Sri Lanka – Power of a Bad Example

The killing of civilians in Sri Lankan army’s campaign against the Tamil Tigers – and their denial of it - follows the bad example set by the US and its allies in their “war on terror”

On 10th May the UN reported a Sri Lankan artillery barrage hit a hospital, killing 378 people including 100 children. Human Rights Watch reported Sri Lankan forces had hit several hospitals, continuing to use artillery in an area full of refugees prevented from leaving by both sides, killing and wounding thousands (1) – (4).

The Sri Lankan government follow the example of the US in Afghanistan and Israeli government in Gaza by denying reports by the UN, western media, human rights groups and the International Red Cross on civilian casualties and preventing journalists reporting freely from the war zone. The Obama administration’s denial of the report by Red Cross staff on the ground that NATO airstrikes on one day in May 2009 had killed over 100 civilians including many women and children was just the latest in a long line. The Sri Lankan government can also point to civilians killed in the Afghanistan and Pakistan offensives and air strikes when they’re criticised for killing civilians themselves (5) – (9).

For instance on 29th April President Rajaksapa of Sri Lanka, rejecting a ceasefire, said “We have seen how Iraq was bombed. We have seen how Afghanistan is bombed. Those who come to preach to us seen how Afghanistan is bombed. It must be made clear that before accusing others, you must have the strength to know what you do yourself.” (10)

As long as the US, UK, Israeli and Pakistan governments use massive offensives employing air strikes and artillery on settlements against mere guerrilla forces and terrorist groups, combined with denying reports on civilian deaths by independent bodies, their words will carry little weight when condemning similar practices by others.

The Sri Lankan government claim the war is over, just as Bush claimed “mission accomplished” in Iraq in 2003, but all military “solutions” against weak opponents kill so many civilians that they create new enemies seeking revenge and autonomy or independence through guerrilla or terrorist tactics (11).

Sources

(1) = ABC News 09 May 2009 ‘Rights Group: Sri Lanka Shelling Hospitals’, http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=7545261

(2) = Guardian 11 May 2009 ‘'More than 1,000 civilians killed' in attacks on Sri Lanka safe zone’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/11/sri-lanka-civilian-deaths

(3) = AP 11 May 2009 ‘UN Condemns Sri Lankan 'Bloodbath'’, http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=7553451

(4) = Human Rights Watch 12 May 2009 ‘Sri Lanka: Satellite Images, Witnesses Show Shelling Continues’, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/05/12/sri-lanka-satellite-images-witnesses-show-shelling-continues

(5) = ‘The great “bloodbath” lies: manipulation by media and pro-LTTE pressure groups’, http://www.priu.gov.lk/news_update/Current_Affairs/ca200905/20090512great_bloodbath_lies.htm

(6) = Sri Lanka government news 12 May 2009 ‘“Hospital hit” another fabrication – Military’, http://www.priu.gov.lk/news_update/Current_Affairs/ca200905/20090512hospital_hit.htm

(7) = Government of Sri Lanka News29April 2009 ‘Warnings of blood bath unreal - Foreign Minister’, http://www.priu.gov.lk/news_update/Current_Affairs/ca200904/20090429warnings_of_blood_bath_unreal_fm.htm

(8) = ABC News 09 May 2009 ‘Sri Lanka Arrests 3 UK Television Journalists’, http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=7546862

(9) = AP 08 May 2009 ‘US denies 147 Afghan civilians killed’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/us-denies-147-afghan-civilians-killed-1681620.html

(10) = Government of Sri Lanka News29April 2009 No time for ceasefire: time yet for surrender – President’, http://www.priu.gov.lk/news_update/Current_Affairs/ca200904/20090430no_time_for_ceasefire_president.htm

(11) = Guardian 18 May 2009 ‘Sri Lanka declares end to war with Tamil Tigers’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/18/tamil-tigers-killed-sri-lanka

copyright©Duncan McFarlane2009