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Editorial   


 

The West’s licence to kill with impunity

Stealthily, an event worthy of racy headlines has gone almost unnoticed: Last week, WikiLeaks, a watchdog website published over 90,000 classified documents relating to the United States sponsored war in Afghanistan, that included some startling revelations, among them, a claim that over 200 civilians have been killed by American troops in that country.

The website claims it has obtained classified documents that reportedly say troops have killed 195 civilians and injured 174 others. Many of them were innocent drivers or motorcyclists who were shot after being wrongly suspected of being suicide bombers. In another previously undisclosed incident, troops machine-gunned a bus, killing or wounding 15 civilians.

It is not that there are doubts about the veracity of this claim. The US authorities conceded that the assertions made in the documents were indeed true. In a statement, President Barack Obama’s National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones merely said that the “the United States strongly condemns the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organisations which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security”. There was No Denial.

Instead, the White House took refuge in a lame excuse. The ‘WikiLeaks’ documents cover the period until December 2009 and since then, President Obama has embarked on a ‘new’ strategy in Afghanistan, the Oval Office said. The American Congress too wanted to shoot the messenger; it was scathing in its criticism of ‘WikiLeaks’, instead of focusing on the startling revelations.
We are discussing this issue today, to put the agendas of international organisations influenced by the West and its superpowers in the correct perspective, because Sri Lanka has recently been the subject of scrutiny by a so-called ‘advisory panel’ appointed by no less than the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Ban Ki-moon.

Ironically, Robert O’ Blake, the former American envoy in Colombo, who is now the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, was also in Sri Lanka recently, telling us that this country would “benefit” by cooperating with Ban Ki-moon’s ‘advisory panel’.

The ‘WikiLeaks’ controversy which erupted thereafter, clearly indicates that the UN and its Secretary General are acting not only in a biased manner, but that they are also being deliberately malicious in pursuing alleged human rights concerns in Sri Lanka, because of the various influences that have prevailed upon them.
To begin with, Sri Lanka was fighting its own war with a terrorist group that was arguably the most intransigent and ruthless in the world. After three decades of war, the armed forces had reached a point where total victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was possible. To let go at that point, because international organisations were making noises about civilian casualties, would have obligated generations to come, to fight and die for an unworthy cause, indefinitely. That was the setting in which the final battles of Nanthikadal were fought.

The Americans in Afghanistan, in contrast, are fighting somebody else’s war. Their actions often interfere with and impinge on the sovereignty of Afghanistan as well as Pakistan- As it still does with impunity in Iraq. And the war that is being waged in Central Asia is a protracted conflict that is likely to continue for years to come, with no end in sight, much in the same vein as the Palestine-Israel conflict in the Middle East. It is in this context that US troops are killing civilians in Afghanistan.

If the UN or its Secretary General have any semblance of impartiality, it is obvious where an ‘advisory panel’ to inquire into alleged human rights violations should be constituted first. If the UN as an organisation is an entity with an iota of credibility, its principal officers such as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navaneethan Pillay, Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes and Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe should by now be shouting themselves hoarse, crying foul at the deeds in Afghanistan and rushing to get on the next flight to Kabul.

None of that has happened. The UN and Ban Ki-moon turn a blind eye. For some reason-call it a ‘geo-political reality’-the lives of civilians in Afghanistan are less important than the lives of civilians in northern Sri Lanka! Ah, we Sri Lankans should be so happy that our lives are so treasured by those at the UN!
This is the reality we have to contend with and deal with. We do not believe a death fast opposite the UN offices in Colombo will alleviate any of our concerns; in fact, it may aggravate them. We also do not believe a fractured and disorganised foreign policy-where former Air Force commanders are speaking in support of Israel, when Sri Lanka has been a staunch supporter of Palestine for years- is the answer.

Certainly, we should stand our ground and let the world- including Robert O’Blake, know that we take our own decisions. We must, without further delay, develop a cohesive and consistent foreign policy, without being caught napping on crucial issues. But in doing so, we should also be mindful that we are dealing with multifaceted and multinational enemies. They may have lost the war comprehensively, but they have not given up.