`The mother told me her baby`s name was Esther. Clasping her breasts, she said she had no milk. She did not tell me what operation she was waiting for. Perhaps her rapist(s) had caused a fistula, penetrating the wall between her rectum and vagina with penises, guns, or machetes. Hundreds of other injuries are possible. We had seen pictures of women who had been shot in the vagina, who had had salt rubbed in their eyes until they were blind (and thus could not identify their assailants), who had been burned and had limbs amputated after being raped.`
This is how Kathleen Kern, in a well researched article, The Human Cost of Cheap Cell Phones, in the book, A Game As Old As Empire the Secret of World of Economic Hit Men and the Web of Global Corruption, edited by Steven Hiatt, describes the plight of tens of thousands of Congolese women gang raped by marauding militia sponsored by western powers seeking cheap minerals to keep their corporate giants going.
It was this heartrending description by Kern of the suffering of African women caught up in protracted conflicts with no end in sight that came to mind when US Secretary of State told the UN Security Council the other day that rape was being used as a war tactic in some countries. `We have seen rape used as a tactic of war before in Bosnia, Burma and Sri Lanka and elsewhere,` she said calling for an end to sexual violence in armed conflicts. We have nothing but respect and admiration for the former US first lady for having taken up the cudgels for female victims of war. But, what on earth made her think Sri Lanka, too, was guilty of that crime? She may not have named the party or parties responsible for that crime in Sri Lanka but her remark obviously was aimed at giving a boost to the US-led campaign to press war crime charges against the Sri Lankan military.
True, the incidence of rape in this country is rather disturbing and tougher laws, proper implementation thereof, effective prosecution and deterrent punishment are called for to tackle the evil. There must be zero tolerance. But, it is certainly far-fetched to claim that rape was used as a weapon in Sri Lanka`s war on terror.
As expected, the US State Department has had to own up to a factual inaccuracy in the Clintonian revelation at the UN. Melanne Verveer, the US Ambassador at large for global women`s issues at the State Department, has said in response to Sri Lanka s strong protests against Hillary`s statement: `In the most recent phase of the conflict from 2006 to 2009, we have not received reports that rape and sexual abuse were used as tools of war ....`
The question is whether Verveer has any evidence of perpetration by the Sri Lankan military of the crime of using rape as a weapon in the previous phases of the conflict? If so, he ought to produce proof thereof without making innuendos. The Sri Lankan government must challenge him to do so, if he could, because his veiled allegation is also bound to have a damaging effect on this country`s image at a time it is faced with a human rights witch hunt.
How come both Verveer and Clinton have turned a Nelsonian eye to the situation in the conflict ridden Africa, where rape as a weapon of war has become the order of the day? In Congo for example, women have been suffering at the hands of marauders mainly because world powers like the US helped fund Rwanda`s intervention in that country. The US, Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland and Japan did not give a tinker`s damn about gross human rights violations, especially brutal violence against women and children, when they doubled their aid to Rwanda barely five years after its genocide which left over 800,000 people dead in three months in 1994. (The US tried to block an IMF standby facility for Sri Lanka because of her successful war on terrorism!) UN Peace Keeping forces were not allowed to intervene to prevent the genocide. Why didn`t the US step in to save those innocent men, women and children being butchered? Where were the R2P guys who have made a business of other people`s suffering? Montague and Berrigan point out in The Business of War, that the US provided $ 75 mn as military aid to Rwanda after Kagame took over. The Washington Post revealed that US troops had been sighted with Rwandan military in July 1998 on the eve of Rwanda`s invasion of Congo.
People are butchered and women get raped in Congo because of the plunder of mineral resources including Coltan (used for making semiconductors), whose prices savage corporate vultures keep ridiculously low at the source with the help of local militia responsible for crimes against humanity so as to reduce the cost of electronic gadgets produced in the developed world.
Hillary Clinton deserves plaudits for her noble campaign to protect the rights of hapless women trapped in conflicts. But, strangely, she has chosen to ignore Africa, where her services are needed most and she, in our book, seems to need a bit of schooling as regards the countries she fire broadsides at whimsically. Way back in 1992, her husband Bill Clinton made an uncomplimentary remark about Sri Lanka during his first presidential election campaign and later he retracted it following protests from Colombo. Seventeen years later, the State Department has had to do likewise because of Hillary`s faux pas.
Unfortunately, the US State Department depends on every Tom, Dick and Harry to ascertain information about Sri Lanka and perhaps about other countries in Asia and elsewhere. This has enabled the various INGOs, NGOs and frustrated Sri Lankans including political leaders out of power and disgruntled business tycoons to disgorge loads and loads of diabolical lies about this country down the willing throats of US diplomats as their contribution towards the on-going efforts by some western governments to effect a regime change in Sri Lanka.
When will the US State Department bigwigs recover from the diplomatic-foot-in-the-mouth disease? Hillary`s condition seems to be serious!