Obama calls Sri Lanka’s civil war vicious

By P.K. Balachandran, IANS

Colombo : The Sri Lankan ethnic issue has entered the US presidential campaign with Democratic Party contender Barack Obama saying that the conflict in the island is a “vicious civil war”.

In an interview to [email protected], Obama said that conflicts, such as those in Sri Lanka and Northern Ireland, stemmed from the inability of people to accommodate others who were not like them.

“The problem of the 21st century is the problem of the other,” he said.

The problem of “the other” also afflicted the US, where there was a race issue, he said.

Speaking about Sri Lanka, he said that a “vicious civil war” raged in that country even though “everybody there looks exactly the same”.

Late last year, another Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, had told a leading British newspaper that she would like a more “nuanced” approach to armed non-state actors who were routinely dubbed as terrorists in the current war on terror.

Some of these groups needed to be viewed differently, she said, and mentioned the Tamil Tigers as one group that deserved such consideration.

In his interview to [email protected], Obama spoke about the “climate of fear” that President George W. Bush’s war on terror was creating in the US.

“Part of my job as the 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,” he said.

“We should show a willingness to speak to our adversaries,” Obama said and quoted the late US president John F. Kennedy who said: “We should never negotiate out of fear but we should not fear to negotiate.”

“The notion that not talking to 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,” Obama said.

His approach to Iran would be different from that of Bush. He would talk to Iran to find “common ground.”

Obama pointed out that the Bush administration had “repeatedly rebuffed” gestures from Iran that might have allowed for some resolution of the conflicts in a non-military way.