‘The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide’ by Gary J. Bass - The Washington Post

‘The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide’ by Gary J. Bass - The Washington Post

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Neil Sheehan, who spent three years in Vietnam as a war correspondent, is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam” and “A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon.”

We seem to live in an era of massacres. More than 500,000 Tutsis were hacked to death by their Hutu ethnic rivals in Rwanda in 1994. The following year, more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were shot to death by the Bosnian Serb army at Srbrenica. In Syria, more than 100,000 are dead, and more keep dying in massacres large and small by bullet, shell, bomb and poison gas.

Now Gary J. Bass, a journalist and professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton, has come forth with “The Blood Telegram,” a profoundly disturbing account of the hitherto hidden role of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of inhabitants of East Bengal (subsequently the nation of Bangladesh) and the making of 10 million refugees during Pakistan’s civil war in 1971. Apparently no precise figure is available for the deaths, but Bass cites a CIA and State Department estimate of about 200,000 midway through the killing.

(Knopf) - "The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide" by Gary J. Bass.

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The partition of British India in 1947 into mainly Hindu and mainly Muslim areas created a bifurcated Pakistan in a bizarre configuration that was a recipe for political instability and military dictatorship. West Pakistan was forged from the Muslim-dominated provinces on the western side of the subcontinent, while East Pakistan was created on the other side from the chiefly Muslim province of East Bengal. Roughly 1,000 miles of India lay between. East and west shared virtually nothing except religion.

Serious trouble began in 1970 when the president of Pakistan, Gen. Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, permitted a national election. The winner was a charismatic Bengali leader named Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rahman and his Awami League. Mujib enraged the army leadership, whose troops were drawn almost entirely from the Punjab and other western provinces and had no affection for the Bengalis, by publicly advocating autonomy for both wings under a federal system, while privately promoting secession and independence for East Bengal.

On the night of March 25, 1971, Yahya Khan launched a ferocious crackdown. The orgy of murder, rape and mayhem went on for months, focusing in genocidal fashion on the minority of Bengali Hindus regarded as most friendly to Pakistan’s enemy, India.

Nixon and Kissinger, his national security adviser, have sought to draw a curtain of silence over their role by omitting or glossing over the atrocities in their memoirs. Bass has defeated the attempted coverup through laborious culling of relevant sections of the Nixon White House tapes, declassified State Department documents and interviews with former officials, American and Indian, who were involved.

Archer Blood, the U.S. consul general in 1971 in Dhaka, the principal city of East Bengal, and his staff were horrified by the violence. Their reports to the State Department in Washington described the killings in gruesome detail and urged the strongest possible intervention to try to bring the carnage to an end. Pakistan’s generals were highly susceptible to pressure from Washington. Virtually their entire military, from the F-86 Sabre jet fighters in the air force to the armored, artillery and infantry contingents, was equipped with American weaponry and depended on the United States for the ammunition and spare parts required to keep it operating.

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