Nixon and Kissinger’s Forgotten Shame

tags: Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Bangladesh



Gary J. Bass, a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton, is the author, most recently, of The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide.

PRINCETON, N.J. — BANGLADESH is in fresh turmoil. On Sept. 17, its Supreme Court decided that Abdul Quader Mollah, a leading Islamist politician, should be hanged for war crimes committed during the country’s 1971 war of independence from Pakistan. When he was given a life sentence by a Bangladeshi war-crimes tribunal back in February, tens of thousands of Bangladeshis took to the streets demanding his execution. Since then, more than a hundred people have died in protests and counterprotests.

This may sound remote or irrelevant to Americans, but the unrest has much to do with the United States. Some of Bangladesh’s current problems stem from its traumatic birth in 1971 — when President Richard M. Nixon and Henry A. Kissinger, his national security adviser, vigorously supported the killers and tormentors of a generation of Bangladeshis.

From the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, Pakistan was created as a unified Muslim nation with a bizarrely divided geography: dominant West Pakistan (now simply Pakistan) was separated from downtrodden East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) by a thousand miles of hostile India. Pakistanis joked that their bifurcated country was united by Islam and Pakistan International Airlines. This strange arrangement held until 1970, when Bengali nationalists in East Pakistan triumphed in nationwide elections. The ruling military government, based in West Pakistan, feared losing its grip....



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