View From Lodi, CA: Kissinger: No Regrets, No Remorse, No Apologies, No Wavering and No Compassion

As a critic of the Iraq War since the first bomb was dropped and one of the first American journalists to say that President Bush's Middle East policy was misguided and doomed, I thought I could not be more skeptical about the conflict's future.  

Then I learned that former-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger acts as a primary advisor on Iraq to Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

What worse news could there be that the man who still holds steadfast to his position that, if he had it to do over again, he wouldn't change a thing in his Vietnam policy.

Mike Wallace of CBS' "60 Minutes" interviewed Bob Woodward, Washington Post editor and prolific author about Washington presidential politics about his new book "State of Denial."

Among other things, Woodward revealed that Kissinger is a frequent White House visitor.

Woodward to Wallace:

"He's back.  In fact Henry Kissinger is almost like a member of the family.  If he's in town, he can call up and if the President's free, he'll see him."

And Cheney on Kissinger:

"Of the outside people that I talk to in this job I probably talk to Henry Kissinger more than just about anybody else.  He just comes by and I guess at least once a month I sit down with him."

Bush, according to Woodward, is a "big fan" of Kissinger's.

That the three are so cozy given Kissinger's utterly failed policies in Southeast Asia and Bush's determination to fight on in Iraq, rarely making even a token acknowledgment that the war is going poorly, will lead to no good.

And sure enough, Kissinger told Bush and Cheney that: "Victory is the only meaningful exit strategy."

Bush's core supporters on Iraq are: Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and now Kissinger, an 83-year-old Washington, D.C. lobbyist with a selective memory.

According to Woodward, we cannot count U.S. military leaders as war advocates since they are "the parrots on Rumsfeld's shoulders."

The lone exception is General John Abizaid, commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East, who according to Capitol Hill insiders, advocates getting out of Iraq at the earliest moment.

The thought of Kissinger playing an active role in how the Iraqi War is carried out is the most depressing possible news.

Just look back at Vietnam to get a sense of what might await us if Kissinger influences the administration.

Starting in 1959 when combat troops were first sent and ending in 1975 when South Vietnam capitulated, the Vietnam War was the longest in U.S. history. During nearly two decades of fighting, approximately 2-3 million Vietnamese, many of them civilians, were killed.

America lost 58,000 soldiers for a cause that remains unclear today more than 30 years after the U.S. withdrew its troops.

Kissinger remains one of the few who insist that the U.S. won the war. In Kissinger's view, America won on the battlefield but lacked the domestic resolve to carry on with the war. Congress caved in to the anti-war sentiment that swept over the nation in the early 1970s.

Despite it all, Kissinger is unrepentant. Even one of the Vietnam War's architects, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, hinted that he made mistakes in his book, "The Fog Of War."

But here, from a 1999 "60 Minutes" segment titled "Kissinger Talks About His Past Decisions," is what he said about the Southeast Asian War.

When asked if he regretted escalating the bombing of Cambodia 1969, Kissinger flatly answered "No."  

That policy led to the rise in power of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot's killing fields where 20 percent of Cambodia's population—-nearly 2 million people—- were tortured and executed.

And when asked by CBS co-host Leslie Stahl if, given the chance, he would do "anything" differently in South East Asia, Kissinger replied: "Looking back on it, I have no second thoughts."

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and now Kissinger: no regrets, no remorse, no apologies, no wavering and no compassion.

These are the people in charge of America's future.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.