Madeleine’s book, Bill’s foreword and the Big Mistake

Clinton’s mistake may be careless. That doesn’t make it less callous

Clinton’s mistake may be careless. That doesn’t make it less callous

Madeleine Albright’s ‘glossy’ new book is remarkably banal. It would perhaps have been appropriate in the bookstore in the arrival lounge for passengers from Mars, for it contains little that isn’t already well-known. It differs little from the official account, and is essentially a politically-correct, ‘glossy’ narrative of the manner in which the United States handled the rise of extremist Islam in the 1990s. Just about everyone is exonerated: Neither the Clinton administration nor the House of Saud is to blame for allowing Osama bin Laden and the Pakistani military establishment to put in place the global network of terror. She is entitled to her interpretation of facts. The Big Mistake in her book, though, is not hers. The credit for that goes to her former boss, Bill Clinton. In his introduction he writes:

During my visit to India in 2000, some Hindu militants decided to vent their outrage by murdering thirty-eight Sikhs in cold blood. If I hadn’t made the trip, the victims would probably still be alive. If I hadn’t made the trip because I feared what religious extremists might do, I couldn’t have done my job as president of the United States. [Bill Clinton/via Amazon, emphasis added]

He’s referring to the Chittisinghpora massacre which was carried out by Pakistani jihadis, none of whom it may be recalled, were Hindus. The most charitable interpretation of Clinton’s mistake is that he was careless and the editors at HarperCollins were either ignorant or couldn’t care less. But this book comes from people who once offered to help resolve the Kashmir dispute. That makes their carelessness deeply disturbing. Conspiracy theorists have shown persistant eagerness to lay the blame for the massacre at India’s door. Clinton’s mistake should come as a godsend for them.

HarperCollins would do well to correct the mistake before the falsehood takes a life of its own.

17 thoughts on “Madeleine’s book, Bill’s foreword and the Big Mistake”

  1. Nitin:

    Astounding mistake. I wonder if it is really a slip on President Clinton’s part. That exerpt ends with President Clinton’s notes on the shared values of the ‘Abrahamic’ faiths, which seems to suggest that the inclusion of Hindus was mistaken–else why not talk about the shared values of all religions, not just ‘Abrahamic’ faiths. But there are elements of the passage which suggest the opposite.

    Have you thought of contacting someone at the Clinton library or foundation to enquire whether this was a mistake? Or perhaps someone at Harper-Collins?

    (Not directed at you Nitin: But for anyone who reads this and does try to contact people, please do be polite and non-inflammatory)


  2. Nitin:

    An additional point. All the conspiracy buffs who seem to think that the LeT terrorists in J&K rarely commit large-scale massacres, as well as those who blame both the Indian army and jihadis for such killings, hold that the Indian army/sec’y forces were responsible at some level (see, e.g., Mr. Pankaj Mishra’s lunatic account that army units operating without sanction/knowledge of New Delhi were likely culprits).

    I’ve not heard claims before that it was a gang of Hindu militants responsible! Either President Clinton has access to some startling new info. or it really was a mistake somewhere in the editorial process.


  3. no wonder clinton is a leftist. am i correct?

    looks like the leftists and islamic fundamentalists have made a tacit agreement to outflank their “enemies”.

    it was Allama iqbal. who said socialism is islam without “God”. very apt.

  4. I think that this issue should be raised at the Highest levels of the Government since this Book can cause real damage to the Indian Interests in Kashmir.

  5. I have no doubt that Clinton actually believes that Hindus terroristed and killed Sikhs in J&K. It fits a pattern of thought promoted by some Indians and Indian establishments (like the likes of Pankaj Mishra, Ms. Roy, and The Hindu) and some in western establishment (like the likes of New York Times & Gaurdian) that religious Hindus (apparently called the Hindu-nazis) are more dangerous than Islamic terrorists. I am wondering how many concentration camps were run by BJP – those Hindu-nazis – ran during the five-year term in power.

    I don’t think one can dismiss Clinton’s introduction to a book as an editoral oversight.

  6. Chandra,
    would disagree with you…IMO Clinton is intelligent/knowledgeable enuf to realise the ground situation in re Kashmir. As Nitin said callous, but an editorial oversight nonetheless. However the GoI should arise from its slumber and do smthg about it. Shouldn’t be too difficult especially as Clinton claims to be a “Friend of India” and all that.

  7. Coming as it does from an ex-President, it is inexcusable. And he states about people being either “with” or “against” America – apparently Clinton and Dubya agree on that – and by stating that right after the huge blunder, he equates Hindus/Indians as having anti-US feelings.

    His referring to only Abrahamic faiths is curious. Is it either because he believes only the (people of) Abrahamic faiths are at war with each other?

  8. Abhishek,

    I am not so sure about that. As you say Clinton is an intelligent man and friend of India – which I agree with by and large. But it is perception that religious Hindu right is more dangerous to India than Islamic radicals is fairly held in the establishments I mentioned. I won’t be surprised at all if Clinton believes the same and actually thinks the Sikhs (being religious minority) were killed by right wing Hindus. As a person who grew in India you may think that Sikhs are as much Indian as another religious groups in India. But for a non-Indian outsider the incident could easily translate to another example of radical religious majority attacking religious minority.

    To me, it’s a hard case to make that this presentation of fact in an introduction, that is probably few pages long, by Clinton, was an oversight. Unless Clinton did not actually write the introduction himself, which is entirely possible, I think he believe the incident to be true.

  9. oops a lot of typos above.
    I meant taliban commander claimed that ISI ordered the killing. the link takes to my blog.

  10. Id call it a typographical error and let it go. Clintons larger point about the damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-dont nature of a politicians job is well made.

  11. I think that it is very important to note that the US legislators including the President make out that they can find an acceptable solution to almost any political problem in the world. Heres absolute proof that they know very little and what they know they are plain careless about unless American interest are involved.

    I believe that President Clintin shoud find an answer acceptable to Indians in US and also to the Indian administration in Delhi to pardon such a gross error.

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