I find a lot of revisionism of history by the Twittering masses, especially about the war in Afghanistan.
The average idiot on social media believes that the US has killed the most people in the world (false) and that the US has especially killed a lot of the people in Afghanistan (false) which was all our fault because we somehow lured the Soviets into the war (false), supported Osama bin Ladn against them (false) and then caused the Taliban to be born as well (false).
All of these anti-American fictions never start with a firm grasp of the Soviet communist terror, where some 50 million people were killed, and never have a handle on the 10 years of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, where one million civilians were killed.
In 1999, the largest number of refugees in the world were from Afghanistan. That's before 9/11, that's before the US invasion of Afghanistan, that's due to the Soviet war which ended in 1989.
One of the things I find most irksome is a certain kind of leftist Indian revision about the Soviet Union, the war in Afghanistan, and the United States.
Of all people, they should know better, as they were right there in the region, and knew exactly what was going on all around them. Indeed, there are intellectuals who do grasp it.
But there's a concerned faction that for all kinds of domestic and international political reasons is trying to shift the focus to the US.
So you get an article like this in the New Yorker by Pankaj Mishra.
When, during the short ensuing war between India and Pakistan, Nixon implicitly threatened India by ordering a nuclear aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Enterprise, into the Bay of Bengal, millions of Indian minds went dark with geopolitical paranoia. Nixon and his national-security adviser, Henry Kissinger, became, as Mistry puts it, “names to curse with.” Mistry’s protagonist amplifies a commonplace conjecture: “The CIA plan” involves supporting Pakistan against India, because India’s friendship with the Soviet Union “makes Nixon shit, lying awake in bed and thinking about it. His house is white, but his pyjamas become brown every night.” . . .
Yes, Kissinger and Nixon did bad things, we all recognize that. Yes, they are responsible for wars and loss of life. A huge protest movement was mounted against them, successfully, in the end, by the way.
But let's put this era in a much more credible perspective, shall we?
The reason the nefarious Kissinger and Nixon could get other members of government and the general public to be reluctant about India, and support its enemy Pakistan strategically, is because India was busy friending up the Soviet Union then, as the author admits.
That was a bad thing the author doesn't admit.
At that time not only did the Kremlin preside over a vicious system responsible for the unjust jailing and torture of tens of thousands, it had behind it the millions of people massacred by Lenin and Stalin. Some friend. Friending that friend would rightfully make anyone else who wanted freedom and liberty for all to be cold, i.e. as in Cold War.
You can point to all kinds of things the US did wrong in Pakistan. But if you airbrush out of your analysis the fact that the Soviets KILLED ONE MILLION AFGHANS AND FORCED FIVE MILLION TO FLEE during their war, you are completely dishonest intellectually.
Friending Pakistan to address Afghanistan is the least bad of a lot of bad options. You know, there's friending Uzbekistan, too. Or Iran. Okay, then. Least bad.
In the New Yorker piece, the author makes it seem as if Jimmy Carter somehow "lured" the Soviets into this war because he was happy to seem them "mired down" as the US had been in Viet Nam. It implies there was something the US could do to stop that war. Um, what would that be, a resolution at the UN Security Council?! The US role in funding the rebels was hardly significant -- like I said, ONE MILLION were killed. If the US were able to do more, obviously so many wouldn't have been killed. But it was pin-pricking the opposite nuclear power and never going to do much.
In an op-ed piece in the New York Times, you get the same context-free thinking, blaming Bangladesh entirely on Kissinger and Nixon, when even Wikipedia doesn't do that. Supporting murderous Pakistani generals isn't the same thing as committing massacres -- which in fact were set in motion by factors outside of the US -- and start with India's partitioning out of Muslims.
As recently declassified documents and White House tapes show, Nixon and Kissinger stood stoutly behind Pakistan’s generals, supporting the murderous regime at many of the most crucial moments. This largely overlooked horror ranks among the darkest chapters in the entire cold war.
Of course, no country, not even the United States, can prevent massacres everywhere in the world — but this was a close American ally, which prized its warm relationship with the United States and used American weapons and military supplies against its own people.
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. The White House tapes capture their emotional rage, going far beyond Nixon’s habitual vulgarity. In the Oval Office, Nixon told Kissinger that the Indians needed “a mass famine.” Kissinger sneered at people who “bleed” for “the dying Bengalis.”
They were unmoved by the suffering of Bengalis, despite detailed reporting about the killing from Archer K. Blood, the brave United States consul general in East Pakistan. 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.
After Mr. Blood’s consulate sent an extraordinary cable formally dissenting from American policy, decrying what it called genocide, Nixon and Kissinger ousted Mr. Blood from his post in East Pakistan. Kissinger privately scorned Mr. Blood as “this maniac”; Nixon called Mr. Keating “a traitor.”
All of this may well be true, but Bass must never have ready any other divulged Kissinger comments if he thinks this represents a special animus; Kissinger also infamously suggested that even if the Soviet Jews were killed in large numbers as in the Holocaust, it would not be a fight for the US due to Soviet nuclear power.
See, when a scholar like this cannot accept the reality of the massive crimes against humanity of the Soviets, their invasions of countries and coercive sphere of influence and their war in Afghanistan, then I find myself wishing for a second opinion. This scholar dismisses concerns about India's pro-Soviet leanings.
But these are real concerns. It doesn't matter if Nixon is cynical about them; they are real. They are about mass crimes against humanity and a bloody oppressive system that you deter, and do not let spread if you value freedom. Scholars like Bass don't have a feel for this reality.
I'm happy to remember what Nixon and Kissinger did in those horrible days if Prof. Bass will zoom out and remember what the Soviets did in their terrible days before and during this period.
Amy Goodman and Alan Nairn place the darkest hour in a different place -- Indonesia, and the massacre of East Timor by the generals backed by the US. It was their direct experience in those atrocities that set them up for a life-long career of anti-government activism and the creation of Democracy Now! which champions Manning and Snowden.
So for them, too, nothing exists but the sins of US pragmatism backing up this or that awful regime in the Cold War, but the back story to that -- the Soviet Union and the worst crimes against humanity -- never exist. It's those crimes that enabled both sincere and cynical reactions including the backing of autocratic regimes.
I could add that Amy, Jeremy Scahill and the rest of this crowd could care less when the US backs the Russian regimes, responsible for the massacres of tens of thousands -- hundreds of thousands -- of Chechens. And of course they were all MIA and preoccupied only with the one-sided peace-movement in the Soviet era and never did anything about the previous war in Afghanistan.
Those like Bass who focus only on American evils in a complex story like Bangladesh and tend only to worry about due process for Islamists rather than justice for all also leave out the work of feminist scholars such as Gita Sagahl.
In openDemocracy recently, I argued that Bangladesh was the forgotten template for 20th century war. Long before the killings and mass rape that took place in former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, Bangladesh showed what happens when militias allied to the army are involved in a conflict. Although contemporary witnesses, including a number of US diplomats were convinced that they were witnessing genocide – that is the deliberate destruction of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group; by the twenty first century, the conflict in Bangladesh had largely disappeared from international concern. A BBC website defining genocide, for instance, failed to include Bangladesh even among a list of possible genocidal campaigns. Since 1972, not a single human rights organisation has done any investigation of the conflict, although they have been harsh in their comments about the establishment of an international crimes tribunal to try alleged war criminals.
The Pakistan military, one of the chief perpetrators of the conflict, is out of reach of the Bangladeshi authorities. Nine men have been charged and numerous others, including at least two men resident in Western countries, are being investigated. All those charged are Bengalis. They are opposition leaders mostly of the Jamaat e Islami, a transnational fundamentalist political party, allied to the Muslim Brotherhood and often seen by Western governments as ‘moderate Islamists’. In Pakistan, in Britain and in the US, those accused of grave crimes enjoy almost complete impunity. It is only in Bangladesh that there is an attempt at holding them accountable. A mass movement, conducted almost entirely by survivors of the genocide, and energised by a new generation of younger activists, made the trial of alleged war criminals a major issue in the last elections.
I'm not an expert on this region or these wars. I'm reading along with everyone else. But I see revisionism when I see the context of Soviet crimes against humanity and the genuine and legitimate reasons for the Cold War always left out. I'm happy to see wrong where wrong is done and don't have a problem joining in the condemnation of Nixon and Kissinger. But it's a one-sided story when it's only about them, and the Cold War is seen as merely an attempt at American hegemony instead of engendered by really serious crimes against humanity. If you don't make this part of the analysis, then you set up the next time when the crimes of communism or extremism or terrorism -- real an actual crimes -- are used to justify something the left finds wrong. Why can't the left be against both things?