Winning: War Without End In Sri Lanka

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April 5, 2009:  In Sri Lanka (the island nation off the southern tip of India), three decades of bloody civil war (between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils) is coming to an end. The destruction of the rebel (LTTE) fighting force does not end the war (which has killed about 75,000 people in 25 years), just the period of major combat. There are still a lot of angry, armed and anti-social Tamils in Sri Lanka. There is still the tension between the Tamils (about ten percent of the population) and the Sinhalese (81 percent). There is also a large (eight percent) Moslem minority with some grievances. But nothing like the anger many Tamils and Sinhalese still feel towards each other. It's expected that there will be a lot of low level terrorism between Tamil and Sinhalese extremists for years to come. The LTTE has been trying to partition the island to give the Tamil minority their own mini-state, and now that effort has finally been defeated.

In an effort to keep the hate alive, the LTTE forced nearly a hundred thousand Tamil civilians to remain with the few thousand LTTE fighters still holding out in about 20 square kilometers of forest and brush land on the northeast coast of the island. The LTTE used these civilians as human shields, and employed force and intimidation to keep the civilians with them. By early 2009, the LTTE was screaming "massacre", and demanding a ceasefire, all the while using force to try and prevent their human shields from escaping. By April, over half the Tamil civilians had escaped the LTTE.

While the Tamil civilians were not opposed to the LTTE, they were not eager to be human shields. Most have been trying to flee to government territory. Meanwhile, army artillery and air force bombs continue to hit the LTTE fighters, even with the civilians cowering near the rebel positions. Thus with over 600 people a week dying in the continued violence, over 70 percent are civilians (and most of the rest LTTE fighters.) The LTTE uses these civilian deaths, which the rebels have arranged, as part of their propaganda to rally support from the millions of expatriate Tamils (in southern India and the West), and a desire for vengeance on the part of those who have lost kin in the fighting. For the LTTE, they can't lose with this tactic. If the Sri Lankan forces don't fire on the Tamil human shields, the LTTE will continue to hold out. That's because international aid organizations insist on continuing to send food and medical supplies to the trapped civilians. Naturally, the LTTE fighters make use of this aid to maintain their own strength.

This forces the Sri Lankan government to choose between letting the LTTE hold out indefinitely, with their civilian hostages, or continuing the attack without regard to the casualties among the human shields. While some Sir Lankans favor a more peaceful (expensive and lengthily) approach, most Sri Lankans want the war to end, and after 25 years of Tamil violence, are willing to let the Tamils take most of the losses for a change. The LTTE believes that this attitude will eventually motivate the Sri Lankan Tamils to back another effort to partition the island. So while there will be peace now, eventually there will be war without end.

 


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