24 June, 2024


As Julie Chung Morphs Into Elizabeth K Horst…

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Ambassadorial aspirants hardly break a sweat when drafting submissions to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, not even in pre-ChatGPT days. They’ve been in the business of US diplomacy long enough to know what ‘US Foreign Policy’ is. They know what the listers want to hear. They have templates to choose from. And therefore the opening statement made on May 9, 2024 to the Committee by Elizabeth K Horst, nominee to be the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, is more or less par for the course. A parenthesis is called for here.

[US foreign policy, broadly, is about (ab)using economic and military power to coerce governments to bed and twist to ensure that US strategic and economic interests are obtained. The US has, does and will leverage the very same power to enact global rules to serve these purposes. US rhetoric about democracy and human rights is hogwash. What Noam Chomsky wrote in 1992, ‘What Uncle Sam really wants,’ is a quick, easy and edifying read for those who want the details.]

So. Elizabeth’s foreign-speak is hardly any different from the testimony of her predecessor-to-be Julie Chung submitted to the same committee on October 20, 2021. It is a tad different from the submissions of Aliana B Teplitz, Atul Keshap and Michele J Sison but the variance was essentially over time-specific issues.

Elizabeth is as laughable as Julie. Both are adept at tossing out platitudes. Both have trotted out notions such as justice, accountability and reconciliation. Julie spoke about ‘unimagined violence and continued ethnic and religious divisions,’ betrayed a scandalous imagination-deficit. Elizabeth is as ignorant of the notion ‘charity begins at home,’ when she talks of ‘marginalised populations.’ Both are citizens of and represent a country which consistently re-writes definitions of such things or ignores them altogether.

Today it is about Israel not having crossed some “US redline” clearly amenable to arbitrary movement, geographically and metaphorically, with regard to attacks on Rafah. White House spokesman John Kirby says, ‘The US does not believe Israel has launched a full-scale invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza.’ So, an invasion of a lesser scale is sanctioned by implication.

Kirby adds that the US ‘[does not] support,’ and ‘won’t support a major ground operation in Rafah.’ Operations are not limited to the ground, of course and we’ve seen a lot of that.

The bottom line, drawing from Elizabeth’s laughable talk of ‘marginalised populations,’ is that the USA, throughout its history, has not only marginalised populations, but have decimated them as well. In the case of Palestinians, the US has been pretty consistent in supporting genocide; yes, long before President Biden earned himself the sobriquet ‘Genocide Joe.’

Elizabeth claims she will reiterate commitment to ‘the rules-based rules-based international order.’ What rules, though? Those of the International Criminal Court (ICC) perhaps? Well, not too long ago, the then White House National Security Advisor John Bolton threatened judges of the ICC if it moved to charge any American who served in Afghanistan with war crimes. In order words, the USA was demanding impunity, much like its client-state, Britain, which self-legislated immunity from ‘vexatious’ prosecution for war crimes with the would-be defendant deciding on what would be irksome. So much for accountability, truth, transparency and justice! Hence, the giggles over the funnies crafted by Julie and Elizabeth.

How about WTO rules? Well, in what was then a pretty much unipolar world, the USA with the support of not-so-strange ideological bedfellows or by cajoling or arm-twisting others replaced the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1994 supposedly to usher in an ear sans subsidies or protectionism of any kind. Today, no nation on the planet has shown the kind of protectionism demonstrated by the USA. As for subsidies, Washington has never stopped buttressing its agriculture sector and of course the arms industry, creating or fuelling conflicts all over the world and even making its own citizens cough up bucks so that the arms manufacturers reap in mega profits. Yeah, Ukraine comes to mind.

What’s all this got to do with the likes of Julie and Elizabeth? China. Simple.

Julie alluded to Sri Lank’s strategic location, flagged global maritime lanes and trading routes and slipped in the key. US strategic concern: the Indo-Pacific architecture which, she vowed, she would do her best to keep ‘free and open.’ Free and open are lovely words but are not even distant relatives of deed. Where monopoly is possible, the USA never budged, but when that’s not possible, Washington talks of equal access.

When the Committee questioned Elizabeth on the possibility of urging Sri Lanka to maintain a moratorium on Chinese research vessels entering Sri Lankan waters, it is reported that she said she will discuss the moratorium issue but also ensure fair and equal access to ships from the US.

Interesting. Pushing for a moratorium means the USA does not want any Chinese research vessels in Sri Lankan waters. Equality is a word that then would be applicable to both access and its denial. In other words, Elizabeth, if she wrangles a continued moratorium would desist from any US involvement in Sri Lanka, not in the seas and not on land. No purchasing of ‘civil society’ via ‘educational programs,’ no indoctrination, no CIA/NED operations, covert or otherwise, nothing that could even vaguely be construed as ‘research.’ But, as mentioned, talk is cheap and words are for convenient manipulation of meaning, for Elizabeth, like Julie, is also planning to work with non-state actors. More ‘rules’ in the US version of a rules-based international order, one is prompted to ask? We will return to this presently.

She speaks of ‘collaborative maritime security,’ and ‘stability throughout the Indian Ocean,’ as though she envisages some kind of equal partnership between the USA and Sri Lanka, but that’s all nonsense, need to even say?

Bill Haggerty, Senator for Tennessee, is reported to have raised alarm over China’s use of debt-trap diplomacy and highlighted Sri Lanka’s leasing of both the Hambantota and Colombo ports which provided China with a “strategic foothold” in the region.’ Now aren’t strategic-footholds what US foreign policy is all about? Sauce for the goose and the gander, so to speak. As for debt-trap diplomacy, that’s an old trick — the USA employs it through the Bretton Woods institutions, China is upfront (if one were to buy the Chinese Debt-Trap story).

More specifically, Haggerty had noted Sri Lanka’s ‘opposition to “a renegotiation of a status of force agreement (SOFA) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact”.’ SOFAs, Elizabeth probably knows, are multilateral or bilateral agreements that establish the framework under which U.S. military personnel operate in a foreign country and how domestic laws of the foreign jurisdiction are waived with respect to U.S. personnel in that country.’ So a SOFA with Sri Lanka is essentially an inking of a ‘strategic foothold.’

What does Elizabeth say? She opines, ‘I think we can go a long way at doing more public diplomacy and engaging with all stakeholders on the ground beyond the government. With civil society, with journalists, and with those who feel affected by such projects and the future.’ But wait, if ‘equality’ is what is sought, would she applaud the idea of a Chinese SOFA?

A busybody she unabashedly is and one who doesn’t give a hoot about crossing all red lines pertaining to diplomatic protocols. In short, she is saying, ‘I will interfere, I will prod, I will poke, I will purchase, I will do what it takes to turn footprints into footholds to kick-ass as and when necessary.’

So when she talks of maritime security or about stability throughout the Indian Ocean, she’s talking of US security interests in and US control of the region. Nothing about free-and-equal in any of that.

Why do US officials, in Washington and representing Washington, so easily trip when they speak? Why do they contradict themselves? Why do they toss out lofty ideals only to defecate on the same when questioned on specifics? Why has almost everything that comes out of Washington, even such a trivial matter such as confirming the appointment of a nominee to a diplomatic posting, end up being about China?

In a word, fear. China owns close to a trillion US dollars or 9.95% of foreign-owned US debt. China, according to Washington’s own narrative, has taken over the African continent. No jack-boot diplomacy there. No guns in booty out, as has been the way of the USA and her allies in Europe for centuries. Fear, perhaps, but envy too, one must wonder.

That however does not explain contradictions and incoherence, and we’ve seen shiploads of it in recent times, haven’t we? What’s come out of Washington with regard to the war in Ukraine, the genocide taking place in Gaza and of course rhetoric and legislation with regard to that linguistically flawed term ‘anti-Semitism’ has been unbelievably sophomoric. The response to events and statements have been vague at best but more typically indicative of a cornered pickpocket, frothing at the mouth and muttering incongruities. Something is said but without the realisation that the statement is full of holes and that the arguments can be thrown back to call out positions taken, things done and said in similar situations.

The US is showing all the signs of an entity that has lorded over one and all and gotten away with murder for so long that when things go wrong it is simply and utterly incomprehensible. The world is no longer unipolar. De-dollarisation is no longer an improbable country in some other universe; it’s birthing as we speak. European unity is no longer a given and neither is its status as partner or rather adjunct of the USA. Emmanuel Macron, for example, stung by reversals in Africa is strutting around in New Caledonia, perhaps to purchase some ‘feel-goodness’ having found himself in drastically reduced circumstances.

And we have the likes of Elizabeth Horst unable to sum up enough diplospeak to sound half-way coherent. Julie Chung was all strut and her excellent public relations couldn’t really hide her viceroy-like operations. We have yet to see Elizabeth Horst’s public persona. Frills aside, it would be optimistic to expect her to be any different.

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Latest comments

  • 3

    It has to be Malinda! USA is made of two very simple ingredients- Hubris & Hypocrisy.

    • 11

      Malinda is also made of the same ingredients – Hubris & Hypocrisy.

      • 2

        Can’t see them in this article…

        • 7

          That is because there is something wrong with your computer, I mean the natural one.

          • 1

            I can guarantee that its better than yours…

        • 4

          Who is your Optometrists? Send me that ones phone number, I explain to him or her your exact problem and can have it fixed.

          • 0


            • 2

              “Really “
              Are you using Sadampi’s intellectual property?
              Did you pay his royalty direct or through a hush money lawyer? If you use Western Lawyers (like UK’s, US’s…), they are Thoppypiraddy- traitors, will pledge your prison term to the state to redeem their prison terms, unlike If you use a Langkang lawyer, they don’t pledge their clients’ prison term for their prison term; for a political lawyer from the impunity island Langkang, prison is only mirage, but the money payments are Real.
              G. G. Ponnampalam was ill treated by CJ Sansony once. His pride of hitting English judges with his English was insulted. Hr referred it as “the horses are gone; we are still stuck with the mules”. The Old Royals are gone, but Old Royals advocate Malinda still treasures Gothapayal’s present, laptop, on which he played a lot and enjoyed a lot, so we are suffering by his trite.

  • 2

    It’s just neocolonialism as usual.

  • 7

    I didn’t see long in this web after getting a laptop from Rajapaksas. Yes he can say lot about USA and its violation but how can he justify the robbery of Sri lankans money which took the country back into the hands of USA. Srimavo gave it to USA in 1978, Ranil gave it to China in 2005 and Rajapaksa gave it China in 2019 and Rajapaksa gave it back to USA in 2022.

    • 2

      Mountain doesn’t go to Malinda; Malinda do come to Mountain when the story is about freedom of opinion. If he wants a laptop and Sinhala Essay writing prizes, he is with Royals. Else he too come to witness truth to laymen sites. In none of the lines, he has crossed the IMF loan. Still the fed and brought up ram butted on the chest to kill the owner.

    • 2

      Srimavo 1978?
      Ranil 2005?
      Are you awake?

  • 2

    This is a great useless article. This space should have been used for an article on the historic and unprecedented move by three European countries; Spain, Norway and Ireland, officially recognising a Palestinian State.
    The arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against the Israeli Prime Minister was remarkable and an epoch-making recognition for an Independent Palestinian State. Then, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued a ruling for Israel to immediately halt the Rafah genocidal military operation.
    There is another historic ICJ verdict awaiting on the “legality” of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories. South African President Cyril Ramphosa’s name and the name of his political party ANC will be written in gold in world history for standing by Palestine to end the occupation of the Israeli apartheid regime. He made the impossible possible, even risking conspiracies to oust him at the election. South Africa is blessed with abundance of natural resources. I wish President Cyril Ramphosa and the ANC another term, presumably under a coalition government with the EFF.
    In the meantime, the US President Mr. Joe Biden has presented a draft of a peace formula to end Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza.

  • 5

    And Malinda morphs into ………. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe …………….

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