19. Telegram From the Consulate General in Dacca to the Department of State1

1138. Subj: Dissent From U.S. Policy Toward East Pakistan.

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 message2 defending democracy, condemning 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,3 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. Private Americans have expressed disgust. We, as professional public servants express our dissent with current policy and fervently hope that our true and lasting interests here can be defined and our policies [Page 46] redirected in order to salvage our nationʼs position as a moral leader of the free world.
Our specific areas of dissent, as well as our policy proposals, will follow by septel.4
  • Brian Bell
  • Robert L. Bourquein
  • W. Scott Butcher
  • Eric Griffel
  • Zachary M. Hahn
  • Jake Harshbarger
  • Robert A. Jackson
  • Lawrence Koegel
  • Joseph A. Malpeli
  • Willard D. McCleary
  • Desaix Myers
  • John L. Nesvig
  • William Grant Parr
  • Robert Carce
  • Richard L. Simpson
  • Robert C. Simpson
  • Richard E. Suttor
  • Wayne A. Swedengurg
  • Richard L. Wilson
  • Shannon W. Wilson5
I support the right of the above named officers to voice their dissent. Because they attach urgency to their expression of dissent and because we are without any means of communication other than telegraphic, I authorize the use of a telegram for this purpose.
I believe the views of these officers, who are among the finest U.S. officials in East Pakistan, are echoed by the vast majority of the American community, both official and unofficial.6 I also subscribe to [Page 47] these views but I do not think it appropriate for me to sign their statement as long as I am principal officer at this post.
My support of their stand takes on another dimension. As I hope to develop in further reporting, I believe the most likely eventual outcome of the struggle underway in East Pakistan is a Bengali victory and the consequent establishment of an independent Bangladesh. At the moment we possess the good will of the Awami League. We would be foolish to forfeit this asset by pursuing a rigid policy of one-sided support to the likely loser.7
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 1 PAKUS. Confidential; Priority; Limdis. Sent as a joint State/AID/USIS message. Also sent to Islamabad and repeated to Karachi and Lahore. Received at 1008Z. In his memoirs Kissinger suggests that the Consulate General deliberately gave a low classification to this telegram in order to encourage broad circulation in Washington. (White House Years, p. 853) The distribution limitation was added to the telegram in the Department.
  2. The text of President Podgornyʼs message to Yahya Khan, as released to the press by TASS on April 3, was transmitted to Islamabad on April 3 in telegram 56617. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 23–9 PAK)
  3. Apparent reference to the contingency study on Pakistan prepared by the Interdepartmental Group for Near East and South Asia on March 2; see footnote 5, Document 5.
  4. The dissenting members of the Consulate General sent a follow-on telegram to the Department on April 10 in which they characterized the martial law regime in East Pakistan as being of “dubious legitimacy” and took further issue with the view that the “current situation should be viewed simply as ‘constituted’ government using force against citizens flouting its authority.” They concluded that it was “inconceivable that world can mount magnificent effort to save victims of last Novemberʼs cyclone disaster on one hand, and on other condone indiscriminate killing of same people by essentially alien army defending interests different from those of general populace.” Telegram 1249 from Dacca is published in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–7, Documents on South Asia, 1969–1972, Document 130.
  5. On April 6 seven specialists on South Asian affairs from the NEA bureau, one from INR, and another from AID/NESA sent a letter to Secretary Rogers associating themselves with the views expressed in telegram 1138 from Dacca. (National Archives, RG 59, NEA Files: Lot 73 D 69, Box 6396, Pakistan)
  6. Ambassador Farland supported the principle that members of his mission had the right to express their views on the problems facing the United States in the crisis developing in Pakistan. He noted that the Embassy had also submitted a proposal to register serious concern about developments in East Pakistan, and he suggested that it was time to review the policy toward Pakistan which excluded interference in its domestic affairs. (Telegram 3196 from Islamabad, April 6; ibid., Central Files 1970–73, POL PAKUS)
  7. The Department responded on April 7 in telegram 58039 to Dacca, drafted by Sisco and approved by Rogers. In addressing the complaint that the United States had failed to denounce the actions taken by Pakistanʼs army in East Pakistan, Sisco noted that there were conflicting reports about atrocities. He stated that the Department had not been silent about the conflict in East Pakistan and he reviewed a number of statements made by the Department spokesman between March 26 and April 5. One of the statements expressed concern about the “loss of life, damage and hardship suffered by the people of Pakistan,” but none of them addressed the atrocities reported from Dacca. (Ibid., POL 27 INDIA–PAK) Telegram 58039 is published in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–7, Documents on South Asia, 1969–1972, Document 129.