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The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 24, 2013

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Hardcover, Deckle Edge, September 24, 2013
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (September 24, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307700208
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307700209
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #251,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In Freedom’s Battle: The Origins of Humanitarian Intervention (2008), Princeton international-affairs scholar Bass asked why powerful nations sometimes intervene to stop mass atrocities but sometimes do not. Here, he examines how two powerful democracies—India and the U.S.—responded to genocidal violence in what is now Bangladesh in 1971. The systematic atrocities committed by Pakistanis against Bengalis, and the major refugee crisis that accompanied it, would eventually drive India to war against Pakistan. The U.S. not only did not intervene; in fact, it supported the Pakistani regime in what Bass identifies as “one of the worst moments of moral blindness in U.S. foreign policy.” This was not, argues Bass, mere passivity. Rather, it was a series of deliberate choices made by Nixon and Kissinger: to ignore the hundreds of thousands killed; to downplay the emerging humanitarian crisis; to continue to supply Pakistan with U.S. weapons and military supplies despite evidence that they were being used against Bengali civilians; to disregard warnings from their own legal advisors. Nixon and Kissinger’s rationale, suggests Bass, was partly coldly strategic; Pakistan was a Cold War ally and was secretly facilitating their much-coveted opening to China. But, as made clear in comments captured on White House tapes, ugly anti-Indian bigotry played a role as well. Bass presents his evidence with devastating clarity and does not pull his punches: though India’s motives may have been mixed, the U.S. had Bengali blood on its hands. Reexamining a largely overlooked genocide (and dovetailing nicely with Christopher Hitchens’ The Trial of Henry Kissinger, 2001), this book also serves as a reminder of the complicated costs paid for Nixon’s lauded trip to China. st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } --Brendan Driscoll

From Bookforum

In this impressively researched book about the South Asian crisis that culminated in the birth of Bangladesh in 1971, Gary J. Bass argues the major responsibility for “forgotten genocide” falls on two men—Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. Bass offers his book as an indictment of the shortsighted decision making that abetted the genocidal murder of hundreds of thousands of Hindus in the final days of East Pakistan. —Lloyd Gardner

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Customer Reviews

The book is about 350 pages plus 132 pages of Notes on Sources.
Nixon and Kissinger complicity in that genocidal event has finally come to light in Gary J. Bass’ outstanding work of modern history, The Blood Telegram.
Mal Warwick
A recommended reading for anyone interested in the political history of the sub continent.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Spork on September 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover
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.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By MJ Rosenberg on October 5, 2013
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.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By pkpk00 on September 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover
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.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Raghu Nathan on October 14, 2013
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.
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