Peace is now much closer to SL than any other time- US anti terror expert says
(By Walter JAYAWARDHANA)
The prospect for peace in Sri Lanka is in a better track today than ever before said Dr. Peter Leitner, President Counter Terrorism Research Center and Professor National Center for Bio Defense of the George Mason University.
He was delivering the keynote address of Sri Lanka's 59th Independence Day celebrations organized by the Sri Lanka Patriots at the Veteran's Memorial Auditorium in Culver City, a suburb of Los Angeles California.
Dr. Leitner said prospects for an eventual accommodation for peace are very bright and there is reason for great optimism.
He said the reasons for his conclusions are the increasing economic prosperity for the country, increasing global intolerance for terrorism, greater international problem solving efforts, particularly in the non-proliferation area, a slow but dawning realization among the larger global powers that their fate is inescapably linked to developments in nations far from their shores, an increasingly local awareness that the long term insurgency will not succeed in partitioning the nation and a growing sense that a violent, corrupt, self-perpetuating insurgent movement like the LTTE is not the avenue to building a harmonious society.
The counter terrorism expert said these developments must be carefully nurtured with tangible incentives for all.
Drawing his final conclusions Leitner said a unitary state is vastly preferable to fractious micro states with incomplete economies.
Dr. Leitner said Sri Lanka, an area as big as the US state of West Virginia has lost 63,000 lives since 1983 due to the insurgency created by the terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). It is an equivalent of losing 9, 90,000 people when compared to the US. That equates an innumerable amount of 9/11's, he pointed out.
The Counter Terrorism expert reminded the audience that the West consistently tolerates the presence of terrorist groups on its soil if they are not actively engaged in direct attacks against locals. That way they allow fundraising activities. He pointed out that as a prime example of duplicitous behavior on the part of the West. The West 'unlearns' lessons as quickly as it learns them. He said the loss of overseas bureaus of Western media 'distorts' their 'understanding' of the Sri Lankan situation.
Leitner said experiences with the consequences of non-Islamic terrorism were clearly seen in the 1970's and 80's. Sri Lanka is suffering from such a scourge today he pointed out.
Dr. Leitner said that the conflict in Sri Lanka is often mischaracterized as a civil war by some. He said in reality it is an armed insurgency attempting to severely damage a successful nation in an attempt to create an estate or domain for a feudal lord.
Pointing out the LTTE brutality towards co-nationalists he said the terrorist movement now has lost a significant amount of popular support and cited the New York based web link:-
He said fortunately the group is now listed by the US and EU as a terrorist organization. He said the LTTE effectively wages PSYOPS against the West. Leitner reminded that the LTTE is engaged in the old semantic game of using 'National Liberation Movement' for terrorists and the word 'Homeland' for 'fiefdom'.
He said the recent LTTE interest in negotiations appear to have been a direct result of US effectiveness in stopping the flow of billions of dollars to the coffers of the LTTE.
Dr. Peter Leitner said terrorism should be called terrorism every where. If it is unacceptable when it is wielded against the US it should be unacceptable wherever it is wielded. He charged that certain inconsistencies in US counter terrorism policy create sanctuaries from which innocents are victimized. He said elimination of vagaries in definition, prosecution, and response should be a primary goal. He said the West need to pressure LTTE to engage in a negotiated settlement for their re-integration in to a unitary Sri Lanka.
He said the West needs to overcome its tendency to create a romanticized moral equivalency between legitimate nation state and the terrorist who attack them. He categorically stated what happens in Sri Lanka does not stay there. It travels to other countries.
Leitner said the LTTE has become the world's most innovative terrorist organization. He said the suicide bombers known as black Tigers, boat-bombs, home-made mini submarines female combatants(30% of the Sea Tigers are women) , assassination of political officials, (it has killed two state heads) and claims that persist that some LTTE members have been trained in flying ultra-light aircraft are very good examples to that. These techniques have been copied, he said, by other terrorist groups that later target other nations. He said Sri Lanka therefore has become the world's greatest learning lab for counter terrorism.
Showing pictures taken moments before the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 by the LTTE suicide bomber Dhanu, Leitner said the
Western ambivalence towards this long running tragedy has come at a big price. Marking those pictures Leitner showed how the bomber, the target-Gandhi, and the security remained close and unperturbed until the deadly explosion.
He said the same Western ambivalence has produced female suicide bombers in the Middle East with a high price. He said it was LTTE suicide boat bombs first. And then it was USS Cole. He said the West has slept until the war has come home
He insisted that Sri Lankans should never give up and they should stand up resolutely and say we want nothing but one country undivided.
Dr. Peter Leitner said terrorism is not an isolated phenomenon. Tamil militant groups trained alongside Fattah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the Middle East. In the 1990's small numbers were trained in Thailand by former Norwegian naval instructors in underwater sabotage. They were trained in Sudan in the use of the global positioning satellite.
Their link to Al Qaeda is manifest since every terrorist group is linked altogether. Their aims could be ideologically different. For instance, the attack on behalf of the Palestinians on the international Air Port in Tel Aviv was carried out by the Japanese Red Army but the brunt of the attack was taken by some innocent Porto-Rican Catholics who were on a pilgrimage to the holy land.
He said there is no other illegitimate group as illegitimate as the LTTE in the world. It is financed through donations through individual benefactors, private organizations, extortion of Tamil and Muslim communities in Sri Lanka and abroad practiced extensively and involves direct threats and taxes on transport services , trade and private incomes, smuggling of narcotics and weapons, trafficking in refugees, forging currency, credit cards and travel documents, piracy and operation of 'legitimate' business front organizations.
He said insurgents do not seek military victory as goal. Rather, Leitner said military attacks support the 'political war' and are used to obtain foreign and domestic support , dispute and exhaust government troops, damage the government's economy, recruit insurgents, build insurgent morale, demoralize government troops, demonstrate insurgent strength, terrorize the population and inflict a level of casualties that is politically unsustainable and causes the enemy to withdraw or negotiate and provoke an overreaction by the enemy that will alienate the people and drive them to support the insurgency.
Leitner pointed out that the insurgency is protracted political war. It is ambiguous and governments often don't understand what the struggle is about. It uses asymmetric violence and military victory is not always the purpose. Insurgents avoid decisive military engagements and the survival becomes the key. Guerilla tactics overcome advanced weaponry and they fight a total war with limited resources. He said suicide attacks and ruthless terrorism provide insurgents with strategic power projection.
Leitner said it employs constant use of propaganda and psychological operations to de-legitimize the government and gain support for selves. He said an insurgent movement seeks to outlast the government while it works to change the balance of power in its favor. The counter terrorism expert said there were 50 insurgencies in the 20th century. Some major ones were Philippine Hukbalahap rebellion (1946-1954) Malayan Emergency (1948-1960) Kenyan Emergency (1952-1956 ) Algerian Revolt ( 1954-1962) Venezuelan (1958-1963) Vietnam (1958-1975) Salvadorian Civil War (1979-1991) Soviet Afghan War(1979-1988) and Tamil Rebellion in Sri Lanka (1983-2007) .
Leitner said the amount of explosives and mortars transported by the LTTE remains the largest quantity of armaments ever transported by a non-state armed group. Most armaments he said have been obtained by using forged or adapted end-user certificates. He listed the following as sources for LTTE's arms consignments 1. Explosives, weapons and other supplies have come from the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. 2. Bulgaria (SA14, LAW), 3. Ukraine (50 tons of TNT and 10 tons of RDX), 4. Cyprus (RPGS), 5. Cambodia (small arms) 6. Thailand (small arms) 7. Burma (small arms) 8. Croatia (32,400 mortars)
He said it was General Vo Nguen Giap of North Vietnam who said, 'Political activities are more important than military activities and fighting less important than propaganda.' The LTTE pays priority to its propaganda.
Dr. Peter Leitner said in 1975 Colonel Harry Summers told a North Vietnamese counter part, 'You know you never defeated us on the battlefield' and the North Vietnamese replied, 'That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.'
In his final conclusions, Dr. Leitner said, Sri Lanka should always leave open an avenue to redemption for the purpose to compensate bad aspects of affairs. He said in this kind of a situation generally any government should ensure an equitable political future for the minority-particularly for young people. He said the government should guard against vendettas since today's enemies could become tomorrow's friends like the Japanese, once the worst enemies of America are the best friends today.
He also said there is a great need to eradicate Western friends on the misleading use of language. Local meanings are sometimes very different from foreign perceptions. He said federalism for instance has altogether different meaning. So, does civil war.
He said Sri Lanka should continually document and emphasize the problem of terrorism at home and its direct and indirect linkages to international terror networks. (EOM)