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The Saturday Salon: May 27 edition
aka the "F*** Henry Kissinger" edition.
Bayern Munich—the dominant German football club—recently posted a fawning interview with Henry Kissinger to celebrate his 100th birthday, which happens to be today.
The interview delved into the former U.S. Secretary of State’s passion for the sport, as well as his longstanding membership with FC Bayern. It contained prosaic quotes such as “football at the highest level is complexity masquerading as simplicity” and “football is the embodiment of the human experience.”
What the interview did not do, however, was mention the controversial American diplomat’s morally reprehensible policies during his tenure in office, as well as the war crimes he orchestrated in Southeast Asia.
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One of the most significant and controversial aspects of Kissinger's legacy is his role in the Vietnam War. As National Security Advisor under President Richard Nixon, Kissinger was a key architect of the policies that prolonged the conflict. However, his actions went beyond mere policy implementation.
Kissinger authorized a secret carpet bombing campaign in Cambodia and Laos without the consent or knowledge of Congress, which he knew would not approve such an attack on a neutral country that was not at war with the United States. Between 1969-73, the U.S. dropped half-a-million tons of bombs on Cambodia alone, killing more than 100,000 people and leading to the eventual destabilization of the country.
It is partly due to the indiscriminate nature of these bombings, as well as the lack of strategic justification for the attacks that led to Kissinger being labeled a war criminal. However, instead of standing trial, Kissinger was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1973.
Another troubling chapter in Kissinger’s legacy is his role in the 1973 coup in Chile that toppled the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende. Documents declassified in recent years reveal that Kissinger, as Secretary of State, actively supported and encouraged the military junta led by General Augusto Pinochet. This support was extended despite knowledge of the junta's human rights abuses, including the infamous "Caravan of Death."
Over the years, plenty of activists and human rights lawyers have sought Kissinger’s prosecution for alleged war crimes. Yet instead of being held to account for his cruel destruction of Cambodia (among other crimes), Kissinger is instead being showered with fawning articles written by incompetent hacks. At least you know you can expect better than that from me.
Welcome back to the Saturday Salon, friends…and fuck Henry Kissinger.
This week’s soundtrack is a collection of compositions by the extraordinary Ludovico Einaudi, an Italian composer who is among the most breathtaking pianists I have witnessed.
It is also an excellent palette cleanser after reading about Kissinger.
Shameless Self Promotion
The U.S. carpet bombing of Cambodia between 1969 and 1973 has been well documented, but its architect, former national security adviser and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who will turn 100 on Saturday, bears responsibility for more violence than has been previously reported.
“A Russian court on Tuesday extended the arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich by three months in a closed-door hearing emblematic of the secrecy that has marked the case against the first U.S. correspondent since the Cold War to be detained in Russia on spying charges.”
“We should forgive Egypt for being a little boastful and brash. After all, you can be a bit shouty when you are home to the Great Pyramid of Giza, the only surviving wonder of the ancient world, as well as Karnak in Luxor — one of the greatest religious complexes — and some of the most sublime art created by man. And that’s not to mention several deserts, Mediterranean and Red Sea coastline and the last, beautiful stretch of the world’s longest river. The country also has what they are calling a “new wonder in the making”, the Grand Egyptian Museum, but they are being uncharacteristically shy about that.”
By 3am on the morning of 15 May, when Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave a triumphant speech to the crowd outside his party’s headquarters in Ankara, extolling his unexpected lead over the opposition and a surprise majority for his coalition in parliament, the young voters were still awake but their hopes for change had been crushed.
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Arguments & Essays
Kissinger is routinely lambasted by his critics as a “war criminal,” though has never been held accountable for his misdeeds. He has made millions as a consultant, author, and commentator in the decades since he left government. I once heard of a Manhattan cocktail reception where he scoffed at the “war criminal” label and referred to it almost as a badge of honor. (“Bill Clinton does not have the spine to be a war criminal,” he joshed.) Kissinger has expressed few, if any, regrets about the cruel and deadly results of his moves on the global chessboard.
“And so to young Arabs who are willing to embrace the best of our culture, I would say this: take pride in Arab art. Do not succumb to the defeatism of others. Do not be discouraged by those who do not know your culture or do not appreciate its beauty.”
“The artist-historian resurrects overlooked stories and so-called details and lets the viewer, their audience, engage with the material. Yet decolonizing seems to always push the clock backward rather than affirm a way forward, reflecting the impossibility of being fully in the present while the past remains to be healed and continues to haunt.”
“There can be little doubt that, as a society, we haven’t yet got to grips with our anger problem. Celebrity outbursts shock and titillate us – from Christian Bale’s infamous 2009 rant on the set of Terminator Salvation to Will Smith’s slap at last year’s Oscars – while at the same time provoking widespread condemnation. The idea that aggressive expressions of anger make for a bad citizen have been around since Seneca, but our ways of dealing with such a ubiquitous emotion have been, historically, remarkably poor. The traditionally popular but perhaps not entirely effective technique for dealing with anger – repression – is a Victorian hangover, enforced in particular for women and permitted among men only when channeled into suitably masculine activities. Like boxing, maybe, or war.”
In the first four months of 2023 alone, there have been more than 469 anti-LGBTQ+ laws introduced in state legislatures across the United States, according to the ACLU. These bills are wide-ranging, from bans on books that feature gay penguins to censorship of drag performances in public spaces. However, trans and nonbinary youth have been particularly targeted by legislation. Republicans have zeroed in on children, establishing a legal and political context through which to later pass bans on gender-affirming care for transgender and nonbinary adults.
At 43, Moayed is a million miles from the fraught reality of that frightened child. He is widely known to fans of the HBO drama “Succession” for his recurring role as Stewy Hosseini, Kendall Roy’s old friend. And he is currently starring on Broadway as the ultra-controlling husband Torvald Helmer in “A Doll’s House,” opposite Jessica Chastain as Nora, the wife who walks out the door.
I grew up above a gay bar in Bangor, Maine, in the late 1980s+1990s, and next door to the Bangor Public Library. My entire childhood was Drag Queen Story Hour.
This week’s literary recommendation is a book I just finished reading: Joshua Cohen’s The Netanyahus: An Account of a Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family.
While this extraordinary work was first published in 2021 (and has since won a Pulitzer Prize), I only just got my hands on a copy last week and devoured the entire book in less than 24 hours. It is easily the best novel I have read this year and is entirely worth your time.
Here is the synopsis:
Corbin College, not quite upstate New York, winter 1959–1960: Ruben Blum, a Jewish historian—but not an historian of the Jews—is co-opted onto a hiring committee to review the application of an exiled Israeli scholar specializing in the Spanish Inquisition. When Benzion Netanyahu shows up for an interview, family unexpectedly in tow, Blum plays the reluctant host to guests who proceed to lay waste to his American complacencies. Mixing fiction with nonfiction, the campus novel with the lecture, The Netanyahus is a wildly inventive, genre-bending comedy of blending, identity, and politics that finds Joshua Cohen at the height of his powers.
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