Bangladeshi's blood on Henry Kissinger hand

December 01, 2023
The most cunning people in Bangladesh are sarcastically called Kissinger. It actually started with the name of Henry Kissinger. His name has been discussed for more than half a century as America's controversial figure in war crimes, including the Great Liberation War of Bangladesh. He is the creator of aggressive US foreign policy. He has destroyed democracy and human rights in the name of preventing communism. He may be the mastermind of US foreign policy, but his hands are stained with the blood of millions of dead people. He never repented for this crime. After receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, he had put the smell of controversy on the Nobel Prize itself. That the Vietnam War could have been stopped three years earlier, but for the political gain he kept alive, the Nobel Prize? It was strongly protested all over the world. Not that Kissinger himself was very proud of the award. In fact, fearing criticism and protests, he did not come to receive the award. Two members of the Nobel committee also resigned in protest at his nomination. Henry Kissinger died a few months after his 100th birthday. The many memorials to this distinguished American politician and diplomat cover the century of his life, from the horrors of fascism he fled as a young German-Jewish refugee to the Cold War that made him decisive. Geopolitical Impact As former President Richard M.Nixon's right-hand man, he is immersed in a brave new world marked by the relentless rise of China and the dizzying impact of new technologies such as artificial intelligence. Kissinger remained a prominent figure until the end of his life, a central figure in Washington's foreign policy circles and a frequent prophet of power through his lucrative group of advisors. Generations of policymakers marveled at the clarity of his insight and the sheer power of his intellect.“If it is possible for diplomacy, at its highest level, to be a form of art, Henry was an artist,” wrote former British prime minister Tony Blair. But for too many people outside the West, Kissinger's accomplishments are not worth celebrating. My colleagues have already outlined Kissinger's direct role in the relentless carpet bombing of Cambodia, and indirectly in enabling the Khmer Rouge's genocidal rampage. In his ruthless pursuit of Cold War exigencies, Kissinger condoned and encouraged brutal violence around the world. His hand can be seen in, among other things, the dirty wars of right-wing military regimes in Latin America, tacit support for white supremacist minority governments in Africa, and approval of the Indonesian dictatorship's invasion of East Timor in 1975. Conflict and starvation killed up to 200,000 people on this small island. “Those who follow history, who follow international politics — they know about this past, which was tragic and ugly,” José Ramos-Horta, the president of East Timor and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, told my colleague Rebecca Tan this week when asked about Kissinger. Though most Americans have little recollection or awareness of it, Kissinger is remembered keenly in South Asia for the part he and Nixon played during the bloody period that led to the emergence of the independent nation of Bangladesh in 1971. At that time, the state of Pakistan, established by the departed British, existed as a two-winged artificial structure with India separated by thousands of miles. Army generals from West Pakistan, most of whom were Punjabis, looked down on Bengalis from the east of the country. After the democratic victory of Bengali nationalists in the 1970 elections, a crisis ensued, culminating in the brutal repression of East Pakistanis by the Pakistani military. The operation involved mass killings of Hindus, students, dissidents, and other imprisoned people. And an assassination squad led by collaborators had their sights set on him.Sydney Schanberg, the New York Times’s South Asia correspondent at the time, described the month-long Pakistani crackdown in March 1971 as “a pogrom on a vast scale” in a land where “vultures grow fat.” Hundreds of thousands of women were raped. Whole villages were razed, and cities depopulated. An exodus of some 10 million refugees fled to India. When all was said and done, hundreds of thousands — and by some estimates, as many as 3 million — were killed, their bodies left to rot in the rice paddies or flushed into the ocean down the region’s many waterways. The carnage horrified onlookers and hastened an Indian intervention. The White House, though, stood on the side of Pakistan’s generals — clear Cold War allies who also helped facilitate Kissinger’s secret mission to China in April that year. Kissinger did not trust the Indians, who leaned toward the Soviet Union, and did not care about the national aspirations of the Bengalis of East Pakistan. Crucially, as outlined in Gary Bass’s excellent book, “The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide,” he also ignored messages and dissent cables from U.S. diplomats in the field, warning him that a genocide was taking place with their complicity. Neither Nixon nor Kissinger exercised any of their considerable leverage to restrain Pakistan’s generals. Instead, they covertly rushed arms to the Pakistanis — in violation of a congressional arms embargo — as India and its Bangladeshi separatist allies gained the upper hand. “Throughout it all, from the outbreak of civil war to the Bengali massacres to Pakistan’s crushing defeat by the Indian military, Nixon and Kissinger, unfazed by detailed knowledge of the massacres, stood stoutly behind Pakistan,” wrote Bass in his book. He pointed also to how “these practitioners of realpolitik were all too often propelled by emotion” — including contemptuous, openly racist views of their South Asian quarry. In the decades since, Kissinger never mustered a mea culpa. “Rather than reckoning with the human consequences of his deeds, let alone apologizing for breaking the law, Kissinger assiduously tried to cover up his record in the South Asia crisis,” Bass wrote in the Atlantic after Kissinger’s death. “As late as 2022, in his book Leadership, he was still trying to promote a sanitized view, in which he tactfully termed former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ‘an irritant’—even though during her tenure he repeatedly called her ‘a bitch,’ as well as calling the Indians ‘bastards’ and ‘sons of bitches.’” Not surprisingly, news of Kissinger’s passing was treated dyspeptically in Dhaka. In remarks Thursday, Bangladeshi foreign minister A.K. Abdul Momen said Kissinger was “dead against the people of then-East Pakistan,” chose to violate U.S. laws in the support of Pakistan’s military and failed to offer an apology to the Bangladeshi nation for the atrocities that took place on his watch. “That is very sad for such a smart man to do such inhumane things,” Momen said. “It is not acceptable.”

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