Kenneth Keating

American politician and diplomat (1900-1975)

Kenneth Barnard Keating (May 18, 1900 – May 5, 1975) was an American attorney, politician, judge, and diplomat from Rochester, New York. A Republican, he is most notable for his service as a U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator, state appellate court judge, and a U.S. Ambassador, first to India (1969-1972), then to Israel (1973-1975).

Kenneth Keating


  • I know of no word in the English language other than massacre which better describes the wanton slaughter of thousands of defenseless men, women and children.
    • Kenneth Keating, quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.

Quotes about Keating

  • Within a short time, Ambassador Kenneth Keating, the ranking United States diplomat in New Delhi, had added his voice to those of the dissenters. It was a time, he told Washington, when a principled stand against the authors of this aggression and atrocity would also make the best pragmatic sense. Keating, a former senator from New York, used a very suggestive phrase in his cable of 29 March 1971, calling on the administration to “promptly, publicly, and prominently deplore this brutality.” It was “most important these actions be taken now,” he warned, “prior to inevitable and imminent emergence of horrible truths.”
    • Christopher Hitchens, The Trial of Henry Kissinger (2002)

Bass G.J., The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide (2014)

Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • Keating was not someone who could be easily dismissed. He was a formidable political figure in his own right.... Sydney Schanberg remembers him as an old-fashioned conservative, a moderate Rockefeller Republican. Schanberg liked him: “He was very undiplomatic.”
    As the shooting started, Keating was near the end of his career and his life, unafraid to speak his mind. In Delhi, he absorbed the outrage of Indians there. Major General Jacob-Farj-Rafael Jacob of the Indian army recalls, “Keating agreed with me entirely.” The general remembers Keating turning red when asked why the United States was supporting Pakistan despite the atrocities. Thus Keating became an outspoken advocate for both India and the Bengalis, repeatedly lending his own gravitas and respectability to the Dacca consulate’s dissenters. “Bless him,” says Meg Blood. “He was strongly for us.”
  • When Keating saw Blood’s cable, he immediately backed it, firing off an equally furious cable of his own with the same jarring subject line of “Selective Genocide.” He wrote, “Am deeply shocked at massacre by Pakistani military in East Pakistan, appalled at possibility these atrocities are being committed with American equipment, and greatly concerned at United States vulnerability to damaging allegations of associations with reign of military terror.” The ambassador—making a complete break with U.S. policy—urged his own government to “promptly, publicly and prominently deplore this brutality,” to “privately lay it on line” with the Pakistani government, and to unilaterally suspend all military supplies to Pakistan. He urged swift action now, before the “inevitable and imminent emergence of horrible truths and prior to communist initiatives to exploit situation. This is [a] time when principles make [the] best politics.”
  • Archer Blood had been easily dismissed, but it was trickier to oust a well-connected former Republican senator. It would look bad to fire the ambassador in the middle of a crisis. And Keating leaked plenty to the press while he was still working for the administration; he could have done far worse if sacked. “He’s got all the credentials,” remembers Samuel Hoskinson, Kissinger’s staffer. “When he says it, then people have to listen to it.” Hoskinson recalls Nixon and Kissinger’s anger: “We were aware that Keating was on the bad guy list. ‘What’s happened to Ken?’ ” He explains, “What really upset them is Keating is not just another ambassador. He is a man of Washington, with an independent reputation. He knows how to get the word out, he knows how to deal with the media, he has his own base of influence, he’s well respected by other Republicans. This is not just Archer Blood anymore, not this guy out there in Bangladesh and a couple of Foreign Service Officers.”
  • Rather than merely sending toothless notes, Keating wanted U.S. economic aid to Pakistan to be conditional on an end to the killing. Echoing Blood, he reminded Kissinger that the army was concentrating on the Hindus. At first, the refugees fleeing into India had been in the same proportion as existed in the overall population of East Pakistan, but now 90 percent were Hindus....
    The next day, in the Oval Office, Kissinger complained to Nixon, “He’s almost fanatical on this issue.” Nixon resented having to meet with Keating. The president thought his man in Delhi had gone completely native: “Keating, like every Ambassador who goes over there, goes over there and gets sucked in.” Nixon asked, “Well what the hell does he think we should do about it?” When Kissinger explained—“he thinks we should cut off all military aid, all economic aid, and in effect help the Indians to push the Pakistanis out of” East Pakistan—it was more than Nixon could take: “I don’t want him to come in with that kind of jackass thing with me.”
  • On June 15, Keating got his chance to directly confront the president. Waiting in the Oval Office for the showdown, the president groused to Kissinger, “Like all of our other Indian ambassadors, he’s been brainwashed.” He added, “Anti-Pakistan.”... “What do they want us to do?” asked Nixon, about the Indians. “Break up Pakistan?” Keating assured him they did not, but they could not stand the strain of some five million refugees. Nixon suggested, “Why don’t they shoot them?”
  • In the Oval Office, the ambassador directly told the president of the United States and his national security advisor that their ally was committing genocide. The reason that the refugees kept coming, at a rate of 150,000 a day, was “because they’re killing the Hindus.” He explained that “in the beginning, these refugees were about in the proportion to the population—85 percent Muslim, 15 percent Hindus. Because when they started the killing it was indiscriminate. Now, having gotten control of the large centers, it is almost entirely a matter of genocide killing the Hindus.”
  • Nixon and Kissinger wanted retribution against their underlings. They fixated on Kenneth Keating, the ambassador to India who had dared to challenge the president in the Oval Office, and was still firing off angry cables. Despite his formidable connections and credentials, the former Republican senator’s job was on the line. “All things being equal, I think they would have removed Keating,” says Samuel Hoskinson, Kissinger’s staffer at the White House. “We’ve got to put some kind of a leash on Keating,” Nixon told Kissinger. The president recalled with satisfaction that when he had raised this with William Rogers, the secretary of state had said that Keating was senile. Nixon later said, “Keating’s a traitor.” Nixon told Kissinger that they should fire him. The Indians, Nixon said, were “Awful but they are getting some assistance from Keating, of course.” Kissinger agreed: “A lot of assistance; he is practically their mouthpiece.” He added, “He has gone native...“
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