The big lie about genocide that Americans tell themselves

It gets worse. The United States managed to win the Cold War against the Soviet Union while preserving its moral high ground. But that period may have marked a nadir for the United States when it came to genocide and ethnic cleansing. As Princeton professor Gary J. Bass documents in his 2013 book The Blood Telegram, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger tacitly supported the Pakistan military’s ethnic cleansing in East Pakistan in the early 1970s, which led to the deaths of at least 300,000 people. It wasn’t until an opportunistic intervention by India in 1971 — which the United Nations overwhelming condemned — that the mass killings stopped.

And when the Khmer Rouge conducted its reign of terror in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, leading to the death of up to 25 percent of its roughly 7 million people — proportionally the largest genocide of the 20th century — Washington remained aloof. Because of its then geopolitical interests at the time with regards to opening up to China and spurning the USSR and Vietnam, Washington opted for a policy of non-intervention, a morally indefensible stance. The United States was even critical of the 1978-1979 invasion of Cambodia by a pro-Soviet Vietnam that ended Pol Pot’s reign.

Similarly, when Saddam Hussein used chemical and conventional weapons to kill an estimated 100,000 ethnic Kurds in Iraq in 1988, Washington — having recently made overtures to Baghdad, with which it then had a common adversary in Iran — did not even impose sanctions, much less intervene.