This is the grave of Jeane Kirkpatrick.
Born in Duncan, Oklahoma in 1926, Kirkpatrick grew up in a politically progressive household, part of the white rural socialism quite common on the Great Plains in the first half of the twentieth century. Her grandfather was a leading member of the Populist and Socialist Parties in Oklahoma and he strongly influenced his young granddaughter. The family itself had become part of that extremely independent working class of the oil industry when she was a child; her father was a wildcatter, seeking oil. The family moved to Illinois when she was 12. Upon graduating high school, she went to a two-year institution in Columbia, Missouri that is today Stephens College. She was an active socialist in these years in Columbia. She transferred to Barnard to complete her undergraduate education. She lived for awhile in Paris, then married a former OSS officer named Evron Kirkpatrick in 1955. They had three children.
In the mid 1960s, Kirkpatrick, who was still a Democrat but moving to the right, decided to go back to school for graduate work. She started a PhD program in political science at Columbia. She finished that PhD in 1968, by which time she had a faculty position at Georgetown. She was a pretty important power player in the Democratic Party at this time, close to Hubert Humphrey and then Scoop Jackson. It was through her time with Jackson that she became one of the nation’s most prominent neoconservatives. She was still an active Democrat–in fact she was on the party’s platform committee in 1976. But she despised George McGovern, fully supported the Vietnam War, and warned publicly against compromise with the Soviets, fighting against the Carter administration’s attempt to create a SALT II treaty.
In 1979, Kirkpatrick broke with Carter entirely, publishing an influential essay titled “Dictatorships and Double Standards” in Commentary. In it, she sharply criticized Carter pushing liberalization in the Global South, saying that by doing so and through his opposition to autocratic dictatorships, he was giving over nations to anti-American forces who were therefore going to be Soviet-friendly. This was the sort of overwrought ridiculousness that was typical of the neoconservatives. But there were so many leading American policy makers who wanted to fight a rejuvenated Cold War so badly that it was Kirkpatrick’s ticket to the highest levels of power. Although still a Democrat until 1985, she became close to Ronald Reagan and his foreign policy team. Since Reagan, Al Haig, Caspar Weinberger and the rest were really ready to kill some leftists in Central America, Kirkpatrick would fit right in. As such, she became Reagan’s “bipartisan” pick for his administration, making her his United Nations ambassador in 1981. She was a little nervous about working with Reagan at first, noting to his advisors her strong support for unions. But that didn’t really matter and she fit in perfectly.
As UN Ambassador, Kirkpatrick was an absolute walking atrocity in motion. She openly supported the grotesque dictatorship in El Salvador with all its horrific violations of human rights. When the Salvadoran Army raped and murdered four American nuns working with the poor there, Kirkpatrick said the Army surely had nothing to do with it and blamed the nuns for their own murder, saying “the nuns were not just nuns. They were political activists. We ought to be a little more clear about this than we actually are.” Wow, she seems nice.
Kirkpatrick was a big supporter of the Argentine dictatorship too. After all, the kind of foreign policy she had broken with Carter over was him telling the Argentines to stop throwing political dissidents out of airplanes. She pretty actively supported the Argentines in the Falklands War, which was ridiculous on the face of it, not to mention annoying Margaret Thatcher and other British Tories. In fact, she went so far as to argue Reagan should actively intervene on the side of the Argentines, such as providing direct military assistance. This was….insane and mercifully was not followed. British ambassador to the U.S. Nicholas Henderson reported back to the Thatcher government, saying she was “more fool than fascist … she appears to be one of America’s own-goal scorers, tactless, wrong-headed, ineffective, and a dubious tribute to the academic profession to which she [expresses] her allegiance.” That about as damning an indictment of a leading foreign policy expert as you will read, though I am sure there are delicious archival discoveries of Trump’s foreign policy idiots to come in the future.
Kirkpatrick went so far as to deliver the Republican National Convention keynote speech to renominate Reagan in 1984. But tensions were growing between her and Shultz, who found her increasingly nuts. The main area of tension was over Iran-Contra, where she was allied with Weinberger, William Casey, Oliver North, and John Poindexter for ignoring Congress and sending illegal money to fund the Contras. George Shultz, being an institutionalist and not a complete lunatic, was someone in the Reagan administration who opposed all of this, to the extent that he even really knew all the details. Reagan was talking about promoting Kirkpatrick to National Security Advisor. For Shultz, that was just too far. He threatened to resign if that happened.
Kirkpatrick was so evil. Noam Chomsky put it best, writing, she was the “Chief sadist-in-residence of the Reagan Administration.” She also believed that Latin Americans were pathologically violent and thus incapable of self-governance without a strong military presence backed with the U.S. She also was a fervent supporter of Israel and attacked any nation that did not align themselves with the US fundamentalist-Zionist alliance for an expansionist Israel. She was one of these people–and the Reagan administration had a lot of them–who served leading agencies they thought should not exist. Her time at the UN taught her only contempt for the organization and most of the nations of the world. In 1994, Brandeis wanted to give her an honorary degree but the student and faculty protest against giving this monster such an honor that she eventually declined it. Cancel culture!
Kirkpatrick left the UN in 1985. Shultz’s play to deny her NSA was successful. So she returned to teaching at Georgetown. She finally became a Republican that year. She was a senior Republican advisor and turned to the things she hated about domestic politics as well, opposing affirmative action, claiming there was liberal bias in the universities, hating the idea of multiculturalism, and all the other usual claptrap from racists. She didn’t trust George Bush to be strong enough against communism, so she supported Bob Dole in 1988. She went onto to demand total war against fundamentalist Islam after 9/11 and then, in a cruel joke upon the world, was the U.S. representative to the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2003 and headed a delegation to get the rest of the Arab world to support the war against Iraq.
Kirkpatrick died of congestive heart failure in 2006. She was 80 years old.
Jeane Kirkpatrick is buried at Parklawn Memorial Park, Rockville, Maryland.
If you would like this series to visit other evil monsters of the Reagan administration, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Too many of them are still polluting the living, but William Casey is in Westbury, New York and Frank Carlucci is in Arlington. Previous posts in this series are archived here.