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.

Robert Caruso, Clinton Campaign Fellow, Advocates War Crimes (Before Denying He Did So)

Hillary Clinton’s reputation as a warmongering hawk is a well-established one. As the New York Times reported back in April in an essay titled “How Hillary Clinton Became a Hawk,” she could talk the hawk talk, and walk the hawk talk too:

Bruce Riedel, a former intelligence analyst who conducted Obama’s initial review on the Afghanistan war, says: “I think one of the surprises for Gates and the military was, here they come in expecting a very left-of-center administration, and they discover that they have a secretary of state who’s a little bit right of them on these issues — a little more eager than they are, to a certain extent.”

Other than the financial shenanigans of the Clinton Foundation and the in-bed relationship with Wall Street, no other issue has exercised progressives quite as much. A hawkish American foreign policy means never-ending war, and with it, interminable violations of human rights, moral hypocrisy, budget overruns, appeasement of the military industrial complex, secrecy and surveillance and violations of civil rights at home. A hawkish American foreign policy is a pernicious rot at the roots of the republic; it is, without exaggeration, a cancer that needs excising from the American body politic.

Progressive worries about the Clinton presidency that is looming will not be assuaged by reading a remarkable article by “a former official in Hillary Clinton’s State Department and an associate of the Hillary for America PAC,” Robert Caruso, which lays out a policy argument for a no-fly zone in Syria that included the following gem:

Russia intends to exert political pressure and create the illusion a `shooting war’ would erupt if a no-fly zone was constituted. This is unserious, and should be dismissed as the naked Kremlin talking points they are where ever encountered….It is Russia, not the United States, that should fear American intervention in Syria

But the luster of that jewel pares in comparison to the following:

By no means is the United States limited to overt military intervention in Syria…Henry Kissinger’s strategies in Laos and Chile are models of success that should be emulated, not criticized.

In case it is not perfectly clear: Caruso is recommending the US emulate the actions of a mass-murdering war criminal and engage in murderous, illegal actions like the ones that Kissinger organized.

Caruso’s cheerleading for genocide did not go unnoticed; Huffington Post took down the passage from which the above lines had been excerpted and the online version of the post now no longer carries them. Quite naturally, Huffington Post has not added any editorial notes explaining their excision of this material.

But the entertainment does not end there. When Caruso was pointed to these lines on Twitter, he immediately replied with the following Trumpish denial:

Never said that, and from now on anyone repeating what you say about me is working for Russia.

Well, I’m clearly working for Russia, because I’m repeating it here; I read the article yesterday which had the full paragraph–now immortalized in a screenshot taken by Wikileaks:

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Perhaps the only reassurance afforded here that Caruso does not have the integrity to stand by his words, knowing quite well they are calls to criminal action. Small mercies indeed.

Addendum: The LinkedIn page for Robert Caruso seems to indicate he might not be a Clinton ‘insider’ at all. So his rantings above are certainly not indicative–in any definitive sense–of the contours of a future Clinton foreign policy.

Costas Gavras’ Missing: Harbinger of Disillusionment

A little while ago, on this blog, while writing of my reading of Alex Haley’s Roots as a schoolboy I made note of it as “a member of that group of cultural productions that changed my view of the US forever.” Another distinguished member of that group would be Costas Gavras‘ Missing, a chilling movie that,

[I]s based on the true story of American journalist Charles Horman, who disappeared in the bloody aftermath of the US-backed Chilean coup of 1973 that deposed the democratically elected socialist President Salvador Allende.

Set largely during the days and weeks following Horman’s disappearance, the movie depicts his father and wife searching to determine his fate.

 I saw Missing as a teenager, alone, at a New Delhi cinema; like most movies that I went to see in those days, I knew little about what I was in for. Indeed, my level of ignorance ran embarrassingly high: I did not know who Allende or Pinochet were; I did not know there had been a coup in Chile in 1973. And I knew nothing, certainly, of the US role in it. But I had been assured the movie’s director was ‘famous’, that the movie had garnered critical acclaim. So I bought my tickets, and settled down to watch.

I realized very quickly, that something terrible was afoot; a nation was in turmoil, and innocents were being swept up in a maelstrom of violent political change.  Soldiers ruled the streets; gunfire rang out; and blunt, uncaring, force was applied to all too many who ran afoul of those seizing and retaining power. An atmosphere of menace hung over the urban landscapes the movies’ characters traversed, and a grimly inevitable fate seemed in store for all too many of them. One of them, of course, was Charles Horman, a young journalist–living and working with his wife in Santiago–and who, for whatever reason, falls afoul of the military authorities and is arrested and whisked away. He goes missing.

The nightmare begins at this point. Horman’s father, Ed, flies down from the US to look for his son, and expects, quite reasonably, that the US consular staff will assist him–and Horman’s wife, Joyce–as they seek to determine Horman’s whereabouts. Instead, they encounter a grim, baffling world of evasion, hostility and thinly concealed threat. The adjective ‘Kafkaesque’ is used too often; but it is never more appropriately used than here to describe the dead-ends, misdirections, indifference and obtuseness the Hormans encounter.

And that’s just the American response. It is clear, all too soon, that something terrible has, in all probability, happened to Charles Horman. And it is also all too clear that the American administration in Chile might have had something to do with it.  Or perhaps they know what happened to Charles, but they aren’t telling. As father and wife stumble from pillar to post, from embassy to jail to killing field to morgue, their grief, rage, frustration and anxiety mounts, as does the anger and the fear of the viewer.

At one stage, an American consular officer, utters the following chilling lines to Hormans’ desperate, anguished father:

I don’t know what happened to your kid, Ed. But I understand he was a bit of a snoop. Poked his nose around in a lot of dangerous places where he didn’t really belong. Now, suppose I went up to your town, New York, and I started messing around with the Mafia. I wind up dead in the East River. And my wife or my father complains to the police because they didn’t protect me. They really wouldn’t have much of a case, would they? You play with fire, you get burned.

And that is that.

We never find out what happened to Charles Horman. But we suspect, as Horman’s father and wife do, that he might have met a fate similar to those whose bodies they have seen, victims of torture and execution.

As the movie ends, the following epilogue appears, in white lettering, on a black background:

Ed Horman filed suit charging eleven government officials, including Henry A. Kissinger, with complicity and negligence in the death of his son. The body was not returned home until seven months later, making an accurate autopsy impossible. After years of litigation, the information necessary to prove or disprove complicity remained classified as secrets of state. The suit was dismissed.

I walked home, a little heartsick. I had witnessed the most frightening of encounters: between mere citizens, powerless and alone, and all-powerful, opaque and violent bureaucracies. I was shaken, and for days afterwards, was haunted by the sorrow and anger and fear I had seen writ large on those who searched, futilely and desperately for their missing loved one. I had begun to dream of a life in the US; and suddenly, uncomfortably, I realized my future home had dimensions and depths to it that I had yet to discover.