Jon Huntsman Glosses Over Genocide In Bangladesh

2012 GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman.Zhang Jun/Xinhua/ZUMA Press

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


During Monday’s Lincoln-Douglas style debate between front-runner Newt Gingrich and back-runner Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor was asked about the United States’ volatile relationship with Pakistan. Huntsman asked the audience to think back to the early 1970s, when America’s alliance with Pakistan was more reliable and sturdy. “It was Pakistan that helped open the way to China,” Huntsman said, before going on to praise the partnership between then-National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger and Pakistani President Yahya Khan. Returning to this baseline of friendship with the Pakistani government would be part of Huntsman’s grand strategy of “remind[ing] the world once again what it means to be a friend and ally of the United States.”

Sounds swell, right? With the way things have been going lately, who wouldn’t want to get back to an era when Pakistan actually assisted the United States in major foreign policy wins?

What Huntsman neglected to mention in his description of that period in US-Pakistan relations is that Gen. Yahya Khan was a genocidal leader who orchestrated an indiscriminate campaign against Bengali civilians during the 1971 Bangladesh war of independence. Casualty estimates range in the hundreds of thousands (with higher estimates clocking in at three million deaths) and the operation was labelled by one top-ranking American official at the time as “the most incredible, calculated thing since the days of the Nazis in Poland.” Kissinger—predictablylooked the other way because Khan was a key interlocutor in arranging President Nixon’s 1972 visit to China. “[General Khan] hasn’t had so much fun since the last Hindu massacre,” Kissinger said during a closed meeting in 1971.

Obviously, Huntsman was not citing mass murder and ethnic cleansing as indications of a solid bond between the two nations. It is, however, rather peculiar for the Republican candidate to hold up such a dark chapter in Pakistani history as an example of sunnier days. It’s likely that Huntsman was simply taking a page from the realpolitik handbook, while banking on the safe assumption that few, if any, listeners were aware of this complex, brutal episode of the Bangladesh Liberation War and Nixon’s “opening” to China.

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate