Feature Article

Sloganeering Terror, Strategizing War

[TamilNet, Monday, 28 May 2007, 01:05 GMT]
While US's “War on Terror” after the events of 9/11 has been criticized by leading US foreign policy advocates as having a "pernicious impact on American democracy, on America’s psyche and on U.S. standing in the world," autocratic leaders of some faltering states of the third world, including Sri Lanka, have been making concerted efforts to capitalize on this Bush doctrine by defining legitimate local nationalist struggles as phenomena of terrorism.

War on Terror
(Map: www.heartland.it)
Critics have pointed out that the "War on Terror," doctrine advanced by the Straussian neoconservatives of Bush's inner circle of advisors, has aligned the United States with governments around the world engaged in suppressing nationalist, regional, religious, or ethnic separatism, too often by methods of social and political injustice.

"Efforts by foreign states to link their own pursuits to the American war on terrorism have further blurred the definition of the threat," says Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor for President Carter.

Amnesty said: "Governments must not use the ''war on terrorism'' to introduce draconian measures that limit civil liberties and allow violations of human rights. Such measures are likely to stifle dissent and curtail basic freedoms. For this reason, they must be resisted."

Sri Lanka is a case in point. Here, a five decade old struggle waged by Tamils for the right to self-determination, reinforced by a call for a separate state by elected representatives in 1976, transformed into an armed struggle in late 1970s. The US named the Liberation Tigers in the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) in 1997.

After failures of several peace talks, Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse, supported by coalition of extremist parties, and advised by "faithful inner-circle of brothers," has been gradually reversing the trend towards accomodation with the Tigers begun during the Wickremesinghe regime.

Closure of A9, demerger of Northeast, reinstitution of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) with amendments modeled on US Patriot Act, and wresting control of the east from Tigers, marked Rajapakse's aggressive agenda in the prosecution of Sri Lanka's local "War on Terror."

Gotabhaya Rajapakse
Defense Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapakse
In parallel, Colombo has been assiduously working to frame the LTTE as an active player in the international terror network. Recently Liberation Tigers were accused of selling stolen Norwegian passports to Al-Qaeda. Norway issued a denial of the link. Accusations of links with other "terror" organizations, drug trafficking, and human smuggling, remain largely unsubstantiated.

Colombo's efforts abroad drew little attention from international community as these countries took a pragmatic view of the conflict, and were fully aware of the limited theater of reach of LTTE. Recently, however, irked at the stalled peace process, the West appears to be leaning towards supporting Colombo's military plans, and taking actions to stop diaspora support to Tamil struggle.

Under the rubric of global "War on Terror" US, Australia, Canada and France, in a recent co-ordinated effort, have under the anti-terrorism laws, arrested key Tamil leaders domiciled in the respective countries, to criminalize "political" activities of diaspora, and to block flow of funds. Although threat of legal prosecutions has had an immediate chilling effect on the diaspora Tamils, the long term impact will depend on the outcome of judicial processes.

Mahinda Rajapakse
Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse
Nevertheless, Mr. Rajapakse, seems unimpressed. Rattled by the recent exhibition of Tiger air-power, continued expatriate Tamil support to the struggle, and unhindered expansion of Tamil-owned media outlets abroad, have prompted Rajapakse to charge the developed countries for tolerating terrorism at the G11 summit in Jordan last week.

"Unfortunately, some in the developed world tend to view certain terrorist organisations with a degree of tolerance. At times these terrorists are viewed as rebels or fighters against discrimination, as long as they do not create violence in those countries," Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse said, according to press reports.

The "military takeover of the east," has significantly altered the direction of political discourse in the South, and further strengthened the Government's military agenda. Recent polls by CPA has shown that majority in the South now believed a military victory over the Tigers is possible.

The military successes of the Government, however, have been accompanied by a deteriorating record in human rights.

Basil Rajapakse
Presidential Advisor, Basil Rajapakse
Worsening human rights situation of Tamils in NorthEast and in Colombo with escalating number of abductions, and killings, and the displacement due to war of more than 200,000 people have prompted Germany, US and UK to withhold aid, and Human Rights Organizations to raise rights concerns.

But Tamils are skeptical of the actions of the West, and believe that the International Community is willing to overlook human right abuses and is tacitly supporting Colombo to prosecute its war.

Colombo is under some pressure from UN agencies to establish human rights monitoring mechanisms. Appointment of Commission of Inquiries (CoI) consisting of 8 Sri Lankan nationals, and the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) of foreign nationals to act as observers, are an effort by Colombo to placate the international community.

Chamal Rajapakse
Chamal Rajapakse, Ports and Aviation Minister
Amnesty has raised concerns that the authority provided to the IIGEPs is inadequate, and the provisions "allows for censorship." In March this year, Colombo's Chief Magistrate barred COI from accessing evidence and reports related to the August 2005 killing of former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, stunning IIGEP human rights experts, said a brief by US Congressman Lantos.

Tamils believe that Rights monitoring mechanisms, burdened to work against the highly politicized Sri Lanka judiciary, ultimately end up assisting the Government in its tactical imperative to soften the international focus on rights issues until Colombo has time to prosecute its military agenda.

The gamble by the International community in tacitly promoting the military approach of Sri Lanka Government, can potentially result in ominous consequences to the island. Sri Lanka's "War on Terror" will further terrorize people, cause unprecedented death and destruction, and place a heavier burden on the State, which can lose by not winning.


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External Links:
US: War on Terrorism: Al Gore
Speigal: Victory Would be a Fata Morgana
US: Senate testimony of Zbigniew Brzezinski
TG: Flawed Logic
BostonGlobe: The Never Ending War on Terror
US: National Security Strategy of US
HT: West discriminates in fight against terror- Rajapakse
NewYorker: The War on What?
NPR: 'Hamdan v. Rumsfeld': Path to a Landmark Ruling

 

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