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American Response To Bangladesh Liberation War - A.M.A Muhith

American Response To Bangladesh Liberation War

A.M.A Muhith

University Press Limited



This is an anthology of selected documents that were prepared and circulated in USA in 1971 in connection with the Bangladesh Liberation War in four parts. Part I is an Introduction by the editor and his wife; Part II contains selected documents, background papers, situation reports and commentaries; Part III is a compilation of selected statements of Congressmen, both senators and Representatives; Part IV are some comments and recollections of Bengalis and Americans who were involved in the various initiatives taken in support of the Liberation War.
The emphasis is on the second part of the book. From a collection of innumerable documents these have been carefully selected to present an over-all picture of support that the struggle received from both Bengalis and Americans in USA. Some of these were prepared by scholars and others were briefing notes for lobbyists. Still others were prepared for public education by organizations like Ripon Society, Bangladesh Defense League, Pakistan Forum and Bangladesh Information Center in Washington. Some were internal position papers or reports of organizations like the World Bank. Some were important articles by journalists, scholars or public leaders that were published at the time. In December 1971 and January 1972, Jack Anderson, an investigative journalist, made some interesting disclosures on the discussions in the meetings of Washington Special Action Group of the state Department. A selection from all these documents form the main part of the compilation.
Kissinger devoted many pages to the handling of the crisis in his book The White House Years published in 1979. An important article, “The Tilt Policy Revisited”, which tries to explain the official US position and its raison desire, as against Kissinger’s reinterpretation of history, is reproduced. Christopher Van Hollen was at the time the Deputy Assistant Secretary for State Department looking after Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs and he published the article in 1980 in the Asian Survey.
The third part of the book contains a selection of statements of leaders in the US Congress. Exclusive of participation in debates on Foreign Assistance Act, on Bangladesh issue itself in the two houses a total of 210 statements were made. Resolutions were tabled, five bills (amendments or otherwise) were moved, and five hearings were held between April 1 to December 17. There were more statements, resolutions and hearings before Bangladesh was finally recognized by USA on April 4, 1972. In the Congress there was bipartisan support for the cause of Bangladesh. A total of 45 Senators and 36 Congressmen made statements on various occasions touching upon all the facets of Liberation War in Bangladesh and its implications for US policy or initiatives.
I invited some activists of 1997, both Bengalis and Americans, to contribute to the compilation. Naturally, it tended to be a very selective list and I am sure many activists have been excluded simply because I could not locate them and in some cases I could not remember them in time. Even though the notice was short and for some it meant sparing valuable time, the response was excellent and regrets were too few, these articles have been put together in the last part of the book with introductory remarks on the contributors.
Initially, I intended to include press reports published primarily in USA. But it was felt that this should be the subject of an independent compilation. Only a few contributions by Chester Bowels and John Kenneth Galbraith and some reports by Jack Anderson have found a place in this anthology. Eminent journalists and reporters covered the liberation war and its aftermath, newspapers from many states gave wide coverage to the liberation war. Time and Newsweek both came out with cover stories on 2 August and 6 December. Newsweek also had a cover story on 5 April under the caption “Civil war in Pakistan”. All these reports demonstrate the agitation the people in USA felt at various time during the year. They also demonstrate the perception of foreign journalists on events like civil disobedience movement, military crack-down, refugee flow, genocide, guerrilla warfare, Congressional reaction, UN action and debate, international reaction and the like.
Some famous journalists, columnists and reporters who maintained and abiding interest in the crisis were; Malcolm Browne, Bernard Gwertzman, Anthony Lewis, James Reston, Sydney Schanberg, James Sterba, CL Sulzberger, Tad Szulc and Benjamin Welles of New York Times. Joseph Alsop, Selig Herrison, Jim Hoagland, Stanley Karnow, Ronald Koven, Joseph Kraft, Lee Lescaze, Lewis Simons and Terence Smith of Washington Post. Adam Clymer, John Woodruff and Philip Potter of Baltimore Sun. Peter Kann and Robert Keatkey of Wall Street Journal, Henry Bradsher, Crosby Noyes, George Sherman and Milton Viorst of Washington Evening Star, Joseph Harsch, Henry Hayward, Lucia Mouat and Danicl Southerland of Christian Science Monitor.
I also intended to include some extracts form the UN Yearbook of 1971 and some statements made in that forum by various delegations. The UN undertook relief operation in Bangladesh that gained strength only after the surrender of the Pakistani forces in Bangladesh. In India UNHCR and World Bank were very active in assisting the Government in refugee relief. The proceedings of the Security Council soon after the outbreak of war between Pakistan and Bangladesh and Indian Joint Command provided an interesting reading and also some melodrama. But it was felt that Bangladesh issue in the UN forum deserves to be covered in the separate publication and is not included here.
I was thinking of publishing and anthology of my own articles written in 1971, but as I talked to Mohiuddin Ahmed of UPL it was felt that it should be cariched with other articles written at that time. That was a casual conversion in early 1994 but talking to other people I realized that Mohiuddin was expecting a Manuscript from me. I had other work to do then and could not find the time to undertake this assignment. In the middle of 1995 while living in New York it occurred to me that a chapter of our life was due for a silver jubilee celebration. It was then that I thought of undertaking the compilation of this anthology. The fact that there has not been a systematic work on how the Liberation War affected people in USA, and especially the Bengali community there and their supporters, induced me t contemplate an ambitious structure for anthology. This original plan turned out to be difficult to implement, hence I had to be satisfied with a limited undertaking in which Mohiuddin and his Young associates ably assisted me.
This work provided me an opportunity to remember with gratitude the efforts put into the struggle for our liberation by so many American, Indian and other friends of Bangladesh. The book, indeed, is dedicated to the activists in USA, both Bengalis and others, who worked so dedicatedly for realizing the dream of Bangladesh. Let us hope that we shall fulfill this dream despite all odds.
My main job has been finding and hen sifting through the innumerable documents prepared and news reports and statements published during 1971 and early 1972. My personal collection of documents and an abortive effort in 1974 to put some of them in a book stood me in god stead. Advice and suggestions from the contributors and the publisher also helped. The selection of the documents has been governed by the objective of presenting a coherent story of activism in USA. Every opportunity has been taken to reflect the interactions of Bengalis all over North America with people and authorities in USA.
This cannot in all fairness claim to be a full story of US response to Bangladesh Liberation War. This is more a story of how the War affected people in USA and particularly the Bengali community and those who supported them in their period of calamity. The various phases of the crisis and various efforts of many actors have been chronicled in the anthology. The long introduction that follows as the first part of the book attempts to present this chronicle and places the documents and the articles in their proper context.
Every effort has been made and no pains spared to make the chronicle as comprehensive and as objective as possible. But one disadvantage is that I was a participant in many activities and visited many places and the biases are naturally observable. I visited New York and Delaware Vally on many occasions to participate in various activities. I also visited Pittsburgh, West Point, Los Angeles, Davis Campus, San Francisco, Denver, Boston, Ames, Carbondale, Urbana, Chicago, Toronto and Montreal. Washington DC and the vicinity including Baltimore was my area of residence. In the ultimate analysis it is one person’s painting of a vast panorama and thus subjective to a considerable extent. It will be appropriate under the circumstances to put in a disclaimer at this stage that the chronicle is not complete nor comprehensive in its coverage.

Dhaka October 1996                                                                          Abul Maal Abdul Muhith






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