General Rao Farman Ali wrote in his diary that “the green land of East Pakistan be painted red,” as mentioned by General Niazi in his book The Betrayal of East Pakistan. Niazi explained that “it was painted red by Bengali blood”. He also wrote “The military action was a display of stark cruelty, more merciless than the massacres at Bukhara and Baghdad by Chengis Khan and Halaku Khan or at Jallianwalabag by the British general Dyer.”
How ironic that years later, General Khadim Hussain Raja told the world about 'ethnic engineering', writing “Niazi threatened that he would let loose his soldiers on the women of East Pakistan till the lineage or ethnicity of the Bangalees was changed.''
All the major international political players still consider 1971 as the 'internal affair' of Pakistan
The inaction of the UN bodies goes hand-in-hand with genocide denial. As the Economist noted - “The 'g-word' has considerable power. If mass slaughter is recognized as genocide when it is happening, it is harder for outside forces to sit idly by.” The ongoing Rohingya genocide is suffering from the same denial syndrome – their reluctance to admit genocide shows these countries are not ready to move beyond narrow international power politics.
The US is instrumental in using the UN Security Council on many crucial occasions to deny state sponsored mass violence, no matter who is at the helm. President Clinton's administration knew Rwanda was being engulfed by genocide in April 1994 but buried the information to justify its inaction, according to classified documents made available for the first time. The Guardian reports, 'Senior officials privately used the word genocide within 16 days of the start of the killings, but chose not to do so publicly because the president had already decided not to intervene. It was indeed no wonder that the US, under Nixon-Kissinger, not only failed to recognize the genocide in Bangladesh but actually aided Pakistan in their efforts as well.
American academic Samantha Power wrote that “no US president has ever made genocide prevention a priority, and no US president has ever suffered politically for his indifference to its occurrence. It is thus no coincidence that genocide rages on.”
The intellectual killings were the worst of genocide faced by Bangladesh
Interestingly enough, it was first blamed on the freedom fighters, but later investigation by US authorities through its Dhaka Consulate showed it was perpetrated by the ''Jamat-i-islami collaborators''. I gathered this information from the declassified original files kept at the College Park National Archives in Maryland, USA. To the best of my knowledge, this information is still not available online.
On March 20, 2000, I was at the front row when President Clinton addressed his 187th news conference on his maiden visit to Bangladesh. I was curious as to how he would frame Nixon's role in 1971. Clinton, who blamed Nixon for 'lying' and favored his resignation in 1974, unsurprisingly almost skipped this burning issue. He avoided mention of the war, only speaking of “extraordinary obstacles” faced by the country in its “lonely fight for existence.” However, he tacitly indicated their guilt by saying we “did not receive the support it deserved from many countries around the world.” It was not insignificant that Clinton carefully avoided the word “liberation/independence war”, only mentioning “that struggle” and paying tribute to the father of the nation by saying it was “led by the Prime Minister's father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, whose passion and commitment united a people.” It is so far, all we have heard from any American president regarding the Liberation War.
The noted US genocide expert Professor Gregory Stanton has strongly suggested that the US must seek an apology to the Bangladeshi people for their fatal role in 1971. He also recalled with emotion how in 1971, he spoke to his students in favour of Bangladesh's quest for freedom and was highly critical of Nixon-Kissinger's Bangladesh war policy.
While the US administration continued to stand against Bangladesh in 1971, its media and certain senators like Edward Kennedy played a heroic role in supporting us. However, given that the US establishment continues to project themselves as champions of humanity, democracy and human rights – the onus lies solely on USA to admit their role in 1971 and apologize.
A valiant American peace activist, Sally Willoughby, once took part in protests to prevent a Pakistani ship from collecting arms from the port of Baltimore. In 2012, she wrote to me saying “I believe that the United States should apologize to the Bangladeshi people and to all the other people and countries we have damaged with our foreign policies and our military arms and our might and our greed. I would like the United States, not only to apologize, but to make reparations and be involved in creating a world where there is more economic equality.”
I wonder if that day will ever come.
The author is the joint Editor of the Prothom Alo and author of 'Markin Dolile Mujib Hottakando'