Making war against terror a success

War is hell as General Sherman famously said after the American Civil War. All wars in this world have been fought at the expense of the unarmed civilians on the side of both the victor and the vanquished. War crimes usually become the crimes committed by the vanquished and not the victor, who becomes the judge, the jury and the executioner.

Military operations are like surgical operations: However desirous we may be of avoiding them, there come times when we have to face them whether we like them or not. The world was without an alternative to war in dealing with Hitler. Unless that psycho had been stopped in his tracks, albeit with some delay, he would certainly have made Jews of all the races in this world, save the one he favoured. Had the democratic world adopted the same appeasement policy as some nations that chose to lick his blood-stained Nazi boots in return for non-invasion and allowed him to do as he pleased, today's world would have become one massive concentration camp equipped with state-of-the-art gas chambers.

Democracies the world over have had to respond to threats from both within and without in a similar manner or concede victory to evil forces and perish in the process. Sri Lanka has, after years of oscillation between the two alternatives, finally opted for the former. Tiny as Sri Lanka may be in size, it has taken on the 'most ruthless terrorist organisation' in the world. Ironically, although Sri Lanka is doing exactly as the champions of global democracy are doing elsewhere in dealing with terror, and its victory against the LTTE is sure to send a chilling message to other terrorist outfits threatening global peace, the self-appointed custodians of global democracy are all out to throw a monkey wrench in the works on the pretext of a humanitarian intervention to let the cornered Tigers off the hook. They, ably assisted by the pro-LTTE INGO/NGO lobby, are preparing the grounds for invoking the so-called R2P (Responsibility/Right to Protect).

The Tigers are on their last legs, having plunged the country into war in 2006. And the biggest challenge before the government is not capturing Kilinochchi or Prabhakaran but denying those members of the international community conspiring to help him by stopping the war an opportunity to achieve their goal. They are eagerly waiting for a humanitarian catastrophe in the Wanni to intervene and the LTTE is doing its damnedest to increase collateral damage and create conditions for that. It behoves the government not to fall into that trap by ensuring the protection and welfare of civilians. After all, the government has dubbed its military onslaught a 'humanitarian operation', hasn't it?

The only way to judge the success of a war is to see if it makes life better for civilians after its conclusion. Land may be liberated from the clutches of a terrorist outfit through military means, terrorists killed and the writ of the government re-established in some parts of the country where it had ceased to run, but, if civilians do not feel their lot has improved at the end of the day, the war has failed.

The Eastern Province is slowly regaining itself and trying to put the war behind it. There are teething problems which are likely to resolve themselves with the passage of time. The situation in the East would have been different, if the dastardly human rights violations like the massacres of youth in Trinco and aid workers in Muttur had continued. As a former ambassador points out in an article on this page today, the government bungled in the probes into them and landed itself in trouble.

The best antidote to human rights violations is to bring perpetrators to book, conduct speedy trials and mete out deterrent punishment. However, it is not only massacres and violence against civilians that cause a war to be a failure. Deprivation also does! There are many backers of the on-going military offensives against the LTTE. But, sadly, among them, there is hardly anyone willing to make a contribution towards ameliorating the plight of the war-displaced, on whose wellbeing the success of war hinges. Various activities being done at a massive cost to boost the morale of the armed forces, who are already doing extremely well, should also be used to mobilise the public to help the war-torn populace. That is not a task that should be left entirely to a government. There must be popular participation in providing relief to the war displaced. Relief must flow into the Wanni from the four corners of the country!

Meanwhile, it is reported that the army has at long last released a small portion of land in the high security zone in Jaffna to the people for paddy cultivation. That is the way forward. Land liberated from the terrorists must be returned to the rightful owners without undue delay to bring it under the plough so that civilians will rest assured that they will gain from the defeat of terrorism. The Rice Bowl of Mannar and other fertile land which the army cleared of the LTTE must be handed back to the people as early as possible. That will be a blessing not only for the indefatigable industrious farmers in that part of the country but also for the whole country. For, the cultivation of those lands will give a boost to the national food supply.

The LTTE has got what it asked for and its terror machine is giving way under military pressure. But, the success of war-let it be repeated-consists in the ending of the civilians' suffering and winning their hearts and minds. Those who want the LTTE crushed militarily to clear the path to peace cannot absolve themselves of the responsibility for helping the war displaced. Will they rise to the occasion?

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