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Prying is right for US

2013 Nov 05

By  The Nation  

The shameless shenanigans of the United States came to light last week when the ‘spy scandal’ implicated the country’s intelligence agency for tapping the phones of millions of people. However, it is the same country which lectures Sri Lanka regularly on human rights.

Nearly forty years ago, the then President of the United States, Richard Nixon, resigned. That was following the Watergate scandal where it was revealed that he was aware of, and had agreed to, taping conversations in his office. Nixon also tried to bug the offices of his political rivals.

That seems like child’s play considering what is unravelling in the United States now: its intelligence agency, the National Security Agency (NSA) spied on millions of people in different countries and also kept tabs on the phone conversations of world leaders.

The US has virtually acknowledged that it tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone by not denying this when the allegation was made. There is suspicion that many other leaders were victims for several years and will continue to be easy prey for the world’s only superpower.

The US has also tapped into the e-mail servers of popular providers Google and Yahoo which are headquartered in that country. The US is violating every law and accepted norm and all of it is justified in the name of combating terrorism.

As public anger against the US rose in countries such as Germany, Italy, Britain and France, the US attempted to justify its actions saying that these countries were protected from terrorism only because it had spied on phone conversations and e-mails!

Ironically in Sri Lanka, almost at the same time that the spy scandal hit the headlines, the US envoy in Colombo, Michele J. Sison is reported to have met President Mahinda Rajapaksa to voice her concerns about Sri Lanka’s purchases of oil.

It will be recalled that the US has placed sanctions on oil purchases from Iran, one of Sri Lanka’s trusted suppliers of the precious commodity. The sanctions meant that Sri Lanka had to bear heavy financial losses merely to appease the Americans.

The US suspects that Sri Lanka has been circumventing the ‘embargo’ on oil from Iran by making purchases of that country’s oil through a ‘third party’. Ambassador Sison reportedly raised this issue during her meeting with President Rajapaksa. 

This has become the new world order: in a world where there is only one superpower, the United States expects the entire planet to be beholden to it and do its bidding. It will try to bully countries such as Sri Lanka into submission even while its own conduct is abominable.

Therefore, we have a scenario where the US was instrumental in passing resolutions against Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council for alleged human rights violations during the latter stages of the Eelam war.

Of course, the US is conveniently silent about the gross human rights violations and mass murders carried out by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during 30 years of war. It has not called for UN probes to investigate these acts and will never do so.

The US’s allegations against Sri Lanka must also be viewed in the perspective of its own conduct in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the former, together with ‘lapdog’ allies such as France and Britain, it waged war saying Iraq had ‘weapons of mass destruction’. These were never found.

In Afghanistan, the Unites States regularly shoots and kills unarmed civilians including women and children through drone attacks. Whenever they are publicized it struts out a bland statement saying it is mindful of civilian casualties and that these will be kept to a minimum!

Even the US’s killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, terrorist leader though he was, was questionable: an unarmed Bin Laden was shot dead while President Barack Obama watched the operation live and the US blatantly violated Pakistan’s airspace and sovereignty in the process.

The rule of thumb is that might is right. Therefore, countries such as Britain which also does not fail to wag their colonial fingers at Sri Lanka at every possible opportunity are meekly compliant when the US is the aggressor. Britain has been deafeningly silent on the spy scandal issue.

The Eelam lobby, defeated on the battlefields of Mullaitivu, has now resorted to lobbying western nations such as the US to sustain itself. Therefore, it is a powerful adversary. Even more noteworthy is that its actions - and those of the US - are hampering reconciliation efforts here.

It is readily conceded that the government in Sri Lanka may not be the ideal and that the brand of democracy it practises may not satisfy purists. But it seems to have the courage to tell the big bully on the world stage that it won’t be intimidated and it must be commended for that alone.

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