30 June, 2022


No Debate On Why Guantanamo Remains And What This Signals To More Repressive Regimes

By Sanjana Hattotuwa –

Sanjana Hattotuwa

In 2008, your columnist was in New York for Super Tuesday as well as the day Obama won the election. On Super Tuesday, Obama was still a candidate, battling the Clintons and others within his own party to secure his candidature. Later that year, when CNN called the election just after 11pm, there wasn’t a single person in Times Square (and there were thousands) your columnist encountered who didn’t have tears in their eyes, dancing around wildly and shouting themselves hoarse. Four years hence, the US feels a very different country and context. President Obama would bore his 2008 avatar to death – there’s occasionally the same smile, but no verve, no drive, no energising mantra that captivated so many just four years ago, and incredibly, no power to stymie the popularity of an opponent who represents for all his sartorial elegance, the worst of America. But it’s not just Romney – the entire system is corrupt, and this is a country in serious political decay.

Take the debates and specifically, the final debate, ostensibly on US Foreign Policy. No mention of Europe, India or climate change. There was just passing mention of cyber-security. There was no interrogation of Obama’s record on drone attacks and resulting collateral deaths, numbering cumulatively in the hundreds. There was no debate on why Guantanamo remains open, and what this signals to more repressive regimes around the world, Sri Lanka included. Nothing on human rights promotion, or engaging with the contested futures of MENA countries, post-revolution or civil war, beyond inane, simplistic soundbites on Iran’s nuclear capabilities and consternation about Egypt’s new government. Candidates tried to out do each other in professing their deep love for and loyalty to Israel. For long periods of the debate, both candidates concentrated on US internal policies more than its foreign policy in any shape or form. A Twitter account based on a single phrase – Horses and Bayonets – created during the third debate had just under an hour over 33,000 followers, an indication of how remarkably shallow US political discourse is, where reductio ad absurdum of expression and the ideational is somehow celebrated as the new normal.

In the famed sci-fi flick ‘The Matrix’, humans in a distant post-apocalyptic future have become mere sources of energy, fed and kept alive for a single purpose – to power a neural simulation that keeps them virtually content in actual physical bondage. Mainstream US politics today disturbingly mirrors this dystopic vision. It is unbelievably mind numbing in its banality, extremely insular and panders to voters who don’t want to or are unable to hold their leading candidates to account. Voters are (willing?) hostages to a degenerate political architecture so corrupt and unfair, Sri Lanka’s own electoral challenges pale into insignificance.  Take the so-called Super PACS, which have come into play for the first time. They didn’t feature at all in the Presidential debates, precisely because both leading candidates are so reliant on this heinous campaign financing. The WSJ reported a few days ago that the total cost of the election is close to 2 Billion dollars. USAID’s entire programme budget for 2011 was a tad over 11 billion dollars. In fact, the elections will cost more than its total commitment to Peace and Security related programming for 2011, which was under a billion dollars. Google’s informative web based Campaign Explorer flags at the time of writing over 280 million dollars of ad spending for the Democrats and around 131 million for the Republicans. In comparison, over the course 2011, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) – which responds to humanitarian crises and disasters around the world – got just over 278 million dollars for all its operations. Where is the accounting for this spending, and how democratic a leader can any President be when elected on this foundation?

There is an apocryphal adage that Presidential elections in the US are the most undemocratic in the world, no matter how well they are conducted within the US, because it impacts all of us, and we don’t even have a vote. Obama is enervated, and in 2012, essentially dishonest. Seen charitably, he is his own victim, unable in office to live up to the expectations he engendered amongst so many within and outside the US when aspiring to it. That Romney remains so popular is a humbling indicator of how inward looking, simplistic and dishonest mainstream politics are today in the US. But beyond telegenic individuals, a country that supports our own electoral reform and transparency in governance needs to gaze inwards, at its own rotting political architecture. The abject poverty of ideas and innovation and the silence over moral leadership tells its own story. The most cursory glance strongly suggests all is not well in the US.

Courtesy Sajanana’s blog , the original title of this article is “Horses and bayonets”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0

    A surprisingly candid view from Sanjana. Fully Agreed

  • 0

    Resort is had to ridicule only cause reason is against you motherland.

    The second office in the government is honorable and easy; the first is but a splendid misery and no man will ever carry out of the Presidency the reputation which carried him into it.- Thomas Jefferson

    The ones who ate the sheep grew up on capitalism the new ideal and the virtue of selfishness so can you ask for a better foreign policy than discuss about home? No Never.

    Sri Lankas real big time problem is killing, maiming and making its own people vanish. “Beggars can not be choosers.”

    Any big bully, who feels confident that he can win the war, can start a war at any time.
    If euphemisms are clearly inappropriate, politicians merely declare that the war is morally just and necessary to straighten out morally inferior miscreants.
    When you come to the end of the rope just tie a knot and hang on!

  • 0

    I wonder how many election related violent incidents were reported to police stations around the USA in the run-up to the presidential elections?

    I wonder how many supporters of Romney were beaten up by Obama supporters and vice versa?

    I wonder how much state resources were used by Obama in his election campaign?

    I wonder how many free “Dansals” Obama organised for his supporters at the White House?

    I wonder how many election related deaths there will be by the end of the US presidential elections?

    I wonder if the winner of the US presidential elections will imprison his opponent on a trumped up charge?

    I wonder if the next president of the USA will bring in an amendment to the US constitution doing away with term limits to the presidency?

    I wonder if the next president of the USA will appoint close relatives as heads of key institutions of the country and appoint other relatives as ambassadors and other key diplomatic posts?

    I wonder if it’s time to do away with the flawed Democracy of the west and introduce our very own homegrown DemoCrazy to the world?

    I wonder if DemoCrazy, the simple form of governance where one family rules through nepotism, thuggery, murder, corruption, abductions and election jilmarts would one day capture the hearts and minds of millions of voters living in first world countries?

    …I just wonder. :)

    • 0

      Pres, wonderful wondering! I like to see your critics with their tails in between will have to say.

      • 0

        Duncy’s apologies for the US are identical to those Sinhalese nationalist apologists — “we are not as bad as x, y, or z”. Sanjana’s criticism must not be taken in relation to other less democratic nations such as SL, but in the context of the US position as the leader of the democratic world.

        The reason there is no debate in the US on Guantanamo, drone attacks, etc is the same reason there is no debate on war crimes by the SL public — both populations on the whole feel that these are necessary, and therefore forgivable, evils. It is the same reason that obama can stand there and say he takes full responsibility for the death of the US ambassador to Libya, but would never say he takes full responsibility for the deaths of Pakistani civilians attacked by US drones.

    • 0


      get a life , will you

      • 0

        Brian de Bois Guilbert – Je ne pas
        When so many lies have accumulated the truth lies not on the leaves of the tree but at its very roots
        Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law!
        america the land of opportunity;
        lanka the land of tears and misery- no rights to individual.

    • 0

      Well said Mr Bean. These things only happen under corrupt rulers in banana republics such as Sri Lanka.

  • 0

    We have our own little “Guantanamos” all over the dharmadwipa.
    They are called ‘police stations’ and ‘prisons’.
    Many citizens have died in them. Many have been raped.Many have been tortured.
    Many UN Rapporteurs have investigated and reported on them.
    There are mobile dispensers of ‘justice’ – sri lanka style.
    They are called ‘white vans’.
    These categories are yet to appear in USA.

    We have not yet had a fully FREE and FAIR election since independence.

    Why fault the USA which has only one Guantanamo and mainly free and fair elections, with no murders during the process?

  • 0

    Sanjana you have some valid points but remember that the poorest of the poor in the USA get about $700/Mo. and other food vouchers that help them unlike the poor in SriLanka that are malnourished while the Samurdhi money is stolen by the officials and the Rajapakse junta.Morally and ethically the USA can do much better.Srilanka is run like a fiefdom like the Middle east.Presidunce Bean has enumerated well the differences and I hope Sanjana you shine the light more in rural Srilanka where the villagers seem to have no clue as to use their vote appropiately.Anyway there will be no opposition in SL as long as the rajapakses have deep pockets of stolen and illgotten money to buy opposition politicians.

    • 0

      You have no idea what you are talking about man. You hate Sri Lankan leaders because they provided you a free education and free health care, If you were born in the US you would be eating garbage and sleeping on the street with shooting drugs with that $700. I have no idea where you get this crap. You have no idea about the life of the people who had to undergo Hurricane Katerina and they still languish in trailer camps. If you are sick and call far ambulance first thing they ask is whether you have a health insurance. So before you talk about learn a few things about the US. US is good if you rich, and if you are poor you live in hell in your daily life. It is people like you that prevent Sri Lanka becoming a developed country. You are a disgrace to your parents.

  • 0

    I was just wondering, if the US is such a hell for poor people, why don’t we find poor US citizens getting onto boats and trawlers and trying to escape maybe to Cuba? Or why don’t they just cross over to Canada?

    I was wondering…according to the World Health Organization, Cuba provides a doctor for every 170 residents, and has the second highest doctor-to-patient ratio in the world after Italy. With all this, we still find hundreds of Cubans getting on to boats and escaping to Miami (Little Cuba) in the USA. Why? On the other hand, in Sri Lanka which has been free of war for over 3 years and while recently, Lonely Planet named our country as the No.1 place to visit in 2013 we find thousands of ungrateful Tamils and Sinhalese paying hundreds of thousands of rupees to escape our utopian paradise by boat to Australia. Why?

    I have also been wondering for a few years now why some upper middle class and rich people in SL who seem to hate the US, England, Europe and Australia still go on holiday and send their children for higher studies to these very same countries that they hate? In recent times it has become in vogue to hate all Indians including the Indian cricket team…but parents still send their children to India (the country that they hate) for higher studies? How come these parents who hate the west, don’t go on holiday or send their children on higher studies to countries like China, Russia, Iran, North Korea,Zimbabwe, Sudan, Myanmar etc. that love us and vote in favour of us at the UN?

    With all it’s mistakes, the USA still has a rule of law, and is way way ahead of Sri Lanka in most ways. The US constitution is followed to a T. The Chief Justice is not impeached in the US by the Republican or Democrat party just because one of his rulings went against the party or president in power. US journalists who report unfavourably about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not killed or abducted in “White SUVs” :)For many many years now, presidential elections have been held every 4 years after the previous election in November on the first Tuesday after Monday of that month. In Sri Lanka, on the other hand elections are held on the day that astrologers say is favourable for the incumbent president.

    Sri Lanka is a beautiful country. Full stop. Everything else is messed up here. The country is run the way Al Capone and his mafia ran Chicago in the 1940s. I see no light at the end of the tunnel for SL in the near future. You should read the article written by Kumar David.


    Here is an excerpt from the article that is evocative of what Sri Lanka has become today.

    The cement that binds the UPFA and the Government Parliamentary Group is bribery. I do not mean that every Cabinet Minister and Deputy Minister is taking baksheesh from local and foreign companies, bribes from the public, favours in kind like women, or kickbacks from the drug trade, though more than we know of are likely on the take. What I do mean is that every Cabinet and Deputy Minister is on a gravy train at the expense of the public exchequer. The President retains power by bribing the Cabinet since a Cabinet post is essentially a bribe given to forty persons (or 80 if you count Deputies) as a retainer for their support. The President bribes Ministers using public funds and lets them run wild; they in turn allow the regime to get away with murder, metaphorically and literally. That’s why the Cabinet needs to be so large, that’s the deal, that’s the binding cement.

    Do not underestimate the benefits of Ministership. First come status and prestige – in our obsequious society a buffoon in national garb and an amathithuma title is held in demigod esteem that would embarrass a president of the United States. However, it is the perks that are corrosive and corrupting. I am referring not merely to state accommodation, cars, drivers, petrol and allowances, but to the numerous sycophants Ministers appoint. The number ranges from less than 20 in a small ministry to over 50 in a large one. Hangers-on are appointed as private, press, coordinating and all manner of secretaries, with salaries, petrol allowances and perks. It is having this small army of publicly paid slime-balls that makes the carrot of a Cabinet post really attractive. You may say Dead Left ministers, or GL, or maybe a few others are not on-the-take for bribes and kickbacks, but I say: “Ok that’s true, but they are all on the publicly funded gravy train that I have described”.

    • 0

      Shehan, when someone criticizes something, it is juvenile to point to something positive and say “yes, but we are better at this, so ignore the rest”. That’s what the GoSL does too. You hate the GoSL so much, but you are exactly like them. There are many good things about the US, and some bad things. Why are you so defensive when someone points out the bad things?

      Yes, American journalists are not white vanned, but Arab journalists are shot, Arab tv stations are bombed, and Scandinavian journalists are incarcerated on trumped up charges. Concentration camps are run, terrorist suspects are kidnapped, held without trial, tortured, and murdered. The number of people executed by the US state are comparable to undemocratic nations such as China and Saudi. All these things are legitimate criticisms and cannot be parried by saying “ooh, the US is better than SL”, anymore than SL can say “Oh, we’re better than the Tigers”. The US as the leader of the democratic world has to live up to that position.

      In your haste to froth and spew about SL, you are missing the point of the above article. As usual.

      • 0

        Shehan aka PresiDunce Bean has a juvenile mindset despite having educated at the College by the Sea. Obviously the guy only managed to scrape through his A/L s and probably studied graphics design.
        His lack of a proper tertiary education is obvious by his poor analytic skills when it comes to politics ,local or foreign
        Poor Shehan hates the country of birth possibly due to personal misfortunes suffered by him

  • 0

    Even though a drop of manure in a gallon of milk can spoil the whole thing, a drop of milk on a pile of manure does not have the opposite effect. Not that Obama is as clean as a drop of milk but I hope you get the drift.

    If Sanjana Hattotuwa or any other American thinks that electing Obama was all that was going to take to fix all evil in the USA, you are more naive than a 10 year old.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.