Feature Article

Blake, architect of Tamil tragedy, spectator to genocide

[TamilNet, Friday, 22 February 2013, 22:22 GMT]
Blinded by the 9/11 terror and impelled by the perceived need for swift action against "terrorism," the US-led International Community, made two serious miscalculations in Sri Lanka war: By allowing unhindered space for Sri Lanka's final military thrust, they misjudged Sinhala society's willing capacity to inflict bestial, savage crimes on fellow human beings; and the IC's belief that, once the Tigers are eliminated Rajapakses will “fill in the gaps” and provide an acceptable political solution, has been shown as embarrassingly flawed. Now, as the IC savors the dystopian-monster they created, the need to whitewash the atrocities by side-stepping accountability, and to focus on development, appear to be driving IC's actions. Tamils, now left defenseless, hold Ambassador Blake, as the key US official who shaped the US policy on Sri Lanka's war, responsible for the tragedy.

Robert O'Blake, Former Ambassador to Sri Lanka
Robert O'Blake, Former Ambassador to Sri Lanka
Seeds for the U.S. State Department's policy for containing the military growth of the LTTE were sown in 1997, when the LTTE was added to the U.S.'s list of Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). Richard Armitage, as the Deputy Secretary of State (2001-2005), then laid the early foundation for direct action against the LTTE, by mooting the "Contact Group," some time after the donor co-chairs were founded in 2003 under Tokyo's leadership.

The U.S. embassy in Delhi, where Blake was serving as Deputy Chief of Mission under Ambassador David Mulford, and Ambassador Lundsted in Sri Lanka, believed that the Indian bureaucrats were in agreement with them that they can pressure Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa to "fill in the details of a political solution to deflate LTTE claims that the GOSL [Government of Sri Lanka] was ignoring Tamil aspirations — and working to cut off LTTE access to weapons and money."

While Armitage has been generally hostile to the LTTE, during his tenure there were indications that the U.S. policy towards the LTTE was soft, the U.S. appeared to accept the LTTE as a key stake holder, and while the LTTE remained proscribed in the U.S., U.S. officials led by Armitage encouraged a negotiated political settlement to meet the key demands of the Tamils.

Blake's involvement may not have been significant during the Armitage period, but, with Blake's appointment as the Ambassador to Sri Lanka in 2006, Blake took a visibly harder line towards the Tigers, Tamil activists point out. Blake was likely influenced by India's anti-LTTE stand, built close friendship with Colombo, and engaged the contact group with maximum impact that resulted in the incarceration of several key diaspora activists and created a chilling effect that severely damaged diaspora involvement in humanitarian and other matters related to the NorthEast, Tamil circles point out.

Member countries of the contact group, Canada, UK, US, France, Germany, Netherlands, and Australia among other countries, starting in 2005, arrested scores of Tamil activists on "material support" charges. The arrests have continued even after the LTTE leaders were killed.

India's own culpability as a silent spectator to the completed battle-field genocide, and the currently unfolding systemic cultural genocide, is even more sinister, TamilNet editors note. India's pretense as a regional super power also constrained U.S.'s independent actions in Sri Lanka, and served as another deterrent to Colombo's aquiesense to Tamil demands.

Blake's detailed knowledge of Rajapakse crimes while he was ambassador in Colombo, has been established by several leaked memos.

In January, number of civilians who remained in the LTTE controlled territory: GoSL said 70K, UN said 200k, and Tamil sources said more than 300k. Ambassador Blake quoted 300k civilians trapped behind LTTE lines, and confirmed GoSL’s intention to use food as an incentive to extract people out of LTTE area.

By February Blake, in consultation with the Indians, had lowered the IDP figure to around 75,000. This was the figure adopted by the GoSL and also the figure quoted by the Indian Foreign Minister Mukerjee in the Indian Parliament.

Blake's continued silence on the culpability of Rajapakses, two of them US citizens, and his post-war posturing in advising diaspora groups to pursue the development and reconciliation approach with Colombo, have further diminished his credibility among diaspora activists leading many to believe that Tamils are unlikely to obtain justice and accountability under Blake's tenure.

Blake's policy has wrought havoc to Sri Lanka's Tamils. Petrie Report summarizing the "crime of the century" said "an estimated 360,000 or more civilians were crowded into an ever smaller part of ‘the Wanni’ area of Northern Sri Lanka where many died as a result of sustained artillery shelling, illness and starvation. Almost 280,000 survivors were forcibly interned in military-run camps outside," implying more than 80,000 civilians may have been killed in the Mu'l'livaaykkaal massacre.

Blake continues to feign ignorance of on-going cultural genocide of Tamils, as he avidly promotes reconciliation and development, and urges expatriates to work with the alleged genocidaires ruling Sri Lanka to develop the NorthEast, Tamil activists say.

Finally Blake's bluff was called, and his decade long Sri Lanka policy was thrown into the dustbin of history, when, as Rajapakse "ruled out granting Tamils of the North any political autonomy," during Sri Lanka's Independence day 2013, Blake response was stoic silence.

Indictment: Blake's complicity in destroying Tamils' progress towards Nationhood

Significant plans/Execution

Video, News Report Links

Key Points

Career bureacrat, leaves behind legacy of architecting the "Crime of the century."

1. Ambassador Blake in a 2007 Interview in Sri Lanka
2. Biography: 2003-2006-2009 Harvard educated Blake was in Delhi, Colombo
3. Obama administration: Rhetoric and reality
4. US leadership in human rights questioned

- Ambassador Blake has been the key US official involved with Sri Lanka policy making during the critical period from 2003 to 2009. Appointed as Ambassador in September 2006.
- Washington Conference in April 2003, held without the LTTE, promised $2b/year, but the LTTE used the US action to create conflicts in the peace-talks. Blake is speculated to have been marginally involved in the meeting as a new Deputy Chief of Mission in New Delhi.
- As the key political official steering the US policy on Sri Lanka, the US policy statements are viewed as partly Blake’s burden to carry and defend:

  • Blake’s leader Hillary Clinton has stated LTTE was different in character to other “terror” organizations (British Guardian)
  • Samantha Power, National Security Advisor, governments act in a way that fail to reverse ongoing genocide and this should change
  • Obama admonishing India to take assertive steps to intervene when illiberal democracies violate rights of people.
- Blake would have been an active participant in setting up the contact group
- Avoiding an international investigation, and collaborating with Rajapakse is necessary for Blake to whitewash the failure of his policy that led to the Mu'l'livaaykkaal killings.
- Blake is rumored to be given a promotion as the next ambassador to Indonesia, reflecting endorsement by the State Department of Blake’s Sri Lanka policies. According to Petrie report more than 80,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final six months of the war.

Beginning of the collapse of CFA: Washington (Armitage) excludes LTTE from Washington conference

1. U.S. skews parity of status by excluding LTTE in US conference
2. Wiki-Cable: Views on Washington Conference
3. Cable: On suspension of peace talks

Richard Armitage was the key US official involved in organizing an international conference on Sri Lanka for representatives of 21 countries and 16 international organizations, and denied LTTE invitation as it was proscribed by the U.S.
- Denial of LTTE participation was widely believed to have convinced the LTTE that US was attempting to diminish the parity of status demanded by the LTTE for entering into a peace pact.
- Armitage requests Tigers to “renounce violence and terrorism by words and deeds.”
- On April 21, LTTE announces suspension of peace talks.

Creation of Contact group to stop flow of funds and arms to LTTE

1. Blake assembles International coalition against Tamil diaspora
2. Delhi assists US in forming two contact groups
3. Nirupama Rao non-committal on US, India designed contact groups
4. India stands for political solution in Colombo
5. Hindu summary: Moving globally against Tigers

U.S. through the New Delhi based diplomats, Ambassador David Mulford and Deputy Chief of Mission Blake, unveiled and initiated the plan to create two international ‘contact groups', one each to move against fund-raising and weapons procurement by the LTTE.
- Contact group membership: Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States
- US believed getting Mahinda Rajapaksa to workout a political solution to deflate LTTE claims that Colombo was ignoring Tamil aspirations — and working to cut off LTTE access to weapons and money. US believed India “was on the same page.”
- India kept pushing Colombo for a political solution.
- US proposed a single US-India demarche to Colombo, Rao preferred separate ones
- The contact group activity by the US, Blake and others during 2006-2009 produced co-ordinated and concerted action on Tamil activists in the West including the US, Canada, France, Denmark, Australia, and others.

Highest level US political official who shaped pre-war, post-war US policy on Sri Lanka, had knowledge of Rajapakse sanctioned criminality

1. 2007 speech praising leadership of Rajapakse, supporting APRC
2. Debacle of U.S. supported APRC
3. Blake advises Colombo on blunting LTTE "propaganda."; Late attempts to force humanitarian space
4. Blake memo: Colombo complicity using paramilitaries
5. Wikileaks reveal blunders of US diplomats in final stages of war
6. Butenis says accountability not possible
7. Blake told: SLA killed Trinco students

Blake’s Sri Lanka policy appears to have been predicated on the belief that Rajapakse a was a trustworthy, strong leader. In spite of the history of the struggle, and the knowledge Blake had on the operational tactics of Rajapakse, Blake convinced himself that the problem in Sri Lanka is due to intransigence and terrorism of the LTTE, people support to LTTE was through threat, and that once the LTTE is out of the scene, Colombo would ‘provide’ a just political solution to the long running conflict.
- Blake provided non-critical support for Colombo’s APRC, widely seen as a ploy to delay political solution
- Blake was fully aware of the State/Gothabaya sanctioned abductions and killings. Use of prostitution by Tamil paramilitaries to satisfy Sinhala commanders.
- Blake knew of the killers behind the Trincomalee students
- Blake appears to accept Colombo’s version of lack of medicine, and shelling, use of heavy weaponry on the safe zone.
- Blake advises Colombo highlight the fact that the LTTE was holding the civilians population hostage in the north and undercut its propaganda about IDP treatment in GSL territory.
- Blake was aware, and as articulated by Butenis, that accountability was not possible as Rajapakse’s were behind many war-crimes

U.S. provides muted response in U.N., remain silent on war-crimes, genocide

1. Cable: UN's Rice on Blake strategy unfolding in Sri Lanka
2. Blake's memo push-back on genocide
Rice's statements:
3.1 Holmes praised, shelling by Colombo mentioned
3.2 Urges Colombo to take advantage of UN expertise
3.3 Panel Report: Calls for constructive Colombo response
3.4 Welcomes LLRC recommendations. Stands in support of Colombo
4. NYT: War without end- Appeals to IC go unheeded
5. NYT: International silence on Tamil internment camps
6. Cables summary: International silence allowed Sri Lanka genocide l

Despite the “you can't lump all terrorists together” interview by Hilary Clinton, the much acclaimed “problem from hell” author, Samantha Power, as a presidential advisor, and the lofty human rights pronouncements from President Obama, the “Crime of the century” took place under Obama’s watch.
- Leaked memo on Susan Rice's meeting with Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, Francis Deng is instructive. Rice raised no objections on Colombo's assertion that US and India supported Sri Lanka's measures against the LTTE. Issues of mass casualties (Clinton's call to Rajapakse) were not raised by Rice.
- Four Rice-statements on Sri Lanka illustrate US's soft approach to confronting Sri Lanka.

  • April 2009: Rice praises Holmes, mentions shelling by Colombo in safe zone, no action.
  • June 2010: Rice urges Colombo to take advantage of UN expertise
  • April 2011: Rice calls for constructive response from Colombo
  • March 2012: Rice welcomes LLRC recommendations; Says US stands in support of Colombo
- Blake admits to pushing back on the diaspora "more exaggerated claims of 'concentration camps' and genocide."

Adopts policy of reconciliation, side-steps accountability to crimes

1. Blake approach questioned by Ganeson
2. Blake's steering LLRC-centered politics
3. Blake engages alleged genocidaire Gothabaya to woo SLA help Afghan war
4. Blake engages Tamil diaspora to advance appeasement politics
5. Blake's bonafides questioned by Tamil diaspora
6. Summary of Blake-architected US-policy leading to Tamil genocide

Ganeson, a US humanitarian award recipient, reveals mistrust of Blake: cautions Blake not to mislead Tamils. Adds, “those who supported the war efforts unconditionally do have the moral responsibility towards the Tamil community. US and UN failed to act decisively to prevent civilian causalities.”
- Blake's continued support to LLRC, irks Tamils. LLRC is seen by Tamils as worse than the 13th Amendment in the destroying of a nation and territoriality of Eezham Tamils
- Within months of end of war, engages with alleged genocidaire Gothabaya, and wooes the Sri Lanka Army’s help in the US-led war in Afghanistan
- Blake's solution to stop the war is "engagement with Tamil groups to play a more constructive role - and apply pressure on the Tamil Tigers to allow civilians to escape the fighting."
- Blake's focuses on subduing diaspora anger, and engagement with "passive" diaspora groups
- Blake was more interested in ‘compensating’ people for the land grabbed by the occupying military, than conceding the territorial right to Eezham Tamils.
- Blake's answer tp political solution didnt go beyond Provincial Councils, and a time table for conducting elections in the north and for defining the powers of the councils.
- Blake was interested in promoting the Sinhalese-led NGOs Seva Lanka and Sarvodaya for the Eezham Tamil diaspora to work with.

Source: UN video archives, Wikileaks, ICP Reports



Chronology:


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External Links:
Guardian: 'You can't lump all terrorists together'

 

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