Published: Thursday, December 12, 2013

News Analysis

War crimes, Kerry & history

US Secretary of State John Kerry called Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday to warn her that if convicted war criminal Abdul Quader Mollah goes to the gallows, Bangladesh’s parliamentary elections might be derailed.
Decades ago, in 1977, one of Kerry’s predecessors, Henry Kissinger, warned Pakistan’s prime minister ZA Bhutto that if the latter went ahead with his nuclear plans, Washington would make a horrible example of him.
In 1974, as a fledgling Bangladesh sought to broaden its trade and diplomatic relations with nations around the world and from that perspective attempted to export jute to Cuba, the US administration made sure that Dhaka did not get the kind of food aid it sought to tide over a famine-like situation in the country.
In 1971, even as the whole world took note of the genocide being committed by the Pakistan army in occupied Bangladesh and condemned the Yahya Khan junta, president Nixon and Henry Kissinger looked the other way because they needed Pakistan’s dictator to help Washington open up a route to Beijing.
All of the above is part of history. And now this telephone call by Kerry, a former senator and presidential candidate, to the leader of a free nation raises a number of questions. Those questions have to do with what the Obama administration, through both Kerry and his predecessor Hillary Clinton, has not said about the role the Jamaat-e-Islami played in the nine months of the Liberation War seventy-five million Bangalees waged back in 1971 against a vicious occupation force.
At the time of the struggle, men like Edward Kennedy and Edmund Muskie and the US media observed it all and drew Americans’ attention to the pogrom. The American consul general in Dhaka at the time, Archer Blood, systematically despatched graphic details of the gruesome killings of Bangalees the army and its quislings were committing to the State Department. His concerns were brushed aside.
The point is simple: Americans in responsible positions, back in 1971 and forty-two years later, knew and know what the local collaborators of the Pakistan army did in the war, how many Bangalees were murdered, how many Bangalee women were raped and how many towns and villages were destroyed. They know history. They know of the role the Jamaat and its leaders played in that period of darkness.
And yet today, when the state of Bangladesh tries to bring the perpetrators of the old repression to justice, tries to handle its domestic criminals under laws that take care to uphold international standards of crime investigation and trial, Secretary Kerry speaks of the need for a maintenance of global norms in the matter of dealing with such war criminals as Abdul Quader Mollah. Note that the secretary says nothing about the incontrovertible evidence that went into the judgment against the Jamaat leader.
Interestingly, this emphasis on international standards raises the very grave issue of what has been happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan through an indiscriminate use of American firepower. Thousands of innocent men, women and children have perished in these two countries through drone attacks, protests against which have gone unheeded. The impunity with which US aircraft have been pounding away at the Taliban in Pakistani territory has clearly not been in consonance with the rules of international behaviour. People celebrating weddings in Afghan villages have been blown to pieces by drones.
Go back a decade. The lie, which Colin Powell presented in detail before the UN Security Council, on which the Anglo-US attack on Iraq was made contemptuously cast aside any and all thoughts of an upholding of international standards of behaviour.
And the lie? That Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction, that Saddam could employ them against his enemies in a mere 45 minutes. The weapons were never discovered, for they never existed. But in patent violation of international law, a beautiful country named Iraq was reduced to rubble.
Now, observe the confusion into which John Kerry has placed himself. He believes that hanging Mollah will put Bangladesh’s election in jeopardy. Is he informing us that the future of our democracy depends on the way our justice system deals with a war criminal? Are we expected to persuade ourselves that what we saw the war criminals doing in 1971 was not real, was an illusion and that what the powerful men in Washington now tell us is the reality?
Think back on the alacrity with which Nazi war criminals were dispatched in Nuremberg and imperial Japanese war criminals were dealt with in Tokyo. International standards? Think too of the manifest injustice employed in the name of justice at Guantanamo and on those so-called rendition flights. What forms of international standards went into the eavesdropping of global leaders’ telephone conversations by the National Security Agency?
For the people of Bangladesh, despite the divisive nature of their democratic politics, the truth holds that the war criminals committed unprecedented outrage within the geographical contours of Bangladesh in 1971, that it is the right of this republic to deal with such a domestic issue on its own and on a necessary underpinning of properly civilised, moral and legal behaviour.

  • Ezajur Rahman

    Well said. In Bangladesh we set higher standards than US in many things. For example we also tested the IQ of Hasina and Khaleda didn’t we?

  • Akm Bari

    Mr. SM, do know how many people died in hurricane Kathrin and Sandy in USA? There is no comparison of natural disasters and manmade calamities. So, please do not confused with such argument.
    Regarding RMG being allowed in the USA, do know how much money US gets as terrify with Bangladeshi garments? For public consumption and your enhancement of knowledge, it is over 600 millions of Dollar annually at the same time US cancelling GSP which generally benefit Bangladesh. US does what is best for US; not for anyone else.

  • Ezajur Rahman

    It seems the US should take advice from Bangladesh on how to be on the right side of history?

    • Numan Abdullah

      Yes, regarding our matters.

  • Dev Saha

    Actually, that damn thing (IQ) has really declined since his defeat in presidential election of 2004.

  • Ezajur Rahman

    The world’s definition of terrorism is very different to Bangladesh’s definition. In Bangladesh, you can only be a terrorist if you belong to Jamaat. If AL or BNP do the same thing as Jamat, it is a sign of a ‘vibrant democracy’!

    • Numan Abdullah

      You are blatantly blind the to atrocities of Jamat Shibir and the public opinion of them in the country.

  • Ezajur Rahman

    An overall perspective cannot be possible when beneath the veneer of swish writing there is rampant political bias.

  • Ezajur Rahman

    The hypocrisy of a super power at any time in history shines like a bright light. Nothing has been ‘uncovered’ in the article other than the cover up of our own rotten hypocrisies.

  • Dev Saha

    After loosing half of my mother’s side, I do not feel any joy for Mollah being executed. The man is only tip of the iceberg. There plenty of murderers, who are still on the loose.

    • Ezajur Rahman

      Indeed. There are many murderers from 1971 who are free and enjoying shelter, and profits, in all political parties. How many people have committed murder AFTER 1971 and escaped justice because the belong to AL or BNP? May God have mercy on Bangladesh and bring justice for all the victims of our condition. How many young children have died since 1971 simply due to neglect, incompetence and theft? My humble apologies to you for our failure to bring any sense of justice for your lost ones.

      • Numan Abdullah

        Not being able to bring the others to justice does not mean that Kader Mollah and the Jamat leaders are to be left afree and that
        the verdict against them are wrong. The convicted are marked criminals in our society and they themselves are to be
        blamed for their own political affiliations, if there is any political
        agenda in the trial.

  • poy

    If you are a part of Bangladesh, you are part of Bangladesh’s problem.
    Try to solve it, if you can – do not sell Bangladesh short .

  • nazmul Haq

    Double standard and Triple standard is the prerogative of the most powerful. That is the way the realpolitik works.

  • Numan Abdullah

    This is not a valid point against the verdict and the execution.

  • Numan Abdullah

    Jamati’s talking about the Qur’an, with their disbelief in Angels, what an irony! You use it when you need it, nothing else!

  • Numan Abdullah

    It would be bullying on the part of US, not even flexing any muscles, and they aren’t that dumb about the consequence of that in their global image. You’re just trying to gather consensus by spreading fear to ill-literated minds, haha, yeah thats a good word to describe your targets.

  • Numan Abdullah

    It was an election pledge, you don’t know? How long do we have to wait more for justice? The government promised us the trial as soon as they got to power. But political pressure was imposed by Jamat and BNP to delay it for three years and they have succeeded in that. If not now, when? When are we going to get justice? Less than a month to the next election. Where is the fulfillment of the promise we voted them for?

  • Zman7

    Perhaps the most intellectually powerful shot from a South Asian land to the political intellectuality of the “most-powerful land” on earth.

  • Zman7

    Unlike Nuremburg’s, Bangladesh trail is more comprehensive, sophisticated and an exemplary one in which the accused or the condemned war-criminals have rights and are allowed to exhaust all appeal, review etc opportunities. In Quader Mollah’s case, his counselors even successfully stopped the execution order just hours before the execution time with an order from the SC chamber judge.

  • http://www.facebook.com/papabearJ Sam Jahan

    Dear SM,

    We are unable to publish too long comments.

    Please keep it concise

    Thanks