This post is about how a small group of committed caring Americans in 1971 against incredible odds saved millions of lives; this wasn’t a match of David & Goliath, at best more like baby David & Goliath. People who have heard me speak, have heard me emphasize that truth & the moral high ground is very powerful, & armed with righteous truth a few determined people can make big changes. This is one of the best examples I know where a few made a big difference!
The year is 1971, the place is East Pakistan, where West Pakistan’s army beginning in Mar. ‘71, inspired by the same kind of demons that drove the Japanese to rape Nanking, China, is carrying out genocide against the Bengali people. 25,000 women were rounded up & raped & shot, although a few younger ones were spared & enslaved in military brothels. Nixon is president, & creepy Kissinger is advising him. Both are gungho to support West Pakistan’s military dictatorship as much as possible, and absolutely turned a deaf ear to the genocide that was in the process of killing 1 million innocent Bengalis. At the time, U.S. officials in East Pakistan described events as “genocide” in official documents to Wash., D.C. that are now declassified, so we know the Nixon admin. knew that genocide was going on & yet covered it up. Not only that, the Nixon administration was supplying the weapons, ammo, food & other supplies to permit the military dictatorship to carry out the genocide & reign of terror!! We were sending jet fighters, tanks, bombers, C-130 transports, ammo, etc. If that was not bad enough, the Administration was repeatedly lying that they were sending any military supplies, they claimed it was medicine! This was the situation in July 1971.
The military dictatorship sent a journalist to East Pakistan to write a PC article in their favor, but the journalist (Anthony Macarenhes) had a conscience & in June, ’71 escaped to the U.K. where he told the world about the genocide. A few Bengalis in Amer. were hearing from the home country & tried to raise the alarm in Amer. while our controlled media was silent. A few Amer. Quakers committed to peace (& a few other concerned knowledgeable Amer.) knew they needed to take action & joined up w/ the Bengalis in the Philadelphia area. This committed core group (in all about 200 persons) would inspire a series of actions that ended up saving millions of East Pakistani lives. They began a non-violent struggle in which they risk their lives, and were willing to be arrested to focus attention on the genocide. This core group knew from the start that people’s hearts are moved when they see someone who is committed to suffer for a righteous cause (an example of which is Christ on the cross).
TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT. Here are some of their tactics: they began communicating the horror of the genocide & the crimes against humanity to everyone who would listen, incl. Congressmen, they did several non-violent blockades by canoes of Pakistani ships coming into Amer. ports to pick up military supplies, encouraging Canadian & American Customs inspectors to check the crates being loaded so that they would discover that what was labeled by our govt. as food & meds was military supplies, and getting the unions, esp. the International Longshoreman Association ILC to agree not to load military supplies onto the Pakistani ships. The ILC longshoreman, even though they lost pay, came around & refused to load the ships. The press picked up on the story, and the efforts of the group tipped the scales slowly so that politicians began working to stop the U.S. govt. from supplying the means for West Pakistan’s military dictatorship to carry out the genocide. On Oct. 15, ‘71 Congress passed a law forbidding the Nixon admin. to supply the dictatorship…it was signed into law Feb. 7, ’72, still the Nixon admin. disobeyed the law & was sneaking supplies to West Pakistan via Jordan & Iran. However, the slowdown & official ban on supplies had a big impact. They also used art (a mural depicting the horrors) & some other creative ways to keep the story in front of the media (like imitation corpses in the Chicago River in imitation of ones in the Ganges). Bear in mind they got arrested for these things. Their blockades & other non-violent protests made front page news in India who were dealing w/ 10 million refugees that fled for their lives. The Bengali people were very touched that Amer. would care & suffer for them in non-violent protest…they needed it as they had no voice in the USA. Pakistan’s military not only was aggressive in killing East Pakistanis, they decided India was getting to vocal protesting to the world about the genocide & they tried a Pearl Harbor type attack against the Indian Air Force to destroy it on the ground. Tired of Pakistan, India declared war, quickly captured East Pakistan & humiliated the West Pakistan dictatorship which then collapsed. The lack of U.S. military supplies coming to West Pakistan helped bring the war to a close, and as said, a number of things the core group did were responsible for tipping the political scales to ban Amer. supplies in support of this Hitler-like regime.
While a detailed report on why they were successful is beyond the scope of this post, I will mention some of the things that helped this tiny group of concerned people succeed in saving millions of lives…. They were non-violent & respectful towards the authorities & police, even though the police were dishonest & disrespectful at times. They had practiced how to protect themselves if the police did get violent & how to stay non-violent. The group worked as a group, having a group spirit & building consensus. They had plans, good research, strategy games (like military games) to evaluate their plans, and good strategies to get the media’s attention. But the foundation—why it all worked—is that they had the moral high ground. Longshoremen, who had families to feed, were willing to go without work/pay when they realized the details of the reign of terror & genocide going on, & that the Pakistani ships they were to load were really ships of death. There is power when we take the moral high ground. Come on: Take it…to the limit!!