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Joe Galloway: Rest in Peace Archer Blood, American Hero
Joe Galloway: Rest in Peace Archer Blood, American Hero

 

About the Author

Joseph L. Galloway is the senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers and a nationally syndicated columnist. One of America's preeminent war correspondents, with more than four decades as a reporter and writer, he recently concluded an assignment as a special consultant to Gen. Colin Powell at the State Department.

Galloway, a native of Refugio, Texas, spent 22 years as a foreign and war correspondent and bureau chief for United Press International, and nearly 20 years as a senior editor and senior writer for U.S. News & World Report magazine. His overseas postings include tours in Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Singapore and three years as UPI bureau chief in Moscow in the former Soviet Union. During the course of 15 years of foreign postings Galloway served four tours as a war correspondent in Vietnam and also covered the 1971 India-Pakistan War and half a dozen other combat operations.
In 1990-1991 Galloway covered Desert Shield/Desert Storm, riding with the 24th Infantry Division (Mech) in the assault into Iraq. General H. Norman Schwarzkopf has called Galloway "The finest combat correspondent of our generation -- a soldier's reporter and a soldier's friend."

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November 3, 2004

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WASHINGTON - 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.


[Have an opinion on this article? Sound off here.]

2004 Joe Galloway. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.


 



 



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