Seeing Cherie Booth yesterday on TV demanding the immediate shipment of Hasina for medical treatment made me think about foreign interference in Bangladeshi politics. So I am going to blog about James Moriarty, the US ambassador to Bangladesh. His arrival earlier this month portends, I fear, a menacing level of interference.
“Diplomatic activism,” if we can call it that, has been key in the recent developments in Bangladesh not least in the installation of the current military-backed caretaker government. So what can we expect in the future? Judging from his recent stint in Nepal, Mr Moriarty is not the type to engage in sensitive diplomacy. Indeed one journalist wrote “Moriarty was to prove very much an American cowboy in a Nepali china shop.” Read “cowboy” as euphemism for stoking conflict, murder and mayhem. As the results favouring the Maoists come in from Nepal, Mr Moriarty - their implacable opponent - must be wondering where he went wrong. The truth is that he never did possess a realistic view of what was possibile in Nepal. Mr Moriarty’s CV on the web tells us he has won several performance awards. Perhaps these were won mainly when he was behind a desk in Washington. In Nepal, his performance would have earned him a severe dressing down given the perverse outcome. And hence perhaps his appointment/demotion to Bangladesh.
So what did he do in the last four years in Nepal? And what can Bangladeshis anticipate? Since 2001, with the appointment of Christina Rocca as Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, the USA’s military involvement in Nepal has been considerable. The US pumped millions of dollars into building up Nepal’s security forces. Military exchange programs got expanded, and the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) saw its numbers swell from a pre-2001 figure of 35,000 to 100, 000 in 2005 and a projected 150,000 by this year. US military advisers swarmed the place, and the compliant RNA did their bidding from sabotaging peace talks to murdering people in cold blood. Many people believe that US arms support during this period intensified violence and killings of innocent people. John Mage writes:
The resumption of civil war in the fall of 2003 saw the highpoint of U.S. military involvement in Nepal. Elaborate permanent quarters for U.S. “advisers” were constructed adjacent to RNA headquarters in the centre of Kathmandu. Through its International Military Education and Training Program (IMET), the U.S. trained the security forces in “special operations.” There ensued “a policy to allow mass disappearances accompanied by tacit approval at the highest levels of state to use mass torture, extra-judicial killings and other gross abuses.” The government announced a plan for “Village Defence Volunteers,” based on Latin American paramilitary “death squad” models. This proved too much for the European Union Heads of Mission in Nepal, who up to this time had followed the growing U.S. intervention without adverse public comment. They warned, with diplomatic understatement, that in other countries such plans “have often been responsible for grave violation of human rights.”
Mr Moriarty arrived in 2004 and lost no time in engaging in “diplomatic activism.” The infamous killings and destruction of property in Kapilvastu in the Terai by the death squads revealed Moriarty’s political objectives. I again quote at length from John Mage:
“These semi-official communalist murders were immediately denounced by the European Union ambassadors and “Human Rights” groups. Moriarty, recalled to Washington for consultations, was reported to have pointed to these death squad activities as reasons for “optimism.” Moriarty returned to Kathmandu in May 2005 and did not deny the report when confronted with it, merely stating that there was a “range of opinion” about the Kapilvastu death squad outrage. Moriarty said his main concern was that the RNA was running out of bullets. Not wishing openly to break ranks with India or the European Union on the question of military assistance to the increasingly isolated royal regime, the United States turned to its Israeli surrogate. In August a “huge cache” of 5.56 mm bullets for the U.S. M-16 rifles was reported to have been supplied to the RNA by Israel.”
Earlier this year, another commentator, Mohan Nepali, had this to say about another massacre in the Terai:
“James F. Moriarty visited Nepal’s Terai region (bordering India), met Madhesi leaders and instigated them to take actions against the Maoists. Immediately after this, devastating communal violence erupted in the Terai region. The Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, comprising not only armed robbery, smuggling and kidnapping gangs from both India and Nepal but also political workers and supporters from different mainstream parties ranging from moderate to ultra-rightist views, massacred 29 civilians in Rautahat in March 2007. The massacre is globally known as the Gaur Carnage.”
Moriarty’s job therefore was to stop the Maoists at all costs. Pratyush Chandra, writing in CounterPunch says, “for the US, the main task of the Nepalese politicians must be to eliminate the Maoists, not to bring in a stable democracy. The latter could be just an instrument in this regard. The “authoritarian rule” imposed by Monarchy per se was not wrong, If it had eliminated the Maoists, it would have been declared successful.”
A large number of writers describe how time and again James Moriarty over-stepped the boundaries of diplomacy to pursue these aims. On the eve of the historic April 2006 revolution which humiliated King Gyanendra, Moriarty was machinating to get the Seven Party Alliance to break their pact with the Maoists “and reconcile with the monarch contrary to the spirit of the people” according to Narayan Prasad Wagle. He goes on to state that
“Moriarty’s visits of army camps and frequent speeches about domestic political affairs do not confrom to diplomatic norms and etiquette, and principles of Vienna Conventions on diplomatic relations. The arms deal between the government and the Maoists was unreasonably delayed partly due to the threat of suspension of aid by America if the conditions put forward by it (were) ignored.”
I wonder now that Moriarty has left the country whether he has come to terms with why the Nepalese did not swallow his viewpoint. I wonder if he remembers his words from 2005 when he said the maoists were a “terrific threat” and wanted an “absolutely terrific totalitarian state in Nepal that also threatens the stability of the entire region.” His use of the word “terrific” is a bit strange as the writer Professor Gary Leup noted. He means it in the pejorative sense clearly. (Again according to his CV he speaks many languages including Nepali and Bangla. Some would say he should practise his English more - preferably back in the USA). But Gary Leup in the same article may have some light to shed on why Mr Moriarty’s dreams were never realised. Professor Leup assumes the voice of Thomas Paine and writes :
“The rebellion in Nepal is a revolt in favor of Reason. It makes no sense for 72% of its people to live below the poverty line, many in conditions resembling medieval European feudalism. It makes no sense for the government to neglect the population and present the king as the incarnation of a god. It makes no sense for 60% of the development budget to come from abroad, or for the country to so lack job opportunities that 50,000 Nepali women have to work as prostitutes in Mumbai, India — half the city’s total. It makes no sense for infant mortality to be 70 in 1000 because there’s just one doctor per 25,000 people, or for longevity to average 59 years, or for literacy to stand at 45% with only a third of girls getting any education. The revolution will quite likely change all this. The world is my country, all men my brothers, all women my sisters. So I reject the horrid depictions of it and yes, I support the truly terrific revolution in Nepal.”