Victory, we often say in these columns, has a thousand fathers and defeat is an orphan. While Sri Lanka was fighting the so-called most ruthless terrorist outfit in the world against tremendous odds, opponents of her war effort far outnumbered its proponents. But no sooner had the LTTE been crushed than most LTTE backers masquerading as anti-war campaigners, including some local media pundits who propped up terrorists by disseminating myths about them and demoralising the armed forces jumped the bandwagon. Some members of the international community, too, went the whole hog to scuttle the Vanni offensive but in vain. They are now humming a different tune!
Ironically, the US and the UK are among the foreign powers keen to know how Sri Lanka achieved the feat of crushing the LTTE. We reported yesterday that the UK had requested a report on Sri Lanka`s successful naval operations which wiped out the LTTE`s seagoing arm in spite of Prabhakaran`s bragging that the final battle for Eelam would be fought in the sea. Even the British Navy chose to desecrate one of its vessels anchored off the eastern coast of Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster in 2004 by taking a notorious LTTE provincial leader aboard. Such was legitimacy that a section of the international community conferred on the LTTE. But, long before Prabhakaran breathed his last in a swamp his highly overrated rogue navy had been sunk by the Sri Lanka Navy in style.
The Sri Lanka Army has proved it is second to none in the world. It mounted the biggest ever hostage rescue operation in history and braved minefields and rains of shell fire to decapitate what was being described as an invincible terrorist group capable of churning out suicide cadres and taking targets at will. This feat the army achieved while willingly burdening itself with humanitarian work which severely affected its flexibility and fighting capability! Hands trained to kill were seen carrying children, the sick and the aged amidst heavy fighting and the frontline troops generously shared their rations with hapless civilians who took refuge in army-controlled areas.
The Sri Lanka Air Force silenced its critics who pompously claimed fighter jets were of little use in combating terrorism and that it was civilian targets that bore the brunt of aerial bombardments. That the Air Force took its targets with pinpoint accuracy became clear when ground troops captured terrorists` military facilities which had suffered heavy damage in air raids. Sri Lankan pilots were so efficient and daring that their critics wondered whether devastating bombing missions were being actually conducted by a group of foreign pilots!
The police, its paramilitary arm, the STF and Civil Defence Force can justifiably preen themselves on their outstanding contribution to the country`s successful war against terrorism. Together they prevented the LTTE from taking war to other areas and resorting to subversive activities.
However, the armed forces and the police would have had to abandon their anti-terror operations, if the political authority had buckled under international pressure and opted to appease terrorists. Hostility of some world leaders to President Mahinda Rajapaksa was such that it looked as if they treated the LTTE as a sovereign state and Sri Lanka as a terrorist group. Towards the final stages of war, some world leaders and the UN chief kept on telephoning the President to the point of his having to avoid their calls! The international media sympathetic to the LTTE, ably assisted by their local lackeys, did their damnedest to paint a black picture of Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa in a bid to demoralise him. But, their campaign miserably failed!
Thus, it may be seen that the big countries desirous of figuring out how Sri Lanka defeated terrorism should concentrate on her overall strategy and all those who made it work instead of conducting piecemeal studies on the performance of either the Army or the Navy or the Air Force separately. The question those nations must ask is how on earth a small country ever succeeded in defeating terrorism in spite of their hostile resistance to its war.
Former US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Jeffry Lunstead testifying before a Senate Sub Committee a few moons ago revealed that US military assistance to this country had been nil. When some na ve British lawmakers called for a review of arms exports to Sri Lanka, we pointed out that the Sri Lanka Army, Navy and Air Force had not acquired any British weapons! The moral of the story, in a cynic`s book, may be that if a country really wants to defeat terrorism, it should do without American and British military assistance!
Big countries must be ashamed that Sri Lanka has won not because of them but in spite of them!
The biggest lesson Sri Lanka has imparted to the world in her war is that however small a nation may be it is capable of eliminating terrorism backed even by the so-called world powers! Such is the resilience of democracy!
Sri Lanka is duty bound to share her experience with the rest of the world so that democracy will gain and in return the powerful countries on a witch-hunt against her on a flimsy pretext must stop harassing her. After all, she is now their teacher on counter-terrorism!