Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

What is the Main Plank of US Foreign Policy?

by Chandi Sinnathurai, realpolitik, 18 April, 2007

"And it's slow and hard and you get -- it takes time and there's no quick fixes and there's no simple answers and everybody knows the answers. I don't have to repeat 'em: you have to educate, you have to learn, you have to organize, you have to find ways of acting and so on. That's all there's ever been in history, and nobody's going to find another magic answer -- and there's no magic answer on this.

In the case of Sri Lanka, you know, you gotta start by telling -- letting people know that it's not in Central Africa or in Antarctica, or something like that...The -- so the first thing you gotta do is bring about a level of awareness. And then you have to get people to see that they've a reason for caring about it. And then they have to try to do something about it. And that's all there is. There's no other answer. >>

It's -- you know -- the look, the search for magic solutions and the -- even worse -- the conclusion, "OK, if you can't give me a magic solution, I'm gonna go home and watch television," -- that's just a way of guaranteeing that these things go on. And that's true across the board."

I READ among an avalanche of Asian affairs information on the internet that the US foreign policy towards Sri Lanka is governed by realism and characterised by the following three primary principles.

                               1)  Respect for her independence

                               2)  Honor her sovereignty

                               3)  Act neutral on her “moderate” non-aligned policy

Since the mid-seventies the US has warmly welcomed Sri Lankan policy reforms.  In 1978,  Lanka opened its economy to foreign investment by slowly drifting away from her socialist orientation. The economy, however, solely depends on foreign aid/investments.  Since 2001, Sri Lanka has sought closer links with the US and has adopted a multi-lateral foreign policy. As a result, the US now enjoys “cordial relations” with Lanka.  The US Armed Forces also have formally forged a military-to-military relationship with regional security in mind. The ACSA (Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement ) was signed between the US and Lanka on March 5 2007. This agreement is about exchanges of logistical support, supplies and services.  Sri Lankan media reported that “…the finalisation of the ACSA took place in the backdrop of a sharp improvement in relations between India and US in recent years. The US and India sees each other as strategic and economic partners in the emerging Asian order.” [1]

Now all these international relations, policy adaptations and economic developments will have to be viewed from the perspective of the ongoing Tamil liberation struggle in the island.   The US proscribed the Tamil Tigers in October 1997 under the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. In October of 2003, “after further review it re-designated the Tamil Tigers as a “Foreign terrorist organisation.” 

Whilst taking all such drastic actions however, the Bush Administration often neglected to take action or even to exert pressure against the State terror in Sri Lanka, which is particularly aimed at the Tamil population.  The Tamils are facing a mass slaughter in the East [Mattakalappu & Amparai] and the North of Sri Lanka even as I write…

It is apparent that the President of Sri Lanka, Mahinada Rajapaksha has found favour as the “our kind of guy” for the West.  It brings to mind the struggle of East Timor.  Suharto was ‘our kind of guy.’  The following are the words of Professor Chomsky in December 1995:

<<Well, 1995 is also the 20th anniversary of war crimes and crimes against humanity that are actually far more important than any of these cases and that's 'cause they're still going on and -- as Allan [Nairn] just eloquently said, and correctly said -- can be brought to an end. That's the U.S.-backed Indonesian invasion of East Timor. And, I think, we should stress the "U.S.-backed" part, because that's the part that primarily concerns us on December 7, 1975. That initiated the worst slaughter since the Holocaust, relative to population, which is the most significant measure and, in fact, even in absolute scale, despite the small size of the territory, in absolute scale, comparable to some of the great atrocities of the same period. Well, that 20th anniversary, as far as I can see, passed without regrets or apologies. There were opportunities, not only on the day itself, but shortly before, when "our kind of guy" showed up in Washington and was treated as Allan described. >>

<<He's been "our kind of guy" for a long time, actually. He's been a great hero in the United States and the West, generally, since he took power -- again, with U.S. support -- just thirty years ago. It's another memorable anniversary. He celebrated that takeover of power with what the New York Times described as a "staggering mass slaughter" of some half a million to a million Asians. Nobody counts much, but somewhere in that neighborhood -- number of people -- mostly landless peasants, in a couple of months. The CIA concurred with the Times judgment. It described this as, in its words, as "one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century." Went on to compare it to Hitler and Stalin and it described Suharto's coup as certainly one of the most significant events of the 20th century. That's the 1965 coup that led instantly to the massacre.  >>*

There are sadly among Tamils, those who flirt with the names of Stalin, Mussolini, Mao, etc and in the same breath, they will worship Mahatma Gandhi (It depends which way the pendulum is swinging!).   Worse still among them, there are even a few, who apparently “profess” and pontificate the liberation cause. And to them, the value of lives, particularly the lives of landless peasants amounts to Zero.  It is the GOAL that matters, they argue, in utter impoverishment of spiritual ethos and total depravity of moral values.  In other words, these helpless peasants could be used as human shields – as long as such “profess-ors” kith and kin are safe.

All Tamils must be passionate about Tamil [2] and ought to be deeply concerned about their fellow being’s suffering and suppression.  When a Tamil is raped and brutally murdered our stomachs are churned with natal pain while our faces are covered with tears.  Such ought to be the case when innocent fellow humans are murdered or maimed by terror any where in the world.

One would suggest that, the Tamils must seek to cut through the main plank of the US foreign policy towards Sri Lanka and get the ‘ears’ of the West.  The message of the Tamil struggle must convince the West and the US in particular of the validity of the struggle on moral grounds among other things. Releasing Press statements and condemnations of the US Government may be of some help.  But behind-the -scenes work and building links are of immense long-term value.

I quote below a question put to Chomsky at Colombia University in 1995.  The response he gave against ‘quick fixes’ and the importance of ‘bringing awareness’ is still relevant today:

             QUESTIONER

<<This is a question for Professor Chomsky. I am a Sri Lankan Tamil, and I sympathize a lot with what is going on in East Timor today. But I also want to point out that, as of now, there is more than 90 percent of the population of the north [of Sri Lanka] -- civilian population have been pushed out or they've fled a military invasion with 100 percent [unclear]. That, being the example I wanted to bring out, what I want to ask is that, as a result of this massive refugee problem, there was a [Congressional] hearing and they brought three academics. One of them was Marshall Singer from Pittsburgh. They were fantastically informed with the ground level situation and they could answer all the questions that were put to them; very balanced.>>

<<On the other hand, when the State Department came on the floor -- it's incredible, their view of the same problem. This, to me, is what you said before, that is, that there's a big gap between what the public opinion is and what the U.S. policy and the people who are connected with the policy is. And my general question to you -- this not only would help Timor -- but any [unclear; word may be "reasonable"] ethnic problem across world is that how the U.S. citizens -- educated people who are assembled today, here -- I think this is enough to make us change this type of disparities. What is there really to do, other than grassroots organization? To me, observing that is very fulfilling but, still, not very efficient to the kind of power where it gets projected down to us. So could you help us that, structurally, what changes that are reasonable to look for and work for to make this change happen in a very spontaneous way? People want to separate -- live… >>

NOAM CHOMSKY

<<…you can't get a quick fix -- something you have to work on. And there's no secrets. These -- goes right back through history. I mean, the reason we don't live in slavery and feudalism and, you know, mass terror and so on is that people were willing to struggle against oppression. And it's slow and hard and you get -- it takes time and there's no quick fixes and there's no simple answers and everybody knows the answers. I don't have to repeat 'em: you have to educate, you have to learn, you have to organize, you have to find ways of acting and so on. That's all there's ever been in history, and nobody's going to find another magic answer -- and there's no magic answer on this.>>

<<In the case of Sri Lanka, you know, you gotta start by telling -- letting people know that it's not in Central Africa or in Antarctica, or something like that. And if you ask around, those are probably the -- you know, anything with a funny name, people will say, "probably in Africa." So -- in fact, that's where people thought Timor was, until pretty recently. The -- so the first thing you gotta do is bring about a level of awareness. And then you have to get people to see that they've a reason for caring about it. And then they have to try to do something about it. And that's all there is. There's no other answer. >>

<<It's -- you know -- the look -- the search for magic solutions and the -- even worse -- the conclusion, "OK, if you can't give me a magic solution, I'm gonna go home and watch television," -- that's just a way of guaranteeing that these things go on. And that's true across the board.>>

QUESTIONER

<<[first words missing from tape]...something that might be related to East Timor, I'm not sure, but I was reading a book called -- by Professor Alfred McCoy, called The Politics of Heroin. And I wanted to know if you guys -- I've read books similar to that and want to know if you knew about how much heroin and drugs, in general, of that area played in the U.S. involvement in that area, in the Vietnam War and maybe today. And I'm not sure if East Timor falls anywhere within the Golden Triangle or any of those politics. But could you comment on that?>>

NOAM CHOMSKY

<<Yeah. Well, in the case of Indonesia, I don't think it was much. But in Southeast Asia it was very substantial. Al McCoy's book is a very good book -- especially if you read the new edition of it. It's a very good and important book. He starts by talking about how the drug racket was reconstituted after World War II.>>

<<The basic story is that -- I mean, the fascists, whatever you thought about 'em, they ran a very tight ship, you know. And they don't have any competition. So they wiped out the Mafia, basically, 'cause they don't fool -- you don't fool around. When the Americans moved in, first in Sicily and, then, in southern France and so on, it was basically reconstituted.>> <<[unclear] reconstituted largely as a weapon against the resistance -- the anti-fascist resistance -- and against the labor movement. 'Cause there was the same problem in Europe that there was in Indonesia and Vietnam and everywhere else. There were mass popular movements that were radical democratic and were not committed to "the welfare of the world capitalist system." They wanted it to change. And the traditional conservatives -- you know, institution had been discredited by their association with fascism. So, all over the world, first step after World War II was destroy the resistance and reinstate the supporters of the fascist system. That's basically chapter one of the postwar world.>>

<<In France and Italy it involved reconstituting the Mafia. That was the way -- you know, you needed strikebreakers to work on the Marseilles docks and so on and who's going to do it for you? Who are going to be the goons? Well, you know, these guys. And they don't do it for free. So you give 'em the heroin racket in exchange. And, from then on, the trail of drugs has followed clandestine activities pretty closely. So, France -- that's the famous "French connection" -- got started that way. Then it goes to Southeast Asia where big U.S. operations are going on, but not in Indonesia, as far as I know. Only around the Golden Triangle, as it's called -- you know, Burma, Laos, so on and, yeah, that became the big center of the drug traffic and, of course, the U.S. was up to its neck in it. They -- what was called the clandestine army -- the highlands army -- in Laos was financed by opium production, quite openly. And, of course, that -- and then huge explosion of drugs. >>

<<Afghanistan has recently been the -- a major center of the drug trade for exactly the same reasons. And, in fact -- you know, it's not perfect -- but it goes this way pretty closely and for quite good reasons. You have to -- if you're involved in clandestine operations, first of all, you need a lot of thugs and gangsters and they got to be paid. And they have to be paid with untraceable money, which means you got to have a lot of money around that's going to get these guys to do what you want, and there aren't a lot of choices. Drugs is the natural one. So it's not in the least surprising that in -- what McCoy describes is true -- that the trail of drugs follows pretty closely the major trail of underground clandestine operations. However, as far as I know, that was not the case in Indonesia. >>*

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Notes:

[1] SL Time15 March 2007.

[2] Also see recent Chomsky comments:http://www.countercurrents.org/sl-alexander260207.htm

*Quotes from Noam Chomsky taken from: Transcription by Eliot Hoffman for East Timor Action Network (ETAN). Ending 20 Years of Occupation: East Timor and U.S. Foreign Policy December 9, 1995.  Miller Theater, Columbia University, New York City

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Fr.Chandi Sinnathurai is a landless-peasant.  He is passionate about Life, Liberation, Freedom and Liberty to All.