Much of the world views Kissinger as a war criminal – yet in the US, surrounded by powerful friends, he is feted as a celebrity intellectual.

by Bhaskar Sunkara and Jonah Walters, The Guardian

Henry Kissinger turns 100 on Saturday, but his legacy has never been in worse shape. Though many commentators now speak of a “tortured and deadly legacy”, for decades Kissinger was lauded by all quarters of the political and media establishment.

A teenage Jewish refugee who fled Nazi Germany, Kissinger charted an unlikely path to some of the most powerful positions on Earth. Even more strangely, as national security adviser and secretary of state under Nixon and Ford, he became something of a pop icon.

The 56th United States Secretary of State Henry Alfred Kissinger on the interview of Russian television

Back then, one fawning profile of the young statesman cast him as “the sex symbol of the Nixon administration”. In 1969, according to the profile, Kissinger attended a party full of Washington socialites with an envelope marked “Top Secret” tucked under his arm. The other party guests could hardly contain their curiosity, so Kissinger deflected their questions with a quip: the envelope contained his copy of the latest Playboy magazine. (Hugh Hefner apparently found this hilarious and thereafter ensured that the national security adviser got a free subscription.)

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