The Blood Telegram

December 17, 2012 12:41 am 113 comments __
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Brig Rakib

Md. Rakibur Rahman, Bir Protik


By Md. Rakibur Rahman, Bir Protik

The war of liberation of Bangladesh is not only a revolution, but an evolution too. This evolution of a new nation in the world came through sacrifices of millions of people. As statistics shows, after the World War (WW) II, it was the single bloodiest movement causing death of millions of people within a period of nine months. The atrocities of Pakistan Army, the mass killing, and other horrified actions only reminds the ‘holocaust’ faced by the communities during WW II.  In 1971, when inhuman brutality and bloodshed became a day to day affair in the life of struggling Bengali for freedom, the role of US Administration was somewhat different.

The secret documents published through ‘The National Security Archive’ shows how, despite outcry even by the US citizens and US officials against the atrocities, the US Administration played role supporting the Pakistan Government. During those early days of war of liberation, role played by the US Consulate at Dhaka was totally different than the US Administration. Those among many officials of the US Administration who raised their voice against the mass killing and repression, was the US Consul General, Archer Blood. The Consular General, Mr. Archer Blood acted trying to balance between his official duties and the cry for the humanity. His first cable on 26 March 1971 to the State Department painted a grave situation of Dhaka city. In that cable, he wrote:

“Here in Dacca, we are mute and horrified witnesses to a reign of terror by the Pakistan Military. Evidence continues to mount that the Pakistan Army has a list of Awami League supporters whom they are systematically eliminating by seeking them out in their homes and shooting them down. Among those marked for extinction in addition to Awami League hierarchy, are students leaders and university faculty. In this category, we have reports that…… (Figure censored) have been killed. Also on the list are bulk of Members of National and Provincial Assemblies. Moreover, with support of Pakistan Military, non-Bengali Muslims are systematically attacking poor people’s quarters and murdering Bengalis and Hindus. Full horror of Pakistan Military atrocities will come to light sooner or later…”

Basing on this cable of Archer Blood, the State Department made a brief on 28 March 1971 for the Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. The brief stated:

“As you have noted from the cables and situation reports, the situation in East Pakistan appears to have taken another turn for the worse. Having beaten down the initial surge of resistance, the (Pakistan) Army now appears to have embarked on a reign of terror aimed at eliminating the core of future resistance. The full horror of what is going on will come to light sooner or later. (Censored)…the Administration could be vulnerable to charges of a callous political calculation over a man-made disaster (text censored)…..”.

Pending a policy decision by the US Administration on the issue, Archer Blood sent a second cable from Dhaka to State Department on 30 March 1971. In this cable, he stated:

“… I am deeply shocked at the massacre by Pakistani military in East Pakistan, appalled, …all these atrocities are being committed with American equipment, and greatly concerned at US vulnerability to damaging allegations of  co-association with reign of military terror…”

The atrocities of Pakistan military touched Archer Blood and his staffs so much that they did not hesitate to initiate their 3rd cable on 31 March 1971 at 2:42 P.M. (Dhaka time). This cable and its contents clearly indicate and acknowledge the mass killing at Dhaka University area, Police Headquarters at Rajarbagh, and at old Dhaka city. The contents of the cable read as follow:

“Death tolled at Dacca University is 500 and has ranged as high as 1000. Police sources indicate that from 600 to 800 East Pakistani Police were killed in Dacca during the really hard fighting on night of 25 March. The number of casualties in the old city of Dacca where Army burned and shot occupants is difficult to estimate. Most observers put these casualties in the range of 2000 to 4000. … as many as 4000 to 6000 people thus so far have lost their lives as a result of military action (at Dacca City only within first 3 to 4 days)”.

The US Consulate, Dhaka’s next cable to Washington was very significant. The cable, initiated at 3:40 P.M. on 31 March 1971has uncovered for the first time the incident of rape at Dhaka University area. In his cable, the Consular General Archer Blood mentioned:

“…..reliable eye witnesses saw six female bodies at Rokeya Hall of Dhaka University, feet tied together, bits of rope hanging from the ceiling fan, appeared raped, shot, and hung by heels from fans. Workmen who forced one the two mass graves at Dacca University report 140 buried…”

Among those messages came a different message from Archer Blood’s cable that clearly indicates that resistance by the indigenous force for the liberation was continuing on those initial days of the war. Blood wrote in another cable on 31 March 1971:

“… Pakistan Army broadcast monitored here indicates one Pakistan Army unit in desperate situation near River Padma, low on ammunition, called for help, including air strike; was told to hold out ‘at all cost’, was told helicopter dispatched to drop fresh arms and ammunition…”

As time passed by and no change in the US policy was insight, the Consul General sent a cable to State Department on 4 April 1971 at 10.00 Am, expressing his deep dissatisfaction denouncing the US Policy towards the crisis. The note of dissent was signed by all US officials working at the US consulate and at other places who witnessed the mass killing by Pakistan army. They also raised question on US morality at a time on question of genocide. The note of dissent carefully formulated to convey feelings of the US government staffs located here at Dhaka. The cable said:

“… numerous officers of US Consulate at Dacca, USIS Dacca, and USAID Dacca consider it their duty to register strong dissent with fundamental  denounce, the suppression of democracy,  our government has failed to take forceful measures to protect its citizens while at the same time bending over backwards to placate the West Pakistani dominated government. Our (US) government has evidence what many will consider moral bankruptcy where US has chosen not to intervene,  even morally, on the ground that the conflict,  where the overworked term GENOCIDE is applicable,  is an internal matter. … We, as professional public servant of USA express our dissent with current policy and fervently hope that…. in order to salvage US position as a moral leader of the free world…..”

Archer Blood

Archer Blood

This note of dissent became part of history and famously known as ‘Blood Telegram’ and was signed by twenty nine US officials. 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.”

The document was of great significance in the history of Bangladesh. The `Blood Telegram’ led to more events at the State Department, when the officers dealing the ‘Near East Asian Desk’ at the State Department supported the views expressed by the US Officials at Dhaka and initiated a memorandum to William P. Rogers, the Secretary of State. They also joined and expressed their support towards views conveyed in the Blood Telegram. This memo was signed by nine senior officers of the State Department.

A courageous and upright diplomat, Archer Blood was never seen again in any forefront. He was soon called back of Washington and put in the doghouse, for as long as Nixon was in the White House.

The author of ‘Blood Telegram’, Archer Blood was born in Chicago, graduated from Lynchburg, Virginia, and obtained a bachelor degree from Virginia in 1943. He served in the US Navy in the North Pacific Fleet during WW II, thereafter joined the Foreign Service. He received Masters in International Relationship from George Washington University in 1963. He joined the US Consulate at Dhaka in 1970 and witnessed the war of liberation of Bangladesh.

Archer Blood retired from the service in 1982 and started living at Fort Collins, Colorado where he died on 3 September 2004. His death made headlines in Bangladesh, but was lucky to make it to the back pages of the obituary sections in American Newspapers. When he died, 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.


(Brig Gen Md. Rakibur Rahman, BP (Retd) Bir Protik: Born in Gaibandha, Bangladesh. Served in the Bangladesh Army, as UN Observer, and in SSF. Awarded Bir Protik in 1983. Studied in Management in the USA, on Crisis Management at the US State Dept, obtained Diploma on Disaster Management from Louisiana State University. Adviser of Voice Bangladesh; he is a security analyst on contemporary world scenario.)

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