A controversial figure whose influence spanned international foreign affairs in the twentieth century
“Henry Kissinger was a colossus who bestrode a century: He shaped politics like no other statesman, and the world wouldn’t be in such a perilous state if more followed his wise and ruthlessly pragmatic approach”, claims one of his many biographers.
At the same time, his detractors contend that he was a symbol of dangerous neo-imperialism, stating that US support for violent Cold War nationalist groups amid proxy wars with the Soviet Union, such as Unita in Angola or later, the Contras in Nicaragua, and Washington’s propping up of the worst kind of African and Middle Eastern dictators – because it supposedly suited US geopolitical interests – were policies that owed much to Kissinger’s thinking.
East Timorese leaders claimed that under Kissinger’s direction, the US gave a green light to the 1975 Indonesian invasion of the island, which ushered in a 24-year brutal occupation by the Suharto dictatorship. This was a desperate time featured in my novel A Flyblown Solution.
Kissinger bragged about the illegal flow of weapons to the Indonesian government. “The illegal we do immediately, the unconstitutional takes a bit longer,” he boasted. The brutal occupation cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Timorese civilians.
President Ford and Kissinger gave President Suharto their approval for the assault of East Timor at a meeting in Jakarta on 6 December 1975, the day before the invasion. The details of the meeting are contained in a “secret memorandum” from the US State Department.