The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide

by Brand: Knopf

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  • 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 their wake a host of
    major strategic consequences for the world today.

    Giving an astonishing inside view of how the White House really works in a crisis, The Blood Telegram is an
    unprecedented chronicle of a pivotal but little-known chapter of the Cold War. Gary J. Bass 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 to India—one of the worst humanitarian crises of the
    twentieth century.

    Nixon and Kissinger, unswayed by detailed warnings of genocide from American diplomats witnessing the bloodshed, stood
    behind Pakistan’s military rulers. Driven not just by Cold War realpolitik but by a bitter personal dislike of India and
    its leader Indira Gandhi, Nixon and Kissinger actively helped the Pakistani government even as it careened toward a
    devastating war against India. They silenced American officials who dared to speak up, secretly encouraged China to mass
    troops on the Indian border, and illegally supplied weapons to the Pakistani military—an overlooked scandal that
    presages Watergate.

    Drawing on previously unheard White House tapes, recently declassified documents, and extensive interviews with White
    House staffers and Indian military leaders, The Blood Telegram tells this thrilling, shadowy story in full. Bringing us
    into the drama of a crisis exploding into war, Bass follows reporters, consuls, and guerrilla warriors on the
    ground—from the desperate refugee camps to the most secretive conversations in the Oval Office.

    Bass makes clear how the United States’ embrace of the military dictatorship in Islamabad would mold Asia’s destiny for
    decades, and confronts for the first time Nixon and Kissinger’s hidden role in a tragedy that was far bloodier than
    Bosnia. This is a revelatory, compulsively readable work of politics, personalities, military confrontation, and Cold
    War brinksmanship.


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