard, had access to members of the diplomatic delegation to the Paris talks. He used it to feed information from the negotiations to Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign — a campaign whose defeated GOP rival, Nelson Rockefeller, Kissinger advised — and despite Kissinger’s closer political ties to the coterie around Hubert Humphrey, Nixon’s Democratic rival.

Nixon ran for president claiming to have a secret plan to end the war. His advisers told Hersh they were deeply afraid that Johnson and Hanoi would reach an accord before the election. It would save lives in Vietnam, American and Vietnamese, but it would undermine Nixon’s hopes of exploiting the explosion in domestic antiwar sentiment. Nixon gratefully took what Kissinger gave him to make the U.S.’ proxy regime in Saigon, whose regime peace would destabilize, more intransigent. No agreement was reached until 1973, and the war ended in American humiliation with Hanoi’s 1975 victory.

“It took some balls to give us those tips,” Richard Allen, a foreign policy researcher on the Nixon campaign, later reflected to Hersh. After all, it was “a pretty dangerous thing for [Kissinger] to be screwing around with the national security.”

Every single person who died in Vietnam between autumn 1968 and the Fall of Saigon — and all who died in Laos and Cambodia, where Nixon and Kissinger secretly expanded the war within months of taking office, as well as all who died in the aftermath, like the Cambodian genocide their destabilization set into motion — died because of Henry Kissinger. We will never know what might have been, the question Kissinger’s apologists, and those in the U.S. foreign policy elite who imagine themselves standing in Kissinger’s shoes, insist upon when explaining away his crimes. We can only know what actually happened. What actually happened was that Kissinger materially sabotaged the only chance for an end to the war in 1968 as a hedged bet to ensure he would achieve power in Nixon’s administration or Humphrey’s. A true tally will probably never be known of everyone who died so Kissinger could be national security adviser.

Once in the White House, Nixon and Kissinger found themselves without leverage to produce a peace accord with Hanoi. In the hopes of manufacturing one, they came up with the “Madman Theory,” the idea that North Vietnam would negotiate peace after they came to believe Nixon was adventurous and bloodthirsty enough to risk anything. In February 1969, weeks after taking office, and lasting through April 1970, U.S. warplanes secretly dropped 110,000 tons of bombs on Cambodia. By the summer of 1969, according to a colonel on the Joint Staff, Kissinger — who had no constitutional role in the military chain of command — was personally selecting bombing targets. “Not only was Henry carefully screening the raids, he was reading the raw intelligence,” Col. Ray B. Sitton told Hersh for The Price of Power. A second phase of bombing continued until August 1973, five months after the final U.S. combat troops withdrew from Vietnam. By then, U.S. bombs had killed an estimated 100,000 people out of a population of only 7,000,000. The final phase of the bombing, which occurred after the Paris Peace Accords mandated U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, was its most intense, an act of cruel vengeance from a thwarted superpower.

Cambodia, like Laos before it, was a formally neutral country, meaning that bombing it was an illegal aggression under the United Nations Charter. But beyond the control of Prince Sihanouk, the North Vietnamese used Cambodian territory for the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a weapons pipeline not unlike the one America is currently operating for Ukraine. In April 1970, following a coup by American client Col. Lon Nol that overthrew Sihanouk, Nixon ordered U.S. troops in Vietnam to invade Cambodia outright. In the air or on the ground, they were unable to destroy the trail, only human beings. Those who survived reacted. “Sometimes the bombs fell and hit the little children, and their fathers would be all for the Khmer Rouge,” a former Khmer Rouge cadre told historian Ben Kiernan, founder of Yale University’s Genocide Studies Program.

Nixon and Kissinger’s failure in Cambodia prompted in 1971 the U.S.-South Vietnamese invasion of Laos, another failure. Kissinger later blamed defeat on the U.S.’ clients, rather than, say, people like himself. “In retrospect, I have come to doubt whether the South Vietnamese ever really understood what we were trying to accomplish,” Kissinger wrote in his memoirs.

At the time, the secret bombing of Cambodia was a startling offense that prompted substantial political backlash when it became public. One of the articles of impeachment against Nixon prepared by the House Judiciary Committee in 1974 held that bombing Cambodia was a constitutional usurpation of Congress’ war powers. But on July 30, the committee ended up rejecting the article, 26 votes to 12, and it never became part of the coalescing impeachment effort that stopped with Nixon’s resignation.

Forty years later, and likely as a consequence, U.S. presidents routinely bomb countries the U.S. is not at war with. They provide the barest minimum of disclosure that the bombs have fallen, and often not even that. When the U.S.’ declared wars fail, as they did in Iraq and Afghanistan, their architects and stewards blame the client militaries and governments they propped up. They cover their troop withdrawals with futile bombing campaigns that kill people so American statesmen can save face. Whether he realized it or not, when President Biden in July 2021 blamed the Afghans for losing the Afghanistan war — “the Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight” was a typical line — he was reaching for Nixon and Kissinger’s template.

KISSINGER PLAYED A ROLE IN THE DEATHS OF SO MANY DIFFERENT PEOPLES that treating each with due consideration requires writing a book. Here is one example among many of the sort of carnage Kissinger inflicted indirectly rather than by edict. In 1971, the Pakistani government waged a campaign of genocide to suppress the independence movement in what would become Bangladesh. Pakistan’s Yahya Khan, an architect of the genocide, was valuable to Nixon’s ambitions of restoring diplomatic relations with China. So the U.S. let Khan’s forces rape and murder at least 300,000 people — and perhaps three million. “We can’t allow a friend of ours and China’s to get screwed in a conflict with a friend of India’s,” Nixon quoted Kissinger shrugging.

That perspective typified Kissinger. The Cold War was a geopolitical balance among two great powers. The purpose of Cold War statecraft was to maximize American freedom of action to inflict Washington’s will on the world — a zero-sum contest that meant restricting the ability of the Soviet Union to inflict Moscow’s — without the destabilization, or outright armageddon, that would result from pursuing a final defeat of the Soviets. That last part explains much right-wing hostility toward Kissinger. Kissinger represented anticommunism without ideological zeal. He was an energetic, even relentless practitioner of the Cold War, the theater of anticommunist conflict. But like George Kennan before him, Kissinger thought viewing the Cold War in ideological terms missed the point. The point was American geopolitical dominance, something measured in impunity and achieved by any means necessary. That permitted Nixon and Kissinger the creativity to reopen China, something Nixon would have demagogued anyone else for attempting.

Reopening China was by far the greatest achievement of Nixon’s foreign policy. It was the rare geopolitical initiative where Kissinger was a mere facilitator. Sy Hersh, in The Price of Power, calls Nixon “the grand theoretician” of rapprochement with Beijing, with Kissinger Nixon’s “occasional operative.” Kissinger’s dramatic, secret July 1971 trip to Beijing in advance of Nixon’s visit probably renders that description parsimonious. But, writes Hersh, “there is no evidence that Kissinger seriously considered the question of an American-Chinese rapprochement before his appointment as Nixon’s national security adviser.” Once it happened, Kissinger became an overnight celebrity, the sort of person destined to be shrouded in myth and apology.

President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger confer aboard Air Force One.

Kissinger might not have been motivated by hatred of communism. But he was a reactionary who empowered and enabled the sort of reactionaries for whom anticommunism was a respectable channel for America’s racist and exploitative socio-economic traditions. His chief aide on the National Security Council was a rabid anticommunist militarist, Army Col. Alexander Haig, a future secretary of state for Ronald Reagan. When Kissinger came under attack from neoconservatives and others on the right who couldn’t tolerate detente with the Soviets and rapprochement with the Chinese, neither he nor they recognized that both of them were driven by the Cold War forces that Kissinger stoked when convenient.

Most important of all the reactionaries was Nixon, without whom Kissinger would have lacked power, and from whom Kissinger would withstand any indignity.

Nixon was one of the original Cold War demagogues, the men who never hesitated to identify communism with Black people and the “Eastern Establishment” liberals who postured as allies. His escalation in Vietnam, along with the secret bombing in Cambodia he revealed in a televised address, prompted a resurgence of the antiwar movement. Nixon exploited the mass protests by contrasting them with the “silent majority” of loyal Americans. Instead of ending the war, as he had campaigned on doing, and silencing or co-opting the antiwar movement in the process, Nixon inflamed a culture war to distract from it. It was an echo of his infamous “Southern Strategy” to harness for the Republican Party the electoral benefits of white backlash to the civil rights movement.

Nixon was not subtle about who he meant by the Eastern Establishment. When the media seized upon the U.S. massacre at My Lai, Nixon remarked, “It’s those dirty rotten Jews from New York who are behind it.” Nixon’s White House counsel, John Erlichman, recalled Nixon talking about “Jewish traitors” in front of Kissinger, including “Jews at Harvard.” Kissinger would assure the boss he was one of the good ones. “Well, Mr. President,” Erlichman quoted him responding, “there are Jews and Jews.”

Kissinger maintained his standing in part by savaging the Eastern Establishment from which he emerged. It was not entirely cynical. Kissinger shared with Nixon a contempt for the “defeatism” and “pessimism” of those who flinched at the unsavory Vietnam War they once supported. He rationalized his purges of the National Security Council bureaucracy and his marginalization of the State Department — measures that made him indispensable to foreign policy, and to Nixon — as protecting American power from those who lacked the confidence to wield it. It is revealing that among those who make U.S. foreign policy, Kissinger’s perspective is not considered ideological.

Kissinger’s consolidation of bureaucratic control was punitive and paranoid. He used the fear of internal leaks to get the FBI to wiretap his staff and the journalists he suspected of receiving their information. Yet the Eastern Establishmentarians around Kissinger, on his staff or in the press, followed him like a puppy seeking an ear scratch. His coldblooded American exceptionalism was the perfect tone for speaking to a shaken ruling class. Anthony Lake, who would go on to become national security adviser to Bill Clinton, finally quit in May 1970, alongside his colleague Roger Morris. Their breaking points were the Vietnam escalation, Nixon’s alcoholism, and the surreptitious White House wiretaps that Nixon also pursued to enforce loyalty. But Lake and Morris opted not to go public. “I consider the failure to do so to be the biggest failure of my life,” Morris told Hersh for The Price of Power. “We didn’t do so on the single calculation that it would destroy Henry.” Weeks later, Kissinger, via Haig, had the FBI wiretap Lake.

IN SOUTHEAST ASIA, KISSINGER DESTROYED. But in Chile, he helped build a template for the world in which we currently live.

On September 4, 1970, Chileans elected the democratic socialist Salvador Allende president. Allende’s program was more than redistributionist. It demanded reparation from the U.S. for exploiting it. Chile is rich in copper, and by the mid-1960s, 80 percent of its copper production was controlled by American corporations, particularly the firms Anaconda Copper and Kennecott. When Allende nationalized mining assets held by the two companies, Allende informed them he would deduct estimated “excess profit” from a compensatory package he was willing to pay the firms. It was this sort of unacceptable policy that prompted Kissinger to remark, during an intelligence meeting about two months before Allende’s election, “I don’t see why we need to stand idly by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.”

Protesters shout “Arrest Henry Kissinger for war crimes” as Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger waits to testify in 2015.

Kissinger meant that there must never be an example of a country in America’s sphere of influence delivering socialism through the ballot. “Henry saw Allende as being a far more serious threat than Castro,” Kissinger staffer Morris told Hersh. “Allende was a living example of democratic social reform in Latin America.”

Kissinger and the CIA had decided to overthrow Allende just days after Allende’s election. Upon learning what was in motion, the U.S. ambassador in Santiago, Edward Korry, who was second to none in opposing Allende, cabled Kissinger that “to actively encourage a coup could lead us to a Bay of Pigs failure.” An “apoplectic Kissinger” told Korry to stay out of the way, according to Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes: The History of The CIA. When the CIA failed at what Korry termed a Rube Goldberg gambit to get the Chilean Congress to stop Allende from taking office — that’s right, the CIA tried a January 6 in Chile — Haig urged his boss to purge “the key left-wing dominated slots” in the agency.

Korry was wrong in the end. Kissinger’s policy of overthrowing Allende — “Why not support extremists?” he spitballed in a December 1970 White House meeting with the CIA’s covert-operations chief, Tom Karamessines — paid off on September 11, 1973, when a military junta took power, prompting Allende’s suicide. He would be among the first of 3,200 Chileans to die violently under the 17-year regime of Augusto Pinochet and his Caravana de la Muerte, to say nothing of the tens of thousands tortured and imprisoned. “In the Eisenhower period, we would be heroes,” Kissinger told Nixon in a telephone conversation days after the coup. The same week he denied at his Senate confirmation hearings that the U.S. played any role in it.

The coup was only the beginning. Within two years, Pinochet’s regime invited Milton Friedman, Arnold Harberger, and other economists from the University of Chicago to advise them. Chile pioneered the implementation of their agenda: severe government budgetary austerity; relentless assaults on organized labor; privatization of state assets, including health care and public pensions; layoffs of government employees; abolition of wages and price controls; and deregulation of capital markets. “Multinationals were not only granted the right to repatriate 100 percent of their profits but given guaranteed exchange rates to help them do so,” Grandin writes in his book Empire’s Workshop. European and American bankers flocked to Chile before its 1982 economic collapse. The World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank loaned Pinochet $3.1 billion between 1976 and 1986. As Corey Robin has documented, Friedrich von Hayek’s neoliberal Mont Pelerin Society held a 1981 meeting in the very city where the junta plotted the replacement of democratic socialism with a harbinger of today’s global economic order.

Pinochet’s torture chambers were the maternity ward of neoliberalism, a baby delivered bloody and screaming by Henry Kissinger. This was the “just and liberal world order” Hillary Clinton considered Kissinger’s life work.

He was no less foundational in pushing the frontiers of where American military power could operate. It turned out the secret bombing of Cambodia and Laos, which lasted years, represented a template. When Nixon in 1970 revealed the secret bombings, it was a step too far even for Thomas Schelling, one of the Pentagon’s favorite defense academics, who called them “sickening.” As Grandin writes in Kissinger’s Shadow, the Cambridge-to-Washington set was not prepared in 1970 to accept that the U.S. had the right to destroy an enemy “safe haven” in a country it was not at war with and to do it all in secret, thereby shielding a war from basic public scrutiny. After 9/11, those assertions became accepted, foundational pillars of a War on Terror permitting four presidents to bomb, for 20 years, Pakistanis, Yemenis, Somalis, Libyans, Syrians, and others.

Kissinger met with Pinochet in Santiago in June 1976. It was a time of rising U.S. congressional anger at Pinochet’s reign of terror. Kissinger informed the general that he was obliged to make an anodyne criticism of Pinochet to forestall adverse legislation. “My evaluation is that you are a victim of all left-wing groups around the world,” Kissinger said, according to a declassified cable, “and that your greatest sin was that you overthrew a government which was going Communist.” Three months later, U.S. diplomats warned Kissinger about Operation Condor, an international campaign of right-wing assassinations pursued by the anticommunist regimes of Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. Kissinger “has instructed that no further action be taken on this matter,” according to a September 16, 1976 cable. Five days later, a car bomb emplaced by Pinochet’s agents detonated along Washington D.C.’s Embassy Row, killing Orlando Letelier, Allende’s foreign minister, and his American co-worker, Ronni Moffitt.

In 1999, Pinochet was arrested in London through an effort by Baltazar Garzon, a Spanish judge investigating Operation Condor. Kissinger urged the British not to extradite the general. “​​I would be very happy if Pinochet was allowed home,” he told an interviewer. “This episode has gone on long enough and all my sympathies are with him.” Two years later, the administration of George W. Bush responded contemptuously to the Chilean Supreme Court’s efforts to compel Kissinger to testify. “It is unjust and ridiculous that a distinguished servant of this country should be harassed by foreign courts in this way,” an official told the Daily Telegraph. The paper noted that Kissinger was an “informal adviser” to Bush, as he was to many presidents.

Bush’s declaration of protection for Kissinger, coupled with his rejection of the Rome Treaty on the International Criminal Court, extinguished a glimmer of hope that Kissinger would someday join Pinochet under arrest. It was always a fantasy. The international architecture that the U.S. and its allies established after World War II, shorthanded today as the “rules-based international order,” somehow never gets around to applying the same pressure on a hegemonic United States as it applies to U.S.-hostile or defiant powers. It reflects the organizing principle of American exceptionalism: America acts; it is not acted upon. Henry Kissinger was a supreme architect of the rules-based international order.

In that regard, Kissinger was singular but was by no means unique. Kissinger built upon foundations constructed by Henry Morgenthau, Dean Acheson, George Kennan, Paul Nitze, the Dulles brothers, the Bundy brothers, JFK — you could go back to Albert Thayer Mahan and Teddy Roosevelt if you wanted; or James Monroe; or, depending on how fundamental you think empire is to America, 1619. He and Nixon chose to escalate in Vietnam and pursue the destruction of Cambodia. But the Pentagon Papers showed that the Vietnam War was the result of compounding decisions made in the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson administrations. The Vietnamese guerilla and justice minister Truong Nhu Tang writes in his Viet Cong Memoir that Kissinger, whose intellect he praises, “inherited a conceptual framework from his American and French predecessors … that led him to disaster.”

Kissinger and Nixon turned that into Watergate — as Grandin pointed out earlier in this story, Watergate began with a demand for vengeance on Daniel Ellsberg, the anti-Kissinger, for leaking the Pentagon Papers. Watergate was a grim demonstration, for neither the first nor the last time, that the crimes America commits abroad have a dialectical relationship with the crimes that America commits at home. Infamy has as many fathers as victory.

That, ultimately, is why Kissinger died a celebrity, with the wealth necessary to get taken in by Theranos. It is why Roger Morris and Anthony Lake opted against telling the country that the commander-in-chief was an alcoholic who was secretly surveilling his real and imagined critics. Whatever Kissinger’s origins, whatever rants about Jewboys he had to endure, Kissinger was an exemplar of the self-confident geopolitical potency that America’s elites, whatever they might personally think of Henry Kissinger, want America to make the world respect. When the Roger Morrises and Anthony Lakes and Hillary Clintons see Henry Kissinger, they see, despite what they will rotely and euphemistically acknowledge as his flaws, themselves as they wish to be.

Kissinger lived for over half a century in the world he had made. He was its hubris. He could see that the Iraq war would be a disaster, but he went along with it anyway, declaring: “the case for removing Iraq’s capacity of mass destruction is extremely strong.” Kissinger’s calculation, expressed in the noblest possible way, is that acceptance of an impending disaster is the price of influencing and hence mitigating it. His accommodation to the inevitability of political decisions he thought were folly hearkened back to his 1968 embrace of Nixon. What were the lives of Vietnamese, Cambodians, or Iraqis compared to Kissinger’s opportunity to help shape history?

But Iraq, and the broader War on Terror that Kissinger wanted expanded lest it “pete[r] out into an intelligence operation while the rest of the region gradually slides back to the pre-9/11 pattern,” presaged the world Kissinger made coming apart at the foundations. The man who repositioned U.S. foreign policy as a wedge between Russia and China lived long enough to see the February 4 Declaration uniting Moscow and Beijing. The reactionary forces he encouraged at home and abroad are showing the world that the rules-based international order is about capitalism, not democracy.

Whatever bitterness Kissinger, in his final days, experienced over the erosion of his enterprise is little comfort to his millions of victims. America denied them the closure Kathleen Treanor experienced when America, declaring justice, ended Timothy McVeigh.