A look back at how the Nixon White House helped to choreograph a genocide in Bangladesh
From the beginning of the South Asian crisis that culminated in the birth of Bangladesh in 1971, argues Gary J. Bass in this impressively researched book about a “forgotten genocide,” the major responsibility for what happened falls on two men—Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. While the president and national-security adviser directly collaborated in the secret bombing that touched off another genocide in Cambodia, the Bangladeshi crisis was more a study in conventional Cold War intrigues and personal piques than the Cambodia bombing had been—one reason, perhaps, that the full details of the US response are only now coming to light. Vietnam and Cambodia provided the headlines that eventually led to the Watergate scandal and the process of impeachment that came to an end with Nixon’s resignation in 1974. Kissinger, on the other hand, was made secretary of state and received a Nobel Peace Prize. Such are the whims of the gods that oversee foreign-policy decisions and evasions of responsibility. Bass refuses to allow the episode in Bangladesh to go unremembered, however, and 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.
In one sense, the author’s analysis of this tragic episode boils down to a case of bureaucratic neglect, albeit one motivated in no small part by personal and ideological preference. Had Nixon and Kissinger heeded the pleas of American diplomats in Dhaka—the US consulate in what was then East Pakistan headed by a rising star in