Of War Crimes, Accountability, Economic Blackmail etc
Posted on July 23rd, 2011

Dr Bandula Kothalawala

According to an AFP report, a US congressional committee has voted to ban aid to Sri Lanka unless the nation shows “accountability” over the bloodshed in the final stages of its civil war in 2009.

Of late, strangely enough, US legislators have developed an incurable obsession with a newfangled concept – accountability. Even stranger still is the fact that the novel concept appears to apply only to the meek and the weak in the world. The impudent ringleader – Mr Howard Berman – has failed to give any clue as to why it does not apply to the US and its allies.

The vote blends in perfectly with the hypocritical stance of a bunch of sanctimonious Congressmen who never miss an opportunity to cast aspersions on Sri Lanka and other developing nations and indeed bears eloquent testimony to their unsavoury reputation as gendarmes on the international scene. The self-appointed vigilantes have been quick to make a song and a dance about their profound concern and compassion for civilian life, not least to deflect world attention from the heinous crimes committed by the USA and their allies. Perhaps, their undying concern for the sanctity of human life was best crystallised in the remark made by one of their most illustrious colleagues in the UN. On May 12, 1996, Madeleine Albright, US Ambassador to the UN claimed that the half a million Iraqi children said to have died due to sanctions was a price worth paying! (“I think the price is worth paying”, according to the transcripts of the programme [1].). One might get a tiny insight into the callous disregard and utter disdain with which the US Government treats civilian deaths in conflict. Moreover, in 2006, when the Lancet published the result of a serious study and estimated that some 655,000 people might have lost their lives as a consequence of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, both the US and British Governments simply rejected the figures and said that they had no information on civilian casualties. Mr Berman and people of his ilk who are crying foul over the war in Sri Lanka and ranting and raving about “violations of human rights and accountability” have yet to commit the Obama Administration to sign up to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court “”…”fact which speaks volumes for the commitment of the holiest of the holy to international humanitarian law and protection of civilian life in conflict.

In 2008, the Jane’s Intelligence Review estimated the annual income of the LTTE to be USD200m-300m, almost the entirety of which was raised in Western Europe, USA and Canada. These funds were used to finance a thirty-year bloody war which caused the death of some 100,000 people, a large number of whom were Tamils, and maimed many more for life. In addition, huge sums were spent to lobby politicians in London, Paris, Washington, Ottawa, and in other key capitals. The rump of the LTTE in western capitals continues to thrive on the gullibility and naivety of the unsuspecting public, corrupt politicians and the unscrupulous media. Today, those who failed to lift their little finger to curb fund-raising which, they knew very well, was used to massacre innocent people are hell-bent to stop aid to Sri Lanka for defeating the terror outfit, still described by the FBI as “the most dangerous and deadly extremists in the world” on its website (22 July 2011). I have no recollection of any Congressman or woman for that matter asking the American public not to give money to the LTTE after seeing the harrowing images of distraught, inconsolable Sri Lankan parents trying in vain to gather the bloody, or sometimes charred, bits and pieces of their loved children blown to smithereens by the outfit.

Curiously, Mr Berman and his colleagues have no issue with the accountability of the US and the UK which, according to the Report of the Dresden Historians’ Commission (2010), killed 25,000 people in air raids in 1945. Nor is their conscience stirred by the memories of the massacre of over 100,000 civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US. Not even the ghosts of the estimated 2m Vietnamese killed by the US seem to haunt them! The very real horrific images of innocent men, women and children slaughtered in cold blood in air raids by their European allies in Libya have no impact on their sensory perception and leave them indifferent. It is only the hotchpotch of rumours, innuendos, gossip, half-truths and freshly laundered lies concocted into a “documentary” about the final days of the war in Sri Lanka which seems to give the honourable Congressmen sleepless nights!

Of course, this is not the first time that the US stooped to economic blackmail against “recalcitrant nations” that refuse to toe the line. In 2009 in the wake of the victory by Sri Lankan armed forces, Mrs Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, declared that the US was opposed to the IMF loan to Sri Lanka, confirming the instructions given by the Obama Administration to its Executive Director to block IMF assistance. Indeed, the sordid practice has a long history. I still remember how, in 1961, Frances E Willis, US Ambassador in Colombo, threatened Mrs Sirima Bandaranaike, then Prime Minister, to suspend all aid to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) over the latter’s decision to nationalise US oil companies. Needless to say, Mrs Bandaranaike did not change her policies by an iota.

It should be noted that, contrary to the public perception, the US ranks low in the hierarchy of “international generosity” in terms of official development assistance and devoted [2]only of 0.21% of its Gross National Income (GNI) to ODA in 2009 compared to, for instance, the Netherlands whose share amounted to 0.82% of its GNI in the same year. In fact, a substantial proportion of ODA from the US goes to countries like Iraq and Afghanistan devastated by marauding US and allied forces. In 2009, Iraq and Afghanistan[3] received USD 2,549m and USD 2,544m respectively, which should, in reality, be regarded as war reparations rather than ODA.

I remember attending a meeting many years ago in London in which Mr Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, replied to a query on the suspension of aid to his country. Mr Zenawi (I hasten to say that I am no fan of his regime!) told the meeting that Ethiopia was a poor country, but it did not want any aid from any country that threatened to withdraw it as and when it fancied it. Ethiopia[4] remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Yet she was and is in no mood to barter away her dignity and sovereignty for a few million dollars. Sri Lanka is in a much better position.

Dr Bandula Kothalawala

London N7

[1] 60 Minutes, Interview with Lesley Rene Stahi, 1996

[2] OECD “”…”DAC statistics, 2009

[3] Op cit

[4] Ethiopia’s per capita GNI was only USD 33O in 2009. The share of ODA in her GNI was 13.4% in the same year. Comparable data for Sri Lanka were USD 1990 and 1.7% respectively for the same year.

One Response to “Of War Crimes, Accountability, Economic Blackmail etc”

  1. jay-ran Says:

    The entire West is angry with Sri Lankan Govt for not obeying to their advice to spare LTTE leaders so that they can keep the war going on for many many yrs untill such time SRI LANKA IS DIVIDED INTO TWO according to whims and fancies of Tamil Terrorists and Nordics, so that Nordics can start drilling for oil in Sri Lankan shores.
    But Sri Lanka is a country blessed with Buddhism preached by Lord Buddha and over 70% of Sri Lankans are Buddhists. Buddhist philosophy always directs its followers to practice,compassion to all,abstain from many wrong habbits and to show kindness to all irrespective of caste,class and religion. A remarkable example is after May 19, 2009, WHO SENT TONS AND TONS OF FOOD,GARMENTS ETC ETC to the IDPS??? ALL WERE SENT BY THE SINHALESE,MAJORITY OF WHOM WERE BUDDHISTS!!! None of the Tamil diaspora ever helped their own kith & kin living in North.
    So the West is angry that Sri Lanka is heading for a peaceful country after the demise of LTTE Terrorism.
    Another fact is that US Congressmen could be easily fooled-because after seeing ch 4 FAKED VIDEO CLIPS, they took it for granted as GOSPEL TRUTH NOT BEING ABLE TO IDENTIFY THE FAKED CLIPS.
    Sri Lanka will lead for prosperity under the RULE OF RAJAPAKSES!!! Its a fact.

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