A little over a week ago a film titled, Children of War, was released in India. The film is based on the 1971 attack on East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) by the Pakistani army. The Indian press described the film as a ‘reminder of the brutality of the Pakistani Army’, who, in an attempt to supress Bengali self-determination, committed some of the most appalling atrocities since the Second World War.
The conflict broke after the Pakistani military allowed for the country’s first open election in ten years, and after a large majority win for Bengal’s Awami League. The military terminated the first meeting of the National Assembly prompting mass peaceful protest, which in turn was met by the brutality highlighted by ‘Children of War’.
‘GENOCIDE’ appropriately titled the landmark article in The Sunday Times by Pakistani reporter, Anthony Mascarenhas. Indeed Mascarenhas shone a light on the Pakistani army who were reported as having deployed rape, dismemberment and the deliberate murdering of children as tactics of suppression. These reports are supported by comments made by the then U.S. Consul General, Archer Blood, who was stationed in Dacca and in a famous act of insubordination, sent a telegram denouncing his own government’s failure to ‘denounce the suppression of democracy…. to denounce atrocities.’ What became known as, the Blood Telegram, goes on to read, ‘Our government has failed to take forceful measures to protect its [Bengali] citizens while at the same time bending over backwards to placate the West Pak government and to lessen likely and deservedly negative international public relations impact against them’.
Henry Kissinger demanded that Blood be thrown out of Washington. And at the height of the atrocity-ridden suppression of the Bengali, Kissinger thanked the architect of the genocide, General Yahya Khan, for his ‘delicacy and tact’. This, as Christopher Hitchens meticulously details in his excellent, The Trial of Henry Kissinger, was one of several ploys to either enhance relations with China, send a warning to India, or simply to see the self destruction of an emerging state that may have somehow gotten in the way – in short, it was mere business.
It is unclear how many were killed; Bangladesh authorities maintain it was around 3 million while other more conservative estimates put the death toll at 300,000 to 500,000. Whatever figure one wished to use, genocide remains the case. If anything, the numbers do little to reflect the nuances of horror Khan engineered; the strategic systematic raping and murdering of Bengali endures regardless – as does Kissinger’s support.
Just as Children of War gives opportunity to remember 1971, Henry Kissinger’s recent celebration of his 91st birthday provides ample opportunity to remind ourselves of the evildoings of this American diplomat throughout his career as U.S Secretary of State and National Security Council Advisor. Indeed the birthday boy is name to an eerily impressive list of atrocities and crimes against humanity; the secret and illegal bombing of Cambodia, supporting and approving the East Timor genocide, backing the coup of the democratically elected Chilean government, the planned kidnapping and murder of a Washington journalist, supporting the massacre in Tiananmen Square, lying about Vietnam and prolonging the war by four years, backing the Cyprus coup in 1974, advising Saddam Husain to massacre Kurds and promising reward on his doing so. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it paints a deserving portrait of the man who will no doubt be celebrated today.
Detailing all these atrocities lies outside the scope of this article, for all intents and purposes a focus on Chile may give as good a sample as any of Kissinger’s criminal thuggery. Indeed, Seymore Hersh, author of, The Price of Power, sees Chile as Kissinger’s worst act, as it had absolutely nothing to do with national security (that’s not to say the rest were – East Timor is good example of the genocide of a harmless and defenceless people).
The ‘Chilean situation’ as it is described in declassified CIA documents, begins when Salvador Allende emerged as a popular presidential candidate in the 1970 Chilean elections. American corporations operating in Chile became anxious over Allende’s promises to nationalise various industries. IT & T, the American corporation that owned the Chilean copper industry, was one such corporation whose president, Harold Geneen, voiced ‘grave concern’ over the prospect of Allende nationalising Chilean copper. Geneen wasn’t the only deep-wallet to call on Nixon and Kissinger to do something. An old chum of Nixon and President of Pepsi Cola, Donald Kendall, expressed similar concern, as did David Rockerfeller of Chase Manhattan. For Nixon to solve the Chilean situation would secure him vast financial corporate support for a subsequent election. All of a sudden Chile and Allende became a U.S concern.
Kissinger concurred with Nixon on June 27th 1970, stating, “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people”. Here once again, Kissinger’s contempt for democracy speaks for itself. Allende however, won a plurality with 36.2 percent of the vote. For Nixon, the results of the election were ‘not acceptable to the United States’.
It was decided a military coup would be best. The CIA began recruiting members of the Chilean army. An obstacle presented itself however. General Rene Schneider, chief of the Chilean General Staff, got wind of plans of a coup, and announced his loyalty to the constitution. Hitchens, again in The Trial of Henry Kissinger, notes that in a meeting on the 18th September 1970, Kissinger decided Schneider had to go.
Kissinger concocted and operated a two-track policy, on one hand there would be the diplomacy, and simultaneously on the other, secret plans involving kidnap and murder. Despite Helms and others’ warnings that finding Chilean officers willing to kidnap and assassinate Schneider would be too difficult, Kissinger was adamant they press on – and it paid. General Viaux, an extremist right-wing officer, accepted the job. The exchange between Kissinger and these hit men is detailed by Hitchens in his book. Kissinger supplied payment, machine guns, tear gas grenades, orders and pressure to succeed. After two failed attempts, Schneider’s car was ambushed; he drew his gun but was shot several times at point blank range.
This was a planned kidnapping of an official of a democratic nation with which the U.S was by no means at war with. The kidnappers were armed with American weaponry and paid large sums of money. This was organised by Kissinger, an unelected U.S official who supressed this entire fiasco from the eyes of Congress. The analogising of Kissinger and Nixon as Mafiosi stands vindicated with this whack, and is in fact complimented by declassified tapes were Kissinger and Nixon are heard discussing the post-Schneider overthrow of Allende.
The end of the story is better known. In September 11th 1973, what South Americans term the ‘first 9/11’, Kissinger and Nixon succeeded in overthrowing Allende. Their almost hand-selected brute of choice, Pinochet, led the military coup, bombing the Capital’s, Le Moneda, resulting in Allende’s death. Pinochet was installed with a secret thank you from Kissinger, followed by a murderous and torturous seventeen year dictatorship on part of Augusto. A special team of economists, The Chicago Boys, were also drafted in who broke the back of the Chilean economy. Mission accomplished.
Two months later Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace prize for prolonging the war in Vietnam at the expense of innumerable lives and breaking U.S and international law by secretly bombing Cambodia and Laos. The satirist and mathematician, Tom Lehrer, remarked that this was when ‘satire died’.
If only satire was the sole casualty of Kissinger’s personal success.
Words by Liam Doherty