Colombo Telegraph

Déjà vu Sri Lanka & Europe

By Mano Ratwatte

Mano Ratwatte

Truck/Lorry based terrorism came to France in the form of a tragedy on Bastille Day. President Hollande who previously said he will lift the State of Emergency on July 26th had no choice but to extend it. How long this will last depends on how long Terrorists will keep blowing up bombs and killing mass numbers of civilians.

This is akin to the prolonged state of emergency in Sri Lanka necessitated by the long war against the LTTE. It reminds this writer of the Truck/Lorry based terrorist attacks, and also repeated attacks on military targets by the LTTE. These repeated incidents will have to lead to increased security and concrete barriers and blast walls soon in most nations facing threats from ISIS. This means more check points, random round ups and so many different restrictive security controls that will ruin the French open way of life and possibly human rights excesses as well Just the way Sri Lanka had to adapt to LTTE tactics with blast walls, bullet proof vehicles, bomb squads, and the way India had to adapt as well faced with Islamic terrorism directed from Pakistan and also during their gory war against Sikh separatism aka the Khalistani conflict an ugly era is dawning on a once peaceful continent that was known for open borders and liberal immigration policies.

LTTE used suicide trucks and bulldozers during the last days of the war and throughout their gory history of war. Some LTTE cadre may be living in France as well. LTTE’s first spectacular prominent suicide bombing occurred in 1987 when “Captain Miller” drove a truck laden with explosives into a Sri Lankan army camp killing 40 soldiers. French were relatively lucky it was not an explosives laden truck by professional ruthless terrorists like the LTTE. Everyone remembers the Central Bank bombing which cost 91 civilians lives in 1996 in the heart of Colombo.

The French government will have to start improving their intelligence gathering capabilities amongst their French Arab/Muslim communities. 10% of France’s population is Muslim. Vast majority are not supportive of terrorism, but they are also feeling very isolated and marginalized. Any successful attempt to infiltrate such groups will require a lot of social and economic policies geared towards reducing the influence of radical Islam.

Perhaps there is a parallel to the Tamil problem in Sri Lanka and why the LTTE at one time commanded such a lot of support and sympathy from the Tamil people of Sri Lanka? Matters were made worse in Sri Lanka by the UNP government organized pogrom against innocent Tamils around Colombo and other major cities in 1983. Black July should never be forgotten nor forgiven. A ragtag group of Indian backed rebels became a popular movement because Tamil people viewed them as their only protection in the face of repeated attacks by State sponsored goons.

Now why do a lot of Muslim French and Belgians also feel marginalized and live in enclaves not wanting to integrate? How much of it is racism and deliberate discrimination and how much of it is cultural? For example first generation conservative Wahabi types do not believe in equal rights and they want to impose Sharia law in modern western secular societies; how much of it is their refusal to adapt to the foster nations? In the case of France and Belgium, given their history of colonies in Africa, a lot of people are really 2nd and 3rd generation French or Belgians ,and not immigrants or refugees. But then again without adapting and accepting open secular western democracies a few of them want to force their view on society.

Take the example of a few thugs in Denmark. Bar owners in a suburb of the Danish capital, Copenhagen, have lobbied a government minister for help after being targeted by Muslim youths extorting money and demanding a so-called ‘Sharia zone’. The barkeepers in Nørrebro say they been harassed for months by so-called Sharia patrols, which have threatened them and vandalized bars in broad daylight. What nonsense is this? Denmark has been one of the most liberal nations accepting Arab refugees and they dare to do this? There is sometimes a limit to political correctness.

ISIS does not stand for innocent or independent state of Islam. It stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.  They are losing ground on the battlefield. This will lead to more spectacular terrorist attacks across the world. ISIS is not Islamic just like BBS thugs are not Buddhists. But ISIS uses selective parts of their theology and is based on the radical Salafist Wahabi doctrine being spread around the world by Saudi imams.

One cannot ignore nor dismiss how ISIS came about. Chilcot report damns the US and UK. ISIS did not even exist in the terrorist lexicon until Bush foolishly invaded Iraq. It is sad that everything people with an awareness about global events, colonial history and the complexities of the Arab world predicted exactly what will happen. Bush in his Christian crusader complex refused to even heed his own smart father who would not have invaded Iraq in 2003.

But we cannot ignore the dangers of ISIS and ISIS inspired attacks around the world. Most of their victims are fellow Muslims. They hate everyone including Muslims who do not follow their hate fill brand of Wahabi Salafist ideology. They want an ideologically pure world where they get to force their writ on everyone be they Buddhists, Christians, Hindus or other Muslims.

Yes in fairness in a population of over 1.5 Billion Muslims worldwide, ISIS followers are less than 1% and they are mostly Arabs and ISIS inspired groups from other nations and parts of Muslim Russia where they faced cruelty at the hands of Russia’s military in the war in Chechnya and also in Dagestan. But their ability to strike across the world makes them very different from a group like the LTTE or IRA. They are an amorphous body. No one knows where they will strike again. They have wanted to strike inside India for a long time too. LTTE was a local group and did not go around wreaking havoc in other nations. They definitely made sure westerners were unharmed. This is directly opposite to ISIS ideology.

Look at how many fellow Muslims be their Shia or Sunni they have slaughtered around the world. They did not even give any respite to people during Ramadan. They made such a number of attacks from Truck bombs in Iraq which killed over 200 people, to Turkey, to Bangladesh and ISIS inspired attacks in the US by American citizens. Increasingly, people in open western secular societies are frightened by the spectre of a limitless series of ISIS or ISIS inspired attacks. But being frightened might lead policy makers to make foolish decisions to show “Something is being done” and rush into more war.

Nothing will make ISIS happier than to see US troops in the Middle East. These fanatics believe in something called the end times. They believe this and their “salvation” will be hastened if the mother of all battles happen.  The ISIS appeal is for the purification of Islam. It considers all other branches of Islam to be apostate. No other movement has emphasized apocalypticism—the idea that civilization will soon come to a tumultuous end due to ISIS ties to Wahhabism, which was birthed in Saudi Arabia and continues to flourish there. This sect believes that the arrival of the one known as the Mahdi is near. Of great significance to the ISIS horde is the large Syrian village of Dabiq.

This death by a thousand cuts is seen as inaction and vacillation of the leaders of the USA. People in the USA are increasingly seeking to become isolationists. This mentality gives a massive advantage to an unconventional racist bombastic buffoon like Trump who might now win the Presidential election on Nov 8th. He is gleeful that his predictions are coming true. People also wonder why President Obama arrogantly underestimated ISIS by calling it, in basketball parlance a “JV team”(that is the same as calling it an under-16 cricket team) until it was too late. He had a reluctance to initiate conflicts, or send in US troops into harm’s way in ill- defined wars, but his withdrawals and seemingly aloof ways of dealing with global terrorism threats are viewed as weakness by ISIS. And with such groups any perception of weakness is pounced upon. This is why Putin has to be given credit for forcing the issue in Syria. One cannot absolve the Shia Minority Assad dictatorship for the way they oppressed their own Sunni majority. But that war has now become a prolonged proxy war between Shias and Sunnis backed by Iran and their armed protégé’s Hezbollah from Lebanon against Saudi backed radical Islamic groups for greater control of the Middle East.

This game spiraled out of control until Russia intervened to protect their client state and to protect their interests in the region including their military bases in Latakia(Tartus Naval base and Khmeimim airbase). Russians looked from afar in disgust at the way the USA had bungled and ruined many nations. From Iraq under Bush to Libya destablized under Obama, places where there was no ISIS or Islamic radicalism, have now become as Trump put it “Harvard Universities of terrorism” directly linked to the invasion in 2003. There was no ISIS or AlQaeda in Iraq until the US bungled.

Putin upped the ante. It is only after they intervened that USA took notice that their brilliant plans to arm non-existent moderate rebels had failed. In a comedy of errors, at one time the CIA and State Department were backing and arming different groups that were fighting each other. That is sheer incompetence. It is like how India armed different groups to destabilize Sri Lanka until the LTTE turned against them.

So what next? It is anybody’s guess. This is a frightening reality of the 21st century. Trump wants to declare war. But how do you declare war against an amorphous entity with no political agenda or goal? They wanted a Caliphate but that will not happen? Or should they negotiate and say “there is no military solution to this” and sue for peace with ISIS and give them the Caliphate? France, US and Britain all said LTTE could not be beaten. May Sri Lankan leaders and all its people never create conditions for ethnic hatred again; 29 years of war and tears are enough. May there never be pogroms against innocent Tamils, or Muslims or Sinhalese. Isn’t there enough carnage ?

Back to Home page