It would be amusing if it were not so serious, to see how the United States of America is justifying the unlawful violation of the sovereignty of another nation in the pursuit of its single-minded objective, and its use of force in the execution of an unarmed though sworn enemy.
The US has given four different versions in as many days as to what happened in this week's assassination of Osama bin Laden, the founder of the al Qaeda terrorist organisation and all of that confusion or contradiction is being passed off as the "fog of war". From its Commander-in-Chief to the Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, the US has justified bin Laden's murder on the grounds that he was a most wanted terrorist.
The US Assistant Secretary of State was clearly not in the loop on the Top Secret mission authorized by President Barack Obama to kill Osama bin Laden. Otherwise, he would surely have opted out of a visit to Sri Lanka where he had to answer questions on US diplomatic duplicity on handling terrorism; and how one can perform surgery without spilling blood.
That is probably why the US embassy in Colombo tried its best to keep out some newspapers, including the Sunday Times, from what is a routine news conference for a visiting dignitary of the Assistant Secretary's stature, and then hurriedly dispensed with question time to beat a hasty retreat from the embarrassing questioning. The global war on terror must be waged on a level playing field. Rules of engagement cannot be unequal or based on the economic or military might of nations. What is sauce for country X must be sauce for country Y.
According to an American academic author writing in 2005, in the past 25 years, the US has been involved in some forty (40) military actions in other countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, former Yugoslavia and regime changes in Grenada, Panama, Haiti, military assistance to rebel groups in Angola, El Salvador, Ncaragua, missile attacks in Libya, Lebanon, Yemen, Sudan etc., (R.. Peerenboom; 'Human Rights and the Rue of Law; what's the relationship?' - Georgetown Journal of International Law)
The US has violated the Geneva conventions on warfare with regard to prisoners-of-war in Afghanistan, and maintained gulag-like prisons (these are words of Amnesty International which are often thrown at Sri Lanka) to house them. There are no UN panels of experts studying if they have continuously violated international humanitarian law. Everything remains politicized, even the International Criminal Court (ICC) that selectively probes 'war crimes'. On Thursday, the ICC chief said in New York that it was contemplating war crimes charges against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his regime for killing civilians but nary a word about massacres taking place in pro-US countries like Bahrain and Yemen. When one 'draws back the curtain from the murky world of international dupli-macy', the whole system of 'war crimes' investigations is politicized and biased.
Even efforts to bring about a comprehensive anti-terrorism convention through the UN have been stalled for some time now largely because of international politics. The 'one man's terrorist is another's freedom-fighter' credo still applies, it seems. For instance, in Libya, the US and NATO have sided with those fighting Gaddafi - even though the rank and file of those fighters include al Qaeda members. It is a well known fact that Osama bin Laden himself was a creation of the Americans who at the time were backing his band of fighters against the Russians in Afghanistan.
The US President said that they had been monitoring the movements of Osama bin Laden near Islamabad since September last year, but there was no let-up in the drone attacks by its warplanes on purported al Qaeda targets in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Civilian deaths were dismissed as collateral damage. As recently as April 22, when the final decision to launch a strike on bin Laden was being taken, a US drone attack killed 25 people, mainly civilians. One can argue that they did not want to alert bin Laden with any slowing down of military operations, but that is not how the US sees things in the rest of the world where governments are hostile to it.
The US Assistant Secretary Robert Blake said in Colombo that the US had a "legitimate right" to kill Osama bin Laden the way it did, and it had no regrets over what it did. Then, he said that the LTTE leader V. Prabhakaran and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden were ruthless killers; but the comparison stops there. How the US conducts the war on terror with impunity is not subject to international scrutiny, while Sri Lanka's conduct is.
For Sri Lankan leaders, the killing of Osama bin Laden (even if does not mean the end of al Qaeda) has come as a godsend in its quest to ward off Western-inspired moves to hound them for alleged war crimes during this country's war against terror. The US is now in the spotlight for killing an unarmed combatant, his son and some associates, leave alone the hundreds of civilians in its bid to get him over nearly ten years since 9/11/2001.
Some fortune seems to smile on Sri Lanka when it needs it most. Only two years ago when some Pakistani terrorists arrived in Mumbai and wreaked havoc there, India howled against cross border terrorism which it had sponsored for years, including in Sri Lanka. India had little moral right to protest too much when the Sri Lankan military went on the offensive to liquidate the LTTE shortly thereafter. Likewise, now, the US is somewhat on the back-foot to sermonize on human rights in the face of terrorism. While the Pentagon takes centrestage in gloating over the success of the Osama Operation, the silence of the likes of the US Ambassador to the UN Susan Power, one of President Obama's frontline advocates on human rights responsibilities of other countries, and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, is deafening these days.
Very much like Rohana Wijeweera the former JVP leader, Osama bin Laden seems to have lived in a fairly comfortable home with the warmth of family around him while putting camp followers to the sword, and with them so many innocent people who bore the brunt of the crossfire in armed conflict. The LTTE leader may have died among his people in the battlefront, but his motives were to use them as human shields for himself, and he himself lived in a well-fortified underground bunker. These are the Pied Pipers -- they live by the sword and die by it, getting so many others killed in the process.
The future of al Qaeda and its mission to destroy Western civilization may well continue; it may want the 'Clash of Civilizations' and the Muslims vs. Christians wars to continue; but even before Osama bin Laden was killed its influence in the Islamic world seems to have waned. The 'Arab spring' that started in Tunisia and spread to Egypt, Libya and Syria has jettisoned al Qaeda's concept of the modern world. The people there want freedom, democracy human rights, and secularism. It is only the Americans that are stopping that democratization process from spreading to other countries in the region.