Some weeks back I was sent, by a friend in England, a book entitled ‘The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the American Media’. It was by someone called Lila Rajiva, but doubtless that was not the only reason to assume it would interest me.

I took some time to start on the book but, once I did so, it had to be finished. Published in 2005, it is a graphic and convincing account of the manner in which the Americans ignored all moral restraint in the war against terrorism they were engaged in.

That part was convincing, and simply fleshed out what one knows anyway, that countries in pursuing their own interests will stop at nothing. What was more startling was the suggestion that the wholesale prevalence of this absolutist mindset also represented a takeover of the ruling political dispensation by a culture of chicanery that strikes at the heart of supposedly predominant American values.

At the core of this transformation is the corporate supremacy represented most obviously by Rumsfeld and Cheney, and the takeover of much supposedly military activity by private contractors and special agents, who move with seamless dexterity from one world to another. Exemplifying this, and indicative of what C S Lewis would have described as a Hideous Strength which finds its own partisans dispensable, is the strange story of Nicholas Berg, the shadowy contractor whose beheading served to deflect the story of torture at Abu Ghraib, and in some minds excuse the institutionalized torture that was taking place there.

The book should be essential reading for those concerned not just with human rights, but with human civilization, as I continue to hope Navanethem Pillay is. However I suspect that she is too much under the thumb of those who fund her office, which is why, though there are stabs at dealing with wider issues, the main thrusts of her criticisms are directed at those weaker than herself. I suppose it would be absurd to expect anything more, in a unipolar world, with the media so purposeful in destroying anything that might suggest an alternative narrative.

But my purpose here is not to engage in analysis of why and how America is destroying its own soul. That has happened to many other empires, and is nothing surprising. More thorough analysis of the part played in the phenomenon now by modern techniques of communication will be useful, if only to help with resisting the worst incursions of these modern crusaders, bearing not swords but secretive weapons of mass destruction. But in the end salvation will come only through understanding on the part of the American people of how they too are being exploited, to feed the greed of what Eisenhower described as a Military – Industrial Complex.

To blame the military for that would be a mistake. Lila Rajiva makes the point that Eisenhower and MacArthur had resisted the use of the atom bomb, and I was reminded of Dayan Jayatilleka’s response when I chided him for using the word militarization too loosely. In my experience the military was not responsible for many of the difficulties we face now in the North, and indeed better use of their undoubted capabilities would help us solve some problems.

His answer was that it was rarely the military that engaged in militarization, but rather civilians on the make took advantage of the general support for a successful military to advance their own agendas. Unfortunately the problem in Sri Lanka is that, whereas the American military is invincible, both militarily and also politically (ie, they will never be charged with War Crimes, and neither Navanethem Pillay nor Ban ki Moon will ever appoint committees to probe them), our military is not in the same position. While our civilians swan around then, without really caring whether their posturings are convincing or not, it is our army that is under attack, and that will suffer when our defences are finally down. The  fact that some of our best, and most civilized generals, are declared persona non grata by the Americans should make clear the writing that is on the wall.

Not entirely surprisingly, the most grata it seems to the Americans is former army commander Sarath Fonseka, who was at the heart of the most telling charge in the report prepared under the aegis of John Kerry in 2010, long before he was Secretary of State. Lila Rajiva incidentally claims that John Kerry has ‘admitted to committing war crimes in Vietnam, including shooting an unarmed civilian in the back’, which I am not sure I credit, since the evidence she cites includes a newspaper article of 2004, when he was running for President. Still, his experience in Vietnam must have taught him something of the unintended tragedies of war, which perhaps explains the generally objective nature of that 2010 report.

Unfortunately the Peace Secretariat had by then been closed, and though I urged an immediate reply, I was not in a position to deal with the allegations. Almost all could have been answered, from the report itself as well as the statistics I had collated at the Secretariat, but the job was given to a Committee that did nothing, calling me after six months had passed, and then declaring their work had been subsumed by the LLRC – which of course had no clear mandate to respond in detail to the Kerry Report.

All this came back to me when I saw the latest effusion by Frances Harrison, reviving the story of the White Flag Case. As I said then, it would have made sense simply to ask Sarath Fonseka to explain the statement Kerry attributed to him. But, in the welter of claiming that it was traitorous to take any allegations seriously, that chance was lost. The opportunity to clear our forces, doing what the Americans do, which is attributing any aberrations to rogue individuals, seems lost then for ever.

Daily News 11 March 2013 – http://www.dailynews.lk/2013/03/11/fea03.asp

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