1971 war: US diplomats sent angry telegram to White House for not stopping Dhaka massacre

M Ali Khan

Minister (2k+ posts)
The birth of Bangladesh: Blood Meridian

A new history sheds fresh light on a shameful moment in American foreign policy


Sep 21st 2013 |From the print edition

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The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide.
By Gary Bass. Knopf; 499 pages; $30. Buy from Amazon.com


UNTIL 1971 Pakistan was made up of two parts: west and east. Both Muslim-dominated territories were born out of Indias bloody partition 24 years earlier, though they existed awkwardly 1,600km apart, divided by hostile Indian territory. Relations between the two halves were always poor. The west dominated: it had the capital, Islamabad, and greater political, economic and military clout. Its more warlike Pashtuns and prosperous Punjabis, among others, looked down on Bengali easterners as passive and backward.


The split into Pakistan and Bangladesh was perhaps inevitable. It began in late 1970, after Pakistans first national elections. To the shock of West Pakistanis, an easterner, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, won a sweeping victory, and was poised to lead the country. His Awami League wanted greater rights for Bengalis. But the army chiefs and politicians in Islamabad would not countenance his taking office. They arrested him and the army began repressing eastern protesters.

Bengalis flocked to join the rebel forces who were fighting for independence. West Pakistani soldiers stationed in the east, plus a few local supporters, began targeting students, writers, politicians; especially the Hindu minority. Soldiers massacred civilians, burned villages and sent millions fleeing to India. Eventually some 10m became refugees, mostly Hindus. At least 300,000 people were killed; some say the death toll was over 1m.


Seen from America, where Richard Nixon was president, the war was a domestic Pakistani affair. Indias leader, Indira Gandhi, claimed otherwise. She called the floods of refugees a humanitarian disaster that threatened regional stability. She wanted international action, demanding that America tell Pakistans leaders to stop the killing. Nixon, urged by his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, refused.


In The Blood Telegram Gary Bass, a Princeton academic (who once wrote for The Economist), sets out to assess Americas handling of the war. He argues that the killings amounted to a genocide: Hindus, as a distinct minority, were chosen for annihilation and expulsion. He asks why Nixon continued actively to support the Pakistani leaders who were behind it.


At the behest of Mr Kissinger, Nixon sent military planes and other materiel to Pakistan, even though he knew this broke American law. He deployed an American naval task force to the Bay of Bengal to intimidate India, which had begun helping rebels in East Pakistan. Most extreme, he secretly asked China to send troops to Indias borders. He did so accepting a risk of Soviet retaliation, even that nuclear bombs might be lobbed around in response.


Nixon and Mr Kissinger stood with Pakistan, even as they knew of the extent of the slaughter. Their own diplomats told them about it. The centrepiece of Mr Basss gripping and well-researched book is the story of how Americas most senior diplomat in East Pakistan, Archer Blood, the consul-general in Dhaka, sent regular, detailed and accurate reports of the bloodshed. Early on he stated that a selective genocide was under way.


Blood and his colleagues protested that America should not support Pakistans rulers. Then, 20 of them sent a dissenting telegram (the Blood telegram of the books title) condemning Americas policy. It was an extreme and idealistic step for a diplomat, whose career was soon cut short. Though the telegram did not change American policy, it rates as an historic document. Such open dissent is extremely rare.



Mr Bass does a good job of explaining Nixons wilful support of Pakistan. Using newly released recordings of White House conversations between the president and Mr Kissinger, he sets out with admirable clarity what else was at stake. In part it was personal. Nixon, a man of few friends, was notably fond of Pakistans military ruler, Yahya Khan, a gruff, dim-witted, whisky-drinking general. Nixon compared the Pakistani favourably to Abraham Lincoln. By contrast he despised Indias wheedling civilian politicians, reserving a particular dislike for Gandhi, whom in private he frequently called a ***** and witch.


More important, Pakistan was a loyal cold-war ally, whereas India was seen as leaning towards the Soviet Union. Crucially, Mr Kissinger early in 1971 was using Pakistan as an essential secret conduit to China. He flew via Islamabad to Beijing to arrange for Nixon to make his own trip to see Mao Zedong. Better relations with China would allow America to wind down the war in Vietnam.


Ultimately, Mr Kissinger did much to set Americas course. He argued that America should pay no heed to domestic horrors in Pakistan, saying you cant go to war over refugees, and warned that India was a greater threat to international order. Indian ********, he agreed with Nixon, needed a mass famine to cut them down to size.



Mr Bass depicts Mr Kissinger as increasingly erratic, perhaps overworked, as East Pakistans secession became inevitable. He is quoted calling the conflict our Rhineland (in reference to the start of the second world war) and warning that India would rape Pakistan.


Mr Kissinger adopts a magisterial tone in the one chapter he devoted to the India-Pakistan crisis in his 1979 work, The White House Years. He refused to speak to Mr Bass for this book, and glosses over the Blood telegram in his memoirs, never explaining why he ignored the entreaties of the diplomats on the ground. That is a pity, because Americas response to the war has reverberated over the years.


The 1971 war poisoned regional affairs for decades. It ended when Indias army intervened, having supported East Pakistans rebels for months, and crushed the Pakistani forces within days. Pakistan was humiliated, yet no Pakistani soldier has been held to account for the mass slaughter that provoked the war.

Pakistanis by and large prefer not to discuss it. The war did convince them that India might next try to break up the remaining western rump of their country, perhaps by supporting Baluchi separatists on the border with Afghanistan. A sharp mutual suspicion still lingers between the neighbours, helping ensure that Pakistans army dominatesand damagesthe country still.


Nor did the war do much for India. Eventually the refugees went home, but relations with Bangladesh soon soured. At home Gandhi became suddenly more popular. But she then descended into authoritarianism, even suspending democracy. Inside Bangladesh the war remains a live political issue as alleged collaborators in the conflict (all opposition leaders) are being tried by a flawed, local war-crimes tribunal. This week, one defendant was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court.


Could things have been different if America, having listened to Blood, had pressed Pakistan not to slaughter its own people in 1971? Mr Bass does not speculate directly. Yet if a peaceful secession of Bangladesh had been possible, many lives would have been saved and a source of deep division in a troubled region would have been removed.

http://www.economist.com/news/books...shameful-moment-american-foreign-policy-blood
 

jason

Chief Minister (5k+ posts)
I cannot figure you out at firsT oh ok you must have migrated to west pakistan after 1971.

At variuos posts I have read your comments favouring Army and now this sudden change of heart???
 

Argonaut

Banned
Sarmila Bose in her excellent book "Dead Reckoning" has effectively burst the bubble of this propaganda of "genocide" in East Pakistan.

If some people still want to beat the same old drum it is their choice.
 

M Ali Khan

Minister (2k+ posts)
I cannot figure you out at firsT oh ok you must have migrated to west pakistan after 1971.

At variuos posts I have read your comments favouring Army and now this sudden change of heart???

I have this little thing I do. Its called CRITICAL THINKING. Blame that for my habit of criticising those who do wrong, supporting those who do right, despising those who exploit sentiments for political gains, and praising those who will defy popular nonsense to say the truth.

You should try that too sometime. You surely need it.

Sarmila Bose in her excellent book "Dead Reckoning" has effectively burst the bubble of this propaganda of "genocide" in East Pakistan.

If some people still want to beat the same old drum it is their choice.

My friend, I hope you have read the book. Because I certainly have. And yes I enjoyed the book.

Sarmila Bose DID question the official narrative given by Bangladeshis about the 'genocide' and the way many of the numbers were exaggerated.

BUT...and there is a big BUT....she DID mention time and time again how Pak Army and its proxies did carry out TARGET KILLINGS of Bengali intellectuals and university professors, as well as TARGET KILLING of Hindu East Pakistanis.

She has mentioned that time and time again. she also mentions the anger of US diplomats.

So much of the premise of target killings based on political affiliation (even if dubious) and killing those based on religion by Pak Army is no different than a Genocide!

the numbers were exaggerated, but the actions werent.

Make no mistake about it.

and you should probably read the critique of many Bangladeshi historians who dispute Bose's claims. It will help you more.
http://www.viewpointonline.net/flying-blind-waiting-for-a-real-reckoning-on-1971.html
 
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jason

Chief Minister (5k+ posts)
I have this little thing I do. Its called CRITICAL THINKING. Blame that for my habit of criticising those who do wrong, supporting those who do right, despising those who exploit sentiments for political gains, and praising those who will defy popular nonsense to say the truth.

You should try that too sometime. You surely need it.



My friend, I hope you have read the book. Because I certainly have. And yes I enjoyed the book.

Sarmila Bose DID question the official narrative given by Bangladeshis about the 'genocide' and the way many of the numbers were exaggerated.

BUT...and there is a big BUT....she DID mention time and time again how Pak Army and its proxies did carry out TARGET KILLINGS of Bengali intellectuals and university professors, as well as TARGET KILLING of Hindu East Pakistanis.

She has mentioned that time and time again.

So much of the premise of target killings based on political affiliation (even if dubious) and killing those based on religion by Pak Army is no different than a Genocide!

the numbers were exaggerated, but the actions werent.

Make no mistake about it.

and you should probably read the critique of many Bangladeshi historians who dispute Bose's claims. It will help you more.
http://www.viewpointonline.net/flying-blind-waiting-for-a-real-reckoning-on-1971.html
I didn't asked for what I need.I think i am fully capable of ascertaining it myself.Thanks anyway, I was however curious that a person of such high calibre who was once forcefully advocating the Army is now pointing a finger towards there character in 1971,it was bit strange isn't it?
 

M Ali Khan

Minister (2k+ posts)
I didn't asked for what I need.I think i am fully capable of ascertaining it myself.Thanks anyway, I was however curious that a person of such high calibre who was once forcefully advocating the Army is now pointing a finger towards there character in 1971,it was bit strange isn't it?

I am not an "advocate" for the Army. If I do advocate something, it is for Army to DO ITS DUTY. If you think I have ZERO issues with Army's past conduct (be it political interference, promoting jihadi groups, and generally avoiding ANY public scrutiny) then my friend you should read more of my posts.

Cheers.
 

jason

Chief Minister (5k+ posts)
I am not an "advocate" for the Army. If I do advocate something, it is for Army to DO ITS DUTY. If you think I have ZERO issues with Army's past conduct (be it political interference, promoting jihadi groups, and generally avoiding ANY public scrutiny) then my friend you should read more of my posts.

Cheers.
OK No problems cheers to you too