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Archer K. Blood,hero of Bangladesh 

A hero's obituary was syndicated by Knight Ridder which calls Archer K. Blood a hero of Bangladesh.  After over thirty years of pain and upheaval, the U.S. could make amends to the nation by involving itself in human rights for Bangladesh, if such help could be trusted.

Posted on Wed, Nov. 03, 2004

Rest in peace Archer Blood, American hero

Knight Ridder Newspapers

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 was Bangladesh.

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 into India.

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 remember:

"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 Bangladesh.

Arch Blood spread the news of a new nation being born amid calamity. He ought to be remembered as an American hero as well.


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

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the above article is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Culture Change has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Culture Change endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)


Bangladesh must get more attention soon, rather than wait for a global-warming disaster from freak weather or sea-level rise.  The world needs efforts such as George Harrison's successful Concert for Bangladesh of over three decades ago.  – Bangladesh must get more attention soon, rather than wait for a global-warming disaster from freak weather or sea-level rise.  The world needs efforts such as George Harrison's successful Concert for Bangladesh of over three decades ago.  – Jan Lundberg, author of Bangladesh Strife and Plight of a Nation

“All the Nobel Peace Prize winners can agree that the objective for all people’s human rights is peace, but there must be peace through strength particularly in protecting minorities.” – Dr. R. Ghosh


Further reading:  
IIBB website:

Peter Blood’s (Archer Blood's son's) history of Bangladesh (staff book of Library of Congress, 1988):

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