05 April 2015

Tom Malinowski needs to sleep

He prays for those who died, We pray he recovers from
selective blindness and memory-loss
The United States of America has a huge HR problem.  Actually it has two HR problems to deal with.  The first refers to its problematic fascination with ‘human rights’ issues all over the world even as the very eyes that scour the world and note rights abuses do not see Washington’s own violations and complicity in other violations. 

Then there’s another HR problem. Human resources.  Human resources capable of seeing, let’s add.  It is hard to tell whether one HR problem is a product of the other HR problem or if they are Siamese Twins sharing a single brain.  All we can do is flag the issue(s).  In a sense all it takes is to pick any comment on human rights uttered by any responsible (sic) US official to demonstrate how serious these problems are.  They are so serious and so evident that the entire world knows about them.  As such one could argue that it’s not even worth talking about.  Still, it is important to say what has to be said if only to keep Washington informed that the world is not blind and that few if any are buying the toilet wash it spews out. 

We’ve seen this often enough when Washington’s various mouthpieces comment on Sri Lanka.  The latest is a man called Tom Malinowski, US Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour.  The name of the Bureau is a joke in itself, but let’s ignore this.  Malinowski issued a statement while in Sri Lanka.  He claims that reconciliation opportunities that existed in 2009 were not seized.  This brilliant man concludes brilliantly, ‘Victory by one side of the battlefield brought an end to the fighting but did not heal the division.’  Then he compares and contrasts: ‘Sri Lanka experienced what America (sic) learned 150 years ago and many other countries have since, that you cannot really win a civil war’.

First of all, if America of the United States ever learnt anything 150 years ago, it quickly forgot its lessons.  Malinowski has even forgotten that the lessons were forgotten or else that what was learnt was studiously edited out of policy making processes thereafter, both in the USA and elsewhere.  How can Malinowski be upset that Sri Lanka has struggled for five years to achieve reconciliation when the racism remains a deeply rooted problem in the USA which flares out almost daily on US streets courtesy a largely white police force, just to cite one example?  

He’s talked of ‘competing narratives’ and the need to close gaps so people can read history from the same text.  Lovely words.  Even lovelier are these: ‘experience has shown that no society can move forward by burying the past’.  They don’t reflect Washington’s policy preferences of course, for burying things, past and present, is what the USA is about.  This does not mean that the contention is not valid of course. 

There are versions of what happened.  That’s natural.  There are also versions that are privileged by the USA.  Nothing ‘natural’ about that though since it’s all about preferred outcomes that serve US interests.  So when he acknowledges tensions between Sri Lanka and the international community he could have applied this version-logic to explain the relevant perception gaps.  He won’t do that because he is either too incompetent to grasp these simple things or chooses to shelve intelligence in favor of reading from prepared script.  The latter is the more likely.

It is hilarious that Malinowski thinks that the people have ‘taken a great leap already to reclaim traditions of democracy, tolerance and civil society’ when what we have is the replacement of one grotesque arrangement with an equally horrendous one, with the man chosen to lead the country by popular vote keeps silent while a man who lost several dozens of elections calling all the shots.  Indeed given the HR problem that the USA is plagued with then yes, this is ‘democratic’ and ought to be celebrated.  

Malinowski claims that the present Government has taken action to rebuild trust with the Sri Lankan people and that the US is ready to support efforts to establish just and lasting peace.  Let’s assume that the Government has made progress.  Let’s assume that the previous regime did nothing on this subject.  Both are debatable, but that’s ok.  What is extremely worrying and what makes one suspicious of things that this Government is doing is the latter part of Malinowski’s statement, i.e. the promise to ‘support’.  Even more foreboding is the emphatic pledge, ‘the US will do everything in its power to help Sri Lanka’. 

Is that like how Malinowski’s country helped and is helping Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, one wonders.   Malinowski will not understand given that he is a willing victim of structures which inflict myopia on US officials, but when a nation that thrives on war and thinks nothing of bombing other countries into the Middle Ages offers help, one has to worry; when they insist on helping, one has to run for cover. 

Tom Malinowski needs to sleep.  That way he can truly wake up.  There’s a problem though.  Washington officials (it seems) are inflicted with insomnia before they are recruited.  It’s a requirement, apparently.  An HR requirement, to be more precise.