Henry Kissinger: A people’s obituary from Bangladesh

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL December 1, 2023

Photo: US Department of State. Public Domain

The day news broke that Henry Kissinger was dead social media started to be flooded with photos from Bangladesh. One sticks out particularly in my memory. It was of a young woman, who lived in the West, along with her grandmother, who lived in Dhaka. My grandma lived, despite Kissinger, and now she’s survived him, the young woman wrote, or words to that effect.

It was a people’s obituary of a sort for Kissinger, a particularly bitter one. Its extraordinary power perhaps lies in the fact that Bangladesh’s foreign minister soon enough, also expressed criticism of the man who’s described as one of America’s most powerful secretaries of state.

The minister, A K Abdul Momen, lamented that Kissinger supported the Pakistani military regime during the 1971 war.

By many accounts, that was a relatively mild summing up of what actually happened in the then East Pakistan.

In 1971, Pakistan’s US-backed military was waging a bloody war in the territory now known as Bangladesh. Both Kissinger and his boss, President Richard Nixon, ignored appeals from the US American consulate in East Pakistan to stop the massacre. However, weapons, including fighter jets, continued to be shipped to Pakistan, in what some might say is reminiscent of Israel’s now-resumed cruel and unequal military operations against the civilians of Gaza.

Many say that history’s verdict on Kissinger may be less glowing than some of the encomiums that have poured forth on his death at a 100 years of age. That young woman and her grandmother in the Bangladeshi capital have already provided a version of how the man who once fled for his life from a genocidal regime seemed to think little about the terrors visited on so many by his value-free decisions.

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