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তোদের গায়ে মুতি

November 23, 2013

The Blood Telegram – India’s secret war in East Pakistan ।। Garry J. Bass ।। Vintage Books Random House India ।। First Published 2013।। Price 599 indian Rupies

বইটি বাংলাদেশ নিয়ে নয়। ১৯৭১ সালের আমেরিকান প্রশাসনের পাকিস্তানের আগ্রাসী সামরিক জান্তার প্রতি অকুণ্ঠ সমর্থন এবং বিপরীতে ভারত সরকারের প্রতি চূড়ান্ত অসহিষ্ণুতার হিসাবকিতাব নিয়ে তিনটি সূত্রে প্রাপ্ত তথ্যের ভিত্তিতে গুছিয়ে পরিবেশিত একটি গুরুত্বপূর্ণ অনুলিখন। সেখানে প্রকল্পটি হল ‘পূর্ব পাকিস্তান’এ ১৯৭১ সালের ‘গৃহযুদ্ধ’ যেখানে ইয়াহিয়ার সামরিক জান্তার নিষ্ঠুরতায় ‘সিলেক্টিভ জেনোসাইড’এর আলামত নিয়ে আমেরিকার ‘স্টেট ডিপার্টমেন্ট’কে অবহিত করতে গিয়ে প্রেসিডেন্ট নিক্সনের রোষানলে পড়ে ক্যারিয়ার ধ্বংস হল দূতাবাস কর্মকর্তা আর্চার ব্লাডের – আর সেই সূত্রেই বইটির নাম ‘দি ব্লাড টেলিগ্রাম’, ঠিকই আছে, কিন্তু বইটির দ্বিতীয় শিরোনাম ‘ইন্ডিয়াস সিক্রেট ওয়ার ইন ইস্ট পাকিস্তান’ না হয়ে ‘আমেরিকাস সিক্রেট স্টার্ট টু ভেনচার ইসলামিজম’ হলেই বইয়ে বর্ণিত নিক্সন-কিসিঞ্জারের ১৯৭১ সালের কার্যকলাপের একটা মূল্যবান ঐতিহাসিক ইঙ্গিত পাওয়া যেত।

the blood telegram

the blood telegram

এই বইয়ের নিক্সন-কিসিঞ্জারকে পড়তে গিয়ে আমার মনে হয়েছে এই দুজনের হাতেই পাকিস্তানের সামরিক জান্তার সাথে সুগভীর বন্ধুত্বের সুযোগে পাকিস্তানের জঙ্গি ইসলামের বীজতলার কাজ সম্পন্ন হয়েছে ১৯৭১ সালেই এবং এ বীজতলা থেকে চারা নিয়েই পরবর্তীতে পুরো মধ্যপ্রাচ্যে তার নিবিড় চাষ করেছে আমেরিকান প্রশাসন।

স্কুল কলেজে এরকম জুটি বেশ দেখতে পাওয়া যায়, একটি ক্ষমতাবান ছেলে বা মেয়ের সাথে একটি মেধাবী ছেলে বা মেয়ের সার্বক্ষণিক চলাফেরা – এবং এই জুটির নানা অপকর্মে চারপাশে সবাই আতঙ্কিত বিরক্ত কিন্তু ক্ষমতা ও মেধার দ্বৈত দাপটে সবার নাভিশ্বাস উঠলেও কারোরই কিছু করার থাকে না। নিক্সন-কিসিঞ্জার সেরকম একটি জুটি। ১৯৭১ সালের বাংলাদেশের স্বাধীনতা যুদ্ধ এবং সেযুদ্ধে বাঙালিদের মরণপণ লড়াই তাদের উপর সংঘটিত গণহত্যা লুটপাট ধর্ষণ, তাদের রাজনৈতিক নেতৃত্ব এসব এদুজনের কাছে কিছুই নয়। তাদের কাছে গুরুত্বপূর্ণ ইয়াহিয়ার বন্ধুত্ব সেই বন্ধুত্বের সর্বোচ্চ ব্যবহার করে গোপনে চীনের কমিউনিস্ট পার্টির হর্তকর্তাদের কাছে পৌঁছানো এবং এভাবে ঠাণ্ডাযুদ্ধে সোভিয়েত ইউনিয়নের শক্তি ক্ষয় করে দেয়া। আর এই জুটির কিসিঞ্জার সাহেব তো পেটের পীড়ার অভিনয় করে রাষ্ট্রীয় সফর থেকে আড়ালে চলে গিয়ে ইয়াহিয়ার পাবর্ত্য রেসর্টে হাওয়া বদলের অফিসিয়াল ঘোষণা দিয়ে অন্তরালে পাকিস্তানের বিমানে করে বেইজিংয়ে চৌ এনলাইয়ের সাথে দেখা করে পরবর্তীতে চীনে নিক্সনের বিখ্যাত রাষ্ট্রীয় সফরের ব্যবস্থা করেন। এবং এঅংশটুকু পড়তে গিয়ে আমার মনে হয়েছে জাতীয় নিরাপত্তা উপদেষ্টার নিজের গোয়েন্দার মতো অভিজ্ঞতা নেয়ার অভিযান ছাড়া কিসিঞ্জারের গোপনে চীন ভ্রমণের আর কোনো বিশেষত্ব ছিল না। অন্যভাবেও তখনকার দিনে আমেরিকার সাথে কূটনৈতিক সম্পর্কহীন চীনের যোগাযোগ সৃষ্টি করা যেত।

এই বই পড়তে পড়তে হঠাৎ হঠাৎই আমার খুব হাসি পেয়েছে, আমেরিকান প্রশাসনের এই নিষ্ঠুরতা চর্চার সেই বুঝি শুরু – এবং এচর্চাটা আমেরিকান প্রশাসনেরও নিশ্চয় খুব প্রিয়, প্রিয় বলেই তো আজো কিসিঞ্জার ওদের সবচেয়ে গ্রাউন্ড ব্রেকিং কূটনীতিবিদের সম্মান পেয়ে থাকে, কিন্তু আমার কাছে কিসিঞ্জার এক মহাবিরক্তিকর প্রাণী – এই যে শুরুতে বলছিলাম, ‘ভেনচার ইসলামিজম’এর বীজতলার প্রথম চাষী কিসিঞ্জারই – একাজে তার হাতে জমি তুলে দিয়েছিল প্রেসিডেন্ট নিক্সন।

আজকের ইসলামি জঙ্গিত্বের যে নেটওয়ার্ক তার গোড়াপত্তন করে দিয়েছে ১৯৭১ সালের পটভূমিকায় এই নিক্সন-কিসিঞ্জার জুটি। এই বই পড়তে গিয়ে আমার এই উপলব্ধিটা আমার নিজের কাছেই খুব গুরুত্বপূর্ণ মনে হয়েছে।

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কমিউনিটি ব্লগে, বইপ্রস্থ ৬

 

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  1. Unholy Alliances
    Nixon, Kissinger, and the Bangladesh genocide.
    By Pankaj Mishra

    “Did you read today about what America is doing?” one of the Indian characters in Rohinton Mistry’s “Such a Long Journey” asks. “CIA bastards are up to their usual anus-fingering tactics.” The novel is set in 1971, the year that India intervened in Pakistan’s civil war and helped create a new nation-state—Bangladesh—from the Bengali-speaking province of East Pakistan. Like Mistry’s characters, Indians were confused and incensed by President Richard Nixon’s support for Pakistan’s military rulers and by his hostility toward India. After all, Pakistan had launched a murderous campaign against the Bengalis, leaving India’s impoverished and volatile border states to cope with ultimately some ten million refugees fleeing the carnage. The total number of the dead is unknown, but Bangladesh’s official estimate is three million. (Pakistan’s clearly understated figure is twenty-six thousand.)

    When, during the short ensuing war between India and Pakistan, Nixon implicitly threatened India by ordering a nuclear aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Enterprise, into the Bay of Bengal, millions of Indian minds went dark with geopolitical paranoia. Nixon and his national-security adviser, Henry Kissinger, became, as Mistry puts it, “names to curse with.” Mistry’s protagonist amplifies a commonplace conjecture: “The CIA plan” involves supporting Pakistan against India, because India’s friendship with the Soviet Union “makes Nixon shit, lying awake in bed and thinking about it. His house is white, but his pyjamas become brown every night.”

    Little did such Indians know that their wildest suppositions were indeed being ratified by Nixon, himself a gifted conspiracy theorist, who wholly reciprocated Indian antipathy. The White House tapes, the recordings that Nixon made of his conversations in office, have long been recognized as a marvel of verbal incontinence. But it is still startling to hear Nixon musing that what “the Indians,” then lucklessly hosting millions of refugees, “need—what they really need—is . . . a mass famine.” Kissinger loyally chimes in: “They’re such bastards.”

    The explanation for Nixon’s bizarre apportionment of blame lies in a complicated network of regional loyalties. Pakistan was a trusted American ally, to be protected against any threats from India and the Soviet Union, two countries that were on the verge of signing a “friendship treaty.” Nixon and Kissinger tried to persuade China, which they were hoping to befriend, to open up a front against India, its enemy since the Sino-Indian War of 1962. When India moved decisively against the overstretched Pakistani military—the war ended in just two weeks—the Oval Office, like the alleys of Calcutta, became feverish with speculation. The White House tapes contain this extraordinary exchange during the war’s final days:

    Kissinger: If the Soviets move against them [the Chinese] and then we don’t do anything, we’ll be finished.

    Nixon: So what do we do if the Soviets move against them? Start lobbing nuclear weapons in, is that what you mean?

    That’s indeed what Kissinger meant. “That will be the final showdown,” he said. Nixon quickly backed off from “Armageddon,” as he called it, but thinking seriously about this option evidently had its consolations. “At least we’re coming off like men,” Kissinger said. Nixon, too, was pleased to advertise that “the man in the White House” is “tough.” In this Washington bubble, reality had receded. As Hannah Arendt pointed out in her review of the Pentagon Papers, later that year, the assertion of American machismo had weirdly supplanted all strategic and military aims and interests. The U.S. had to behave like the greatest power on earth for no other reason than to convince the world of it.

    How did the President of the United States find himself contemplating nuclear assault against the Soviet Union on behalf of Mao Zedong’s China while still embroiled in Vietnam? And why did he choose not to abandon Pakistani allies who were clearly guilty of mass killings? Two absorbing new books—Srinath Raghavan’s “1971: A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh” (Harvard) and Gary Bass’s “The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide” (Knopf)—describe, from different perspectives, this strangely neglected episode of the Cold War. Raghavan covers a range of mentalities, choices, and decisions in Islamabad, Moscow, Beijing, Washington, New Delhi, and other capitals. Bass focusses mainly on American actions and inaction. His previous book, “Freedom’s Battle: The Origins of Humanitarian Intervention,” has been cited by advocates of a United Nations doctrine, known as Responsibility to Protect, that enjoins the international community to intervene when a state cannot protect its citizens from genocide or war crimes. His heroes are such Americans as Archer Blood, the consul-general in Dhaka, whose office lambasted Washington for supporting a murderous Pakistani regime, in a cable subsequently known as the Blood telegram.

    “Our government has failed to denounce the suppression of democracy,” the telegram said. “Our government has failed to denounce atrocities. . . . Our government has evidenced what many will consider moral bankruptcy.” Kenneth Keating, the U.S. Ambassador to India, likewise called on the Nixon Administration to “promptly, publicly, and prominently deplore this brutality.” But Nixon stonewalled Keating, and recalled Archer Blood from Dhaka. He and Kissinger showed contempt for dissenting American voices both within the Administration and in the Democratic opposition and the media. Bass draws up a severe indictment of Nixon and Kissinger, holding them responsible for “significant complicity in the slaughter of the Bengalis.” He writes, “In the dark annals of modern cruelty, it ranks as bloodier than Bosnia and by some accounts in the same rough league as Rwanda.”

    This is not how Nixon would have liked to be remembered. By the nineteen-seventies, he had abandoned his reflexive anti-Communism of the forties and fifties. He had come to pride himself on taking a “long view” of things, believing that a balance of power, rather than the standoffs of the Cold War, was the best way to insure international stability. He and Kissinger were pursuing détente with the Soviet Union and laying the groundwork for his spectacular visit to China, in 1972. Nixon also fancied himself, after several tours to the region, to be a “man who knows Asia.” But, as Bass’s book makes clear, neither he nor Kissinger took a deep interest in Pakistan. In 1947, the violent partition of British India had divided the subcontinent into separate homelands for the Hindus (India) and the Muslims (Pakistan). Pakistan was created out of two regions that were separated by more than a thousand miles of Indian territory and that had little in common except religion. West Pakistan’s Punjabi-speaking military-feudal élite looked down on the Bengali-speaking natives of East Pakistan, whom they saw as racially inferior. They treated the province, which contained more than half of Pakistan’s population, as little better than a colony, a source of revenue for West Pakistan and a captive market for its goods.

    Nixon preferred Pakistan’s straight-talking Sandhurst-accented military strongmen to India’s elected leaders, especially those—Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, for instance—who seemed to be snootily intellectual and were admired by East Coast liberals. As for the Bengalis, Nixon was unable to pronounce or even to recognize the name of their leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, popularly known as Mujib, who had been campaigning for autonomy for East Pakistan. And Nixon was as surprised as everyone else in December, 1970, when Mujib’s party gained a clear majority in Pakistan’s parliamentary election.

    The military junta—led by General Yahya Khan, who had assumed power in 1969—was reluctant to accept the election results, and Khan postponed convening Pakistan’s National Assembly. Mujib feared collusion between Yahya Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the populist West Pakistani politician whose party Mujib’s had beaten. As Mujib, Yahya Khan, and Bhutto fruitlessly negotiated, Bengali separatist anger began to erupt in mass demonstrations. On March 25, 1971, the Pakistani Army launched a full-scale campaign, known as Operation Searchlight. After arresting Mujib and abducting him to West Pakistan and banning his party, it set about massacring his supporters, with American weapons.

    Firing squads spread out across East Pakistan, sometimes assisted by local collaborators from Islamist groups that had been humiliated in the elections. In the countryside, where the armed resistance was strongest, the Pakistani military burned and strafed villages, killing thousands and turning many more into refugees. Hindus, who composed more than ten per cent of the population, were targeted, their un-Muslimness ascertained by a quick inspection underneath their lungis. Tens of thousands of women were raped in a campaign of terror. (Bengalis also murdered and raped Urdu-speaking Muslims whom they suspected of being fifth columnists for West Pakistan.) Archer Blood, among others, reported the slaughter of professors and students at Dhaka University, an attempt to silence the intellectual class who had eloquently articulated Bengali grievances.

    At first, Nixon and Kissinger were impressed by the ferocity of Yahya Khan’s crackdown. “The use of power against seeming odds pays off,” Kissinger said. Bass examines in detail how their attitude reflected the important role they had given Pakistan in their plans for China. Yahya Khan was the principal intermediary between Beijing and Washington, personally conveying to Chinese leaders the Americans’ desire for a closer dialogue. In April, 1971, the same month that the Blood telegram’s unwelcome report on Pakistan’s atrocities arrived, Nixon received his eagerly awaited invitation from the Chinese. He excitedly proposed that Kissinger secretly go to China, to prepare the way. He boasted that it was going to be a “great watershed in history, clearly the greatest since WWII”; the reliably boosterish Kissinger ranked it even higher, as “the greatest since the Civil War.” In July, Kissinger, feigning a stomach upset in Pakistan, flew from Islamabad to Beijing, where he began his long infatuation with China’s mighty philosopher-kings, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai.

    Reporting back to Nixon on Pakistan’s help with the “cloak and dagger exercise,” Kissinger joshed, “Yahya hasn’t had such fun since the last Hindu massacre!” Still, he realized that the Pakistani generals had behaved recklessly in East Pakistan. He saw that India was likely to go to war to resolve its intolerable refugee problem and that it was bound to win. He concurred with Nixon’s description of the Indians, who were secretly training and arming Bengali guerrillas, as “a slippery, treacherous people,” who “would like nothing better than to use this tragedy to destroy Pakistan.” Yahya Khan had to be supported until the great Presidential visit to China was confirmed.

    In addition, as Bass writes, “Kissinger now argued that U.S. demonstrations of fealty to Pakistan would play well for the Chinese,” who had distrusted India since their border clashes in 1962. Supporting the insupportable was part of an image-making strategy, a demonstration to the Chinese that, as the Pentagon Papers said, the United States was “willing to keep promises, be tough, take risks, get bloodied and hurt the enemy badly.” And the need to project American credibility and toughness grew: on August 9th, India signed its friendship treaty with the Soviet Union—a “bombshell,” in Kissinger’s panicked appraisal, that could spoil “everything we have done with China.”

    Public opinion had also been shifting against West Pakistan. In June, a report by an intrepid Pakistani journalist named Anthony Mascarenhas had appeared in London’s Sunday Times, with the headline “GENOCIDE.” Edward Kennedy returned from a visit to the refugee camps in August, hailing India’s “way of compassion.” That same month, a concert in New York in support of Bangladesh, organized by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar, directed the countercultural energies of the nineteen-sixties to a new cause. Nixon, however, put his faith in the proverbial American indifference to foreign affairs: “Biafra stirred up a few Catholics. But you know, I think Biafra stirred people up more than Pakistan, because Pakistan they’re just a bunch of brown goddamn Moslems.”

    A visit to Washington in November by Indira Gandhi did not improve Nixon and Kissinger’s chances of postponing war between India and Pakistan until after the summit with Mao Zedong. Bass enumerates the various temptations Kissinger prepared for her: “famine relief, international relief presence, civilian governor, amnesty, unilateral withdrawal.” But she seemed implacable, talking to Nixon with the tone, Kissinger recalled, of “a professor praising a slightly backward student.”

    On December 4th, Yahya Khan, fed up with Indian infringements on Pakistan’s territory, declared war. Nixon and Kissinger blamed Indira Gandhi. It “makes your heart sick,” Nixon told Kissinger, for the Pakistanis “to be done so by the Indians, and after we have warned the bitch.” Nixon and Kissinger, desperate not to lose face with the Chinese and the Soviets, responded to Pakistan’s looming defeat with the crazy logic of escalation. Kissinger threatened the Soviet Union and encouraged the Chinese to intervene against India, and, as Nixon put it, “scare those goddamn Indians to death.” Nixon, contemplating Armageddon, dispatched the U.S.S. Enterprise.

    The Soviets, the Chinese, and the Indians proved to be more levelheaded than the self-styled exponents of Realpolitik in the Oval Office. The Soviet Union, Srinath Raghavan shows in his book, was no less averse than the United States to the breakup of Pakistan, to which it had sold armaments. Raghavan’s narrative, which contradicts Bass’s at several points, argues that there was nothing inevitable about the dissolution of Pakistan. The creation of Bangladesh was the product of “conjuncture and contingency, choice and chance.” India was initially reluctant to arm Bengali rebels and to engage Pakistan militarily, and it would probably not have signed its friendship treaty with the Soviet Union had it not been for threats from Kissinger. And all that Nixon’s bluffing with the U.S.S. Enterprise achieved was, according to Raghavan, to “spur the Indians to capture Dhaka and seal their victory—objectives that had not been on their strategic horizons when the war began.”

    On December 16th, India forced Pakistan into an unconditional surrender in Dhaka. Ninety thousand Pakistani soldiers and civilians became prisoners of war—they remained in India until 1973—and Pakistan lost its most populous province. Defeat shocked many West Pakistanis, who had come to believe that one brave Muslim soldier equalled ten Hindu ones. From then on, shame and humiliation drove Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment to seek “strategic depth” in Afghanistan and a policy of “death by a thousand cuts” in Indian-ruled Kashmir.

    Bass describes the devious way that Nixon and Kissinger managed to bury their role in the debacle. Americans have also “absorbed some of Nixon and Kissinger’s contempt for Bangladesh,” he laments. “Faraway, poor, brown—the place is all too easily ignored or mocked.” It is also true that Nixon in 1971 was far more worried about America’s protracted war in Vietnam, which, typically, he wished to end without admitting defeat. He recognized that “peace with honor,” an unfulfilled promise from his 1968 Presidential campaign, was key to his reëlection, in 1972. But neither intensified bombing of North Vietnam nor secret talks with Hanoi were producing the result he desired, and an increasing majority of the American public thought the war a mistake. In June, 1971, the Times began to publish excerpts from the Pentagon Papers; the same month, the Democratic-majority Senate voted for the withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam.

    These setbacks made Nixon more desperate for successes abroad. As he saw it, resetting relations with Hanoi’s main allies, the Soviet Union and China, could not only insure his place in history; it could also persuade North Vietnam to end the war on terms favorable to the United States. Insofar as the India-Pakistan imbroglio featured in these intricate plans, it was a nuisance, along with the conflicts of many other remote countries, including those in the Middle East.

    Nixon had no doubt that publicly taking sides in East Pakistan would be, as he told Kissinger, “a hell of a mistake.” Kissinger, too, while concluding that the U.S. should not condemn the crackdown in East Pakistan, made it privately clear to Yahya Khan that Pakistan couldn’t expect American assistance while the slaughter continued. Such a course of public restraint and private pressure—echoed today in President Obama’s studied refusal to call the Egyptian coup a coup—offered, he felt, “the best chance of conserving our limited ability to influence” events.

    Kissinger and Nixon were quick to accept the fait accompli of an independent Bangladesh, and the ensuing ouster of Yahya Khan by Bhutto, whom they detested. And Nixon could cease fretting about South Asia, when, just two months after Pakistan’s defeat, he made his momentous visit to China, then inaugurated détente with the Soviet Union, and, in November, disingenuously claiming to be nearing peace with honor in Vietnam, won a landslide reëlection. As Kissinger told Zhou Enlai, “the future of our relationship with Peking is infinitely more important for the future of Asia than what happens in Phnom Penh, in Hanoi or in Saigon”—or, he could have added, in Dhaka.

    Nixon and Kissinger were clearly not burdened with an excessively moralistic view of foreign policy, but many postwar Administrations, Democratic as well as Republican, violated American ideals of democracy and human rights while pursuing what they saw—mostly wrongly—as national interests. In Latin America, for instance, counter-insurgency practices, including the use of death squads, honed by C.I.A.-sponsored forces in Guatemala in 1954 were diffused by pro-American regimes across the region—Brazil in 1964, Chile and Uruguay in 1973, Argentina in 1976, and El Salvador in the late seventies.

    Nixon and Kissinger’s pursuit of international credibility through macho posturing was rash. But such forceful efforts to deter potential enemies and influence friends can be dated back, as Arendt wrote, to “the fateful war crime that ended the last world war,” the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The imperative to look tough at all costs, most recently embodied by George W. Bush’s “shock and awe” tactics in Iraq, also weighed ominously on President Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis and on President Johnson in Vietnam. (It now weighs on Barack Obama as he contemplates punitive action in Syria.) The decision in 1979 by the human-rights-friendly Carter Administration to give the Soviet Union “its own Vietnam” in Afghanistan with the help of Islamist mujahideen sowed a more extensive geopolitical disorder than what William Bundy called the “unnecessary risk-taking” of Nixon and Kissinger.

    At the same time, to focus on the moral capacity or culpability of American leaders can obscure the ruthless gambits of ruling classes in less powerful countries. Mujib, the founding father of Bangladesh, supported Islamists against progressive forces, amnestied Bengali collaborators of Pakistani war criminals, and banned all opposition political parties, before he was assassinated by Bangladeshi Army officers, in 1975. Bangladesh is still struggling to overcome the tormented legacy of his misrule. Two years after the revelations of Watergate, Indira Gandhi exceeded Nixon’s most flagrant illegalities by suspending civil liberties and arresting major opposition leaders. Bhutto, a champion of social justice for the poor, did not deny the necessity of a crackdown in East Pakistan. “I would have done it with more intelligence, more scientifically, less brutally,” he said in an interview. In 1974, he was able to demonstrate his refined approach by unleashing helicopter gunships on secessionists in Pakistan’s western province of Balochistan. West Pakistan’s leaders recognized the rebellious Bengalis as a threat to their military, economic, and political hegemony, and there is not much that the United States could have done to change their perception.

    Disappointed by America’s failure to stand up for human rights, Bass sees a more inspiring example in “India’s democratic response to the plight of the Bengalis.” In a footnote, he writes, “This book extends my argument that liberal states can be driven toward humanitarian intervention.” Although many Indians experienced, as Bass writes, “real solidarity with the Bengalis,” Indira Gandhi was driven to war by the politically explosive and economically catastrophic presence of refugees in India, and the fear of unrest in the border areas where she had just crushed a major left-wing insurgency.

    In many ways, the region is still dealing with the demons unleashed by the great territorial scission of 1971. India’s successful nuclear tests, three years later, spurred Pakistan’s urgent and costly attempts to achieve parity. The desire for revenge motivated Pakistani soldiers and spies, as they organized anti-Indian militant proxies in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment, despite the proliferation of new external and internal enemies, has remained institutionally obsessed with India. India, in turn, has governed Kashmir with the help of security forces and Draconian laws, and has been building a security fence on its border with Bangladesh.

    Such an aftermath of the creation of Bangladesh presents a challenge to liberal interventionists who wish to draw guidance for future actions. Force-backed humanitarianism, which relies on rational influence over events in other countries, may have been a more feasible project in the bipolar era of the Cold War, with its relatively defined and stable web of alliances and proxies. Today, a multitude of newly empowered actors make a series of choices—the Muslim Brotherhood President appeasing the military, say, or liberal Egyptians backing a coup—that have wholly unpredictable consequences.

    The leader of the lone superpower finds his freedom of action ever more constrained by domestic political dysfunction and the complexities of geopolitical turmoil. Obama was expected to restore an ethical sheen to post-9/11 foreign policy, but he has intensified drone warfare in Yemen and Pakistan, pursued whistle-blowers, and failed to close down Guantánamo. It is difficult to imagine him risking Israel’s security by taking a hard line against the Egyptian generals—especially not while he weighs the appropriate response to Syrian war crimes, copes with the human costs of the Iraq occupation and of the intervention in Libya, seeks peace with honor in Afghanistan, re-starts peace talks between Israel and Palestine, and controls the fallout from Edward Snowden’s revelations. Against this backdrop of permanent crisis, of ineluctable compromises and trade-offs, the moral responsibilities of liberal democracies seem arduous. Resources are meagre, intentions troublingly ambiguous. India’s rulers in 1971, Bass writes, were “driven by an impure mix of humanitarian and strategic motives.” The same contaminated blend also drives those who choose war as a means to end violence. As another such intercession looms, we should be mindful of the aftereffects and the people who are left to cope with them. ♦

    http://nirmanblog.com/masudkarim/8563#comment-36008

  2. Henry Kissinger’s genocidal legacy: Vietnam, Cambodia and the birth of American militarism

    In April 2014, ESPN published a photograph of an unlikely duo: Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and former national security adviser and secretary of state Henry Kissinger at the Yankees-Red Sox season opener. In fleece jackets on a crisp spring day, they were visibly enjoying each other’s company, looking for all the world like a twenty-first-century geopolitical version of Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. The subtext of their banter, however, wasn’t about sex, but death.

    As a journalist, Power had made her name as a defender of human rights, winning a Pulitzer Prize for her book A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. Having served on the National Security Council before moving on to the U.N., she was considered an influential “liberal hawk” of the Obama era. She was also a leading light among a set of policymakers and intellectuals who believe that American diplomacy should be driven not just by national security and economic concerns but by humanitarian ideals, especially the advancement of democracy and the defense of human rights.

    The United States, Power long held, has a responsibility to protect the world’s most vulnerable people. In 2011 she played a crucial role in convincing President Obama to send in American air power to prevent troops loyal to Libyan autocrat Muammar Gaddafi from massacring civilians. That campaign led to his death, the violent overthrow of his regime, and in the end, a failed state and growing stronghold for ISIS and other terror groups. In contrast, Kissinger is identified with a school of “political realism,” which holds that American power should service American interests, even if that means sacrificing the human rights of others.

    According to ESPN, Power teasingly asked Kissinger if his allegiance to the Yankees was “in keeping with a realist’s perspective on the world.” Power, an avid Red Sox fan, had only recently failed to convince the United Nations to endorse a U.S. bombing campaign in Syria, so Kissinger couldn’t resist responding with a gibe of his own. “You might,” he said, “end up doing more realistic things.” It was his way of suggesting that she drop the Red Sox for the Yankees. “The human rights advocate,” Power retorted, referring to herself in the third person, “falls in love with the Red Sox, the downtrodden, the people who can’t win the World Series.”

    “Now,” replied Kissinger, “we are the downtrodden” — a reference to the Yankees’ poor performance the previous season. During his time in office, Kissinger had been involved in three of the genocides Power mentions in her book: Pol Pot’s “killing fields” in Cambodia, which would never have occurred had he not infamously ordered an illegal four-and-a-half-year bombing campaign in that country; Indonesia’s massacre in East Timor; and Pakistan’s in Bangladesh, both of which he expedited.

    You might think that mutual knowledge of his policies under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and the horrors that arose from them would have cast a pall over their conversation, but their banter was lively. “If a Yankee fan and a Red Sox fan can head into the heart of darkness for the first game of the season,” Power commented, “all things are possible.”

    All things except, it seems, extricating the country from its endless wars.

    Only recently, Barack Obama announced that U.S. troops wouldn’t be leaving Afghanistan any time soon and also made a deeper commitment to fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, including deploying the first U.S. ground personnel into that country. Indeed, a new book by New York Times reporter Charlie Savage, Power Wars, suggests that there has been little substantive difference between George W. Bush’s administration and Obama’s when it comes to national security policies or the legal justifications used to pursue regime change in the Greater Middle East.

    Henry Kissinger is, of course, not singularly responsible for the evolution of the U.S. national security state into a monstrosity. That state has had many administrators. But his example — especially his steadfast support for bombing as an instrument of “diplomacy” and his militarization of the Persian Gulf — has coursed through the decades, shedding a spectral light on the road that has brought us to a state of eternal war.

    From Cambodia…

    Within days of Richard Nixon’s inauguration in January 1969, national security adviser Kissinger asked the Pentagon to lay out his bombing options in Indochina. The previous president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, had suspended his own bombing campaign against North Vietnam in hopes of negotiating a broader ceasefire. Kissinger and Nixon were eager to re-launch it, a tough task given domestic political support for the bombing halt.

    The next best option: begin bombing across the border in Cambodia to destroy enemy supply lines, depots, and bases supposedly located there. Nixon and Kissinger also believed that such an onslaught might force Hanoi to make concessions at the negotiating table. On February 24th, Kissinger and his military aide, Colonel Alexander Haig, met with Air Force Colonel Ray Sitton, an expert on B-52 bombers, to begin the planning of Menu, the grim culinary codename for the bombing campaign to come.

    Given that Nixon had been elected on a promise to end the war in Vietnam, Kissinger believed that it wasn’t enough to place Menu in the category of “top secret.” Absolute and total secrecy, especially from Congress, was a necessity. He had no doubt that Congress, crucial to the appropriation of funds needed to conduct specific military missions, would never approve a bombing campaign against a neutral country with which the United States wasn’t at war.

    Instead, Kissinger, Haig, and Sitton came up with an ingenious deception. Based on recommendations from General Creighton Abrams, commander of military operations in Vietnam, Sitton would lay out the Cambodian targets to be struck, then run them by Kissinger and Haig for approval. Next, he would backchannel their coordinates to Saigon and a courier would deliver them to radar stations where the officer in charge would, at the last minute, switch B-52 bombing runs over South Vietnam to the agreed-upon Cambodian targets.

    Later, that officer would burn any relevant maps, computer printouts, radar reports, or messages that might reveal the actual target. “A whole special furnace” was set up to dispose of the records, Abrams would later testify before Congress. “We burned probably 12 hours a day.” False “post-strike” paperwork would then be written up indicating that the sorties had been flown over South Vietnam as planned.

    Kissinger was very hands-on. “Strike here in this area,” Sitton recalled Kissinger telling him, “or strike here in that area.” The bombing galvanized the national security adviser. The first raid occurred on March 18, 1969. “K really excited,” Bob Haldeman, Nixon’s chief of staff, wrote in his diary. “He came beaming in [to the Oval Office] with the report.”

    In fact, he would supervise every aspect of the bombing. As journalist Seymour Hersh later wrote, “When the military men presented a proposed bombing list, Kissinger would redesign the missions, shifting a dozen planes, perhaps, from one area to another, and altering the timing of the bombing runs… [He] seemed to enjoy playing the bombardier.” (That joy wouldn’t be limited to Cambodia. According to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, when the bombing of North Vietnam finally started up again, Kissinger “expressed enthusiasm at the size of the bomb craters.”) A Pentagon report released in 1973 stated that “Henry A. Kissinger approved each of the 3,875 Cambodia bombing raids in 1969 and 1970” — the most secretive phase of the bombing — “as well as the methods for keeping them out of the newspapers.”

    All told, between 1969 and 1973, the U.S. dropped half-a-million tons of bombs on Cambodia alone, killing at least 100,000 civilians. And don’t forget Laos and both North and South Vietnam. “It’s wave after wave of planes. You see, they can’t see the B-52 and they dropped a million pounds of bombs,” Kissinger told Nixon after the April 1972 bombing of North Vietnam’s port city of Haiphong, as he tried to reassure the president that the strategy was working: “I bet you we will have had more planes over there in one day than Johnson had in a month… Each plane can carry about 10 times the load [a] World War II plane could carry.”

    As the months passed, however, the bombing did nothing to force Hanoi to the bargaining table. It did, on the other hand, help Kissinger in his interoffice rivalries. His sole source of power was Nixon, who was a bombing advocate. So Kissinger embraced his role as First Bombardier to show the tough-guy militarists the president had surrounded himself with that he was the “hawk of hawks.” And yet, in the end, even Nixon came to see that the bombing campaigns were a dead end. “K. We have had 10 years of total control of the air in Laos and V.Nam,” Nixon wrote him over a top-secret report on the efficacy of bombing, “The result = Zilch.” (This was in January 1972, three months before Kissinger assured Nixon that “wave after wave” of bombers would do the trick).

    During those four-and a half years when the U.S. military dropped more than 6,000,000 tons of bombs on Southeast Asia, Kissinger revealed himself to be not a supreme political realist, but the planet’s supreme idealist. He refused to quit when it came to a policy meant to bring about a world he believed he ought to live in, one where he could, by the force of the material power of the U.S. military, bend poor peasant countries like Cambodia, Laos, and North Vietnam to his will — as opposed to the one he did live in, where bomb as he might he couldn’t force Hanoi to submit. As he put it at the time, “I refuse to believe that a little fourth-rate power like North Vietnam does not have a breaking point.”

    In fact, that bombing campaign did have one striking effect: it destabilized Cambodia, provoking a 1970 coup that, in turn, provoked a 1970 American invasion, which only broadened the social base of the insurgency growing in the countryside, leading to escalating U.S. bombing runs that spread to nearly the whole country, devastating it and creating the conditions for the rise to power of the genocidal Khmer Rouge.

    …to the First Gulf War

    Having either condoned, authorized, or planned so many invasions — Indonesia’s in East Timor, Pakistan’s in Bangladesh, the U.S.’s in Cambodia, South Vietnam’s in Laos, and South Africa’s in Angola — Henry Kissinger took the only logical stance in early August 1990, when Saddam Hussein sent the Iraqi military into Kuwait: he condemned the act. In office, he had worked to pump up Baghdad’s regional ambitions. As a private consultant and pundit, he had promoted the idea that Saddam’s Iraq could serve as a disposable counterweight to revolutionary Iran. Now, he knew just what needed to be done: the annexation of Kuwait had to be reversed.

    President George H.W. Bush soon launched Operation Desert Shield, sending an enormous contingent of troops to Saudi Arabia. But once there, what exactly were they to do? Contain Iraq? Attack and liberate Kuwait? Drive on to Baghdad and depose Saddam? There was no clear consensus among foreign policy advisers or analysts. Prominent conservatives, who had made their names fighting the Cold War, offered conflicting advice. Former ambassador to the U.N. Jeane Kirkpatrick, for instance, opposed any action against Iraq. She didn’t think that Washington had a “distinctive interest in the Gulf” now that the Soviet Union was gone. Other conservatives pointed out that, with the Cold War over, it mattered little whether Iraqi Baathists or local sheiks pumped Kuwait’s oil as long as it made it out of the ground.

    Kissinger took the point position in countering those he called America’s “new isolationists.” What Bush did next in Kuwait, he announced in the first sentence of a widely published syndicated column, would make or break his administration. Anything short of the liberation of Kuwait would turn Bush’s “show of force” in Saudi Arabia into a “debacle.”

    Baiting fellow conservatives reluctant to launch a crusade in the Gulf, he insisted, in Cold War-ish terms that couldn’t fail to bite, that their advice was nothing short of “abdication.” There were, he insisted, “consequences” to one’s “failure to resist.” He may, in fact, have been the first person to compare Saddam Hussein to Hitler. In opinion pieces, TV appearances, and testimony before Congress, Kissinger forcefully argued for intervention, including the “surgical and progressive destruction of Iraq’s military assets” and the removal of the Iraqi leader from power. “America,” he insisted, “has crossed its Rubicon” and there was no turning back.

    He was once again a man of the moment. But how expectations had shifted since 1970! When President Bush launched his bombers on January 17, 1991, it was in the full glare of the public eye, recorded for all to see. There was no veil of secrecy and no secret furnaces, burned documents, or counterfeited flight reports. After a four-month-long on-air debate among politicians and pundits, “smart bombs” lit up the sky over Baghdad and Kuwait City as the TV cameras rolled. Featured were new night-vision equipment, real-time satellite communications, and former U.S. commanders ready to narrate the war in the style of football announcers right down to instant replays. “In sports-page language,” said CBS News anchor Dan Rather on the first night of the attack, “this… it’s not a sport. It’s war. But so far, it’s a blowout.”

    And Kissinger himself was everywhere — ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, on the radio, in the papers — offering his opinion. “I think it’s gone well,” he said to Dan Rather that very night.

    It would be a techno-display of such apparent omnipotence that President Bush got the kind of mass approval Kissinger and Nixon never dreamed possible. With instant replay came instant gratification, confirmation that the president had the public’s backing. On January 18th, only a day into the assault, CBS announced that a new poll “indicates extremely strong support for Mr. Bush’s Gulf offensive.”

    “By God,” Bush said in triumph, “we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.”

    Saddam Hussein’s troops were easily driven out of Kuwait and, momentarily, it looked like the outcome would vindicate the logic behind Kissinger’s and Nixon’s covert Cambodian air campaign: that the US should be free to use whatever military force it needed to compel the political outcome it sought. It seemed as if the world Kissinger had long believed he ought to live in was finally coming into being.

    …toward 9/11

    Saddam Hussein, however, remained in power in Baghdad, creating a problem of enormous proportions for Bush’s successor, Bill Clinton. Increasingly onerous sanctions, punctuated by occasional cruise missile attacks on Baghdad, only added to the crisis. Children were starving; civilians were being killed by U.S. missiles; and the Baathist regime refused to budge.

    Kissinger watched all of this with a kind of detached amusement. In a way, Clinton was following his lead: he was bombing a country with which we weren’t at war and without congressional approval in part to placate the militarist right. In 1998, at a conference commemorating the 25th anniversary of the accords that ended the Vietnam War, Kissinger expressed his opinion on Iraq. The real “problem,” he said, is will. You need to be willing to “break the back” of somebody you refuse to negotiate with, just as he and Nixon had done in Southeast Asia. “Whether we got it right or not,” Kissinger added, “is really secondary.”

    That should count as a remarkable statement in the annals of “political realism.”

    Not surprisingly then, in the wake of 9/11, Kissinger was an early supporter of a bold military response. On August 9, 2002, for instance, he endorsed a policy of regime change in Iraq in his syndicated column, acknowledging it as “revolutionary.” “The notion of justified pre-emption,” he wrote, “runs counter to modern international law,” but was nonetheless necessary because of the novelty of the “terrorist threat,” which “transcends the nation-state.”

    There was, however, “another, generally unstated, reason for bringing matters to a head with Iraq”: to “demonstrate that a terrorist challenge or a systemic attack on the international order also produces catastrophic consequences for the perpetrators, as well as their supporters.” To be — in true Kissingerian fashion — in the good graces of the most militaristic members of an American administration, the ultimate political “realist” was, in other words, perfectly willing to ignore that the secular Baathists of Baghdad were the enemies of Islamic jihadists, and that Iraq had neither perpetrated 9/11 nor supported the perpetrators of 9/11. After all, being “right or not is really secondary” to the main issue: being willing to do something decisive, especially use air power to “break the back” of… well, whomever.

    Less than three weeks later, Vice President Dick Cheney, laying out his case for an invasion of Iraq before the national convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars, quoted directly from Kissinger’s column. “As former Secretary of State Kissinger recently stated,” said Cheney, there is “an imperative for pre-emptive action.”

    In 2005, after the revelations about the cooking of intelligence and the manipulation of the press to neutralize opposition to the invasion of Iraq, after Fallujah and Abu Ghraib, after it became clear that the real beneficiary of the occupation would be revolutionary Iran, Michael Gerson, George W. Bush’s speechwriter, paid a visit to Kissinger in New York. Public support for the war was by then plummeting and Bush’s justifications for waging it expanding. America’s “responsibility,” he had announced earlier that year in his second inaugural address, was to “rid the world of evil.”

    Gerson, who had helped write that speech, asked Kissinger what he thought of it. “At first I was appalled,” Kissinger said, but then he came to appreciate it for instrumental reasons. “On reflection,” as Bob Woodward recounted in his book State of Denial, he “now believed the speech served a purpose and was a very smart move, setting the war on terror and overall U.S. foreign policy in the context of American values. That would help sustain a long campaign.”

    At that meeting, Kissinger gave Gerson a copy of an infamous memo he had written Nixon in 1969 and asked him to pass it along to Bush. “Withdrawal of U.S. troops will become like salted peanuts to the American public,” he had warned, “the more U.S. troops come home, the more will be demanded.” Don’t get caught in that trap, Kissinger told Gerson, for once withdrawals start, it will become “harder and harder to maintain the morale of those who remain, not to speak of their mothers.”

    Kissinger then reminisced about Vietnam, reminding Gerson that incentives offered through negotiations must be backed up by credible threats of an unrestrained nature. As an example, he brought up one of the many “major” ultimatums he had given the North Vietnamese, warning of “dire consequences” if they didn’t offer the concessions needed for the U.S. to withdraw from Vietnam “with honor.” They didn’t.

    “I didn’t have enough power,” was how Kissinger summarized his experience more than three decades later.

    Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

    When it comes to American militarism, conventional wisdom puts the idealist Samantha Power and the realist Kissinger at opposite ends of a spectrum. Conventional wisdom is wrong, as Kissinger himself has pointed out. Last year, while promoting his book World Order, he responded to questions about his controversial policies by pointing to Obama. There was, he said, no difference between what he did with B-52s in Cambodia and what the president was doing with drones in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. When asked about his role in overthrowing Salvador Allende, the democratically elected president of Chile in 1973, he insisted that his actions had been retrospectively justified by what Obama and Power did in Libya and wanted to do in Syria.

    Kissinger’s defense was, of course, partly fatuous, especially his absurd assertion that fewer civilians had died from the half-million tons of bombs he had dropped on Cambodia than from the Hellfire missiles of Obama’s drones. (Credible estimates put civilian fatalities in Cambodia at more than 100,000; drones are blamed for about 1,000 civilian deaths.) He was right, however, in his assertion that many of the political arguments he made in the late 1960s to justify his illegal and covert wars in Cambodia and Laos, considered at the time way beyond mainstream thinking, are now an unquestioned, very public part of American policymaking. This was especially true of the idea that the U.S. has the right to violate the sovereignty of a neutral country to destroy enemy “sanctuaries.” “If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven,” Barack Obama has said, offering Kissinger his retroactive absolution.

    Here, then, is a perfect expression of American militarism’s unbroken circle. Kissinger invokes today’s endless, open-ended wars to justify his diplomacy by air power in Cambodia and elsewhere nearly half a century ago. But what he did then created the conditions for today’s endless wars, both those started by Bush’s neocons and those waged by Obama’s war-fighting liberals like Samantha Power. So it goes in Washington.
    Greg Grandin is a professor of history at New York University and the author of “Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman.” He is the author of a number of prize-winning books, including The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World, which won the Bancroft Prize in American History. He is also the author of Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City (Metropolitan 2009), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History, as well as for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

    http://vietnamfulldisclosure.org/index.php/henry-kissingers-genocidal-legacy-vietnam-cambodia-and-the-birth-of-american-militarism/

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