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Power on Mangala: A speech full of political bias, hypocrisy and flattery

Samantha Power, like all other US neo-cons and as she has been doing right throughout her carrier, takes great pains during her speech at the BMICH to portray her country and herself as selfless and indomitable promoters and protectors of democracy, justice and human rights not only in their lands but also all over the world.
by Mohan Samaranayake

Samantha Power, the US Envoy to the UN from 2013 to 2017 during the Obama administration delivered the keynote speech at the BMICH on 28 February at the event to mark the completion of thirty years in politics by Minister Mangala Samaraweera or the Khema’s Boy. Samantha Power, the 48 years old Irish born American academic, author and political critic is a member of the Democratic Party. She started her carrier as a war correspondent covering Yugoslavia during nineties, a country ravaged by externally supported internal wars and sustained air assault by the US led NATO under the pretext of ‘humanitarian intervention’ that finally led to the cession of Kosovo from Serbia.

She is a professor at the Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and has held few powerful positions such as member of the National Security Council, under Barak Obama’s presidency. The book "A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide" authored by Samantha Power in 2002 won the Pulitzer Prize in the following year. In the 600 page text she advocates vigorous US intervention in preventing genocide around the world hardly mentioning any of the genocides perpetrated and supported by the US itself in countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, Chile, and Argentina etc.

Samantha Power, the self-proclaimed crusader against genocide was awarded the 2016 Henry A. Kissinger Prize for her contribution toward promoting US domination over other nations. She happily accepted the award named after a man who was directly responsible for large scale mass killings in number of countries including Chile, Indo- China and Indonesia. It is no secret that Henry Kissinger was the brain behind the bloody ouster of Salvador Allende, the democratically elected President of Chile and installing the brutal dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in 1973 that massacred thousands of opponents and unarmed civilians. Power along with former US President Bill Clinton and Obama’s State Secretary Hillary Clinton has been a longtime advocate of ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) behind which the United States militarily intervened in Yugoslav civil wars and overthrew Muammar Gaddafi administration in Libya plunging that country into irreversible violence and anarchy.

Samantha Power made the keynote address felicitating Khema’s Boy at the BMICH in the presence of a distinguished audience. Two former Presidents- Chandrika and Mahinda who is also the current Leader of Opposition-, the incumbent and the Prime Minister were seen seated in the front row along with Minister Samaraweera. I have seen some comments in the social media praising the former US Ambassador for delivering such an inspiring speech. Prasad Kariyawasam, one of our senior diplomats remarked in a twitter message "Speech by Amb Prof Samantha Power was a profound juxtaposition of @MangalaK achievements with her excellent global vision for safeguarding democracies in this technological era ensuring human freedoms and dignity."

The Island carried the full speech in two parts on 5 and 6 March. After reading it very carefully I found no ‘excellent global vision for safeguarding democracies…ensuring human freedoms and dignity’ but yet another repetition of the same old and hackneyed Western narrative full of political bias, hypocrisy and flattery in this case. Here I will deal only with some interesting points.

At the very outset she explains how important Mangala Samaraweera is to her and her cause expounded in her prize winning book and other work. "Right now I am in the final weeks of finishing writing a new book….I won’t even leave my house to buy groceries. But if there is one person who could get me to travel 8,000 miles at the moment, it is Mangala. She goes on, "Mangala is one of the most remarkable people I encountered during my eight years serving in the US government. So I simply had to be part of this occasion." Anyone who goes through her speech can identify the reasons that make Mangala Samaraweera so important to the US establishment. They share the same ideology and the latter is ready to do what his mentor tells him to do.

Power believes that three themes run through Mangala’s life’s work. They are dignity, modernization and democracy. She repeats the word ‘dignity’ thrice. Mangala Samaraweera in his capacity as the first Foreign Minister of the yahapalana government visited Washington in February 2015. Then US Secretary of State, John Kerry on the occasion of his meeting with Sri Lanka’s new Foreign Minister on 12 February 2015 concluded his welcoming remarks with the line "….we’re going to talk today about President Sirisena’s thoughts about how to move Sri Lanka away from 30 years of war with the Tamils to a country that is inclusive and prosperous and peaceful". Mangala’s concern for dignity was such he didn’t bother to correct John Kerry by telling him that Sri Lanka’s 30 years war was not with the Tamils but with an armed separatist group which was once branded as the world’s most ruthless terrorist outfit by the State Department itself.

On an another occasion Minister Samaraweera displayed his deep sense of dignity when he played a leading role with the blessings of his Prime Minister in co-sponsoring the UNHRC Resolution 30/1 which accused Sri Lanka of war crimes committed in its fight against terrorism, based on hither to unsubstantiated evidence. Even after Lord Naseby of UK refuted war crimes allegations quoting war time dispatches from British High Commission in Colombo, Mangala’s dignity did not allow him to make use of that opportunity to clear the name of his country.

Samantha Power dwelling further on dignity says "I think of Beijing in June 1989 and a slight man in grey slacks and a white shirt carrying two shopping bags, who decided to confront one of the hundreds of tanks that mowing down student protesters in Tiananmen Square. This Chinese man seemingly on his way home, whom we have not seen since, standing before the turret of that tank, embodied the assertion of dignity. I think of December 2010 and a Tunisian fruit seller named Mohamed Bouazizi who was so worn down by the humiliation and corruption he endured every day that he decided to set himself on fire in protest, sparking uprisings that would cascade across Middle East and North Africa, becoming the Arab Spring."

Going by her record of being a clever apologist for US crimes than a bona fide human rights advocate it is not surprising that she doesn’t think of Michael Brown, the 18 year old unarmed Black youth with his hands raised up in surrender, who was shot dead by a US Police officer named Darren Wilson on 9 August 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Nor she thinks of the grand jury of nine Whites and two Black people that decided on 23 November 2014 not to bring any criminal charges against Officer Wilson. This has happened in the country where there is said to be unmitigated rule of law. She also does not think of her own country, the United States that scuttled Arab Spring by intervening to prop up its favorite monarchies in the region and to topple governments in Libya and Syria that are not in its favour.

Power makes another false assertion when she says "As Foreign Minister he (Mangala) spearheaded the creation of the Office of Missing Persons, which is now finally operational." True Mangala played a leading role in this exercise. But the fact is that OMP was created on the directive of UNHRC Resolution 30/1, co-sponsored by the US and the yahapalana regime of Sri Lanka.

Referring to the political crisis that emerged in the aftermath of October 26 last year Power says in the presence of President Sirisena and Mahinda Rajapaksa who was appointed Prime Minister that day, "Here in Sri Lanka, during the constitutional crisis, your citizens made themselves heard, with many of them speaking not for parties or personalities but in defense of your hard-earned democracy. Your streets were home to first-ever spontaneous, popular protests not initiated by a particular party..." This assertion is nothing but a blind repetition of the UNP invented narrative on events during that period. Power needs to tell us what kind of democracy we have here in Sri Lanka. A democracy that postpones elections indefinitely on numerous pretexts? She must have forgotten that ‘hard- earned democracy’ was funded by the US and other Western powers to the tune of many millions of US dollars. True, the way Prime Minister Wickremesinghe was removed from office left a bad taste in many a mouth. But there were large number of supporters for both sides. The protests were not spontaneous. They were organized by the UNP and its supportive groups. If our streets were home to popular and spotaneous protests then the question is why those people didn’t vote for UNP at the Local Government Elections held in February 2018?

Samantha Power, like all other US neo-cons and as she has been doing right throughout her carrier, takes great pains during her speech at the BMICH to portray her country and herself as selfless and indomitable promoters and protectors of democracy, justice and human rights not only in their lands but also all over the world. The problem with Power all along has been her consistent refusal to acknowledge the fact that the US is in reality the world leader in war crimes commission and active facilitator of genocide. Power in her book ‘A Problem from Hell’ finds fault with the US government for not doing enough to prevent the genocide in Rwanda in which an estimated 8oo,ooo to 1 million Hutus and Tutsis-men, women and children- were shot and hacked to death just in five months from April to August 1994. But the irrefutable fact is that Paul Kagame, the leader of Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and the master perpetrator of that genocide was supported by the US and its allies from the beginning. Kagame who later became the President of Rwanda is still in the good company of the US led Western alliance and the UN.

As can vividly be seen in Power’s entire discourse including the speech delivered at the BMICH what is absent is any discussion about how the actions of the US, and even of Power herself, has undermine the welfare of people in other countries. For example in addition to her role in pushing for the disastrous intervention in Libya, Power has also been active in giving diplomatic cover to the US backed Saudi slaughter in Yemen where to this day 10,000 civilians have been killed and 14 million civilians are on the brink of starvation. However Power has done an impressive job in advancing the myth that the world would be better off if only the US intervenes both militarily and in other means throughout the world. She believes in her own lies about the global role of the US, and even herself, and has displayed a remarkable ability in convincing the public that these lies are truth. Sri Lanka’s tragedy is that we got a government and an elite who treat this myth as gospel.

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