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The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Gary J. Bass
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

24 Oct 2013
A riveting history--the first full account--of the involvement of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger in the 1971 atrocities in Bangladesh that led to war between India and Pakistan, shaped the fate of Asia, and left in its wake a host of major strategic consequences for the world today.

Drawing on recently declassified documents, unheard White House tapes, and investigative reporting, Gary Bass gives us an unprecedented chronicle of a crucial but little-known chapter of the Cold War. He shows how Nixon and Kissinger supported Pakistan's military dictatorship as it brutally quashed the results of a historic free election. The Pakistani army launched a crackdown on what was then East Pakistan (today an independent Bangladesh), killing hundreds of thousands of people, and sending ten million refugees fleeing into India--one of the worst humanitarian crises of the twentieth century. It soon sparked a major war. But Nixon and Kissinger remained untroubled by Pakistan's massacres, secretly encouraged China to mass troops on the Indian border, and illegally supplied weapons to the Pakistani military--an unknown scandal that presages Watergate. And Bass makes clear how the United States's embrace of the military dictatorship in Islamabad would affect geopolitics for decades. A revelatory, compulsively readable work of essential recent history.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group (24 Oct 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307700208
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307700209
  • Product Dimensions: 24.3 x 16.8 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 347,809 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Different Perspective 1 Dec 2013
An excellent book outlining the diplomatic shenanigans of Nixon and Kissinger to try and protect Pakistan. The book shows the war from a wholly new perspective. Outlining the conflicts within the State Department, the Presidency and India's efforts on behalf of Bangladesh. Excellent book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Another Nixon/Kissinger Offence 28 Mar 2014
By Geoff
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A well written, thoroughly researched exposure of Nixon and Kissinger's complicity in the massacres endured at the birth on Bangladesh. The White Tapes make them sound like two rednecks in a mid-western bar
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellently researched and deeply insightful 27 Oct 2013
By Daulat
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
great piece of work, and really lifts the lids on the 'masters of the universe' - and just how human they really are. very well written
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  89 reviews
59 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling history of horror, Nixon, and Kissinger 24 Sep 2013
By Spork - Published on
This book uses the Nixon tape archives to build a damning picture of Nixon & Kissinger's realpolitik. As an American I had no knowledge of the history of Bangladesh and this book was upsetting. The thesis of the book is that Nixon and Kissinger personally ensured that the government of West Pakistan had a steady supply of US weapons and diplomatic cover during a brutal genocide against Bangladeshis and Hindus in what was then East Pakistan. Nixon comes off as an ignorant racist who thinks "Indians are cunning, traitorous people". Kissinger comes off as deeply cold, he does not care even when one of his former students is murdered in Bangladesh. Kissinger's realpolitik belief that anything at all was justified in order to avoid nuclear conflict with the USSR is thrown into stark relief by the book. Kissinger was perfectly comfortable with slaughtering Hindus by the thousands if it got him a back channel to Beijing via Pakistan. The book was fascinating and I went and read The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan immediately after finishing this book in order to understand more about South Asian history. Note that I read a red-jacketed pre-release copy of the book that I found on the street in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I would recommend this book to anybody interested in how American presidents see the world.
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genocide from Kissinger and Nixon 5 Oct 2013
By MJ Rosenberg - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I did not remember much about the 1971 attack by Pakistan on its eastern region (now known as Bengla Desh). It is a terrible story. The basics are that following a national election in which a Bengali from East Pakistan won, the central government dissolved parliament and attacked East Pakistan. It was not a war because the Bengalis were almost all unarmed civilians. It was a slaughter, of millions.

The Blood Telegram tells how President Nixon and, even more, Henry Kissinger, gave the Pakistan government a green light to go in and massacre, but refused during the course of the slaughter to indicate, in any way, that the U.S. had a problem with killing innocent people using U.S. supplied arms.

In short, the U.S. aided and abetted what amounted to genocide.

It is a terrible story but uplifting too because of the resistance of State Department officials, led by the US Consul in East Pakistan (a heroic figure named Blood, of all things!) and the US Ambassador to India, Kenneth Keating. These two, and others, flatout told Nixon and Kissinger that they were supporting genocide, using that word.

Neither cared. Both viscerally hated India (too democratic and racially offensive to them PLUS neutral vis a vis the US and USSR) and loved Pakistan (not democratic at all, with the military pretty much running everything). On top of that Pakistan was close to China and Nixon wanted to go to China so....a few million people dead was not a high price to pay.

Great book. Every page is a revelation. And the best news: Kissinger is alive to see how history will remember him: as someone utterly indifferent to the slaughter of innocents in East Asia along with his crimes in Vietnam, Chile, etc etc.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential World History reading 30 Sep 2013
By pkpk00 - Published on
The book is about events that affected almost as many lives as any genocide in history. The strange thing is that it is almost unknown. People know so much more about Rwanda, with half a million deaths due to tribalism, but not about the two to three million deaths on direct orders of the Government of Pakistan to exterminate Bengali Hindus in their country, nor do they know what this book reveals, that the US Government defended Pakistan's right to do it. The US had sent in the Seventh Fleet. Race and religion played the critical role. Doing the math, the lives of Bengalis appear worth less than the lives of Africans in the world, four to six times less.
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Demolition of the Nixon-Kissinger 'House of cards' 14 Oct 2013
By Raghu Nathan - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
This book brings back vivid memories for me as I lived through the 1970-71 East Pakistan crisis as a young man in India. The author shows us a picture of the events leading to the creation of an independent Bangladesh from the vantage points of the US consulate in Dacca and the White House. To a lesser extent, there is also the view from New Delhi, both from the Indian govt and the US embassy. To say the least, I was shocked to read about the visceral hatred that Kissinger, Nixon and Zhou-en-Lai had for India and Indians and the impunity with which Nixon flouted US law in conducting foreign policy. In fact, one can see that Watergate, which happened some 12 months later, was only a matter of time because Nixon had such disregard for the law of his own land.

One is used to foreign policy being conducted by most nations in a dispassionate manner, with their own nations' interests being the prime focus. But here, we see emotions and prejudice and sheer hatred dominating the thinking of both Nixon and Kissinger. Their private oval office conversations border on the extreme with Nixon saying in one place that what India needs is a mass famine and asking why India does not shoot the refugees if they find the millions an unbearable burden. The book says that Nixon was inclined to like the Pak military men because he was treated effusively when he visited them whereas Indian leaders were aloof and proud during his meetings with them in the 1950s. It seems a feudal mindset to make foreign policy decisions based on such flimsy reasons. For his part, Henry Kissinger also comes off as reckless and maniacal as he tries to goad China into threatening India, thereby risking a widening of the conflict into a direct clash between the USSR and the US.

Even though Kissinger himself admits that they would have supported Pakistan whether the 'China opening in 1971' was there or not, the idea has gained currency that the indebtedness to Md.Yahya Khan for enabling the 'China opening' was a major reason for the bizarre hostility of the US towards India and its indifference to the massacre of Bengalis. However, If one looks at history, one can see that the US has constantly been in debt to the Pak military. In the 1950s, the US needed to launch U2 flights over the USSR from Peshawar and so they had to keep Pak in good humor. In 1970-71, it was the 'China opening'. In the 80s, it was because the Reagan administration needed them to bleed the USSR in Afghanistan. The 90s looked as though the indebtedness would be over but then 9/11 happened and the US, in the 21st century, again needed the Pak military to carry on the action in Afghanistan. From India, it looks as though the US view of Geo-politics is such that it will always need to cosy up with the military dictators in Pakistan for some reason or other.

However, it is all not negative news on the US front in 1971. The story won't be complete without the gallant, humane and honest officers in the State Dept, Sen.Ted Kennedy and journalists like Sydney Schanberg of NYT. Archer Blood, the Consul General in Dacca, and his deputies put up a tremendous struggle against the policy conducted by Nixon. In the process, many of them jeopardised their careers for good. Kenneth Keating, the US ambassador to India, was another sterling personality, fighting his own govt's indifference to genocide. Ted Kennedy visited India and toured the refugee centers and fought for the Bengalis in Capitol Hill. In a lighter vein, it so happened that while the massive blood letting and killings were going on in East Pakistan, the three officers in the Dacca Consulate who fought for justice for the Bengalis, were named Blood, Butcher and Killgore!

For me as a person of Indian origin, it was a surprise to read that 90% of all those 10 million refugees from East Bengal were Hindus. This information was never highlighted in the Indian media in 1970-71. I think it was good that they did not because otherwise, we might have had to deal with sectarian groups in India which would have tried to convert the crisis into a crisis for Muslims in India. The other point is that India, for all its proclamations of non-alignment and third-world solidarity, found itself completely without friends from the world at large and was censured in the UN General Assembly. India had to depend on the USSR mostly for diplomatic support and had to fund the refugee relief mainly from its own impoverished masses. India's 'friends' in the Islamic world, like Jordan, Turkey, Iran and Egypt, transferred fighter aircrafts to bolster their Islamic brethern in Pak, even though India had more Muslims than Pakistan in 1971! It shows the deep failure of India's conduct of foreign policy in the early years after independence. The Indian edition of the book has the strange title 'India's Secret war in East Pakistan'. Even for ordinary citizens like me in India in 1971, there was nothing secretive about India's involvement in East Pakistan as early as March 1971. We used to habitually joke that it was probably the Bengal regiment of the Indian army that is euphemistically called Mukti Bahini! Finally, it is a matter of pride for India's pluralist society that the three Generals who conducted and won the war were a Sikh (J.S.Aurora), a Parsi (Sam Manekshaw) and a Sephardic Jew(Rafael-Jacob).

This review won't be complete without a prescient observation from the Indian Muslim scholar, Maulana Azad in 1946, prior to the partition of the sub-continent on religious lines. He said, " The moment the creative warmth of Pakistan cools down, the contradictions will emerge and will acquire assertive overtones. These will be fuelled by the clash of interests of international powers and consequently both wings will separate...After the separation of East Pakistan, whenever it happens, West Pakistan will become the battleground of regional contradictions and disputes within itself".

This book demolishes the carefully choreographed attempts of Nixon and Kissinger in later years to project themselves as great foreign policy wizards. Nixon didn't survive to read this book but Kissinger is still alive and strutting the world as an elder statesman, with eminent journalists fawning over him. I wonder what he would say for himself. The book is extensively researched using new archival material from India and the US and declassified White house tapes. It makes for fast-paced reading and makes important points to ponder for Indians, Americans, Pakistanis and anyone else interested in this chapter of the sub-continent's history.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A necessary and long-awaited book 13 Oct 2013
By Romi Mahajan - Published on
The Blood Telegram is an absolutely critical book, outlining not only the mass-murder of Bengalis in 1971 but also the absolute and utter degradation of the spirit implicit in imperial policy (in this case that of the U.S.). While the slaughter in Vietnam continued under the bellicose and paranoid regime of Nixon and Kissinger, another, more time-intense slaughter happened a little to the West in one of the world's poorest countries- what is now Bangladesh. Very likely millions were wantonly slaughtered (and scores of thousands raped) in the West Pakistani pogrom against an East Pakistani population yearning to be free. With the U.S. tilt towards West Pakistan (and clearly against India), General Yahya Khan and his military establishment were emboldened to continue the massacre until the Indian Army decisively intervened and routed the West Pakistani army in a matter of two weeks. Machiavelli founds his twentieth century acolytes in Kissinger and Nixon, who were using Pakistan to make a bridge to China, another country aligned against India.

The Blood Telegram must be read. No review does it proper justice.
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