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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2524

The Sun God’s War

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“A God who threatens eternal pain….”
Robert Green Ingersoll (The Great Infidels)

The Kebithigollawa abomination is symbolic of the war the Sun God wants to wage, and of the war he wants Sri Lanka to wage - a war of terror on terror in which unarmed civilians are targeted by both sides, as a matter of course. Mr. Pirapaharan does not want the Fourth Eelam War to be a contest between a democratic state (and Sri Lanka is that despite her warts) and a terrorist movement. Such wars are hard to win, because in the present international context terrorism is not quite in fashion. He wants a racial conflict, a Sinhala on Tamil war, where ethnicity is the determinant factor and simply being a Sinhalese or a Tamil will make one a ‘legitimate’ target for the other side. He wants a total war, in which every horror is permissible, terrorism is a shared mindset and both sides attain ‘parity’ status in barbarism. It is only in such a war that he can present himself to the Tamils and the world as the sole saviour of a beleaguered minority.

Kebithigollawa should not have taken us by surprise because the Tiger never changed. The Tigers will keep going for civilian targets; there will be other massacres of innocent men, women and children because they want us to respond in kind. The sufferings of civilian Tamils do not touch the Tiger. In fact dead Tamil civilians are of enormous value to the LTTE. That is why ever since the air strikes commenced on Thursday, the LTTE websites have been eagerly awaiting civilian casualty reports (what a boon for the LTTE if that tsunami camp was hit in the air raid!).

The killing of one Lt. Col. Mahenthi can hurt the Sun God far more than any amount of indiscriminate bombing of Tiger territories. Surgical attacks on important Tiger leaders is a much more effective response to LTTE atrocities; after all one of the factors which made the LTTE opt for an interlude in 2001 was the success of the LRRP in taking the war to the Tigers right in the heart of Tiger territory. The targeting of armed LTTE cadres (higher on the totem pole, the better) also serves natural justice – after all Tamil civilians are not responsible for Kebithigollawa; the Tigers are. And it is the guilty who should be punished; not the innocent.

The government responded to the attempted assassination of the Army Commander with retaliatory bombing of Tiger controlled areas. Did this prevent the Tigers from committing the next atrocity, and the next and the next…? The answer is no. Such bombings are not deterrents because they do not damage the Tigers. But they damage civilians and in fact can inadvertently cause a human tragedy every bit as colossal as the Kebithigollawa massacre. Even the most sophisticated smart bombs are not really smart, as we have seen in Iraq.

What is the logic, the justice in carrying out an action which damages the poor houses of the hapless civilian inhabitants of LTTE controlled areas, in retaliation for Tiger atrocities? What have the Tamil civilians got to do with the Kebithigollawa mine attack? If the air strikes succeeded in taking out a militarily important target – such as the Tiger runway – that would have made sense; but despite two days of bombing the Tiger runway was either not targeted or not targeted successfully. In any case the Tigers would have expected the government to retaliate with air strikes (since this has been our response on two previous occasions) and would have made sure that their material and human assets were protected. After all if bombing can deter or seriously damage the Tigers we would have won this war a long time ago.

The Plight of the Vikings

One feels almost sorry for the Norwegians. True they are guilty of many sins of omission and commission; but they, like Ranil Wickremesinghe and various assorted international do-gooders, obviously believed that the LTTE could be bribed, flattered and cajoled into settling for de facto Tiger Eelam. That, after all, was the logic of this peace process - let the Tigers do as they please in the North and the East, as long as they do not resort to open war or declare a UDI. If all went according to the plan, a version of the ISGA would have been granted to the Tigers, and Sri Lanka would have become a country with two ‘equal’ and autonomous administrations (the equation of the LTTE with the GOSL in the CFA was a prelude to this). If Mr. Pirapaharan abided by the Wickremesinghe – Solheim agenda he could have had de facto Eelam on a platter.

The Norwegians obviously did not figure out what kind of animal they have by the tail; after all if you think that the Tigers are not all that different from the IRA or the ANC (just a bit nastier and a lot more effective), then you would regard the kind of offer contained in the Wickremesinghe – Solheim plan simply irresistible: throw money, luxuries, weapons, recognition and a de facto state at the Tiger and bind him with a gold chain. It would have worked too, with anyone else, except the Sun God. That deity would not be satisfied with any unofficial state; and he would not want it given to him on a platter. After all, the man who chose the symbol of the great Chola Empire as his own emblem is not going to be satisfied with second best, presented to him by others. He is a warrior and a terrorist, not a supplicant. He would want the best, and he would want to win it in battle. Otherwise where is the glory? What will the history books say?

So Ranil Wickremesinghe was double-crossed. And now it is the turn of the Norwegians, including Eric Solheim. The Norwegians, like Mr. Wickremesinghe, regarded the Tigers as strategic allies (and some Tigers as personal friends). But the LTTE never had strategic allies; only tactical ones. Just as Mr. Wickremesinghe dreamt of the Presidency (and possibly the Nobel Peace Prize), the Norwegians dreamt of a success story which would enable them to retrieve their reputations as peace makers, tarnished by the Middle East fiasco. Mr. Solheim probably saw himself as the man who untied the Gordian knot; after all anyone who cracked a nut as hard as the Lankan conflict could have covered himself in glory.

Like Mr. Wickremesinghe, the Norwegians are now watching the negation of all their efforts and, with it, the vanishing of their dreams of international renown. Once the Fourth Eelam War officially begins, not a country in the world will invite Norwegians as peace makers; internationally they will become, at best, a joke (‘Norwegian peace processes as a political proverb for any peace effort that is doomed to failure). No wonder the Norwegians are trying so desperately (and unsuccessfully) to cajole the Tigers back to the negotiating table.

The Vikings are today where those who believed in the peaceful containment of Adolf Hitler were in 1939. “Agreement of some sort seemed the only alternative to war; and there remained till the end an exasperated feeling that some impossible agreement was just round the corner…. The statesmen of western Europe moved in a moral and intellectual fog – sometimes deceived by the dictators, sometimes deceiving themselves…” (The Origins of the Second World War – AJP Taylor). Of course that ‘impossible agreement’ did not materialise, precisely because it was impossible given the nature of Adolf Hitler. Ditto with Vellupillai Pirapaharan. The Norwegians are doubtless hoping for some last minute reprieve which will prevent an open, full scale war. But they cannot avoid the fate of all those local politicians and international actors who either trusted the LTTE or tried to develop a mutually advantageous partnership with it – double crossed and discarded.

The Plight of the Tamils

The Tigers want to make the world believe that they are being pushed into a war they do not want - by a war mongering Lankan administration and a Tamil community that has lost all faith in the peace process. These have been Tiger refrains for some time – the perfidy of the Lankan state and the impatience of the Tamil people, both pushing the LTTE into reactivating the armed option. One can have disagreements about the bona fides of the Lankan government but only a mindless Tiger stooge of blind faith can believe that the Tamil people of the North and the East are eager for war.

The Tamil people do not want the war, because they know that they will be the primary sufferers in a war, especially the kind of ‘ethnic war’ the Tigers are intent on waging. In such a war they will be targeted by the Lankan side for being Tamil and by the Tigers for being disobedient. The Tamils understandably feel insecure in government controlled areas, but are unwilling to move into Tiger territory because, as the latest UTHR report points out, their children will be lost to them as soon as they become citizens of the de facto state of the Sun God. No wonder many of them brave the sea, risking a watery grave, in a desperate bid to get to India.

So the Sun God will fight, hoping that he can induce Sri Lanka to help him obtain recruits and regain lost international sympathy and legitimacy. He is depending on us to attack Tamil civilians; he is depending on us to produce dead Tamil men, women and children for his political, military and propaganda purposes. He is also depending on us to produce refugees, to augment his depleted manpower resources and to change the climate of opinion in Tamil Nadu and Delhi. The cost to the Tamil people would not matter to him because in the land of Sun God sacrifice is a way of life, the only way of life permitted; any Tamil who is not willing sacrifice either himself or his child to the Sun God is a traitor.

All the damage that the Sinhalese ever did to the Tamils is dwarfed by the harm done by the Sun God to his people. They have become weak so that he can be Strong; they have lost their will power so that His Will can reign supreme; they have become mindless so that He can think for them; they have become powerless so that He can have all the Power; they free born men and women have to become the Untermenschen, in their traditional homeland so that he can become a God. His brand of liberation has freed them from the responsibility of being human. Now he is planning to turn the homeland of the Tamils into a graveyard for the Tamils, so that he can win a glorious victory.

Mr. Pirapaharan has set the trap and he will continue committing atrocities in order to compel us to step into it, all the time believing that we are teaching the Tigers a lesson (that tsunami camp could have been hit after all). Can we avoid the mistakes of the 1980’s? We have the benefit of hindsight. We also have anti-Tiger Tamils, who by their very existence prove that Tamils are not Tigers. That is why in the emerging conjuncture the anti-Tiger Tamils have to play a more visible, a more positive role, opposing the Tigers while articulating the concerns of Tamil civilians.

They will have to become the messenger, from the voiceless, powerless Tamils caught in a war that is not of their own making, to the Lankan state, to the South and to the world. If they cannot grow into this new role, if they cannot combine anti-Tigerism with democratic devolution, if they cannot combine opposition to Tiger atrocities with a genuine concern for the basic rights of the Tamil people, the Sun God will have the war he wants.

- Asian Tribune -

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