Bangladesh’s debt to Ted Kennedy

One country in the world owes its very existance, in part, to the humanitarian impulse of the late Senator Ted Kennedy.   Via Global Voices Online:

After the invasion of East Pakistan (also called East Bengal, now called Bangladesh) by West Pakistani forces in the spring of 1971, some 9,000,000 refugees streamed across the border into India. The world and the United States (Nixon/Kissinger mired in Vietnam, famously “tilting” toward West Pakistan) took little note. All except the 39 year old senior senator from Massachusetts, Edward M. Kennedy.

In the brutal heat and monsoon muck of August, Senator Kennedy traveled to refugee camps throughout West Bengal (the neighboring Indian state) and reported back to the Senate in an extraordinarily passionate document about the plight of the refugees in India and what he called the “reign of terror which grips East Bengal.”

He concluded: “America’s heavy support of Islamabad (West Pakistan) is nothing short of complicity in the human and political tragedy of East Bengal.”

Kennedy not only bore witness, he jolted the world into taking notice and aiding the refugees if not the independence fighters in East Bengal.

Kennedy basically embarassed the Nixon administration into supporting Bangladashi statehood.  An editorial from the Bangladesh The Daily Star explains:

Senator Kennedy took up our cause in his country and in the international arena. His support gave that certain boost to our struggle that was so necessary for us at the time. The Nixon administration, in its misplaced obsession with opening a road to ties with China through making use of Pakistan, conveniently looked the other way as the then Pakistan establishment went on eliminating Bengalis. Mr. Kennedy chose to uphold reality as it then was.

What is truly amazing to me is that this is only a small footnote in the man’s legacy.