The ugly Americans once more
Posted on September 15th, 2010

Off my chestƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  by Andare-Courtesy The IslandƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

How very considerate of Washington to warn the Sri Lankan people-and indeed the world-that the recent constitutional changes called the 18th Amendment was a danger to democracy.

As this newspaper rightly pointed out editorially the constitutional amendment provoked intense controversy among legal and academic circles and in what might be loosely called among “thinking people.”

That is as it should be in a functioning democracy. Dissent and the right to express a dissenting view are at the heart of democracy. Those who followed the debate-short but sharp perhaps due to inordinate haste in which the amendments were put to parliament- would have noted that the media in general were critical of the governmentƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s action.

The Sunday newspapers, particularly the English language media save the Lake House and quite understandably so, were quite incisive in their criticism of the amendments as were sections of academia and the unofficial bar whose comments the media carried. Hardly a sign of a cowed press as some try to make out.

Nobody invited the Americans to stick their oar into the troubled waters. Nor should they have done. But then they are Americans arenƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t they? They believe they are GodƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s chosen people and have the Divine Right to police the world and pass judgment on every act of every nation.

Since we cannot ask God let us ask Obama. What right is it of yours to decide whether what Sri LankaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s duly elected government does must have your stamp of approval?

Some nondescript spokesman of the State Department pronounces that Sri LankaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s constitutional changes remove the checks and balances that had been built into the law to safeguard democracy or some such argument.

It may be true, it may not. That is not the relevant issue here. What is relevant is that it is none of WashingtonƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s business to tell Sri Lanka what constitutional or any other changes it can and should bring in its own polity. We donƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t go about telling what America should do though we could have pointed to the thousands of people of New Orleans who have still to be housed and their livelihoods restored after the devastation of hurricane Katrina, among so many other things. And that after more than five years after the event!

The constitutional issue is entirely a matter for the people of Sri Lanka. What is even more irksome, to put it conservatively, is WashingtonƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s public portrayal of itself as the global defender of democracy. WashingtonƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s criticism of the constitutional change is that it diminishes democracy.

If that observation is to show the world that there is no greater power on earth that stands by the democratic ideal as the United States of America it must be the most hollow boast uttered in this century, not to speak of the past 100 years.

The Island editorial cited above pointed out that in its more recent history the US has supported and propped up some of the most dictatorial and repressive regimes to inhabit this planet.

I wish the spokesman of the State Department( a department headed by Hillary Clinton, whose hypocritical stances are an embarrassment) would explain how WashingtonƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s concern for democracy in Sri Lanka squares with US support for repressive regimes such as the one in Uzbekistan or the autocratic rule in Saudi Arabia, both countries in which the US has military facilities.

In post-World War 11 period, Washington has militarily propped up such dictators including several in South Korea, Ferdinand Marcos who was ousted by the Filipino people, IndonesiaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s Suharto also thrown out by the people, VietnamƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s Dinh Diem, various military governments in Thailand, SingaporeƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s autocrat Lee Kwan Yew, the military dictators in Pakistan from Ayub Khan to Pervez Musharraf, all of them from our part of the world as it were.

There are much more that can be added to the list if we would only step beyond South Asia and move to the Middle East as it is called in the West, to Africa and beyond to the US backyard in central and south America.

It might be recalled that Washington not only supported and kept alive, militarily, financially and diplomatic several dictatorial regimes between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, but it also ousted those that stood against US hegemony.

So it was not just that the US supported unpalatable repressive regimes but ousted by machinations not excluding assassination, democratically-elected governments that were seen as unpalatable in the eyes of Washington.

With a history as ugly as that of AmericaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s post-war years, it surely takes gallons of gall to announce to the world that it is concerned about the diminution of Sri LankaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s democracy.

Had other nationƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s adopted WashingtonƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s attitude of poking their noses into US actions then there would be announcements virtually every day about what happens in Iraq, in Afghanistan, about the extraordinary rendition that allows the US to arbitrarily arrest terrorism suspects and transport them to countries where they are likely to be tortured thus circumventing the American judicial process and a host of other actions that undermine more than democracy.

These actions undermine the very foundations of Human Rights law by holding persons in captivity without trial and torturing them in various prisons and centres of incarceration.

The post-9/11 Patriot Act makes it legal for US officials to act against people anywhere in the world killing them if need be. Way back in January 2002 the Washington Post exposed a CIA plan promoted by its then director George Tenet titled “Worldwide Attack Matrix” which outlined a “clandestine anti-terror campaign in 80 countries around the world.” This would have given the CIA the “broadest and most lethal authority in its history.”

A country that mandates its people to go around the world killing others they suspect, incite terror by terrorist acts, destabilizes democratically elected government and props up dictators because they serve US interests are not concerned with democracy.

If they say they are, they are lying hypocrites.

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