Why the US should recognise Pakistan’s Bangladesh genocide – for its own complicity

Proposed US legislation to recognise the genocide against Bengalis and Hindus leading to the birth of Bangladesh in 1971 is in the right direction; just make sure it doesn’t ‘forget’ the key role Washington played in enabling it to happen

America is obsessed with other people’s genocides, even some that might not qualify as such. It seems to think that such public discourse among its citizens is salutary; perhaps that would be more so if they had paid more attention to the genocides committed in their own national history.

As US historian Peter Novick wrote in his 1999 book, The Holocaust and Collective Memory, “Fifty years after the fact and thousands of miles from its side, the Holocaust has come to loom so large in our culture.” He asks “whether the prominent role the Holocaust has come to play in both American Jewish and general American discourse is as desirable a development as most people seem to think it is”.

The same scepticism can be said about America’s more recent obsession with the Armenian genocide. California recently declared that Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day – observed annually on April 24 as a public holiday in Armenia – would become a statewide holiday to be known as Genocide Awareness Day.

In 2019, the United States first formally recognised the Armenian genocide committed by the Ottoman Turks.

Bangladeshi social activists perform a street play during a rally in remembrance of those who were killed in 1971 ahead of the country’s declaration of independence from Pakistan, in Dhaka, Bangladesh. [AP]

US politicians always seem to hunger for more. Last month, a new resolution was introduced in the House of Representatives to recognise Pakistan’s genocide against Bengalis and Hindus leading to the birth of Bangladesh in 1971.

The proposed legislation “condemns the atrocities committed by the Armed Forces of Pakistan against the people of Bangladesh from March to December 1971; recognises that such atrocities against ethnic Bengalis and Hindus constitute crime against humanity, war crimes and genocide”.

As it is, I think it’s a very good idea, except for one big missing detail: the US role as an enabler of the Pakistani generals in committing the genocide. Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, anyone? Let’s not forget what they did.

A sordid and sorry history

Many Hong Kong people harbour a highly romantic and unrealistic fantasy about the glory of British colonialism. But a confluence of factors contributed to its relatively successful transition to Chinese rule.