Is Obama following the Nixon-Kissinger paw marks in Bangladesh?
by Ramtanu Maitra on 30 Jan 2014 4 Comments

On Jan. 6, a day after the Bangladesh Awami League led by Premier Sheikh Hasina Wazed won an uncontested parliamentary election, US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf issued a press release expressing the Obama administration’s “disappointment” with the outcome. Carrying the flag of democracy, the State Department called on the Government of Bangladesh “to provide political space to all citizens to freely express their political views.” The Obama administration did not, however, condemn the opposition, dominated by extremist Islamic forces, for boycotting the elections and thus narrowing the political space.


This sort of lecturing from a high podium may not by itself surprise many. But it is important to pay attention to the actions of the hands and feet. Not only was the Obama administration in the forefront of helping the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt come to power, but it has for years backed the Islamic terrorists - the kind a large chunk of the Bangladesh’s “democratic opposition” is associated with - in countries such as Libya and Syria, supporting the most undemocratic means to get rid of “unfavorable” regimes and killing off “undesirable elements” using drones or other methods in certain countries. This duplicitousness has been the hallmark of US policymakers for decades now.


So for seasoned observers of US foreign policy in Asia and the Middle East, the State Department’s post-election statement does raise a question: Has the Obama administration picked Bangladesh as yet another country where the extremists will be backed in the coming days to appease some of their favorite Islamic militants? If such is the case, one could assume that the Obama administration will now follow the bloody American paw prints that the Nixon-Kissinger duo left firmly imprinted in Bangladesh in 1971, days before it became an independent nation.


A shameful episode


In the United States, the 1970s Nixon presidency is widely derided by Americans who cite the infamous Watergate incident. The president was complicit breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters, located in the Watergate complex in Washington, DC, in order to stymie the 1972 Democratic presidential campaign, and followed the deed up with a barrage of lies, trying to disassociate himself and his administration from the criminal act. The scandal sent a boatload of administration officials to jail and forced Nixon to resign. For Americans the episode is a vivid lesson: such violation of democratic rights of the citizens and abuse of power by the president must never occur again.


But the Watergate episode is really “peanuts” when compared to the actions of Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (Badshah and his Vazir) in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) in 1971. The duo gave full support to the genocidal Pakistani military, allowing them to slaughter hundreds of thousands of citizens in complete disregard of all human values, democratic rights included, during the civil war in that part of Pakistan that eventually emerged as Bangladesh. It is a disgraceful episode that Americans tend not to look back at; and, as a result, such episodes have been re-enacted in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan, to name a few, in subsequent decades.


Neither Nixon nor Kissinger could hide behind claims that what was happening in the then-East Pakistan was kept hidden from the White House. As we now know, the late career Foreign Service officer and then-US Consul General in Dhaka Archer K. Blood had reported passionately and extensively on the Pakistan military’s mass killings to undermine the Bangladeshi independence movement. Recently declassified documents and White House tapes show that Nixon and Kissinger stood stoutly behind Pakistan’s generals, supporting the murderous regime at the most crucial moments. This largely overlooked horror ranks among the darkest chapters in the post-World War II era.


At the time, Blood and his fellow signatories charged: “Our government has failed to denounce the suppression of democracy. Our government has failed to take forceful measures to protect its citizens while at the same time bending over backwards to placate the West Pakistan-dominated government. Our government has evidenced what many will consider moral bankruptcy, ironically at a time when the USSR sent (Pakistani) President Yahya Khan a message defending democracy…” (The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Christopher Hitchins, Verso Press, 2001).


Nixon and Kissinger looked the other way, and tried not to exert leverage over Pakistan’s military government. In the pivotal days before the crackdown began on March 25, they consciously decided not to warn the Pakistani generals against opening fire on their population. They did not press for respecting the results of a duly-conducted election, nor did they prod the military to cut a power-sharing deal with the Bengali leadership. They did not offer warnings or impose conditions that might have dissuaded the Pakistani junta from atrocities and could have prevented the end of many innocent lives. Nor did they threaten Islamabad with the loss of American military or economic support after the slaughter began.


Nixon and Kissinger were not just motivated by dispassionate realpolitik, weighing Pakistan’s help with the secret opening to China or India’s pro-Soviet leanings. As Gary Bass notes in an article in the Sept. 29 New York Times, White House tapes capture their emotional rage, going far beyond Nixon’s habitual vulgarity (“Nixon and Kissinger’s Forgotten Shame,” Gary J. Bass, The New York Times, Sept. 29, 2013). In the Oval Office, Nixon told Kissinger that the Indians needed “a mass famine.” Kissinger sneered at people who “bleed” for “the dying Bengalis.”


Was it all realpolitik?

“Nor did Nixon and Kissinger waver when Kenneth B. Keating, a former Republican senator from New York, then serving as the American ambassador to India, personally confronted them in the Oval Office about ‘a matter of genocide’ that targeted the Hindu minority among the Bengalis,” reports Bass. After Mr. Blood’s consulate sent an extraordinary cable formally dissenting from American policy, decrying what it called genocide, Nixon and Kissinger ousted Blood from his post in East Pakistan. Kissinger privately scorned him as “this maniac”; Nixon called Mr. Keating “a traitor.”


Why did Nixon and Kissinger throw all precious “American values” into the trash can and chose to back the Pakistan military in the mass killing and mass burial of Bengalis? Gary Bass, in his New York Times article, points out that midway through the bloodshed the Pakistani Army launched in the crackdown on the rebellious Bengalis in the east on March 25 1971, both the CIA and the State Department conservatively estimated that about 200,000 people had died (the Bangladesh government figure is much higher, at three million, but Bass suggests the more likely number is somewhere in-between). As many as 10 million Bengali refugees fled across the border into India, where they died in droves in wretched refugee camps due to lack of necessary facilities. In other words, what was happening in then-East Pakistan and who was doing what to whom was right before the eyes of the American president and his secretary of State. Why didn’t they stop it, or make serious efforts to stop it?


Four decades have passed by and historians have yet to come up with more than two excuses why Nixon and Kissinger chose to trample on American values and allow mass killing by a non-democratic military government. In April 1971, a United States ping-pong team had accepted a surprise invitation to compete in Beijing and by the end of that month, using the Pakistani ambassador as an intermediary, Chinese authorities had forwarded a letter inviting Nixon to send an envoy. Thus, there was one motive of realpolitik for the shame that Nixon and Kissinger were to visit on their own country.


The second factor was India’s relationship with the Soviet Union. India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had just concluded the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation with Moscow, which made Nixon and Kissinger mighty angry. In addition, India was actively helping the Bangladeshis to break away from the Pakistanis, the transactional ally of the Nixon-Kissinger duo and the holder of their admission ticket to China.


When one considers that the Nixon-Kissinger duo trashed mercilessly what is considered to be America’s most cherished values, these were lame excuses. But, again, the repetition of such acts in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan in the subsequent years indicates that Washington has long since chosen to adopt the watchword of the colonial European powers - geopolitics trumps human values.


Many things have changed since 1971. China is now a power that is challenging the United States, at least in the economic arena, and President Obama is pirouetting with a policy known as the Asia Pivot, which means, as the president and his coterie tell us, that the United States will strengthen its presence in the Asia-Pacific region - a policy which some observers, including myself, consider to be a mere dream of an obese and vastly weakened American power, represented by President Obama.


Plus ca change…


In addition, the Soviet Union is no longer; and India, helped by a bevy of World Bank-IMF-Harvard-trained individuals at its helm, is now a friend of the United States. It is said that India’s World Bank-trained economist-prime minister Manmohan Singh is addressed by President Obama as his “guru.” In addition, Pakistan is now widely acknowledged in the United States as the center of world terrorism, where more than 90 percent of the population hates the United States. They hate the United States more than they hate India.


But not everything has changed. Washington’s drive to establish “democracy” in foreign lands by hook or by crook continues unabated. Color revolutions were supported, if not altogether organized, by Washington over the years, using such dubious characters as George Soros in the underbelly of Russia with the intent to set up pro-democratic (read: anti-Moscow) regimes to send warnings to Moscow. With the advent of President George W. Bush in the White House in the new millennium, the neo-conservatives of America, unabashedly representing Israeli interests, took over the foreign policy-making apparatus and began in earnest the process of changing regimes in Arabia that Israel did not like. Saddam Hussein in Iraq was removed, throwing the country into a bloodbath and pushing it to the verge of collapse.


Afghanistan was invaded, ostensibly to remove the Taliban and eliminate al-Qaeda and its supremo, Osama bin Laden. Pakistan, the transactional ally of the Bush administration, having joined President Bush’s vaguely-defined “war on terror,” moved decisively to protect some Taliban fighters and the Pakistani military personnel who were inside Afghanistan waging war against the US invaders and its allies, the Northern Alliance. The New York Times ran a story, “Pakistanis Again Said to Evacuate Allies of Taliban,” filed from a place called Bangi, near Kunduz, by Dexter Filkins and Carlotta Gall. They told of eyewitness accounts by Northern Alliance soldiers: “Pakistani airplanes had once again flown into the encircled city of Kunduz to evacuate Pakistanis who have been fighting alongside Afghan Taliban forces trapped there.” At the time, the United States controlled the skies over Kunduz, and it is unlikely that Pakistani craft would have flown into the zone without attracting US attention. In other words, what President Bush did was to ensure protection to those who were earlier labeled terrorists and were certainly shooting at the American troops.


Under President Obama, these policies did not change and, in fact, got worse. Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi was removed and Washington - with the help of the colonial powers such as Britain and France, and utilizing the British intelligence-controlled and protected al-Qaeda linked terrorists - launched a full-scale war to remove Qaddafi. The “success” brought about havoc and the now-liberated country has gone to hell under control of dozens of terrorist groups. In addition to the damage caused to Libya, and the Maghreb nations in North Africa, the operation also led to the death of a US ambassador and three other US government personnel in Benghazi, Libya, in 2011.


But the lessons were not learnt, and the zeal to install “democratic forces” in power continues. We saw the Obama administration helping the Saudis send troops to Bahrain to protect the Wahaabi-Takfiri monarchy of the House of al-Khalifas against an overwhelming majority of Bahrainis who want to set up a democratic form of government. Again, the fundamentalists preaching and practicing the most orthodox form of Sunni Islam were aided and supported by the “democracy-promoting” Obama administration in Washington.


It did not end there. No, sirree, it did not. The next target of the democracy crowd in Arabia was the much-berated al-Assad regime in Syria. Britain, the United States and France, funded mostly by the Wahaabi-Takfiri-promoting Saudi Arabia and Qatar, unleashed the dogs of war in the form of Islamist Jihadis - all linked to al-Qaeda or the Libyan terrorists or other terrorist outfits that have been created by the West and Saudis since the 1980s to bring down the Soviet Union. The mess, which will take decades to sort out and could even lead to the break-up of Syria and neighboring Iraq, where the Saudi-funded Wahaabis are trying to take control of the western part, has already led to deaths of more than 150,000 Arabs. And there is no end in sight.


Could these be worthy friends?


What this means is that notwithstanding President Obama’s stated vow to wage war against the Islamic Jihadis, for instance, by using missile attacks from drones in foreign territories, Washington is continuing to aid and abet terrorists in order to remove regimes that it considers “un-democratic.”


Issuance of the “disappointment” note against Sheikh Hasina Wazed’s uncontested election, dubbing it a hindrance to the free expression of the will of all Bangladeshi citizens, indicates President Obama has squarely lent his support to the Bangladeshi opposition, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, the BNP continues to draw succor from Saudi Arabia, Britain and the Pakistani ISI, and has an agenda to install an Islamic regime, whether the people of Bangladesh want it or not.


The links of the BNP-backers to al-Qaeda are widely known. For instance, The Islami Bank Bangladesh Ltd (IBBL), linked to militancy and controlled by the Jamaat, has been accused of funneling money to al-Qaeda-linked militants and supporting radical Islamism in other countries. Yassin Qadi, a US- and UN-designated financier of terrorism, is also close to the bank. Qadi is a Saudi businessman and son-in-law of Sheikh Ahmed Salah Jamjoom, a foreign sponsor of IBBL. Jamjoom is a former commerce minister in the Saudi government.


The Kuwaiti-based Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS) also had accounts at the bank that are suspected of financing terrorism in Bangladesh and elsewhere. It is believed that the organization helped finance the Aug. 17, 2005, serial bombings in Bangladesh.


A major go-between in this operation is Tarique Rahman, Khaleda Zia’s son, and perhaps the most powerful individual within the BNP. Rahman, senior vice-chairman of the BNP, is now under threat of arrest on a number of criminal charges. He has fled to - yes, you guessed it - London. He was allowed to leave Dhaka as he sought treatment at Wellington Hospital in London.


On Jan. 4, 2014, in a video message posted on YouTube, Rahman called for a boycott of the Jan. 5 general election in Bangladesh. He said: “The time has come for all of us to prevent and boycott the Jan. 5 polls. Not for personal interest, but for the sake of the country’s existence.” Daily Star correspondent Rashidul Hasan, in his article “BNP to fight militancy: Tarique assures US embassy official,” indicated that Tarique has met with at least one US official in London.


According to available reports, Tarique crony Giasuddin al-Mamun, managing director of Channel 1 television, has been charged in the Dhaka Court with money-laundering and is now serving time behind bars. He and Tarique were accused of having bank accounts in Switzerland, Singapore, South Africa and Malaysia, as well as investments in the UAE. Among others, Tarique was dealing with Dawood Ibrahim. According to US intelligence, Ibrahim maintained close links with al-Qaeda’s Osama Bin Laden. As a consequence, the United States declared Dawood Ibrahim a “global terrorist” in 2003.

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