Was U.S. for or against the LTTE?February 16, 2017, 9:47 pm
War time US envoy in Colombo Robert O Blake with Army Chief Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka
A news headline in a morning daily under the caption "Ex Navy Chief Highlights US Role against LTTE" intrigued me, because U.S. Ambassador Blake’s every public announcement throughout his eventful diplomatic assignment in Colombo, at this country’s worst time of long internal insurrection against successive democratically elected governments, was "you, the government, cannot militarily end this war; so, it is advisable for the country to negotiate a peace", which meant, naturally, conceding very substantial territory, to the potential ultimate and existential peril of the majority community; which Sri Lanka almost succeeded de facto in doing with the CFA in 2002-4, under the then UNP government - all these events are now part of Sri Lanka’s chequered modern history.
In addition, the now well known preparations which were made by the U.S. to rescue by air the most despicable terrorist leader the world has ever had the misfortune to experience, and his cabal, in the concluding stages of the same internal struggle, while still fighting the worldwide anti-terrorist war after 9/11, and the visits of the British and French Foreign Ministers to Colombo at the time for a similar "end-the-war" purpose, are also now part of our history.
Therefore, while it may be factually correct that as the then Navy Commander writes "the destruction of the LTTE’s floating armouries helped the Sri Lankan Navy to win Eelam War IV in the sea", which in turn helped the army and air force to win the land war, it only means that while the Pentagon, being the U.S. Defence Ministry, gave that very valuable help to Sri Lanka’s navy, the Department of State really controlled and directed overall U.S. foreign policy, de facto, under the personal direction of the President of the U.S. (then Obama), through the Secretary of State (then Hilary Clinton) - whose attitude towards, and against, Sri Lanka was heavily influenced through "lobbying" (and ‘invisible’ goodies given) by an organization in the U.S. calling itself ‘Tamils for Clinton’. So, the question whether the U.S. was for or against the LTTE’s war against the democratic governments of Sri Lanka, when the declared foreign policy of the U.S. has always been, and is, not only the defence but the active promotion, by any means including war, throughout the world, of the concepts of democracy and personal freedoms, entrenched in the U.S. Constitution - is a moot one, which should engage the inquisitive minds of readers in Sri Lanka.
However, while the former Navy Commander’s "Asymmetric Warfare at Sea - the Case of Sri Lanka" may very well be truly stating one side of the story about the far from monolithic (sometimes called ‘hobbled giant’), U.S. government’s policies and activities, another recent book titled "Tamil Tigers Debt to America" and captioned "An Insider Account - U.S. Foreign Policy Adventurism and Sri Lanka’s Dilemma" by Daya Gamage (U.S. Department of State Retired Political Specialist), and published in Colombo in December 2016, sheds a very different light on this conundrum ,in 577 pages of prose, and supporting documentation!
Suffice it for the limited purposes of this Opinion piece to recap verbatim the author’s/publisher’s summary on the book’s back cover, which may well succinctly summarize the text, but also provoke its reader to learn the full story by reading this book:
"The United States was disappointed by its failure to salvage the leadership of Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger secessionist movement to relocate elsewhere as a foreign policy strategy and to use it as a pressure group to influence changes in Sri Lanka because of its total annihilation by the military".
(This writer ventures to add that it is problematic whether such a potential destabilization target was confined only to this country, given the vaunted military power and then organizational genius of the terrorist leaders, and given the super power’s global reach).
"To avenge the foreign policy setback, Washington created a conducive atmosphere which turned out to be a stimulus to the Tamil Diaspora, whose activists functioned as political collaborators for two decades to sustain the Tiger agenda, to emerge as a global diplomatic movement".
The book documents the similarities of Tamil Tiger objectives and the post-war trajectory of the Diaspora to achieve a mono-ethnic state in Sri Lanka’s North. Since the war ended in May 2009, the Diaspora crafted a global diplomacy, bringing the West into its orbit, to de-legitimize Sri Lanka as an initial move towards a bifurcation of the island-state.
Washington’s foreign policy trajectory - since the defeat of the LTTE - was to target both the civilian and military leaders responsible for bringing an end to the 26-year terrorism as violators of international humanitarian law, and through such endeavour, become an inspiration to strengthen the global diplomatic clout of the Tamil Diaspora; these events are documented in the book as another phase of American foreign policy adventurism, besides its recent past blunders in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
In this book the author uses extensively the knowledge gained during his tenure in the U.S. Department of State, as a Political Specialist in its diplomatic mission in Colombo, to link the perspectives developed on Sri Lankan issues in the final two decades of the last millennium, and Washington’s foreign policy machinations since the defeat of the LTTE.
The six million dollar question which all this leaves the reader with is: what changes in the U.S. foreign policy following its own karmic regime change will be reflected directly in the stance of the U.S. and its allies at the next session of the UNHRC in Geneva, when pending issues relating to what is really the overt expression of "humanitarian colonialism" is visited on this small, defenceless island; with Sri Lanka’s own top politicos vowing "no U-turn on war probe" in a fit of political retribution, simultaneously with Police reports of a resurgent LTTE in the North, possibly financed and promoted by the Diaspora referred to in the book extract.
Manufactured, now historical issues, which come up for deliberation before the neo-colonial world’s caretaker agency of, what is really, other sovereign countries’ domestic Human Rights concerns; and trying to adjudicate the ethics of a destructive and existential internal struggle, which victimized Sri Lanka’s people and economy for nearly three decades, is really a revengeful exercise all round, to hold Sri Lanka (and targeted politicians) to a higher global standard not applicable to the destructive adventurism of the western world, which has caused millions to die and be rendered homeless and utterly destitute, fuelling unceasing waves of refugee out-migration to Europe.
Ruwan De Silva.
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