Old Mahinda election poster
At some point you have to ask. What would you sacrifice to end this war? The end to the JVP insurrections cost something like 70,000 lives, most of them innocent. World War II ended with nuclear bombs dropped on cities, killing over 100,000 people almost immediately. This was in addition to firebombings of Japan and Germany killing more, less spectacularly. War is dirty and war is death. Sri Lanka has chosen war and it’s too late to turn back. It’s a terrible question, but you have to ask yourself, how many would you support killing to end this war?
I’ve tested both sides of this question in conversation. I no longer know where I stand. I think DBS Jeyaraj summed up the situation best:
The stalemate is simply this.
The LTTE wants a ceasefire for the ostensible purpose of ensuring civilian safety and security. It would be easier to do that by evacuating the civilians but the tigers will not agree because if the people go the tigers are vulnerable.
When the LTTE and pro-tiger lobby calls for a ceasefire the international community counters it by saying-let’s have a temporary one to get the people out.
To this the LTTE wont agree. If there’s a permanent ceasefire there is no need to evacuate the civilians is the counter argument.
The Government too is wary about a truce as it sees itself on the verge of winning the conventional war. Colombo does not want the LTTE to wriggle out through a ceasefire permanent or temporary.
If one were to dispense with the “concern” displayed for entrapped civilians and appraise the situation realistically what Colombo and the International community are asking the tigers to do is to commit politico-military “hara-kiri”.
Given the track record of the LTTE it is impossible that the organization would do so. For that matter no entity in the world is likely to let itself be led to the slaughter willingly.
If necessary the LTTE will go down fighting to the very end and also take down a large number of civilians with them. But they wont let the people go.
As for the government, the Rajapakse regime will not be concerned of civilian life and limb if firmly resolved to capture the remaining LTTE territory. Eggs have to be cracked to make an omelette.
The situation has steadily deteriorated. Civilians are dying or getting injured on a daily basis. The worst is yet to come.
If and when Colombo decides to end the current “stand-off” state of affairs and embark on an all out , no-holds barred offensive to capture what remains of tiger territory, the LTTE is also likely to offer determined resistance.
In such an environment there is very likely to be large scale civilian casualties. That would be a humanitarian catastrophe of gigantic proportions. In a worst-case scenario around 15,000 civilians at least could die during the military push.
I fervently hope and pray that such a situation will not come to pass.
But it is coming to pass. You can pick numbers, but Jeyaraj is well-informed and usually, tragically right. Mahinda Rajapakse – who opposed the massacres during the Sinhala insurrections – is condoning a massacre to crush the Tamil insurrection. Most Sri Lankans at this point agree.
At this point I, personally, don’t know. I think calling for immediate peace is the morally correct position but ultimately nothing to do with reality. This shit is happening. Neither side is going to stop. The government needs to save as many civilians as it can, but it also needs to finish off the LTTE and eliminate Prabhakaran. It’s gone too far.
Many Sri Lankans, I think, are OK with massive casualties, beyond 15,000. If it ends this lifelong war. Personally, having thought about it, I really don’t know. I’ve tried both arguments and I really really don’t know. What’s the point of having an opinion on something that’s probably going to happen anyways? This is war, and a lot of people are going to die.
Did I support this war in the first place? No, I think that a negotiations were weakening the worst aspects of the LTTE and could have led to a livable island. But we’re way past that. The LTTE’s been playing chicken for a long time, but now they’re faced with a real hawk. I don’t think the LTTE will blink, I think they see this as the 300, except with human shields. But I don’t think the government will blink either.
The only hope is that around 100,000 have already escaped, leaving about 50k in the warzone. The only hope is to free more, but going in hand-to-hand inflicts heavy casualties on the military. I don’t know. God only knows.