Nixon, Kissinger, And The 1971 Genocide In Bangladesh

This evening, Jagan Pillarisetti and will be speaking at the New York Military Affairs Symposium on ‘Indian Air Force Operations in the 1971 Liberation War.’ Our talk will be based on our book Eagles over Bangladesh: The Indian Air Force in the 1971 Liberation War (Harper Collins, 2013). Here is the jacket description:

In December 1971 Bangladesh was born. Its birthing was painful: it had suffered a brutal genocide conducted by its former countrymen from West Pakistan, and a war between the indigenous Mukti Bahini (Liberation Army) and the Indian Armed Forces on one side, and the West Pakistani Armed Forces on the other. War broke out on the Western and Eastern fronts in December 1971 and ended quickly; the West Pakistani Army surrendered in Dacca two weeks later. A significant factor in facilitating the Indian Army’s progress to Dacca was the IAF, which neutralized the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), and provided deadly, timely and accurate firepower to support the Indian Army. The IAF flew a variety of missions: counter-air raids on airfields, steep glide dive-bombing attacks on runways, aircombat with PAF Sabres, helicopter borne operations, paradropping, and shipping attacks. Eagles Over Bangladesh: The Indian Air Force in the 1971 Liberation War, provides a day by day recounting of the IAF’s activities, commencing with raids on Dacca on the first day of the war, and moving on to the final coup de grace delivered on the Governor’s House, all the while bolstered by first-person descriptions from IAF pilots. [links added]

I’ve been warming up for the talk by reading Gary BassThe Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide and I’m reminded, yet again, of what total and utter shits and moral reprobates those two were. There is little I can say to lengthen the already existent and damning charge sheets against Henry Kissinger (the approval of whom by Hillary Clinton was one of the many reasons why I could not bring myself to vote for her.) Let me instead, quote the always eloquent and erudite Patrick S. O’Donnell on the subject:

Henry Kissinger, a moral monster who exemplified the dark arts of immoral and amoral Realpolitik while at the pinnacle of political power in the United States, is a living reminder of why we established (several ad hoc and hybrid, as well as one permanent) international criminal tribunals and need universal jurisdiction in the quest for international criminal justice. If you’re not well acquainted with the precise reasons why Kissinger is rightly referred to in some quarters as a “war criminal” (although one could plausibly argue he is also guilty of crimes against humanity and complicity in genocide, among other crimes), see the first and still best summary of the particulars of this searing public indictment in Christopher Hitchens’ The Trial of Henry Kissinger (Twelve, 2012; first edition, Verso, 2001, 2002 with new preface).

Bass’ book notes that despite a series of anguished reports emanating from US diplomatic staff in Dacca–headed by Archer Blood–who bore witness to the Pakistani Army genocide in Bangladesh, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger not only ignored these pleas to publicly condemn these atrocities, they refused to bring any pressure to bear on the Pakistani military administration–including but not limited to, not allowing American arms to be used in the massacres. Worse, they remained actively hostile to the Indian government, which was then dealing with an influx of ten million refugees fleeing the killings in East Pakistan. As Bass notes:

Nixon and Kissinger bear responsibility for a significant complicity in the slaughter of the Bengalis. This overlooked episode deserves to be a defining part of their historical reputations. But although Nixon and Kissinger have hardly been neglected by history, this major incident has largely been whitewashed out of their legacy—and not by accident. Kissinger began telling demonstrable falsehoods about the administration’s record just two weeks into the crisis, and has not stopped distorting since.

My father fought in the 1971 war as a pilot in the Indian Air Force; I’m glad he did.

6 thoughts on “Nixon, Kissinger, And The 1971 Genocide In Bangladesh

  1. Dear Samir Chopra, some years ago, I wrote a poem to Henry K, partly inspired by Neruda’s great curse of Francisco Franco. Since it appears the old troglodyte will never be haled before the International Court, a reverse apotheosis in poetry will have to do. Here it is:


    Is it too late to curse you, Henry?
    Is it time to have the years obscure your crimes?

    Time to close that chapter,
    let bygones be gone, give it a rest, let it be?

    It is not too late, Henry.

    And thus begins our curse:
    Be it never too late,

    be the voices you hear in your dotage
    your victims’ shouting Assassin! Thief!

    Because you sat well-tailored in handsome offices
    and sent others out to prove your power,

    because you wrote, “With proper tactics
    nuclear war need not be as destructive as it appears”,

    because you found white phosphorous a useful tool
    and napalm a tolerable arm of diplomacy,

    and agent orange necessary
    to policy, and tiger cages,

    because you didn’t understand why we should allow a country to go
    communist on account of its own people’s ignorance,

    because you enjoyed the company of Pinochet
    Marcos, Duvalier, Stroessner Somoza, the Shah,

    because you regretted Laos and Cambodia-
    “We should have found some other way of doing it”,

    because you killed Allende and shattered Neruda’s heart
    as surely as if you had held the gun yourself,

    because you accepted the Nobel Peace Prize,
    because in the mirror you see a god—Hermes, Loki,

    because you have a mind for deciding life and death,
    and it’s pure injustice of history that you’re not still doing it—

    may the insects refuse to touch you, may the worms spit you back,
    may you never know decay’s comfort and rest.

    Let the voices follow you always.
    Let the burning children run toward you forever

    clasping you in their flaming arms.
    Let your eternal waiting room be

    the stadium in Santiago, filled with silent prisoners filing
    past. Each one stops to look at you,

    and you, with all the time in the world
    cannot look away.

    None mentions bruises, burns,
    missing fingernails, teeth, faces,

    each only recites a name—
    Elena, Nguyen, Christofis, Bobby Jene, Laureano,

    and one of them hands you a snapshot of his daughters,
    another his unused high school registration card,

    a third the unfinished history of her family,
    a fourth holds out a stuffed penguin, won

    at a carnival moments before his arrest,
    the next carries nothing, having no hands,

    gives you only her look, and whispers
    a poem, a hymn to the wind.

    The line of the disappeared goes on and on
    and you will stand rooted,

    seeing them at last. And always,
    always will you hear the songs of love

    Victor Jara continues to sing,
    even without

    his tongue.

  2. 1. My father fought in 1965 war (he was stationed in Ambala) and retired soon after.
    2. Often Hitler’s name is mentioned to denote the highest brutality, but Churchill is forgotten. ‘Churchill’s secret war’ by Madhusree Mukerjee.
    3. In 1971 I was a young grad student in the US. There was a talk that the TWO wanted to bomb a few key strong holds of India. Even an aircraft carrier from Vietnam was ordered to make a move. Brezhnev drew a line in the Bay of Bengal and challenged not to cross and thus prevented further escalation of deaths.
    A few days ago you mentioned about street fight. If Russia wants any respect in the street fight with US, it should do what Brezhnev did. I think Russia could have prevented Iraq war if it supported Saddam and drew a line on the sand. Even now when US bombed the Airforce facility in Syria, where were they?

  3. My father was commissioned in 1957 (Bangalore) after he rose in ranks from 1941. If I remember correctly he was also in squadron 8. My nephew made a site for Squadron Leader Thinnium Narayana Venkata Raman, but I can not find it now.
    He finished only high school, but gained enormous knowledge in English and Sciences. He was a man of impeccable character and is responsible for all my good qualities.

  4. I did find this

    Sqn Ldr Tinnam Narayana Venkataraman 5133 ENG Unit : -N.A.- Award Date 26 Jan 66 Announced 26 Jan 66
    Details : Squadron leader Tinnam Narayan Venkataraman has been in command of a Repair and Salvage Unit since March, 1964. During the operations against Pakistan it was his responsibility to deploy repair parties, equipment and material to all wings and stations under Headquarters Western AIR Command to undertake Cat A Cat AC and Cat B patch repairs of aircraft damaged due to enemy action and flying accidents. The resources at his disposal although augmented somewhat for the operations, were by no means adequate. From these he organised parties for all wings constantly shifting personnel and equipment according to requirements. He visited every station to ensure that repair work was progressing satisfactorily. On many occasions he personally directed and supervised more difficult jobs. These demanded tremendous resourcefulness and an untiring effort. His devotion to duty and courage was of such a high order that he always rushed to the place where his services were most required thus inpsiring his men to efforts beyond the call of normal duty. The fact that in all his busy days, he never neglected the welfare of his men is further evidence of the outstanding manner in which he acquitted himself as their commanding officer. he kept his men constantly informed regarding their well being of their families thus relieveing them of worries that can be natural under such circumstances. The average repair time of damaged aircraft during operations was half a day, an outstanding achivement by all standards. Squadron Leader Venkataraman’s professional skill, ingenuity, leadership and above all his concern for the welfare of his men were mainly responsible for this outstanding achievement. The President has been pleased to award the Vishist Seva Medal Class III to Squadron Leader T N Venkataraman for rendering distinguished service of a high order.
    Reference: Gazette of India , 19th February 1966 – No.20 – Pres/66 dated 26th January 1966

  5. One more memory.
    When we lived in Ambala (1958) our neighbor and my father’s friend was Keelor (not sure who). He and his brother were honored for 1965 war.

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