Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Nixon, Kissinger and Bangladesh

Note: we removed a video from this blog posting because we couldn't figure out how to stop it coming on automatically no matter what post people were reading. 10-2-13

by Richard Mellor
Afscme local 444, retired

I was thinking about Bangladesh, a country in the news lately with regard to working conditions and the numerous tragedies occurring there, especially the recent fire that killed over 1000 workers. So I wanted to comment a little on Bangladesh as so many American workers have little knowledge about the country, and I am writing for the working class folks that read this blog.  I know there’s quite a few as many of you comment on it to me personally or have done so through e mail.  We are not known for our geographic acumen, the US masses more often than not learn about countries after Congress has decided to bomb them and we see CNN’s Wolf Blitzer or other “experts” standing on a huge interactive map of the country telling us about the warring parties-----Shia here, Sunni there, rebels here, bad people there.

In order to understand anything we have to understand its past. The country we know as Bangladesh has not always existed, in fact, it’s only half a century old.  It was formed through a violent and brutal struggle, a struggle made all the more violent and brutal due to the role played by US capitalism and in particular one of its prominent architects, the mass murderer and war criminal, Henry Kissinger.

It was British imperialism’s partition of India in 1947 that led to the predominantly Muslim state of Pakistan.  The British capitalist class stuck West Pakistan between India and Afghanistan and East Pakistan 1000 miles away bordering Burma and India to the east. West Pakistan is the Pakistan we are familiar with now and the East Pakistan is now Bangladesh.  Bangladesh came about as a separate nation through a brutal liberation war in 1971 after Bengali nationalists in the east triumphed in national elections, the first the West Pakistan military had allowed in ten years. The victory of the Bengali’s meant that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the head of the Awami League was poised to lead the nation.

The West Pakistan military responded with vengeance arresting Rahman and his followers. Supporters joined the rebel forces and the slaughter began.  Hindus were particularly targeted as India had supported the Bengalis.

In Christopher Hitchens’ book, The Trial of Henry Kissinger he describes events:

On 25 March, the Pakistani army struck at the Bengali capital of Dacca. Having arrested and kidnapped Rahman, and taken him to West Pakistan, it set about massacring his supporters. The foreign press had been preemptively expelled from the city, but much of the direct evidence of what then happened was provided via a radio transmitter operated by the United States consulate. Archer Blood himself supplied an account of one episode directly to the State Department and to Henry Kissinger's National Security Council. Having readied the ambush, Pakistani regular soldiers set fire to the women's dormitory at the university, and then mowed the occupants down with machine guns as they sought to escape. (The guns, along with all the other weaponry, had been furnished under United States military assistance programs.) Page 44.

Kissinger and Nixon, their hands covered with the blood of three million Vietnamese and 67,000 young Americans supported Pakistan refusing to bring the pressure of the US government to bear on the Pakistani’s.  Archer Blood, the US Consular General in Dacca opposed the US government’s role in supplying arms and aid to the Pakistani slaughter. Blood argued that what was happening amounted to genocide as Hindus in particular were being targeted by the Pakistani military.

Blood was the chief signatory to a telegram, now referred to as the “Blood Telegram” sent to the US State Department opposing US policy. The cable was signed by 20 members of the US diplomatic core in Bangladesh. As the massacres continued, Kenneth Keating, the highest ranking US Ambassador in New Delhi added his voice of protest and urged the Nixon Administration to "promptly, publicly, and prominently deplore this brutality." It was "most important these actions be taken now," he warned "prior to inevitable and imminent emergence of horrible truths."

The Blood Telegram is the title of a new book by Gary Bass, interviewed by the Economist Magazine above. Bass had a piece in the New York Times Monday * outlining the events that led to the formation of Bangladesh as a nation.  He points out how Kissinger privately referred to Blood as “this maniac” and Nixon called keating a “Traitor”, a man who contacted the administration about a “matter of genocide”

Nixon much preferred Pakistan’s military dictator to Indira Ghandi who he called a
“bitch” and “witch”.  These incidents of bravery on the part of some US representatives are not foremost in our minds.  I was not too familiar with Archer Blood or the opposition to Nixon and Kissinger’s murderous exploits in the Pakistan/Bangladesh events until I read Hitchen’s book.  It is an excellent book and I recommend it.  These events bring to mind the heroism of folks like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.

Kissinger lives in the US and lives the good life. He was also on the board (maybe still is) of Freeport McMoran, the world’s largest miner of copper and gold.  It has been implicated in corrupt practices of bribing government and military officials between 1998 and 2004 to suppress strikes and an indigenous opposition to its environmentally destructive operations, particularly at the Grasberg Mine in Papua New Guinea.

Nixon has gone, but Kissinger is still alive.  He is one of the world’s most ruthless mass murderers and war criminals.  US government press releases about "terror" or "al Qaeda" and how ruthless they are, don't hold much water as the same government harbors a killer like Kissinger.Bass’ piece in the NYT talks of Bangladesh being Nixon and Kissinger’s “Forgotten Shame”. But they were not alone, the US government was never simply run by two people. The events of 1971 was a conscious strategy of a dominate sector of the US capitalist class and their state machine.  The handful of fanatics that blew up the mall in Nairobi has been described in the US media as the greatest threat to the world.  This is nonsense, as much nonsense as gays or abortion being so which is the position of the Vatican apparently.  It is not that they wouldn’t be if they had the resources but it is the US military industrial machine that is the most destabilizing and violent force on this planet.  It’s foreign policy, like foreign policy of any nation state, is simply an extension of the domestic, only far more openly brutal.  But the US capitalist class, as I have said before, would not hesitate to drop nuclear devices on its own cities if it felt it necessary to do so.

We now have US capitalism as the largest investor in Bangladesh which has one of the cheapest and most exploited workforce in the world.  Just last week, more street battles have taken place between garment workers and the police as workers struggle for better wages and conditions.  The Pakistani regime once referred to the Bangladeshi’s as passive and soft. But Bangladeshi women in particular are leading a workers revolt against their bosses and the western retail giants that are behind them.

* Nixon and Kissinger’s Forgotten Shame. NYT 9-30-13

Further reading:

The Trial of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens

The Blood Telegram by Gary J Bass

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