Friday 1 November 2013

Mock anger over Snowden expose (Pakistan Observer)

MD Nalapat
Friday, November 01, 2013 - It was not long ago that governments in Europe coordinated an illegal - by international law - effort at forcing down an aircraft carrying the Head of State of a South American country on his way home from Moscow. He was forced to disembark in Austria and spend hours in the terminal while sleuths from the country searched for Edward Snowden in the aircraft. Clearly, these governments, including those of France and Germany, had very little objection to the international dragnet put out for Snowden by the US and its allies, or for the gargantuan level of spying that he revealed. The world is composed of two parts, the “civilised” and the rest, and only the countries which fall within the NATO umbrella or are ethnically linked to the alliance (such as New Zealand and Australia) belong in the first category. Even Japan, which has tried so hard to be accepted as a part of the “civilised” world, fails the test. Hence the reason why Germany is included in the group of nations ( P5 plus 1) which deals with Iran, but not Japan.

Whether on this or on other issues, there is an effort by the NATO bloc to involve Germany in a way that they do not Japan, a country at least as important and as pro-US as that European tiger. Weeks from now, UK Prime Minister David Cameron will travel to Colombo, where he will be joined by other Commonwealth countries, including Australia but not Canada, whose Prime Minister has decided to stand with the remnants of the Tamil Tigers in his country after the collapse of their effort at creating a separate homeland out of Sri Lankan territory. Stephen Harper is thus far the only Commonwealth Head of Government to boycott the Colombo summit, a deed which is in line with the immense financial assistance that poured into the coffers of the LTTE from Canada during the decades of conflict in Sri Lanka.

Today, the Tamil community of Sri Lanka, easily among the most advanced and versatile of any human population group in the world, is represented not by LTTE Supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran, a devout Christian who led the Tamil Tigers to extinction in 2009. The community is represented by the dignified countenance of Chief Minister Vigneswaran, who was elected by a three-fourths majority in the only Tamil-majority province in Sri Lanka. The election, which was obviously free and fair, is the best reason why the Canadian Prime Minister is wrong in boycotting the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting simply because it is being held in Colombo, and why Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ought to be there as well, rather than send Vice-President Hamid Ansari. It is no secret that the Vice-Presidency is a decorative post with little substantive authority, hence the absence of the PM will be taken as a snub by the Mahinda Rajapaksa government in Colombo, with significant negative impact on public opinion in the island as well.

David Cameron’s army, navy and air force have been responsible for killing hundreds of innocent civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in just the 21st century. His closest ally, the United States, recently executed Osama bin Laden when the gentleman was resting at home with his wives. Thus far, David Cameron has not considered the deaths of so many civilians at the hands of coalition forces a “war crime”, nor does he view the targeted killing of Osama bin Laden as such a crime. However, he comes from the “civilised” world, where - James Bond style - killing is no crime, there being an 007 license for the purpose. Mahinda Rajapaksa comes from the other side of the divide, hence David Cameron finds him guilty for doing precisely what the UK PM has done, which is take action against those accepted as terrorists by international opinion.

Cameron is unlikely to dwell on the victims of US drone strikes in Pakistan or Afghanistan while he is in Colombo, even while he declaims about the deaths of civilians in 2009 in Sri Lanka, deaths caused by the fact that the LTTE used hundreds of thousands of innocents as human shields for their soldiers. And even as they listen to Cameron’s homilies, none of the other Commonwealth PMs are likely to bring up the uncomfortable fact that so many innocents have been killed by NATO in their failed wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Nor is any mention likely of the chaos that has descended on Libya and Syria because of the policies of the NATO powers, which have armed and empowered fanatic groups in both countries. Such criticism would not be “civilised”. But then, neithers Cameron’s effort to hold President Rajapaksa to standards that he regards as irrelevant for Barack Obama, Francois Hollande or for himself.

The “protest” by Angela Merkel and other EU leaders about spying by the US falls in the same category of double standards. As her participation in the forcing down of the Bolivian President’s aircraft showed, Chancellor Merkel was perfectly comfortable with shooting the messenger rather than protesting the spying revealed by Edward Snowden. The fact is that the snooping by the NSA is not for counter-terror operations or for national security, although such concerns do matter in a small percentage of the targets of the electronic interception. The NSA spies so as to (1) collect data about the leaders of the “uncivilised” world, information that can be used to blackmail them into obedience to the dictates of NATO and (2) in order to ferret out commercial secrets so that NATO-based companies can compare against their Asian or South American rivals.

The non-NATO segment of the globe needs to find a replacement for Google, Yahoo!, Hotmail and other internet sites that are now known to be collaborators for US intelligence, and the sooner this gets done, the better. It is not spying that Angela Merkel or Francois Hollande is angry about, it is the fact that even they - part of the “civilised” world - were subject to the same snooping as those from the “uncivilised” world. Fortunately for them, President Obama has assured these leaders that the US will no longer snoop on “civilised” Heads of Government. The rest, those outside NATO and its charmed circle of those with European ancestry, had better beware. Just as a civilian death caused by President Obama or Prime Minster Cameton is excusable while that caused by President Rajapaksa is not, spying on “The Other” is regarded as kosher in a way that spying on NATO allies is not .

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