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War crimes probe: Double standards exposed

Asia-Pacific, Middle East

War crimes probe: Double standards exposed

Muslims around the world observed Eid-ul-Fitr this week, the end of the month-long annual fast in rather sombre mood. Blood-letting sectarian strife has torn them apart in no less a place than West Asia, their citadel.

In Saudi Arabia, the holiest of holy places was not spared; nor were other Islamic nations – Iraq, Turkey and Bangladesh apart from the ongoing civil war in Syria. What crimes are so often committed in the name of religion? Or were they the machinations of spy agencies, the arms industry, the whole gamut of beings that profit from violent conflict?

Just this week, the New York Times published leaked reports, showing how Jordanian Intelligence officers tasked by the United States to arm anti-government militia in Syria had sold some of those weapons in the ‘black-market’. “When will they ever learn” was a popular anti-war song during the Vietnam War.

The entire West Asian region is in flames and the heat engulfs the world. Almost on cue with Eid festivities came a long awaited report – the Chilcot report; an inquiry into Britain’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003. The report took seven years to complete and was made public 13 years after the invasion led by the US and a motley group of nations called the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ (because so many were unwilling).

On the false pretext that Iraq had chemical and nuclear weapons, which the West called Weapons of Mass Destruction (which the US also has) and had to be therefore neutralized, they toppled the Iraqi Government and had Iraqi President Saddam Hussein judicially executed following a sham trial. The Chilcot report says the legality of the invasion was in question and it was “against the weight of world opinion”. On March 23, 2003 this is what we had to say in an editorial;

“Rivers of blood may flow from the Tigris, one of the cradles of ancient civilisation in ancient Mesopotamia (now Iraq) in what is being seen by many as a crusade by the Christian world against the Muslim world tempered only by the fact that more than half the Christian world and the Pope himself have condemned this unnecessary and unwarranted war.”

The then US and British leaders — President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair – have now been accused of “crimes against humanity” and are being called “war criminals” in their own countries. Indeed, it seems the boot is on the other foot. These were the two countries that campaigned so vigorously to enter a Resolution against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, calling for a war crimes tribunal to inquire into the manner in which the Sri Lankan Government militarily overcame a brutal terrorist organisation –the LTTE. It was Britain under Tony Blair that was instrumental in the whole of the EU supporting that Geneva Resolution against Sri Lanka.

The Chilcot report said that the Iraqi invasion was a political decision and the post invasion consequences were under-estimated. One can say that these same factors are relevant to Sri Lanka.

Today, it is open season for militant groups ranging from the Taliban to al Qaeda and the ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) to carve out their own patch in Iraq and Syria with the people split on sectarian lines and society deeply fractured. Last weekend the violence climaxed with a truck bomb killing nearly 300 innocent civilians in a crowded market in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad. The people are longing for the bad days of yesteryear; a telling indictment on what state the Western powers have left the country in.

Yet, these same countries continue to preach. When the UNHRC met last week to discuss the Geneva Resolution against Sri Lanka, the British Ambassador, whose country has militarily occupied swathes of territory in southern Iraq, told the Government of Sri Lanka that it should release more civilian lands occupied by the military (in the North of Sri Lanka) and to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act. This ‘holier than thou’ attitude is what has earned them the ire of the wider world.

Sri Lanka faced the scourge of terrorism for decades and knows its full import. At the UN this week, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador told the world community to break the current impasse surrounding the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, where it has deliberated since 2006 and only after the aftermath of the deadly terrorist attack on 9/11, 2001 in the US, that the UN strategised a Plan of Action to combat terrorism. The impasse is the failure by the nations of the world to come to any consensus on the definition of who is a “terrorist”.

The invasion of Iraq after that fateful 9/11 attack has changed the modern world. It has sown the seeds for a virulent, violent backlash from Islamic Jihadists who have mobilised and taken the fight back to Europe and the US.

Partially lifting the secrecy that has cloaked one of the US’s most contentious tactics for fighting terrorists, the US Administration under President Obama, Friday last week tacitly admitted that it does not know the exact number of deaths following drone attacks from the air in an open-ended war against terrorists in West Asia. These attacks may have succeeded in targeting terrorist leaders but the collateral damage caused in civilian deaths – the pain and suffering to many civilians in parts of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and even Libya, Yemen, Somalia etc., has been the nursery for new recruits to the Jihadist movement and driven the fight against the West to new heights. You reap what you sow is a Biblical saying and when you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind.

President Obama has seen the folly of US foreign and military policy and has tried to pull back on US involvement in theatres of conflict initiated by his predecessors. But he fights a lone battle. Within the US he’s been portrayed as a sissy by warmongering power blocs who criticise him for not taking the US’ role to police the world, far enough. Moreover, his days in office are numbered.

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