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The return of the Ugly Americans to Sri Lanka – Part I

"Blake simply is playing with fire. His legitimate role should be to stabilize the SAARC region, not set to fire to it. When he invites a committed group of terrorist agents to engage with the Obama administration, knowing that the Tamil Tiger agents are using American soil to destabilize another member of the UN, he is deliberately using the Tamil expats as a tool to force Sri Lanka to fall in line with the American global agenda."

By H. L. D. Mahindapala

The timing was impeccable.

(September 24, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) On September 17, 2009 American Ambassadress, Patricia Butenis, appears before President Mahinda Rajapakse in Colombo and presents her credentials. On the same day in Washington Robert O. Blake, Assistant Secretary, South and Central Asian Affairs informs Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Washington, Jaliya Wickremasuriya, that a report prepared under his watch, criticizing the way the Sri Lankan forces waged the most successful counter-terrorist operation against the LTTE, will be presented to the US Congress on Monday (September 21).

This is no accident. It is not even a coincidence. This is a deliberate move of America’s intention to get tough with Sri Lanka. By sending a report to the Congress simultaneously with the posting of Ms. Butenis, America is signaling that it intends to escalate its confrontations with Sri Lanka to a higher level. Even before she arrived Ms. Butenis had announced her decision “to talk her mind”, meaning read the riot act to Sri Lanka. There is no doubt that she comes with a brief to tighten the screws on Sri Lanka. Blake is also indicating, with his words and deeds, that errant Sri Lanka must be pulled into line with aggressive confrontation.

This is most disappointing because Blake, a senior Asian hand, was expected to adopt a more seasoned and mature approach in dealing with south and central Asian affairs. Besides, in the post-Prabhakaran era, where the nation’s mood, will and the overall perspectives of the north-south crisis have changed radically, it is counter-productive for America to adopt stand over tactics. This aggressive approach is also in stark contrast to the softly-softly approach of President Barack Obama who is going all out to win friends, including those in the “axis of evil”. For instance, America is bending over backwards to appease North Korea, even conceding parity of status by agreeing to hold direct talks with this rogue state after dismissing six-nation intermediaries. But Blake is engaged in counter-productive moves to demonize Sri Lanka – the latest being the report sent to the Congress about the conduct of the war against Tiger terrorists.
It is also reported that Sri Lankan officials are charged with war crimes in the report to the Congress. Ironically, this comes at a time when seven former directors of the Central Intelligence Agency wrote to President Obama urging him to close the criminal investigation looking into whether any CIA officers tortured prisoners in their custody during their interrogations into counterterrorist activities.

America’s switch to an aggressive policy in the post-Prabhakaran phase is partly the outcome of the millions spent by the Tamil Tiger agents in hiring expensive lobbyists (Bruce Fein is one) to push the Obama administration into an anti-Sri Lankan hole. The leaning towards the cashed-up Tamil Transnational lobby, as demonstrated by Blake’s meeting with them in his Washington office on August 11, 2009, is contrary to President Obama’s declared policy of getting rid of lobbyists from the corridors of power in Washington. The power of the hired lobbyists is still evident and this questions the capacity of President Obama to change the manipulative lobbyists poisoning the American system. In fact, right now the No.1 bestseller in the New York Times Book Review is Culture of Corruption: Czars of the Obama Underworld, in which Michelle Malkin exposes the tax cheats, petty crooks, influence peddlers and Wall Street cronies in Obama’s team.

The other related factor also comes from Sri Lanka Tamil expatriate lobby which is boasting that they have the Obama administration in their pocket after funding the “Tamils for Obama” campaign in the last presidential election. True or false, the mud sticks because the Obama policy on Sri Lanka, driven by Blake, has been to stoke, overtly and covertly, the Tamil expatriate lobby committed to the Vadukoddai Resolution – the key political platform that led to the Vadukoddai War declared on May 14, 1976. After the meeting with representatives of “the Tamil Transnational government” Blake told the BBC that the Tamil expatriates are “energized”. Well, why shouldn’t they be when Blake – O Blake! -- is giving them the oxygen to re-energize?

When Blake hosted a delegation of Tamils in the US, consisting mainly of the representatives of “the Tamil Transnational government” led by V. Rudrakumaran he was undermining his own primary objective of stabilizing the SAARC region. How can he stabilize the region when he entertains the defeated agents of Velupillai Prabhakaran who has been a destabilizing threat to India and Sri Lanka? Rudrakumaran and his gang are still operating under the Tiger flag and ideology. What is more, separatism, which breeds violence, is the scourge of the region. Despite this Blake has no qualms about playing footsy with the self-styled Tamil Transnational government (read: the financial backers and political agents of the defeated Tamil Tigers, still a banned terrorist organization in US).

He should be aware that there are consequences to regional stability as a result of “the Tamil Transnational government’s” commitment to the Vadukoddai Resolution which fathered Tamil ethnic violence that lasted for 33 years. Vadukoddians are also committed to a separate state and they openly say that they will not stop anything short of that. So is Blake working to stabilize the region or turn it into another unmanageable hell hole dominated by separatists and their violence? All which leads to question the rationality – not to mention the sanity – of Blake’s contradictory policy on Sri Lanka.

The Governments of Sri Lanka (GOSL) responded to the Vadukoddai Resolution in kind as no government committed to defend its territorial integrity and national sovereignty could allow an armed group to dictate terms, or dismember an internationally recognized state.. So on what legal or moral principles did Blake invite the representatives of the shadowy Tamil Transnational government to have tea with him in his office in Washington? What would be Blake’s interpretation if, for instance, Ambassador Jaliya Wickremasuriya invites Louis Farrakhan, who has been campaigning for black separatist nationalism in America, for some tea and sympathy? Blake is not a babe lost in the woods. He knows the meaning of every act he commits. So why is he going all out to give a nudge-and-a-wink to the Tamil separatists committed to the violent Vadukoddai Resolution?

Besides, if Blake’s mission is to stabilize the region how can he lend his patronage to the Vadukoddians of the Tamil Transnational government who are not only committed to violence and separatism but also linked the Naxalites of India and the Al-Qaeda, as confirmed in S. Pathmanathan’s links with Al Qaeda bases operating in Pakistan? When he hosted the representatives of “the Tamil Transnational government” in Washington office wasn’t Blake backing the leading financiers of “the deadliest terrorist organization in the world” knowing that he is, directly or indirectly, preparing the ground to export terror to Sri Lanka with his advice and consent? If the GOSL decided to follow the example of Blake and hosted the potential anti-American Bin Ladens located in Sri Lanka (factions of Jihadists are mushrooming in the east, according to some reports) what would be the reaction of Blake and President Obama? Would they welcome the opening up of space within Sri Lanka to raise funds and lobby for more support to destabilize America?

After meeting with the “Tamil Transnational government” delegation he warned the Sri Lankan government to give in to their extremist demands which are to be pursued with relentless violence as laid down in the Vadukoddai Resolution, adding that a refusal would lead to another bout of violence. Based on this logic shouldn’t someone tell Blake that US must give in to the demands of Al Qaeda if it intends avoiding escalation of extremist terror from the Islamic fundamentalists domiciled in the Western world?

Blake simply is playing with fire. His legitimate role should be to stabilize the SAARC region, not set to fire to it. When he invites a committed group of terrorist agents to engage with the Obama administration, knowing that the Tamil Tiger agents are using American soil to destabilize another member of the UN, he is deliberately using the Tamil expats as a tool to force Sri Lanka to fall in line with the American global agenda. It is against this subversive policy that the Sri Lankan government is expected to maintain friendly relations with the US! How friendly will America be towards Sri Lanka if the new head of the Foreign Ministry, S. Jayasinghe, invites representatives of, let’s say, a Taliban Transnational government to break the Ramadhan fast with him?

The brighter side of the election of President Obama was in the promise he held out to shed the uncouth image of the Ugly American – the misguided American ambassador to a fictitious South Asian nation as portrayed in the prophetic novel written by William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick. His role was played brilliantly by Marlon Brando in the film version of the novel. One of the known characteristics of the Ugly Americans is that the American ambassadors seldom get their perspectives right to formulate conducive policies for global stability and peace which should be the primary duty of the No.1 power on earth.

Bush and his emissaries, with their bull-in-the-China-shop policies, reinforced the image of the Ugly American. Hopes of the world rose to a new peak with the election of Obama as the promising leader who would change America’s role for the good of all. But the anti-Sri Lankan policy of the Obama administration tends to make Blake look like a born-again Ugly American. Like all Ugly Americans Blake and Butenis have shown early signs of their mental blocks that limit their capacity to read and interpret the signs staring in their face. These functionaries and emissaries fly in overloaded with their political agenda that ignore the ground realities of the host country. When they take up their posting they believe that, as heavy weights in the international arena, they can impose their will, often going against the flow in the mainstream. But in the new world where the global axis is tilting heavily towards the East America must smarten up to get the balance right.

Unfortunately, they have a history of backing the vested interests of opportunistic and over-ambitious minority groups (be it class, religious, ethnic etc) dismissing the legitimate claims and aspirations flowing in the mainstream. For instance, they backed Catholic Ngoh Dinh Diem at the height of the Vietnam War and in the end CIA had to stage a coup to get rid of their own puppet. It was stupid to back a Catholic in a predominantly Buddhist country. It was a strategy doomed to fail. The failure of American egg-heads to pick the right person in the right place has been one of the primary causes for half the problems of global crises.

In whatever guise they come, American intelligence would be aware -- and so should Blake – that the representatives of the Tamil Transnational government, invited for further talks by Blake, are committed to the violence embedded in the Vadukoddai Resolution. So doesn’t this move of Blake amount to re-energizing, with his consent and advice, the Louis Farrakhans of Sri Lanka? How can America, the No.1 power, with high-powered think-tanks, get it wrong so many times in the north, south, west and east?

Perhaps, the answer is in the incisive comments of William Pfaff, the respected columnist of the International Herald Tribune. In an article titled, US lacks vision in Afghanistan campaign, (reproduced in The Australian – September 18, 2009) he wrote: “I feel no confidence in his (Joseph Biden, US Vice President) judgment, which seems entirely the conventional wisdom of the policy community and the newspaper editorial pages, with nothing original or questioning in it.” More tellingly, he concludes by saying: “”I think the American government now has become institutionally a war government, which finds its purpose in waging war against small and troublesome countries and peoples in the generalised pursuit of running the world for the world’s own good. In this effort, one war is pretty much like another, and every president, to be elected needs one.”

Coming from Pfaff this is a damning indictment of American foreign policy. Waging war against small and troublesome countries has been the standard policy of America even though it boasts of not being an imperialist nation. Blake has sent Ms. Butenis, another Asian hand, who has a rather notorious record of waging such wars in the SAARC region. This is another example not only of America’s incapacity to learn from its past mistakes but also a dogged refusal to learn from its failed history. If Blake decides to go further down this track he is bound to leave a legacy far worse than what he inherited when he assumed office. SAARC region is the one regional bloc that has not got its act together. Blake has the opportunity to make it better by putting it together. But to achieve this he has to think again and consider whether his role is to send reports to the Congress against members of SAARC or add, as side dishes, thosais and vadais to his tea when he meets the Tamil Farrakhans next time in Washington.
-Sri Lanka Guardian

1 comment

Ram Muni said...

Blake claim that "that he had energised the Tamil Tiger terrorist proxies in his country" does not surprise me. This is basically the way they operate in every country where they have an "interest". If they can't find a Karzai to run a country for their benefit, they will look for a Saddam Hussein among the minorities, of whatever category. Examples the world over are so common, yet they are still revered by the ignorant masses.

In countries like the UK there is always a Tonto to carry out their bidding.

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