The Blood Telegram
Archer Kent Blood (1923-2004) was an American diplomat in Bangladesh. He served as the last American Consul General to Dhaka, East Pakistan. He is famous for sending the strongly-worded Blood telegram protesting against the atrocities committed in the Bangladesh Liberation War.
The Blood telegram (April 6, 1971) was seen as one of the most strongly worded demarches ever written by Foreign Service Officers to the State Department. It was signed by 29 Americans. The telegram stated:
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[istan] dominated government and to lessen any deservedly negative international public relations impact against them. Our government has evidenced what many will consider moral bankrupt,(…) But we have chosen not to intervene, even morally, on the grounds that the Awami conflict, in which unfortunately the overworked term genocide is applicable, is purely an internal matter of a sovereign state. Private Americans have expressed disgust. We, as professional civil servants, express our dissent with current policy and fervently hope that our true and lasting interests here can be defined and our policies redirected.
(U.S. Consulate (Dacca) Cable, Dissent from U.S. Policy Toward East Pakistan, April 6, 1971, Confidential, 5 pp. Includes Signatures from the Department of State. Source: RG 59, SN 70-73 Pol and Def. From: Pol Pak-U.S. To: Pol 17-1 Pak-U.S. Box 2535;)
In an earlier telegram (March 27, 1971), Blood wrote about American observations at Dhaka under the subject heading “Selective genocide“:
1. Here in Decca we are mute and horrified witnesses to a reign of terror by the Pak[istani] 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
2. Among those marked for extinction in addition to the A.L. hierarchy are student leaders and university faculty. In this second category we have reports that Fazlur Rahman head of the philosophy department and a Hindu, M. Abedin, head of the department of history, have been killed. Razzak of the political science department is rumored dead. Also on the list are the bulk of MNA’s elect and number of MPA’s.
3. Moreover, with the support of the Pak[istani] Military. non-Bengali Muslims are systematically attacking poor people’s quarters and murdering Bengalis and Hindus.
(U.S. Consulate (Dacca) Cable, Selective genocide, March 27, 1971)
Although he was scheduled for another 18 month tour in Dhaka, President Richard M. Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger recalled him from that position since his opposition went against their hopes of using the support of West Pakistan for diplomatic openings to China and to counter the power of the Soviet Union.
To millions of Bengalis Archer Blood remains a hero.
The Concert for Bangladesh
The US government was against the Bangladesh’s liberation war in 1971. They were allies of Pakistan and even sent the 7th fleet to intimidate India for not interfering with the events.
But it was the peace loving people of US who created the forum “Americans for Bangladesh” and arranged a poetry recital program on 20th November 1971 in Saint George Church, New York. Among the poets who performed were Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovski, Ed Sanders etc. Ginsberg wrote and recited the famous poem “September on Jessore Road“.
But the greatest effort was the “Concert for Bangladesh“. George Harrison of the beatles with the help of Ravi Shankar, Bob Dylan, Mr. Klein and Joan Baes arranged the phenomenal fund raising event in 1st of August 1971 in Madison Square Garden, New York. Some 40,000 peoples attended and $243,418.50 was collected from the event and was given to Unicef for the war affected children of Bangladesh. An album was produced (of 3 LPs) which is available here.
The artists of the concert and album were:
* Bob Dylan
* George Harrison
* Ravi Shankar
* Ustad allarakha
* Ringo Star
* Eric Clapton
* Billy & Don Preston
* Leon Russell
The lyrics can be found here. Some lines from George Harrisons’s Bangla Desh:
My friend came to me, with sadness in his eyes
He told me that he wanted help
Before his country dies
Although I couldn’t feel the pain, I knew I had to try
Now I’m asking all of you
To help us save some lives
Bangla Desh, Bangla Desh
Where so many people are dying fast
And it sure looks like a mess
I’ve never seen such distress
Now won’t you lend your hand and understand
Relieve the people of Bangla Desh.Bangla Desh, Bangla Desh
Now it may seem so far from where we all are
It’s something we can’t neglect
It’s something I can’t neglect
Now won’t you give some bread to get the starving fed
We’ve got to relieve Bangla Desh
Relieve the people of Bangla Desh
In October 2005, Warner Music has released the double DVD and CD ‘The Concert For Bangladesh – George Harrison & friends’. The package includes the original 99 minutes concert footage, a 45 minute documentary with exclusive interviews with Sir Bob Geldof and Kofi Annan, and loads of other bonus footage. All the royalties for the new release will go to UNICEF for the same cause.
At the recent release party Ringo Star performed with some of the original Bangladesh concert alumni fronted by George Harrison’s son Danhi on guitar, Billy Preston on keys, Klaus Voorman on bass, and Jim Keltner on drums along with some original horn players.
Joan Baez and our Liberation War – Avijit Roy
When the sun sinks in the west
Die a million people of the Bangladesh
And the students at the university
Asleep at night quite peacefully
The soldiers came and shot them in their beds
And terror took the dorm awakening shrieks of dread
And silent frozen forms and pillows drenched in red..
The story of Bangladesh
Is an ancient one again made fresh
By blind men who carry out commands
Which flow out of the laws upon which nation stands
Which is to sacrifice a people for a land …
(Picture credit: Avijit)
Joan Chandos Baez, widely known as Joan Baez, a singer and peace activist was born in Staten Island, New York. In 1971 Baez was just 30. Having heard the news of the cruel massacre by Pakistani Na-Pak soldiers on 25th March, Joan felt so agitated and anguished for the unfortunate death of the students of Dhaka University…that she took her guitar in hand and stated to compose a new song, named – “The Song of Bangladesh”.
* Download “The Song of Bangladesh” (MP3 format)
Bangladeshis will always remember George Harrison, Ravi Shankar, Joan Baez and those who contributed.
The Concert for Bangladesh is more than just a concert, more than just a movie: the film is an important record of an important event.
Image Courtesy: Muhamad Lodhi
Operation Omega was an effort to bring relief supplies during the 1971 liberation war in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Led by Roger Moody, it took its name from the philosophy of Teilhard de Chardin and had as its motto, “No boundary is legitimate which attempts to separate those in pain from those who can help. Human beings do not need permission to aid those threatened with death.”
The international and local volunteer groups coordinated from London attempted to take relief supplies directly into East Bengal, while North American activists blocked arms shipments to Pakistan in Montreal, Philadelphia and Baltimore harbours. The relief teams got to the border of East Bengal (later Bangladesh). They had two trucks full of relief supplies, and no visas. One group was arrested by the Pakistani army, but the other got through with its relief supplies well ahead of established aid agencies working through official channels. There were nine entries into Bangladesh with relief supplies before India invaded Bangladesh to establish it as an independent country and allowing some 10 million refugees to leave India for Bangladesh. Some of these Operation Omega volunteers stayed on working within the country until 1973. (Source 1, 2)
Concert in Sympathy
In November, 1971 “Concert in Sympathy” was held at seven cities in United Kingdom participated by artists from Bangladesh, India and Great Britain.
Strings and Stars – A cry for help
Leading Indian artists like Lata Mangeskar, Waheeda Rahman and Sharmila Thakur organized concert “Strings and Stars – A cry for help” for raising fund for Bangladesh independence. In West Bengal, intellectuals and musicians e g. Tarasankar Bendopodhya, Dipen Mukhopodhya, Suchitra Mitra consistently fought for liberation war through writings and musical soirees.
American poet Allen Ginsberg visited refugee camps and wrote his famous poem “September on Jessore Road“. Some excerpts:
Millions of souls nineteenseventyone
homeless on Jessore road under grey sun
A million are dead, the million who can
Walk toward Calcutta from East Pakistan
Where are our tears? Who weeps for the pain?
Where can these families go in the rain?
Jessore Road’s children close their big eyes
Where will we sleep when Our Father dies?
Ring O ye tongues of the world for their woe
Ring out ye voices for Love we don’t know
Ring out ye bells of electrical pain
Ring in the conscious of America brain
How many millions of children die more
before our Good Mothers perceive the Great Lord?
How many good fathers pay tax to rebuild
Armed forces that boast the children they’ve killed?
Millions of babies in pain
Millions of mothers in rain
Millions of brothers in woe
Millions of children nowhere to go
New York, November 14-16, 1971
A Bengali rendition of the poem September on Jessore Road by Moushumi Bhowmic
France was among the first to recognise the independence of Bangladesh after December 16, 1971 and appointed their ambassador in Dhaka in 1972. Bangladesh can proudly recall the direct support of the eminent French wuthor and former French minister of culture André Malraux during the war of independence. The government of Bangladesh honoured him with a grand reception in 1973.
French author Andre Malraux was so moved that he wrote about his desire to mount an Indian army tank and wage war against the military oppressors of Pakistan.
Andre Malraux’s letter to the Bangladesh liberation council.
Here is a video showing Andre Malraux’s outrage against the killings: