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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2589

Love notes from Serendib : War crimes: the professionals, minnows and the innocent

By Malinda Seneviratne

It is said that the Tories in Britain are really luxurious country gentlemen and that those in the ruling Labour party are petty chiselers willing to put anything on the public tab. Well, David Miliband, Britain’s Foreign Minister certainly fits the bill. He wanted the public to pay his a pram worth 199 pounds and ‘baby essentials’ worth 80. He even submitted claims for garden maintenance outside of the rules pertaining to such things. A chiseler, if ever there was one.

He has been described as being "more immature than he looks" as being "rude, stupid and politically and diplomatically naïve, desperate to prove he is a big player" and as "an embarrassment strutting the world stage". Being a Sri Lankan and as such being at the receiving end of Miliband’s ways, I can concur with these sentiments. The man is ill-informed, intellectually slow and arrogant to the core.

In all fairness, I think we should understand that the man has no choice. He is after all a politician and as such his political future is dependent on the sentiments of his electorate. This is why he is ready willing to scream ‘genocide’ when Tamilnet, the website of the banned terrorist outfit, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam claims that the Sri Lankan army had fired shells into areas where the LTTE leaders are/were holed up. No cross-checking. No substantiation of claim. He is contracted as per political realities on the ground (in the UK and not in the North Eastern corner of Sri Lanka) to repeat and amplify the tamilnet claim.

If this was not the case, i.e. if Miliband was a humanist, a man who concerns himself with humanitarian issues and takes personal offense when human rights are violated, then he would have blown many a fuse when the US Air Force dropped bombs in Bala Boluk, Afghanistan, killing some 150 people. There was verifiability there. It was not a claim made by the Taliban. People died. Women, children, the elderly and the sick. Are their lives somehow of less value than those of people claimed to have been killed in Sri Lanka? Is it because they happen to Muslim and as such, in Miliband’s book, come under the do-not-count category?

Miliband has two sets of eyes. Or else he has a peculiar set of eyes, prone to obtaining exaggeration in one instance and given to blindness in another. The United Kingdom along with the USA, bombed Iraq into the middle ages. Thousands of air sorties were deployed during that time, dropping millions of tons of bombs on places where there were millions of civilians. I am being brief here by the way. And briefly, let me remind Miliband and the world that US-UK led sanctions on Iraq caused the death of half a million Iraqi children.

Let us remember also that Miliband’s government threw in its lot with President George W. Bush because they believed that Iraq had ‘weapons of mass destruction’. Almost a decade later they are yet to find a single weapon of that kind. And they still cannot straighten out their twisted tongues to admit they were wrong.

So when Miliband goes country-hopping trying to find someone, anyone who would support his mad theories about what is happening in Sri Lanka, it is incumbent on those with any semblance of intelligence to ask him about Iraq, Afghanistan, weapons of mass destruction, the crimes against humanity of the colonial enterprise, the situation in British jails etc. He needs to be asked to come up with one example comparable with the case of Sri Lanka, where the world’s most ruthless terrorist organization was militarily defeated and where over 150,000 civilians held hostage were rescued. He needs to be asked where in such an exercise the term ‘genocide’ fits.

Miliband has one out, ‘I am ignorant and intellectually challenged’. Let’s give him that out. Provided of course that he shuts up thereafter. Let us switch to a man who lives across the Atlantic, a man widely acknowledged as being endowed with better than average intelligence, a man who doesn’t anything lacking in the charisma department, a man who was supposed to change the foreign policy of his country radically and thereby help clean its ugly image abroad. Barack Obama.

Obama on Wednesday the 13th of May, 2009, urged ‘both sides in Sri Lanka's 25-year civil war to take measures to avert a humanitarian crisis and aid tens of thousands of people trapped in the war zone.’ ‘Without urgent action this humanitarian crisis could turn into a catastrophe,’ he worried. "Now is the time to put aside some of the political issues that are involved and to put the lives of the men, women and children who are innocently caught in the cross fire, to put them first," he pontificated.

Well, he can relax. The LTTE did not do what it would not do. It did not release the thousands of Tamil civilians it was holding hostage. The Government did not do what it was not doing, namely, firing shells into the No-Fire Zone (declared not by the USA, UK, UN or anyone else but the Government itself, by the way). The catastrophe he feared did not materialize. The Government put first what it had always put first, the safety of the civilians. Obama can now listen to those who escaped the LTTE, those who survived the LTTE’s gunfire as they ran away as fast as their legs could carry. They will tell him what David Miliband would not dare tell him: ‘We were saved by the Sri Lankan security forces and we are safe now under the protection of the Government’.

Obama is a man of intelligence and does not have a reputation for using words loosely. This is why I am appalled by the slip of the word ‘catastrophe’ by the US President. Let’s talk catastrophe.

Does Obama know that his government maintains over 190,000 troops and 115,000 civilian employees in 909 military facilities in 46 countries and territories? Is he unaware of the abuses and usurpations of American standing armies and that they include rape, murder, sexual harassment, robbery and other crimes such as seizure of people’s lands, destruction of property and cultural imperialism?

Recently, this man who vowed to take a different approach to dealing with ‘enemies’, announced that he will move to block the release of photographs documenting American military personnel torturing detainees in Iraq, in a reversal of an understanding given earlier. The justification is that releasing such photographs would demoralize his troops. Well, well! It seems Mr. Peace is becoming Mr. Pragmatist all of a sudden. More seriously, Mr. Obama, who has ‘eyes’ to see ‘catastrophes’ where none exist, does not have eyes to see the catastrophes his country orchestrated and perpetuated. He does not have the wisdom to acknowledge that catastrophe is a necessary component of US Foreign Policy and has been so for centuries! Quo Vadis Barack?

I point these things out in the name of reason and the interest of balance and the ultimately self-defeating character of engaging in double-speak. This is the year 2008. The Economist of May 9-15, 2009 graphically depicted the relative strengths of key players of the European Union. The Anglo-Saxon model, represented by Gordon Brown, is shown struggling to keep its head out of a manhole. If The Economist did a similar exercise on the larger international community, it will surely have to thrust Obama in a similar gutter. One can get away with murder (as the USA has) when one is judge, jury and court reporter. The USA no longer has that privilege and Britain, hanging on to Uncle Sam’s coattails cuts a sorry figure when it attempts to play conqueror.

Sri Lanka is a third world country. It is not a perfect democracy. It is not a country that is unblemished in the execution of this war. There have been excesses, but given degree of threat it has done extremely well, compared to the USA and UK. Remember Barack, in Sri Lanka, despite all these constraints we still have free education, free healthcare and we recovered from a tsunami in next to no time. Got a comparable track record, brother? Human rights are not only about what happens or does not happen in conflict zones and IDP camps and even in this respect Sri Lanka’s track record is exemplary compared to that of your country or your client state, ‘Great’ Britain.

Let’s get serious. The world has too much colonial posturing and too little reason. We are coming out of a 3 decade long conflict. We don’t need you to cheer, seriously. We need you to appreciate that it was not easy, that we paid a heavy price. All we are asking is that you pack your envy into a suitcase and bury it forever. It is a small favour Barack. We can’t expect the small-minded man called David Miliband to be gracious at this point. Or ever. But Obama is a different breed altogether. Let us be hopeful.

- Asian Tribune -

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