Last week, Henry Kissinger, America’s most famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) Secretary of State turned 100. For reasons we don’t fully understand, Kissinger and the President he served, Richard Nixon, harboured a deep antipathy towards India. The damage Kissinger did to Indo-US relations took 30 years to repair. Lest we forget the devastation that unprincipled men in positions of power can inflict, it is worth reading Fred Kaplan’s piece in Slate. Here are a couple of excerpts which show Kissinger at his unprincipled best. The first excerpt is on Chile:

“Chile is the darkest blotch on Kissinger’s legacy. He was the chief architect of the U.S. policy to destabilize the regime of Chile’s democratically elected socialist president, Salvador Allende. And he gave full support to Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean general who mounted the coup overthrowing Allende in September 1973—even turning a blind eye to Pinochet’s murderous repression of Allende supporters, including the car-bombing of a prominent critic-in-exile, Orlando Letelier, which also killed a young American colleague, Ronni Moffitt, on the streets of Washington, D.C.

This was not a case of Kissinger merely doing Nixon’s dirty work. In fact, Nixon was considering a proposal by a senior State Department official—one of Kissinger’s aides—to reach a modus vivendi with Allende. Kissinger postponed a White House meeting with the aide and convinced Nixon to crush the new government instead. Kissinger was then put in charge of a secret committee to “make the economy scream,” as Nixon put it, ordering the CIA to subsidize striking truck workers and provide support to the coup-plotters in the military. Once the coup succeeded and the suppression and torture began, State Department officials urged their boss to call out Pinochet for his human rights abuses. Kissinger brushed aside these pleas. He even told Pinochet in a private meeting, “We want to help, not undermine you.” The State Department’s top deputy on Latin America complained that Kissinger’s permissiveness was “patently a violation of our principles and policy tenets.” Kissinger ignored the warning.”

The second excerpt is on Kissinger’s support of the Pakistanis ruling Bangladesh (then known as East Pakistan). The Slate says: “This was all of a piece with Kissinger’s actions, back in the spring of 1971, after the East Pakistan coup led by Gen. Agha Muhammad Yahya, which led to the deaths of millions of civilians. “To all hands,” Kissinger supported the coup, writing in a cable to diplomatic personnel, “don’t squeeze Yahya at this time.””

The Indian Express says: “On March 25, 1971, the Pakistan Army launched Operation Searchlight, a brutal crackdown on East Pakistan’s nationalist movement, in which anywhere between 300,000 to 3 million Bangladeshi civilians were killed, and as many as 10 million refugees poured into India.

Pakistan was a key ally of the US during the Cold War for reason of its strategic location and as a counterbalance to India, which had aligned itself with the Soviet Union. Kissinger, NSA to President Nixon at the time, also hoped to use Pakistan for diplomatic openings to China, again as a part of his grand strategy to counter Soviet influence.

With the Pakistani atrocities continuing unabated, the US Consul General in Dhaka, Archer Blood, wrote to Washington DC to intervene, but met with what Blood would describe as a “deafening silence”. As the US continued to supply military and economic aid to Pakistan, Blood and his staff drafted a strongly worded dissent memo.

“Our government has failed to denounce the suppression of democracy. Our government has failed to denounce atrocities. Our government has failed to take forceful measures to protect its citizens while at the same time bending over backwards to placate the West Pak dominated government and to lessen any deservedly negative international public relations impact against them,” the telegram read.

Blood would immediately be recalled to the US, with the rest of his diplomatic career marred by his show of dissent.”

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