Thursday, October 24, 2013

Gary J. Bass's "The Blood Telegram"

Gary J. Bass is the author of Freedom's Battle: The Origins of Humanitarian Intervention and Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals. He is a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University. A former reporter for The Economist, he has written often for the New York Times, and has also written for The New Yorker, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, The New Republic, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Slate, and other publications.

Bass applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide, and reported the following:
The Blood Telegram is the secret story of an overlooked and shocking Cold War crisis, and about how America and India—two great democracies—dealt with it. In 1971, there was a devastating crackdown by the Pakistani army against the Bengalis of what was then East Pakistan, and is now Bangladesh. But rather than defending human rights, President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, his White House national security advisor, stood behind the Pakistani military government, even through this horrific killing campaign. From American and Indian archives, interviews with many of the key participants, and the White House tapes, the book is trying to show what really happened in the shadows.

On page 99, we’re following one of the main characters in the book, Sydney Schanberg, a hard-charging young reporter for The New York Times. He’s probably most familiar as one of the heroes of a terrific and harrowing movie, The Killing Fields, about him and his friend and colleague Dith Pran as they covered the murderous Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia in 1975. (Sam Waterston plays Syd, and really captures his intensity and brainpower.) So here we’re following a younger Syd, in his first war, as he’s reporting on the Pakistani army setting villages on fire.

While Nixon and Kissinger are backing Pakistan, there’s another big secret plan that’s unfolding: India is sponsoring Bengali guerrillas who are trying to mount an insurgency against Pakistani rule. On page 99, one of the most senior Indian officials is covertly planning guerrilla warfare against the Pakistan army to “bleed them.” So they’re on the road to a major war between India and Pakistan, which will drive Nixon and Kissinger to new heights of anti-Indian rage.
Learn more about The Blood Telegram at the Knopf website.

--Marshal Zeringue