Oh what a glorious war.
After killing up to 40,000 Tamils civilians during the end of the country’s civil war, Colombo recently organised a conference to show the world the wonderful techniques used to silence, intimidate and destroy Tamil hopes for a homeland.
Naturally, many other countries were keen to hear such wise words, including the US, whose official seemed to deny that government forces had deliberately targeted surrendering Tamil Tigers. The facts show otherwise.
Then Australian-born counter-terrorism “expert” David Kilkullen – I discussed his failures before and wondered how a man who has helped the US get crushed in Iraq and Afghanistan is asked by the media to comment on such matters – opined on the war and started with this:
Defense Secretary Rajapaksa, Professor Peiris, General Jayasuriya, distinguished officials, officers, and delegations: Good morning. Thank you for organizing this important conference, and for your kind invitation to talk frankly with you about Sri Lanka’s experience in Eelam War IV. As I said when I accepted the invitation to attend, I believe your defeat of LTTE is a remarkable achievement that deserves to be studied. At the same time, the international community has legitimate questions about human rights and about the way operations were conducted, and it is in Sri Lanka’s interest to be as open as possible in answering those questions. I am not known for being diplomatic, so let me say from the outset that I do believe Sri Lanka has achieved a great success, but before you can put forward your approach as a model for others, it’s extremely important to address some important human rights critiques, and consider how to turn a military success into a sustainable peace. I don’t believe we are there yet.
Before I begin, let me also note that none of my comments today are or can be definitive. It would be arrogant and presumptuous for me to lecture you on “proper” tactics and strategy. All I can do is to provide an outsider’s perspective, and to share some of the lessons I’ve learned in the campaigns of the last decade: it is for you to decide how, and indeed whether, these insights apply to you.
It seems to me that the best hope for long-term peace, following the remarkably successful defeat of the Tigers in Eelam IV, lies in robust political and economic reform at the local, community-level in all former insurgent-controlled areas. A government that brings peace, justice, and reconciliation to its people will be defended by its people, regardless of ethnic group.
In reality, and Kilkullen would know this by appearing at an event that celebrated Colombo’s “victory” over the Tigers, Sri Lanka is moving in the opposite direction and his presence simply gave tacit backing for the government’s brutal activities.