Archer Blood

American diplomat

Archer Kent Blood (March 20, 1923 – September 3, 2004) was an American career diplomat and academic. He served as the last American Consul General to Dhaka, Bangladesh (East Pakistan at the time). He is famous for sending the strongly worded "Blood Telegram" protesting against the atrocities committed in the Bangladesh Liberation War. He also served in Greece, Algeria, Germany, Afghanistan and ended his career as charge d'affaires of the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India, retiring in 1982.

QuotesEdit

  • 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 backward 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 bankruptcy, ironically at a time when the USSR sent President Yahya Khan a message defending democracy, condemning the arrest of a leader of a democratically elected majority party, incidentally pro-West, and calling for an end to repressive measures and bloodshed…. 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.
    • The Blood Telegram, quoted in Christopher Hitchens, The Trial of Henry Kissinger (2002)
  • Thus Blood sent a furious cable with a jolting subject line: “Selective Genocide.” He was not a lawyer, but the use of the word “genocide” was meant to shock, to slice through the anodyne bureaucratic niceties of State Department cables. Blood held nothing back: “Here in Dacca we are mute and horrified witnesses to a reign of terror by the Pak military.” (Within the U.S. government, Blood had hardly been mute, but he could not protest to Pakistani officials.) He warned of evidence that the military authorities were “systematically eliminating” Awami League supporters “by seeking them out in their homes and shooting them down.” He recounted the killing of politicians, professors, and students. The streets were flooded with Hindus and others trying desperately to get out of Dacca. This assault, he wrote, could not be justified by military necessity: “There is no r[e]p[ea]t no resistance being offered in Dacca to military.”
    • quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • We were also harboring, all of us were harboring, Bengalis, mostly Hindu Bengalis, who were trying to flee mostly by taking refuge with our own servants. Our servants would give them refuge. All of us were doing this. I had a message from Washington saying that they had heard we were doing this and to knock it off. I told them we were doing it and would continue to do it. We could not turn these people away. They were not political refugees. They were just poor, very low-class people, mostly Hindus, who were very much afraid that they would be killed solely because they were Hindu.
    • quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide. ch 4
  • Blood was left alone, howling into the wind. “The silence from Washington was deafening,” he remembered later, “suggesting to us that less credence was being given to our reporting than to the Pakistani claims that little more was involved than a police action to round up some ‘miscreants’ led astray by India.” Blood would always have preferred a united Pakistan, but these atrocities had doomed that. He cabled with disgust, “A reign of terror began and thousands were slaughtered, innocent along with allegedly guilty. And all in the name of preserving the unity of the country.”
    • quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide. ch 4
  • Blood’s team could hear sporadic gunshots at night across the city. “Wanton acts of violence by military are continuing in Dacca,” he cabled. He reported evidence of ethnic targeting, which bolstered his accusation of genocide: “Hindus undeniably special focus of army brutality.” There were large fires and the sound of shots in Hindu neighborhoods. The army was rounding up remaining activists. “Atrocity tales rampant,” Blood cabled, from trusted eyewitnesses. Truckloads of Bengali prisoners went into a Pakistani camp, and one of Blood’s staffers then heard the continuous firing of 180 shots in half an hour.17
    • quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • Over and over, Blood tried to alarm his superiors in Washington. “ ‘Genocide’ applies fully to naked, calculated and widespread selection of Hindus for special treatment,” he wrote. “From outset various members of American community have witnessed either burning down of Hindu villages, Hindu enclaves in Dacca and shooting of Hindus attempting [to] escape carnage, or have witnessed after-effects which [are] visible throughout Dacca today. Gunning down of Professor Dev of Dacca University philosophy department is one graphic example.”50
    • quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide. ch 5
  • And Blood and his consulate refused to accept that Yahya could do whatever he wanted within Pakistan’s sovereign borders, overturning a fair election and killing his citizenry. The “extra-constitutional martial law regime of President Yahya Khan is of dubious legitimacy (how many votes did Yahya obtain?).” They heralded the “anti-colonial” Bengali struggle, comparing it to the American Revolution. “They want to participate in deciding their own destiny,” Blood’s team wrote. “Even our forefathers fought for similar ideals.”
    • quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • 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 bankruptcy,(...) 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.
    • Archer Blood, "The Blood Telegram" (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;)DISENT FROM U.S. POLICY TOWARD EAST PAKISTAN (PDF) April 6, 1971
  • [Longer version of Blood telegram:] „Aware of the task force proposals on "openness" in the Foreign Service, and with the conviction that U.S. policy related to recent developments in East Pakistan serves neither our moral interests broadly defined nor our national interests narrowly defined, numerous officers of AmConGen Dacca, USAID Dacca and USIS Dacca consider it their duty to register strong dissent with fundamental aspects of this policy. 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 dominated government and to lessen likely and deservedly negative international public relations impact against them. Our government has evidenced what many will consider moral bankruptcy, ironically at a time when the USSR sent President Yahya a message defending democracy, comdemning arrest of leader of democratically elected majority party (incidentally pro-West) and calling for end to repressive measures and bloodshed. In our most recent policy paper for Pakistan, our interests in Pakistan were defined as primarily humanitarian, rather than strategic. 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 internal matter of a sovereign state.“
    • Archer Blood, "The Blood Telegram" (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;) DISENT FROM U.S. POLICY TOWARD EAST PAKISTAN (PDF) April 6, 1971

Quotes about Archer BloodEdit

  • Archer Blood, the United States’ consul general in Dacca, was a gentlemanly diplomat raised in Virginia, a World War II navy veteran in the upswing of a promising Foreign Service career after several tours overseas. He was earnest and precise, known to some of his more unruly subordinates at the U.S. consulate as a good, conventional man.
    • Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • It was, Blood and his staffers thought, their job to relay as much of this as they possibly could back to Washington. Witnessing one of the worst atrocities of the Cold War, Blood’s consulate documented in horrific detail the slaughter of Bengali civilians: an area the size of two dozen city blocks that had been razed by gunfire; two newspaper office buildings in ruins; thatch-roofed villages in flames; specific targeting of the Bengalis’ Hindu minority.
    • Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • The onslaught would continue for months. The Dacca consulate stubbornly kept up its reporting. But, Blood later recalled, his cables were met with “a deafening silence.” He was not allowed to protest to the Pakistani authorities. He ratcheted up his dispatches, sending in a blistering cable tagged “Selective Genocide,” urging his bosses to speak out against the atrocities being committed by the Pakistani military. The White House staff passed this up to Kissinger, who paid no heed. Then on April 6, two weeks into the slaughter, Blood and almost his entire consulate sent in a telegram formally declaring their “strong dissent”—a total repudiation of the policy that they were there to carry out. That cable—perhaps the most radical rejection of U.S. policy ever sent by its diplomats—blasted the United States for silence in the face of atrocities, for not denouncing the quashing of democracy, for showing “moral bankruptcy” in the face of what they bluntly called genocide.
    • Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • “From the first time he realized there was such a thing as the Foreign Service, he was keenly interested in it,” remembers his widow, Margaret Millward Blood. “He had always looked at the world, and thought that everything had meaning.”
    • quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • His wife, a vivacious and gracious graphic artist from New York, who is vibrant at eighty-seven years old, recalls, “He was an exact person. He could become interested in anything, but he wanted to know the exact facts.”
    • quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • Samuel Hoskinson, Kissinger’s staffer, remembers that Blood’s cables got no leverage in the White House—even though the CIA chief in Dacca admired Blood’s coolness in terrible circumstances, and Hoskinson’s friends in the Foreign Service held Blood in high regard as a reporter. Hoskinson says, “We’d call them to the attention of Henry and Haig. It didn’t seem to get a lot of response in policy terms.” He notes about Blood, “He was regarded as being squishy. Maybe a little bit too enamored with the Bengalis and their leadership, a little soft-headed on this stuff.” Blood, he recalls, was “worrying about the plight of the Bengalis, which they didn’t give much credence to. Human rights didn’t really count for much.… You don’t get down and wallow around in this stuff. We’ve got American interests on the line there. That’s the mind-set.” He says, “In retrospect I think he had it about right. But he didn’t have the credibility. There was always the tendency to believe more what was coming from Islamabad.… And we got this bleeding heart out there in Dacca.”
    • quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • Blood redoubled his reporting, relaying a stream of “horror stories of varying reliability” to Washington. He reported an “atmosphere of terror” meant to cow the Bengalis into quiescence. There were ongoing shootings in Dacca and the surrounding areas, with newly killed corpses being loaded onto a truck. Blood found the few East Pakistani officials who dared come to work “stunned with grief and grim in their denunciation of Pak military brutality,” with one of them sobbing. American priests in Old Dacca told Blood that the Pakistan army, facing no provocation worse than putting up barricades, would set houses on fire and then shoot people as they ran out. The priests thought Hindus had been particular targets. Other Bengalis had witnessed six people gunned down in a shantytown, with the “army going after Hindus with vengeance.”
    • quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • By late April, as Nixon reached his decision not to squeeze Yahya, Blood was shoved out of the Dacca consulate. The ambassador in Islamabad informed Blood that a decision had been made “at the highest level” to move him out of Dacca. He was asked to request home leave and transfer back to the State Department—in other words, unceremoniously sacked from his position as consul general in Dacca... Saunders says about Blood, “He was just an honest FSO”—Foreign Service Officer—“who had experience in this part of the world. And he thought this needed to be put at the top of the agenda.” Saunders says that over eight years in power, Kissinger came to have enormous respect for the Foreign Service, but “when he came into his White House job, he had a view of them as bleeding hearts. They were certainly not the realpolitik thinkers that he would have been looking for. It was a prejudice, a bias.” Saunders had no illusions about how Kissinger responded to dissenters: “I know how he felt about people who would speak up. He was not tolerant of a lot of that.”... “Had Blood not done this,” says Griffel, “he would have hit rock bottom in a different way. And possibly a worse way. Not for everyone, but for a man like Arch, there are worse things than losing your career. I don’t like using words that don’t have an accurate meaning, but he was a man of honor. In his own view, he would have lost his honor.”
    • quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide. ch 7
  • Blood, defying Nixon’s policy, said that the United States should speak out against the killing, suspend economic aid to Pakistan, and pressure Yahya to make a political settlement. Although seemingly trying to be circumspect, he said that the “ongoing persecution of Hindus” suggested that some of the Pakistan army wanted “a general exodus of the Hindu minority.” Yahya himself was disturbed by Blood’s testimony.... Still, he was under oath, and his answers were devastating. He testified of “a continued exodus” of Bengali refugees up until the day he departed Dacca. They were fleeing from any city or village that the military had struck. Most of them were Hindus, leaving because of specific persecution.
    • quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • This was signed by twenty members of the United States diplomatic team in Bangladesh and, on its arrival at the State Department, by a further nine senior officers in the South Asia division. It was the most public and the most strongly worded demarche from State Department servants to the State Department that has ever been recorded. The circumstances fully warranted the protest.
    • About the Blood telegram , quoted in Christopher Hitchens, The Trial of Henry Kissinger (2002)

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