Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Good American



During Bangladesh's liberation war, when his government was actively supporting the occupying Pakistani junta, a US diplomat found it difficult not to answer to his conscience.

The United State's support for the butchers of Pindi during Bangladesh's Muktijuddo was blatant and went beyond routine diplomatic support. Richard M Nixon regime sent shiploads of arms and military logistics to the Pakistani army who in the month of March alone, according to a moderate estimate, killed 10,000 innocent Bangalis. It was in fact with US made guns that the Pak army launched a systematic genocide against an unarmed civilian population on the night of March 26 in 1971. The reason for such a reactionary foreign policy is not unfathomable though: With the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and a popular communist insurgency plaguing the Malaccan Straights, right wing elements in the Capitol Hills like Henry Kissinger (the then Secretary of State) had every reason to feel so desperate. This desperation was evident when the Nixon regime vetoed numerous resolutions in the UN Security Council (UNSC) that were tabled by the Soviet Union to further Bangladesh's independence.

When the table was quickly turning against them, and the Muktibahini and the allied forces were gaining ground, Imperialist America tried to pass a resolution in the UNSC to stop the war in Bangladesh. Had not the Soviets vetoed the bill, Bangladesh would not have come about. The US's involvement against the birth of Bangladesh did not stop just there, on the eve of Bangladesh's independence, on December 12, the US sent its Seventh Fleet to the Bay of Bengal to help the losing Pakistani army, the Soviets, for their turn, decided to send their own fleet, and sensing its defeat the imperialist Nixon-Kissinger administration backed off and four days later Bangladesh became independent.

Amidst all this, Archer K (Kent) Blood, the last US Consul General to Dhaka, is an honourable exception. On the night of March 26, 1971 the occupying Pakistani regime launched a crackdown on its own citizens in the then East Pakistan; 10,000 innocent Bangalis died in the first four days alone. On April 6, Blood sent a telegram to his State Department, seeking his own administration's intervention to stop what he called "the selective genocide" in the East Pakistan. Signed by 29 Americans staying in Dhaka, the dispatch, known more as the Blood Telegram, read:

" Our government has failed to denounce the suppression of democracy. Our government has failed to denounce atrocities. Our government has failed to take forceful measures to protect its citizens while at the same time bending over backwards to placate the West Pak (West Pakistani) dominated government and to lessen any deservedly negative international public relations impact against them. Our government has evidenced what many will consider moral bankrupt… "Here in Decca (Dhaka) we are mute and horrified witnesses to a reign of terror by the Pak (Pakistani) Military. Evidence continues to mount that the MLA authorities have list of AWAMI League supporters whom they are systematically eliminating by seeking them out in their homes and shooting them down…"

Blood suffered heavily for sending this telegram. He was immediately recalled from his post, "Although," says his Washington Post obituary, " he had been scheduled for another 18-month tour in Pakistan after home leave, he never returned to his post. He was assigned to the State Department's personnel office. In 1982, Blood himself told the newspaper, "I paid a price for my dissent. But I had no choice, the line between right and wrong was just too clear-cut."

In Bangladesh, too, Blood has remained unknown and unrecognised. It is shameful indeed for us as a nation that we have not yet learnt to appreciate heroes like Archer K Blood, who had the courage to speak out against his government, knowing that he was risking his career.

Published in the Star Weekend Magazine on April 13, 2007


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