The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide Hardcover – Deckle Edge, 24 Oct 2013
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"This is a dark and amazing tale, an essential reminder . . . Devastating . . . Shocking . . . Nixon and Kissinger spent the decades after leaving office burnishing their images as great statesmen. This book goes a long way in showing just how undeserved those reputations are."
Dexter Filkins, The New York Times Book Review
"[A] gripping and well-researched book . . . Sheds fresh light on a shameful moment in American foreign policy . . . Admirable clarity."
"A profoundly disturbing account of the hitherto hidden role of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands . . . Bass has defeated the attempted coverup through laborious culling of relevant sections of the Nixon White House tapes, declassified State Department documents and interviews with former officials, American and Indian, who were involved . . . After reading Bass's account of this shameful episode, one has to . . . conclude that where the Bengalis were concerned, Kissinger and Nixon simply did not give a damn."
Neil Sheehan, The Washington Post
"Bass takes us inside the Oval Office to reveal the scandalous role America played in the 1971 slaughter in what is now Bangladesh. Largely unknown here, the story combines the human tragedy of Darfur, the superpower geopolitics of the Cuban missile crisis and the illegal shenanigans of Iran-contra . . . [A] harrowing tale."
Peter Baker, The New York Times, Favorite Book of the Year
"Devastating . . . Excellent . . . Bass, a historian at Princeton, has written an account learned, riveting, and eviscerating of the delusions and the deceptions of Nixon and Kissinger.Steeped in the forensic skills of a professional academic historian, he also possesses the imaginative energies of a classical moralist, and he tells the story of the choices and the decisions that led to the slaughter in Bengal . . . appropriately as a moral saga . . . Indispensable."
Sunil Khilnani, The New Republic
"Ariveting read with direct relevance to many of the most acute foreign-policy debates of today."
Gideon Rachman, Financial Times
"Absorbing . . . Bass draws up a severe indictment of Nixon and Kissinger."
Pankaj Mishra, The New Yorker
"The best book I read this year was Gary Bass'sThe Blood Telegram, which showed through superb reporting and excellent analysis that Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger gleefully abetted the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent Bengalis . . . Excellent."
Isaac Chotiner, The New Republic, Best Books of the Year
"Thankfully, Princeton University professor Gary Bass has provided us with a helpful reminder of Nixon's true character. InThe Blood Telegram, Bass expertly recounts the stunning indifference of Nixon and . . . Henry Kissinger to the reports from US diplomats of Pakistani genocide . . . Vivid, often disquieting detail from Oval Office tapes unearthed by Bass . . . Bass has performed an essential function."
Michael Cohen, The Guardian
"[A] superb book. . .Bass deploys White House recordings, including several new transcripts, to excellent effect, and . . . the book contains enough material to make the reader sick. . . Astonishing . . . A morally serious book that nevertheless reads like a first-rate novel."
The Times Literary Supplement
"It was a non-subject for scholars, a no man's land for knowledge . . . [u]ntil the arrival of a memorable book by Princeton professor Gary Bass . . . While doing justice to the victims, also, for the first time, draws out for us its lessons . . . The book is also a tribute to politics in its true sense . . . I do want readers to be aware of the appearance of Gary Bass' book, which I hope will be widely read (and translated into French!) . . . A return to Bangladesh is required reading."
Bernard-Henri Levy, Le Point
"[A] stellar new book . . . Astonishing. . .The Blood Telegram. . . remedies that omission. . . A meticulously researched and searing indictment of the shameful role the United States played . . . The book tells of the damage wrought when world leaders abandon rational calculation and allow their country's interests to be subordinated to personal prejudices and animosities."
"Bass has written the definitive account of the political machinations behind one of the worst (and most widely ignored) humanitarian crises of the 20th century . . . Bass also offers Americans much-needed context about America's pre-9/11 involvement in a region where it still finds itself with bloody hands . . .Nuanced yet unflinching . . . Bass shines a much-needed spotlight . . . Fascinating and truly frightening."
Nick Turse, The Daily Beast
"Blistering . . . [A] must-read."
The New York Post
"Gripping, thoroughly researched, concisely organized, and engagingly written . . . Impressive."
Harold H. Saunders, Foreign Affairs
"A vital contribution . . .Bass is the first to investigate in any detail the complicity of President Richard Nixon . . .Bass's meticulous scholarship demonstrates how both Nixon and Kissinger . . . became witting accomplices to this genocide . . . Important . . . He demonstrates an extraordinary grasp of the internal politics of the country [India] . . .Bass's painstaking research and his scrupulous portrayal of the choices that created permissive conditions for the genocide should now lead to a much-needed reappraisal of the foreign policy legacies of both individuals."
Sumit Ganguly, International Security
"Gripping and excruciating . . .A powerful reminder of the frailty of international law in international crises . . . A must-read . . . Remarkable."
European Journal of International Law, Best Books of the Year
"Fascinating . . . [A] rich book, constantly shifting between Washington, New Delhi and Islamabad, all corners of the narrative expertly covered by the author . . . Bass's skill in unravelling the complex strands . . . is admirable."
Michael Young, The National
"Asearing indictment . . . A shocking tale . . . We witness here the best of American diplomatic tradition . . . against the worst in the White House . . .The Blood Telegramsends an acidic whiff from the past to the present through a deeply cautionary tale."
William Thorsell, The Globe and Mail(Toronto)
"Amazing . . .Bass exhumes the tragic, relatively unknown story."
The Japan Times
"It has been a long time since I have read a book that has spoken as powerfully to me asThe Blood Telegram. The relevancy and power of this book stems from the basic moral dilemmas that it addresses on practically every page. Every person planning to join the United States Foreign Service, or already serving should read this book."
"Admirable . . . Vivid . . . Useful and often frightening insights . . . Poignant."
Teresita C. Schaffer, Survival
"Excellent . . . Illuminating . . . Very well-written. The pages almost turn themselves."
Asian Review of Books
"Gripping . . . [An] uncommonly fine addition to the histories of the Cold War era . . . The immediacy of good page-turning journalism."
National Catholic Reporter
"Unsettling . . . It breaks new historical ground with rigorous scholarship . . . Insightful and chilling."
"Harrowing . . . A damning portrait . . . Tremendously lucid . . . Bass holds these leaders to a much-needed reckoning. A deeply incisive lesson for today's leaders and electorate."
Kirkus Reviews(starred), Best Books of the Year
"With urgent, cinematic immediacy, Gary Bass reconstructs a critical and, to this day, profoundly consequential chapter of Cold War history defined by appalling American complicity in genocidal atrocity and terrifyingly high-stakes superpower brinkmanship. It is a story of immense scope, vividly populated by figures of enduring fascination, and ripe with implications for the ongoing struggle to strike a more honorable balance between wartime realpolitik and our ideals of common humanity."
Philip Gourevitch, author ofWe Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families
"Gary Bass has excavated a great tragedy, one that's been forgotten by Americans but is seared into the memory of South Asians. His talents as a scholar, writer, and foreign-policy analyst are on full display in this brilliant work of narrative history. Nixon and Kissinger come damningly alive on the pages of a book that shows, like nothing else I ve read, the folly that goes by the name of 'realism.' "
George Packer, author ofThe Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America
"Gary Bass has done it again, uncovering a dark chapter in the historical record and bringing it vividly to light, forcing us to confront who we were then and who we are now.The Blood Telegramis a richly textured story with many fascinating layers, from the moral bankruptcy of U.S. leaders in the face of genocide to the multi-faceted politics of South Asia and the lasting geopolitical legacy of these events. It's also simply hard to put down!"
Anne-Marie Slaughter, author ofA New World Order
"Gary Bass is unique: an investigative historian who explores the past in a masterly way that combines the best of journalism and scholarship. His latest book reads like an urgent dispatch from the frontline of genocide, a lucid and poignant description of a moral collapse in American foreign policy. Bass has painstakingly written a vital history and a story, in the best sense of the word that we must come to grips with."
Peter Maass, author ofLove Thy Neighbor: A Story of War
"The most notable new arrival on most people s bookshelves is Gary Bass'Blood Telegram. . . Readers are given a full account of the horrors of that near-genocide, and of the cynicism of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. It is a remarkable achievement, and deserves to be on every shelf."
Mihir S. Sharma, Business Standard
"[An] engrossing, droll, and ultimately shocking account of Bangladesh s liberation war, as seen from Washington . . . Bass's meticulously researched book resurrects the reputation of an unsung diplomat."
Salil Tripathi, Mint(New Delhi)
"This is an immensely absorbing book for those interested in not just Indo-US relations but the making of foreign policy in democracies as a whole."
The Indian Express
"The book sets the record straight of a disgraceful period in US foreign policy . . . Brutal detail . . . Nixon stands disgraced over Watergate but his wilful role in the genocide in East Pakistan had not till now received the full historical attention it deserved."
Minhaz Merchant, The Times of India
"He writes in a vivid and racy style and never fails to hold the reader's attention. The book is a thoroughly researched and damning indictment . . . Bass demolishes Kissinger s defence . . . Deeply perceptive."
"[A] gripping, if sordid, story . . . A startling revelation."
Shougat Dasgupta, Tehelka
"Gripping.His material is so rich and his research so detailed that it is difficult to put down the book once one begins to read it . . . Bass has accomplished something truly remarkable."
The Asian Age
"A scathing indictment . . . Bass . . . dismantles the smug aura of success that has generally been attached to the Kissinger-Nixon era . . .The book combines a racy narrative with meticulous research and excellent academic rigour. . .Bass offers a fresh perspective."
"A monumental account."
Economic & Political Weekly(Mumbai)
"Most admirable and thorough . . .An accomplished scholar of human rights, Bass draws on a mass of documents and tapes to shed lighton the United States of America's involvement. . . Bass's cumulative indictment of Nixon and Kissinger is formidable . . . The wealth of detail and the range of insights in this fine book."
Srinath Raghavan, The Telegraph(Kolkata)
A must read. . .It is one of the finest books on the 1971 war written by a neutral observer . . . The author makes an honest effort to find out what made the US administration a mute spectator in one of the worst genocides of our times.
"Very important . . . Painstaking . . . Valuable . . . The book connects the killing fields of Bangladesh to the idyllic setting of the White House and presents the strongest link between them in public till now . . . Aclose view into the inner mind of power."
"An absorbing book . . . A fine portrayal . . . A damning indictment . . . A meticulous investigation . . . Remarkable . . . A precious contribution."
The Daily Star (Dhaka)
"The Blood Telegram by Gary Bass is the best single account of how the United States responded to the 1971 Bangladesh independence war . . . Highly readable . . . A justly lauded work . . . A uniquely fascinating glimpse into the operation of power at the highest levels . . . Vivid . . .The best researched and most lucid indictment of the Nixon White House . . . Will certainly stand the test of time. . . It is a worthy tribute to Archer Blood's integrity and professionalism and holds invaluable truths and lessons for future generations."
"Fascinating . . . Unique . . . The book is a powerful indictment of Nixon and Kissinger."
The Friday Times(Lahore)
"Gripping . . . A chilling and bare-knuckle account . . . A scalding view . . . The book spares no players."
The News International(Pakistan)
"Eminently readable and exhaustively researched . . . Gripping . . .The book is peerless in the sheer quality and quantity of sources it uses . . .An unmatched account."
About the Author
Gary J. Bass is the author of Freedom s Battle: The Origins of Humanitarian Intervention and Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals. He is a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University. A former reporter for The Economist, he often writes for The New York Times and has also written for The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The New Republic, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Slate, and other publications." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
The book however, is not a military strategy volume into the 1971 Indo-Pak conflict. A highly recommended book.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
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.
The diplomats on the scene (28 State Department officers signed the telegram in addition to Archer Blood) reported that the systematic destruction of Bengali society fit the terms of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide all too well. Unfortunately for those in East Pakistan, Henry Kissinger was cultivating the military ruler of Pakistan, General Yahya Khan as a conduit to the rulers of the People’s Republic of China so Khan’s forces were given a free pass to do their worst—and they did. The United States had significant leverage with Khan and could have forced him to put an end to the atrocities committed by his army using U.S. weapons but chose to wash their hands of it.
Gary J. Bass has a definite point of view; not to put too fine a point on things he has real contempt for both Nixon and Kissinger. But it is hard to fault his approach—he knows the sources cold and makes excellent use of recently declassified documents, unused White House tapes and hours of interviews with U.S. officials in who had served in Dhaka and Washington as well as Indian Army officers. A former reporter for “The Economist”, now an academic historian, Bass knows how to frame a story that has been too little known in this country.
How could the United States enable a genocide and an unprecedented humanitarian crisis? Why did Nixon and Kissinger disregard and punish U.S. Foreign Service Officers who reported the facts about the Pakistan army's slaughter of Bengali academics, university students and ultimately hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children? Why did Nixon like and admire the Pakistani military dictator, Yahya Khan, and despise Indira Gandhi, the elected leader of the world's largest democracy? Why did Nixon and Kissinger, however briefly, exercise brinkmanship that could have led to a major US-Soviet confrontation, even a wider war?
I believe the answers to these questions reside in Nixon and Kissinger as leaders who responded almost entirely in terms of the geopolitical paradigm of the Cold War. Throughout, Nixon saw Pakistan as an ally that could not be undercut, or even influenced, for such steps would show weakness in the hoped-for opening to China, and confer advantage to the Soviet Union. The genocide was categorized as an 'internal affair' of Pakistan--even though there had been ample opportunity to use U.S. pressure to alleviate and possibly even prevent it.
I personally experienced the events of the Blood Telegram as a member of the U.S. Agency for International Development mission, stationed at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi 1970-1972. As the crisis grew, I read the classified cable message traffic every morning, closely read all available U.S. and Indian press coverage, and discussed the situation with Embassy and USAID colleagues, many of whom were managing refugee relief programs. From that experience, I can add to the book's narrative about the U.S. Consulate General's reporting from Dacca, East Pakistan's capital.
After Archer Blood was fired at Nixon's direction, his successor as Consul General was Herbert Spivack, expected to be a 'team player' in downplaying the extent of the on-going Pak army crackdown. Spivack came through New Delhi on his way to Dacca, to be briefed on how the rising tide of refugees was impacting eastern India and on U.S. food assistance to the camps. It was clear from his comments to the Delhi Americans that he understood his intended role. But, to his great credit as a Foreign Service professional, Herb Spivack's reporting from Dacca shortly after his arrival became substantively the same as that of Arch Blood's. But Kissinger couldn't very well fire him too!
As seems apparent from his contemptuous and hateful comments ("What India needs is a good famine") recorded from the Oval Office, Nixon had no conception of India as a sovereign nation responding to a unique set of regional circumstances. Throughout, India's role was seen only as an extension of the Cold War chess game, as if India were merely a pawn of the Soviets. Nixon and Kissinger's cynical dismissal of the plight of the refugees--a human tide of ten million people that would have overwhelmed the capacity of even a rich nation to feed and care for--was simply sickening to 'hear' from the mouths of supposedly decent men.
In fact, the emergence of Bangladesh had deep roots in regional history that had nothing to do with the Cold War. The salient aspects were the 1947 partition of British India, and the critical role played by east Bengal's mainly Muslim population in securing the very existence of Pakistan; the effort by the western part to suppress the Bengali language (spoken by a majority of the citizens of the country) in favor of Urdu; the decades-long transfer of resources from the east to finance the industrialization of the western province; and finally, the racial and religious prejudice of the western province's Punjabis and Pathans against 'the Bingos.' (Earnest prayers were offered in Karachi mosques that the Bengalis should become good Muslims!).
Autonomy for East Pakistan within a federal framework, or even independence as Bangladesh, could hardly change the power calculus of the Cold War. And from their recorded comments, it appears that both Nixon and Kissinger, on some level, understood this. The real U.S. interest was in West Pakistan, holder of the nation's key asset--control of the Khyber Pass and access to Afghanistan. But this did not stop Kissinger from pulling his last petulant prank--sending the U.S.S. Enterprise, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, into the Bay of Bengal to threaten and harrass the Indians into a premature cease-fire. This move accomplished nothing except to poison U.S.-India relations for a decade.
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