- When Archer K. Blood died last month, in retirement in
Colorado, there was family, a few old friends and an entire nation to
mourn his passing, but the nation that grieved for him was not his own. It
Arch Blood was 81 years old and a retired diplomat. He might have had
an unremarkable if satisfying career, moving from Greece to Germany to
Afghanistan to New Delhi, but in the bloody year of 1971 he found himself
consul-general in Dhaka, East Pakistan.
There Blood witnessed the beginning of a massacre that would take
hundreds of thousands if not millions of lives. The Pakistan army, faced
with an incipient rebellion among the Bengalis, slaughtered thousands in a
pre-emptive attack on the University of Dacca and the barracks of Bengali
police. Columns of troops followed the roads throughout the country,
burning and killing.
Blood in his first cable described what he termed a "selective
genocide," alerted President Richard Nixon and national security
adviser Henry Kissinger to what was happening and urged them to pressure
Gen. Yahya Khan, the Pakistani dictator, to stop the killing.
His cable, dated March 28, 1971, was declassified last year. In it
Blood wrote: "Here in Dacca we are mute and horrified witnesses to a
reign of terror of the Pak military ..."
The trouble was that Nixon and Kissinger had tilted toward Pakistan as
a counter to Soviet influence in the subcontinent. The administration
didn't want to hear what Blood was reporting.
That cable was followed by another, signed by 20 Americans stationed in
East Pakistan with various U.S. government agencies, decrying the official
American silence as serving "neither our moral interests broadly
defined nor our national interests narrowly defined ..."
Blood did not sign that cable, but he added a footnote subscribing
fully to the views it expressed and then wrote prophetically: "I
believe the most likely eventual outcome of the struggle under way in East
Pakistan is a Bengali victory and the consequent establishment of an
independent Bangladesh." He argued strongly against "pursuing a
rigid policy of one-sided support to the likely loser."
Nixon chose an option of trying to help Khan negotiate a settlement
with the Bengalis, but added, in his own handwriting, "To all hands:
DON'T squeeze Yahya at this time." So nobody in authority squeezed
Yahya Khan, the killings continued and 20 million Bengali refugees poured
To counter reports of the army's massacre, the Pakistanis brought in a
few foreign journalists for a tightly controlled tour that it said would
prove that it was actually Bengali Hindus slaughtering non-Bengali
Muslims. At the end of the tour the reporters would be packed off without
hearing any other stories.
I was on that trip. At the end of the tour, on ancient crop-duster
planes literally coated with DDT, I simply declared myself deathly ill and
refused to leave. Security was heavy when I left the hotel and so it was
too dangerous to interview on the streets, but they couldn't follow me
into the American consulate.
There I met Arch Blood, who told me that he had been officially
"silenced" by Washington, but that my suspicions of a continuing
slaughter of Bengalis by the Pakistan army were quite correct.
Blood said he couldn't speak, but he had scores of Bengalis on the
consulate staff. He pointed to an office across the hall and said:
"It's yours for as long as you need it. Those staffers who want to
tell you their stories will come visit you there."
For the better part of a day I listened to men and women who wept as
they told how parents, siblings, even children had died in Dhaka and in
towns from Chittagong to Naryanganj to the hill country tea plantations.
When my plane lifted off from Dhaka I began banging out a lead I still
"Fear, fire and the sword are the only things holding East and
West Pakistan together ... "
I never saw Arch Blood again, but I never met a more upright and
courageous diplomat. Not long after that he was called back to Washington
and put in the doghouse, for as long as Nixon was in the White House.
In 1971 his colleagues in the American Foreign Service voted Arch K.
Blood the recipient of the Christian A. Herter Award for "initiative,
integrity, intellectual courage and creative dissent."
His death made headlines in Bangladesh, the nation that emerged in 1971
as Blood predicted. A delegation of Bengalis attended his memorial service
in Fort Collins, Colo. His wife, Margaret, has been swamped with mail from
Arch Blood spread the news of a new nation being born amid calamity. He
ought to be remembered as an American hero as well.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Joseph L. Galloway is the senior military correspondent for Knight
Ridder Newspapers and co-author of the national best-seller "We Were
Soldiers Once ... and Young." Readers may write to him at email@example.com
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