Cablegate: Media Play: Iraq
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 COLOMBO 000480
DEPT FOR INR/R/MR, I/RW, I/REC; PA
SA/INS (FOR JWALLER); SA/PD LJIRWIN, LSCENSNY, WREINCKENS;
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO OPRC KMDR OIIP CE
SUBJECT: MEDIA PLAY: IRAQ
1. Over the 3/22-23 weekend Colombo's newspapers continued
to criticize the war. "Stop this war forthwith," insisted
the independent English DAILY MIRROR. The government-owned
Sinhala weekender, DINAMINA, spoke of the "Middle East war
environment: crisis and impact." "Alas! War" said the
opposition Sinhala weekly, DIVAINA. The opposition English
weekly, ISLAND SUNDAY, criticized Sri Lanka's "wishy-washy"
position on the war under the headline "A matter of self-
interest." LAKBIMA, an independent Sinhala daily, called
President Bush "The Ugly American." "Do not disable UN"
urged the independent Sinhala daily LANKADEEPA. Playing on
Washington's "Shock and Awe," the government-owned English
weekly, SUNDAY OBSERVER said that the "awe and esteem with
which American and British democratic traditions have been
held by all of humanity is suddenly endangered by the
launching of a war sans the collective sanction of the
community of nations gathered in the UN." The Independent
English weekly, SUNDAY TIMES, called it an "Un-holy war."
And VIRAKESARI, an independent Tamil daily, said that,
"Although the U.S. claims that this is a step to destroy
Saddam Hussein and his supporters, the whole world is
condemning the war as one against humanity. Now the world
is divided into two. Excerpts follow:
2. Independent English daily, DAILY MIRROR (3/22)
commented: the war "... is against all norms of
international law and ethics for a foreign country to take
upon itself the task of liberating a people in a sovereign
land by military action.... What emerges as a ... paradox
is that those waging war today are avowed apostles of peace
who exhort all and sundry to resolve their conflicts
through peaceful means and negotiations."
3. Government-owned Sinhala weekender, DINAMINA (3/22)
published the headline "Middle East war environment:
crisis and impact," over:
"This war, initiated against the objections of the UN, will
have a plethora of negative impacts.... Migrant workers
... bring us a great deal of foreign exchange. We are
thankful that the Minister of Labor is concerned for their
safety. The government has also paid attention to consumer
items, and to fuel supplies. But our country is famous for
words alone.... The impact will be nasty.
It is sensible to provide diplomatic missions with
protection, and government steps to prohibit demonstrations
is also commendable.... We are already feeling the
negative impact of twenty years of war in our own country.
Now there is another war over which we can have no
influence.... While we do not endorse any military action,
we unanimously agree that the impact on our people should
4. The opposition Sinhala weekly, DIVAINA (3/23) thought
ironic that, "while the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE
were discussing peace in Japan, a bloody war commenced,
shocking the whole world. A war initiated by George B. on
Iraq.... How wise was Bush's decision, the future will
"Is the U.S. chasing Saddam away to free the Iraqi nation?
What sort of fairyland will the U.S. build in Iraq after
victimizing innocent people? When will these cruel leaders
realize that their might is not justice? If a country's
leader is a dictator, steps to remove him should be taken
by a world authority and ... in a fair manner...."
5. Opposition English weekly, ISLAND SUNDAY (3/23)
criticized the Sri Lankan government's "wishy-washy
statement on the war.... Uncle Sam is going to crush Iraq
and in the process inflict untold suffering on helpless
people. Clearly we cannot cheer him on, but neither must
we rap him on his knuckles leave alone kick him in the
bottom. So we issue the kind of statement we were treated
to last week. Colombo obviously could not influence the
course of events.... Certainly not roar like the lion
emblazoned on our national flag or even cluck like a broody
hen. So voice the usual platitudes. Say that we have long
urged Baghdad [to] comply with Security Council resolutions
and get rid of its weapons of mass destruction.... Then we
hope for a quick end to the conflict.... We are gravely
concerned about the humanitarian consequences of the
war.... Hence our "confidence that the coalition partners
would move early to minimize adverse consequences on the
civilian population in Iraq" and our blind faith that those
who are dropping the bombs will move swiftly to repair the
damage.... Nary a word of censure....
"Whether there will be a payoff for statements such as last
week's effort by the Colombo foreign office only time can
tell. But a harder line, as practitioners of real politik
well understand, would surely have meant a payback...."
6. Independent Sinhala daily, LAKBIMA, called President
Bush "The Ugly American":
"The world saw on TV how Bush opened the doors of
destruction and misfortune by initiating the war against
Iraq.... the U.S. ... dancing a devil dance.... Where
will this end? Will there be a dictator for the whole
world using its military power? We have a lot to say on
this subject but this is what America's most popular
president, John F Kennedy, said: `If mankind does not put
a stop to war, war will put a stop to mankind.'"
7. Independent Sinhala daily LANKADEEPA (3/22) pleaded "Do
not disable UN"
"The wagers of war, the UK and the U.S., are members of the
UN. So are Australia and Spain.... They should respect UN
policies.... All countries should get together to
strengthen the UN.... The UN was established to pursue
important objectives. One of them is securing peace in the
world.... This war should be immediately stopped and the
Iraq issue should be solved through a peaceful process."
8. Independent weekender, SUNDAY LEADER (3/23) delineated
the "lessons of war":
- For Sri Lanka: "From being the donors' darling right
now, the prospect of Sri Lanka being relegated to runner-up
to Iraq in the begging-bowl relay in June, must give the
Prime Minister very cold feet indeed. There's only so much
money that the planet's better heeled nations dole out to
their impoverished cousins each year. It now seems we will
have to share our cake with Iraq: the race to be seen
offering bags of largesse will be far sexier to the anti-
war citizens of Europe and Japan, than to send some cash in
- for the U.S. "American credibility can come only from
its pushing Israel into a just, negotiated settlement with
the Palestinians, installing a UN peacekeeping force in the
region if need be. Bludgeoning Saddam into submission
while giving Israel a free hand to settle on Palestinian
lands and deprive Palestinians of the right of nationhood
is an act of supreme hypocrisy. And for a meaningful
settlement of the `Middle-East Question,' both France and
the UN are indispensable. Fences need to be mended, and
right quickly, too."
- for the future: "...start thinking seriously about how
relevant the permanent membership of the UN Security
Council is in the world order that has emerged since 1945.
It may be time to give the EU and Japan seats as permanent
members, and with it the right of veto.... Only new
attitudes and more democracy at the highest level of world
governance will give rise to a truly enlightened new
international order: if ever there was a millennium
challenge, then this challenge is that challenge."
9. Government-owned English weekly, SUNDAY OBSERVER (3/23)
commented: "... the formally stated intentions of
Washington and its allies in attacking Iraq are laudable
and eminently reasonable. The primary issue in relation to
Iraq has been its weapons capability, especially weapons of
mass destruction, and Baghdad's propensity for aggression
against its neighbours as well as its record of use of its
deadly weaponry.... Today humanity is no longer a
collection of loosely linked or isolated polities and
communities. The world is so closely knit that all
communities and states are easily vulnerable to the actions
of each other, whether it is in trade, ecological
depredations or military action. The misbehaviour of
individual states today destabilise whole regions and
sometimes may negatively affect the whole Earth.
"But the management of global affairs can only be done by
collective decision-making institutions at a global level.
The international community has grown, in the past half-
century, to appreciate and uphold the United Nations
system, along with other, subsequently established,
institutions of global management such as the WTO and other
bodies and international legal mechanisms. Today these are
the ultimate, though yet imperfect, source of global
democracy and governance.... That is why the recent
failure of the US and its allies to adhere to the UN
process in relation to Iraq has sent shock waves through
the international community. Indeed, the awe and esteem
with which American and British democratic traditions have
been held by all of humanity is suddenly endangered by the
launching of a war sans the collective sanction of the
community of nations gathered in the UN.
"The US and its allies now bear the challenge of returning
as quickly as possible to the UN fold and proceeding with
all future actions in relation to Iraq via the global
collective decision-making process. It is only such a
rapid submission to the global system of governance that
will redeem these leaderships and legitimise their
undeniably honourable intentions. More importantly, it
will guarantee the future of this system so vital as it is
for global peace and prosperity."
10. Independent English weekly, SUNDAY TIMES (3/23) called
the war "... a grudge match at the insistence of just one
man, arguably the most powerful man in the world. In this
day and age in the face of overwhelming opposition that one
can send your army to kill the head of a sovereign state
... is surreal....
"... the United States, long having lost the moral right to
preach to the world what's right and what's wrong, is now
pass as a moral arbiter in international affairs.
"Countries such as ours have no option but to grin and
bear, while the President of the United States settles old
scores with impunity and with absolute disregard for
international law. In our position as bystander in this
whole imbroglio, we are reduced to making see-saw
statements and scramble to control the fallout disaster to
our own affairs."