2ND LEAD (Adds additional quotes)
Obama: Sri Lanka afflicted with "problem of the other"
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 08 January 2008, 01:02 GMT]
Characterizing the conflict in Sri Lanka as a "vicious civil war," Senator Barack Obama, a leading Democratic contender in America's forth coming 2008 Presidential Elections, said during an interview that, "the problem of the 21st century is the problem of the other." He described this phenomenon as the inability of people to accommodate others "who are not like us," and mentioned Sri Lanka as an example, pointing out that war rages even when "everybody there looks exactly the same."
Characterization of conflicts in the 21st century this way, Obama said, is an extention to the American Civil Rights era activist W.E. Dubois' quote "The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line."
This problem of “the other” afflicted places like Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland and the issue of race within the United States, he said.
President Barack Obama
Obama also criticized the Bush administration's "war on terror" as the cause for suppressing civil liberties, saying: "[P]art of my job as next president is to break the fever of fear that has been exploited by this administration. We are told to be afraid of terrorists, immigrants, and each other. This becomes the means by which our civil liberties are subverted, [and] our values are distorted," implying policy changes are in order.
He promised a break from the Bush-Cheney diplomacy: “a willingness to speak to our adversaries," and cited President Kennedy, saying “we should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate.”
“The notion that not talking with leaders we don’t like makes us look tough is fundamentally flawed. It makes us look arrogant and sends a message to the world that we are not listening.”
He said that if he becomes President, he would lead diplomacy with Iran, even though Tehran was a “grave threat” because the acquisition of nuclear weapons could spark another arms race and Iran had assisted terrorist activities by Hezbollah and Hamas.
This does not mean conceding any positions to Iran, but listening to Iran to see where the US could “find common ground,” he added. He criticized the Bush administration, saying it had “repeatedly rebuffed gestures [from Iran] that might allow for some resolution of these conflicts in a non-military way.”
He said the detention facility in Guantanamo should be “closed down,” rendition should be ended, Habeas Corpus restored and end warrantless wiretaps.
Senator Hillary Clinton, the other leading candidate in the Democratic Presidential Primaries, had earlier urged a more nuanced approach to armed non-state actors, and identified Tamil Tigers as one of the groups deserving such consideration.