Ilankai Tamil Sangam

24th Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Obama Administration Throws a Curve Ball

(In cricket terms 'bowls a googly')

Dr. S Sathanathan, April 30, 2009

In short, foreign intervention couched in “promoting freedom” and “strengthening democracy” have nothing to do with either. At the moment, the Co-Chairs and the IC in general are seeking the destruction of the LTTE-led Tamil National Movement.

President Barak Obama’s Administration released a nuanced “White House Statement on the Situation in Sri Lanka” on 24 April 2009. It concluded with the following wonderfully obtuse comment: “It would compound the current tragedy if the military end of the conflict only breeds further enmity and ends hopes for reconciliation and a unified Sri Lanka in the future.” This sentence is crafted to convey the message that the US may consider the Tamils’ struggle to be legitimate if President Mahinda Rajapakse does not come forward with a political solution. Embedded in it is an apparent warning to the Rajapakse regime by way of a comforting allusion directed towards Tamils of possible US support for some form of autonomy or independence to the Tamil Homeland.

It reminds us of the Bush Administration’s strategy to keep the Palestinian Liberation Movement off balance with frequent pledges to seek a two-State solution to the Palestinian Question while simultaneously funnelling military and financial aid to Israel to decimate the territorial and demographic bases of a future Palestinians State, and so make the two-State solution a non-starter.

The statement has been released against the backdrop of the Tamil expatriates’ spreading and radicalising agitations and at a time when it is obvious the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have survived this round; that the Sinhalese armed forces have shown themselves once again to be incapable of destroying the LTTE.

The US-led Co-Chairs (including the EU, Norway and Japan) exposed their grotesque partiality by unequivocally backing the Colombo regime’s war machine. Now they are twisting this way and that to worm their way back into the confidence of the Tamil people, to re-launch their discredited and wholly bankrupt mediators’ role.

The logic behind the Co-Chairs' strategy becomes clear when we examine recent formulations of United States policy relating to the right to self-determination. In 1995 the United States Institute of Peace convened a daylong meeting on "Self-Determination: Sovereignty, Territorial Integrity, and the Right to Secession" in conjunction with the Policy Planning Staff at the US Department of State. The aim was to explore how the United States Government should respond to movements for self-determination growing in number and deepening in intensity around the globe.

The report on the meeting makes interesting reading. The participants endorsed the regressive and anti-democratic stance of the international community that the existing national borders of countries are inviolable, irrespective of how, by whom and under what conditions they were drawn.

The general tenor of the discussions is that "minorities" must be satisfied with "intermediate categories short of statehood that can address minority group's interests and aspirations, such as membership in various international forums and organisations". In other words, "minorities" within a State territory must accept their subordinate place.

No wonder, then, the participants did NOT recommend federal or confederal structures as "intermediate categories". The reasons are obvious. "Minorities" would then have access to and exercise State power, a profoundly disturbing prospect for conservative academics and policymakers steeped in majoritarian prejudices.

Instead, the participants gave as examples of "intermediate categories" toothless "international forums and organisations" and irrelevant "assemblies of national minority affairs, local autonomous administrations, decentralised and local forms of government, and mixed commissions...to continue dialogue on the issue". In other words, they advised "minorities" not to resist but to "dialogue", to work towards an accommodation with the more powerful majority on terms effectively laid down by that majority. The expectation - based on the primitive Social Darwinism so close to the American heart - is that "minorities" would be assimilated in the long run.

The participants predictably used the term "pluralism" to mystify the existence of major and minor nations within a State territory. The mystification has a political objective. The minor nations are reduced to "minorities", which they claimed (a) have no right to an independent State, (b) should disband their military organisations, if any, and (c) must concede that there can be only one armed force, effectively that of the major nation, within each State territory.

The psychological roots of the pathological opposition to the emergence of independent States are conservative knee jerk reactions, driven by the primordial fear of change.

The adverse economic consequences the West feared could flow from the proliferation of independent States were obliquely stated in the meeting report. After noting "the 'unstoppable drive' of people in the Third World wanting what the advanced industrial nations already have", the participant alleged as follows: "this situation threatens those in the wealthier nations, who are concerned that their benefits will decline as more economic resources are transferred abroad, and those in the Third World who lead more traditional lives and generally do not aspire to what they perceive to be 'crass materialism'."

In other words, the West and the United States in particular know that each new State is the vehicle through which one more nation carves out a place on the world stage. They fear that each such nation could then make and enforce its demands, for a more equitable distribution of resources and wealth, in the international arena and through the United Nations in particular. It is, therefore, in the self-interest of the "wealthier nations" to prevent nations without States from establishing their own States. The aim is to put a ceiling on the number of nations represented by their States and thereby limit the demands for justice in the international arena.

The participant cynically sanctified this anti-democratic ruse by alleging that preventing new States emerging in the "Third World" would also protect "those in the Third World who lead more traditional lives". In short, most of the poor ("traditional") want to remain poor! And it is national movements struggling to establish independent States in Asia and Africa that threaten the rich North and undermine the poor South!!

So the exceptions participants made, that "secession can be a legitimate aim of some self-determination movements, particularly in response to gross and systematic violations of human rights and when the entity is potentially politically and economically viable", are merely platitudes with neither moral relevance nor political teeth. For the meeting report contains no consensus on the criteria for political and economic viability.

Indeed, the provision for instances of "gross and systematic violations of human rights" is a transparent deception. This is evident from the arrogant view, confidently documented in the report, that "the United States…should make it clear to those seeking independence that they cannot object to the violence waged against them by claiming they were simply attempting to exercise their 'right' to secession." Not surprisingly, the United States Government is assisting the Rajapakse regime to upgrade the destructive capacity of the Sinhalese armed forces.

The above objectives, interests and prejudices documented in the meeting report are at the core of the Co-Chairs’ strategy to neutralise the LTTE-led Tamil National Movement in Sri Lanka.

Indeed, Tamils’ trust in the Co-Chairs waned after the US and Norway, together with the Colombo regime, cynically manipulated the defection of “Col” Karuna from the LTTE to the Sinhalese regime in 2004. To regain the confidence of Tamils and the LTTE, in the following year then US Under Secretary for South Asian Policy Christina Rocca funnelled a few crafty comments through the ever gullible Tamil National Alliance (TNA), reported in the Tamil daily Uthayan (25/apr/05). “The US has never opposed the request for a separate state by the Liberation Tigers.The US is only opposed the violent pathway the Tigers have taken”, she glibly told the Tamil MP R. Sampanthan. She further stated that, “if the Liberation Tigers abandon violence, the USA is ready to be cordial.”Evidently she deluded herself that Tamils and the LTTE would stupidly believe anything; for she added: “The US opposed only violence. The independent state goal of the Tigers was never opposed by the US. If the Tigers abandon violence, then functioning in proximity is possible.”

The US interventions for Eritrea, Kosovo and East Timor are often cited as examples of benevolent external intervention. The truth is rather different. In Eritrea, the US opposed the liberation struggle when the Addis Ababa regime was pro-US. When tables turned after a coup and the regime became pro-Soviet, the US switched support to the Eritrean resistance and so its independence was a fallout of the Cold War; it had nothing whatsoever to do with US concern for the rights of Eritreans. It is very unwise to believe America's duplicitous assertion that it was acting in the pursuit of freedom. Almost the same goes for Kosovo. The US condemned the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) as “terrorists” and opposed the Movement, hoping to win Serbia over to the American sphere of influence. But the pro-Russian Serbia opposed extension of NATO into the region and a resurging Russia was manoeuvring to contain US influence in the Balkans through Serbia. To vitiate Russia's reach, the US changed track; it armed the KLA, supported the Movement, sliced off Kosovo and weakened Serbia. In East Timor, the US condoned the CIA-installed President Suharto’s invasion and occupation of the country and America's handmaiden - the UN - looked the other way. It was East Timor's courageous and unremitting struggle, the weakening of Indonesia’s economy in 1997-98 by the Asian financial crisis and the danger of intervention posed by the simultaneously burgeoning Chinese power that forced the US to end the bloodletting by turning East Timor independent.

In short, foreign intervention couched in “promoting freedom” and “strengthening democracy” have nothing to do with either. At the moment, the Co-Chairs and the IC in general are seeking the destruction of the LTTE-led Tamil National Movement.

The historic task before the Tamil expatriates is to neutralize these Machiavellian schemes.

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