From intellectual, statesman, brilliant negotiator and Nobel Peace Prize to cynical, arrogant, egotistical and war criminal. Or maybe all at once. Henry Kissinger, the man who has been almost everything in the United States, turns 100 on Saturday, enlarging his own myth, although it is increasingly questioned.
For decades the man who was National Security adviser and Secretary of State for Richard Nixon (1969-1974) and Gerald Ford (1974-1977) has not held a position in the Government, but the long shadow of the most famous diplomat of the 20th century comes up to today.
Whether it is about the war in Ukraine or artificial intelligence, the centenary Kissinger continues to give his opinions with enviable lucidity because many ask him to, because he loves the spotlight and perhaps also to clean up a legacy full of chiaroscuro.
And it is that he is haunted by the fame of having promoted a foreign policy that was so pragmatic it was insensitive to moral considerations.
"50 years ago, on his fiftieth birthday, he was celebrated as one of the most admired Americans," Professor Thomas Schwartz recalled to EFE. "But that is no longer the case, history and historians have not exactly been kind to him," adds the author of the biography "Henry Kissinger and American Power."
Heinz Alfred Kissinger was born on May 27, 1923 in Fürth (Germany) into a Jewish family who came to New York fleeing Nazism when he was still a teenager.
With a thick German accent when speaking English, this Harvard graduate has always denied that his traumatic childhood marked him for life, but many disagree.
The professor of the University of Texas Jeremi Suri, author of 'Henry Kissinger and the American Century', considers that "being a Jewish refugee, he has always been very concerned about chaos and wanted to bring order to the world."
"He also believes that the United States is a superior nation that has to play a special role," Suri said in statements to EFE.
Kissinger, who according to his acquaintances does not practice humility, wants to be remembered as the architect of the détente policy towards the Soviet Union that changed the course of the Cold War, as the architect of the normalization of relations with China and as the intellectual that stopped nuclear proliferation.
He wants to go down in history as the great mediator of the Middle East, as well as the Nobel Peace Prize winner who ended the Vietnam War.
But he does not want to be reminded, or to be reminded, that unlike him, his award-winning partner, the Vietnamese Le Duc Tho, returned the Nobel because his country continued in conflict after the Paris Agreements.
I would also like his support for dictatorships such as those in Argentina and Spain to remain in the small print, his role in Operation Condor to repress left-wing Latin American opponents or that for many his hands are stained with blood for his support for the coup against Salvador Allende.
"We cannot allow Chile to go to the sewers," he went on to say in 1970. "Kissinger didn't mind dictatorships. In fact, he liked them if they sided with the United States and kept communism out of Latin America." explains to EFE Mario Del Pero, historian of Sciences Po in Paris and author of the biography "The Eccentric Realist".
"In a country that had lost its political and moral north because of the Vietnam War, Kissinger offered a clear and unequivocal message: morality is not made for international relations," he adds. Even a best seller by journalist Christopher Hitchens accused him in 2001 of war crimes for his actions in Cambodia, East Timor or Chile; unthinkable criticism in the 70s when Kissinger was the most popular man in the country.
He appeared on covers dressed as Superman, dated Hollywood stars without being particularly attractive, and dwarfed the president himself. "What would happen if Kissinger died? That Richard Nixon would become president", joked in Washington.
Schwartz says that "his personal story made him a very fascinating figure. The media coverage of the time resembled what Barack Obama had in 2008."
He survived the Watergate scandal and, after his time in politics, Kissinger has continued to be omnipresent in editorials, books, talks and interviews to broaden a myth with which many have wanted to photograph themselves, from Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump, through Vladimir Putin. or Xi Jinping.
But he has also spent a lot of time refuting the harsh criticism against him, something he does not tolerate. He was always told that she had the "finest skin" in the Administration.
This was demonstrated in a recent interview with the US channel CBS in which, deeply upset, he replied that the accusations of war criminal "are a reflection of ignorance."
Despite his stubborn image, his biographers say that he can be charming in person and that a good way to break the ice is to talk to him about football or opera. What does not disappear in short distances are his unmistakable horn-rimmed glasses and his enormous ego. "He wants to be remembered as a Mandela or a Gorbachev, but I think he will be remembered for a more ambiguous legacy," Suri opines.
According to the criteria of The Trust Project