By Terence Bunch –
Rhetoric1 derives from a long standing enquiry into the power of oral persuasion. It is linked to the combined use of language, symbology, mutually derived identity and relations between peoples and nations. Rhetoric when used by a skilled orator can be used in service to persuasion of a given argument, to elucidate a given or perceived truth, or can be used to obscure or obfuscate an argument or the truth. In any given environment, either political or cultural, rhetoric can be used to steer public opinion toward, or away from, a particular subject of enquiry. Rhetoric has been classified as particular to oral persuasion in the field of politics, but has also been cited as having liberated form in any area in which large scale mass persuasion is required.
In the post 9/11 phase, the domestic rhetoric of the United States has been voluntarily adopted by a number of nations in pursuit of their own ideologies and political aims and motifs. This has accrued in tandem with large-scale funding2 from the United States into the criminal justice systems of those nations which in turn has migrated into their political systems…and as a result of this, an increase in nationalist violence has taken place with the external funding of the United States facilitating the domestic enmities of various extremists regimes in pursuit of their own agenda’s.
Sri Lankan nationalism
Sri Lanka is a small unitary authority island state with a population of around 20,000,000 situated to the south-east of India. It has a majority Sinhalese population with a smaller majority of Sri Lankan Tamils and Indian Tamils. Due to its situation, it has geo-strategic significance sitting in a primary position within the shipping artery serving the Suez Canal. It has strategic and tactical importance to the United States which has the use of a naval base at Trincomalee on the north-east coast of Sri Lanka, strategic and tactical importance to India as a near neighbour and is considered to be of developing importance to China as it further consolidates its wider international role at the expense of both the United States and United Kingdom. As a result, the island of Sri Lanka is considered to be a primary multi-polar fracture point of developing significance.
Sri Lanka’s economy is broadly based on tourism with dwindling dependency on cash crops such as tea, rubber, rice, cocoa and coconuts. Due to political and economic mismanagement, unemployment is very high particularly among the agriculture sector. The domestic economy in situ has a heavy dependency on tourism industry paraphernalia including prostitution and brothel keeping.
Sri Lanka’s political structure is a Unicameral Parliament with around 200-250 delegate members overseen by the head of state, the President of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has an unusually large paramilitary barracked force of police and national/private guards. Alongside this provision, Sri Lanka has seen a substantial increase in military spending and associated increases in military populace. This has been aggravated by a voluntary state of domestic conflict it has been engaged in with Tamil separatists on the island, increased indirect funding from the United States in order to inculcate Sri Lanka’s domestic criminal justice system with its own ‘anti-terrorism’ stance and the appearance of strident nationalist posture undertaken by the nationalist President Mahinda Rajapaksa parading as domestic anti-terrorism posture.
In 2008, the nationalist politic of the Rajapaksa regime became self-evident with increased military spending and a sudden increase in street violence directed toward minorities3. This took the form of divisive ethnic violence appended by wider political aggravations. This political development had been seen on the island previously with ‘apparent’ attacks undertaken by Tamils being utilised for political effect by various Sinhalese governments via Sinhalese media. In 1991, the Tamils were accused of carrying out the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi but stridently denied any involvement. In 1993, the Tamils were again accused of carrying out the assassination of President Ranasinghe Premadasa during a labour day parade in Colombo, which they again stridently denied.
At the beginning of 2009, after many attempts going back a number of decades, the Sinhala majority made another catastrophic attempt to cleanse the island of its Tamil minority with aid and assistance from the United Nations, the Chinese, British and US Governments and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In January 2009, the military operation to cleanse the Tamils begun in earnest and completed in May 2009 with the deaths of an estimated 40,000 people, many of whom were women and children. The military operation throughout its prosecution was persistently referred to as being of a humanitarian type and was routinely labelled a rescue operation.
At no time during the operation, was any coherent measure taken by the Rajapaksa government to accede to the international civilian communities demands to cease the operation or to provide aid for the civilians they were killing. At no time, was any coherent attempt made by the Chinese, British, Indian or US Governments to bring an immediate halt to the massacre. As a result, the operation to cleanse the Tamils from the north of Sri Lanka has been correctly identified as being an incident of ethnic cleansing freely and voluntarily undertaking by the government of Sri Lanka and freely tolerated by its sponsors.
Persuasive evidence4, 5, 6 has since emerged conclusively proving that the military posture undertaken by the Rajapaksa government was a direct, planned and motivated attempt at the destruction of an ethnic group and that a culture of near total unaccountability existed and still exists within his political realm.
The geo-strategic implications of Sri Lanka’s position in the Indian Ocean, and the resultant effect this has had on its slide into nationalist violence, is a polarised one. In the first part China, the United States and India’s posture are important factors in understanding how the Rajapaksa regime has been able to bring about the ethnic cleansing seen on the island in 2008/2009.
In another sense, it should be remembered that geo-strategic manoeuvring on the international stage is not covered in international law and there is no capacity for prosecution of the law as a result of this type of political posturing.
Geo-strategically, China has recently attempted to consolidate its wider geographic political and military reach in the Indian Ocean by supporting the Rajapaksa regime in acceding to its ethnic requests at the United Nations (UN) to persecute a final military onslaught against the Tamil population on Sri Lanka, in order to seize control of the northern territory. In return, China has been able to secure access to Sri Lanka’s Hambantota7 port in the south of the country as part of its ‘string of pearls’ series of ports along the southern Asia littoral in order to secure its oil shipping provision. Eventually, this will migrate into a military provision.
The United States uses the port at Trincomalee in the north as a re-fuelling station for ocean going commercial and military vessels which serves as a critical waypoint between east and western economies in their tactical approach to the Suez Canal. As the United States has fabricated an on-going presence in the Middle-East, the port at Trincomalee has become more important to its wider military reach throughout southern Asia.
For India, China, the world’s largest superpower and the United States, the world’s largest armed military power, are now in direct potential conflict off its southern coast. With this, comes the future potential for slow conflict and a general degradation of the area around Sri Lanka leading to a severe loss of movement for the Indian navy and a chronic upswing in posture between all three nations. This constitutes a very major multi polar fracture point with serious scope for conflict in the future.
However, multi-polar posture in the southern Asian region does not justify, nor excuse, the appalling loss of life on Sri Lanka nor does it in any way mitigate the requirement for international law to be upheld by UN member nations, of which China, the United States and India are signatories. As is clearly evident over the past three years, Sri Lanka has formed an ultra-nationalist government and political credo that has been responsible for the highly organised massacre of an internal ethnic population with the full backing of these UN member states. The same states that are charged with upholding of international law.
As the primary fracture of the new multi-polar reality begins to sink in with nations around the world, and as the United States and United Kingdom cartel experiences further disruption to its internal economy, the southern tip of India at the point of Sri Lanka now stands as a persuasive example of how modern Globalisation in practise accrues in direct relation to severe human rights abuses and the organised slaughter of innocent human beings. In this regard, Globalisation is architect of severe human rights abuses and those tasked with the upholding of international law, are the very same culprits responsible for its infraction.
The rhetoric of extremism
The rhetoric of extremism in the globalised security environment that now exists is surprisingly malformed, and equally surprisingly influential. In Sri Lanka, the operation to bring about the ethnic cleansing of the Tamils was initially formed around a humanitarian interventionist pole8alongside a domestic security intention. This initial rhetoric was criticised at the time as being ‘unlikely’ but due to the globalised posture of governments and media around the world in the post 9/11 event phase, the narrative unusually succeeded in its efforts.
In the 2008 video above, this rhetoric can be seen with a BBC interview carried out with a Sri Lankan government employee, Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha [Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP)]. In this interview, the scope of the nationalist policy against the Tamils can be seen in its formation alongside the belligerence of the British Broadcasting Corporation as it existed at the time. This interview at first glance appears reasonably benign but takes place at a time when a very senior former Tamil, Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan [aka Colonel Karuna Amman] had been arrested by Metropolitan police after entering the United Kingdom after fleeing Sri Lanka to escape the killing spree which was in the planning. Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha ends the interview by making a ‘request’ that British authorities ‘dispose’ of Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan while he is UK custody. Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan was deported to Sri Lanka on 3rd July 2008.
In this second interview again for the BBC conducted in 2011 after the full weight of the ethnic cleansing had become known across the world, Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha in his capacity as government coordinator of the peace process, routinely defaults to defending the nationalist regime of Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka and further continues to disrupt and retard the interviewers questioning about the massacre in Sri Lanka. He calls into question the motives of the ‘human rights industry’, disambiguates unambiguous questioning given by the interviewer, persistently derails and deviates away from line of enquiry and promotes and demotes salient information in order to evade complicity. This approach is almost identical to his motif in the first interview and reveals persuasive evidence of government rhetoric taking on academic form.
Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha is the Sri Lankan Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process and a prime example of the totalitarian nature of Sri Lankan nationalism. Sri Lanka has over the past two years been accused of war crimes by the international public community and has on a number of occasions attempted to hold ‘enquiries’ into its own conduct. Unsurprisingly, those efforts to determine the truth have for some reason failed.
The two interviews above reveal the broad thrust of the Sri Lankan nationalist regimes domestic political approach to the international community in tandem with its operation to commit and execute a policy of highly organised ethnic cleansing of the minority Tamil population of Sri Lanka during the 2008/2009 period. Despite persuasive evidence of wrongdoing against international law, the Sri Lankan nationalist regime continues to enjoy its freedom and liberty and continues to make a mockery of not just international law, but of the globalised security environment as practised by other larger nations around the world. While this situation continues to develop, and while other larger nations continue to struggle in the quagmire of a near complete absence of international support while undertaking their own ‘anti-terror’ postures, the narrative of this security posture will continue to degrade and relapse into unidentifiable form.
The rhetoric of the nationalist government of Sri Lanka throws into sharp relief a number of characteristics inherent within the globalised security posture of those nations attempting to formulate foreign and domestic political policy. These points are alluded to in a US Army publication9 by Major Niel A. Smith, USA, Executive Officer of 5–1 Cavalry at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. In this document, Smith correctly identifies the failures of the policy as enacted by Rajapaksa and its immediate effects on the ‘anti-terror’ posture and rhetoric of the United States in its prosecution of its own counterinsurgency [COIN] doctrine in Iraq and Afghanistan. In this document Smith identifies a number of principles clearly undertaken by Rajapaksa. These are identified as political will, go to hell (that is, ignore domestic and international criticism), no negotiations, regulate media, no ceasefire, complete operational freedom, accent on young commanders, keep your neighbours in the loop.
It should be noted that Smith’s findings relate to Rajapaksa’s approach in Sri Lanka as applied and placed into ‘sympathy’ with US COIN doctrine in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This rather unfortunate symposium reveals the similarity between US military policy in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the policy of ethnic cleansing in Sri Lanka confirming that worldwide criticism of US policy, which has been persistently defended throughout the US political, military and media environments, has correctly identified US COIN doctrine as being closer to the politic of ethnic cleansing than it is to the provision of remotely managed security through military occupation.
The document also goes on to outline the geo-strategy in place in and around Sri Lanka prior to the policy of ethnic cleansing taking place.
The rhetoric of ethnic cleansing.
In the initial stages of the pre-amble to the operation against the Tamils, significant international effort was made by the Rajapaksa regime to ready the international audience for the inevitable international backlash against the policy he had developed. In order to ensure that he could maximise his gains at the United Nations along with the naturally occurring gains found in European states as a result of the freezing of assets of Tamil groups and the general ‘anti-terror’ environment, Rajapaksa required a media policy.
This policy was twin pronged and involved in the first part, absolute denial of access for international journalists into the pending conflict area and intimidation of local journalists in order to prevent local domestic media disruption of ‘ethnic policy’. Throughout the Sinhalese controlled area, journalists of all stripes and colours have reported intimidation, threats and actual use of violence by ‘specialist’ units in the lead up to the policy of ethnic cleansing through to the present time.
The rhetoric of evasion
For many around the world, the efficacy of international law is far from straightforward and given to inherent subjectivity. In an age in which human rights abuses abound throughout all the political environments of the world, justice for those who have been subject to ethnic violence is a long and arduous process with varying chance of realistic success. No matter what weight of evidence exists, no matter how clean the case for prosecution, no matter how ‘persuasive’ the charge given that evidence, international law for many abruptly halts when in collision with the largest of its sponsors. This is undoubtedly true.
For those in Rajapaksa’s regime, international law is a relative device that can be evaded, but only with considerable prior planning and foresight. For the most part, the personal ideology of Rajapaksa in the form of his own strident nationalism has simply arrived at an end point having reached its logical conclusion. There is evidence that Rajapaksa has been a long-time advocate10 of nationalist ideology and his appearance at this point in time simply denotes a man who has seen his time come. It is here, that the fundamental nature of the war against the non-state actor, also known as the so called ‘War on Terror’ is revealed for what it is, a liberation for the tyrant…and a prison for his fool.
The rhetoric now engaged in by the Rajapaksa nationalists is one in which considerable faith has been placed in the United States, China and India. These three actors constitute the vast bulk of delegates to the United Nations and hold most influence at the International Criminal Court [ICC]. Rajapaksa and his brother Lieutenant Colonel Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa, have clearly made a calculated appraisal about their fortunes in relation to these three nations and have clearly concluded that Sri Lanka’s geo-strategic political position will successfully renovate international public opinion leading to a general failure of accountability at the UN. To this end, the two have now adopted the politic of ‘healing’, ‘reconciliation’ and ‘oneness’. By so doing, there is revealed an attempt to burrow down into the Sri Lankan people the nationalist predicament they find themselves struggling with, and a further attempt to incarcerate the Sri Lankan people as a whole, into bonded complicity to international war crimes.
Sri Lanka, a moderately sized nation with longstanding ethnic tensions and an equally longstanding tendency toward political and social malformation has, since 2008, experienced external disruption to its political and military systems due to its geo-strategic position in the critical naval belt inbound and outbound from the strategic Suez Canal territory. In its position off the coast of the international leviathan India, it has become subject to geo-strategic posturing between the United States and an ascendant China. This has brought about the ascendency of domestic nationalist forces in both political and military form within Sri Lanka itself. On the one hand it has seen investment of intrusive foreign policy from the United States in its wayward pursuit of non-state actors, and on the other hand financial and military backing of China in its attempts to safeguard its energy resource supply line along the south Asian littoral. Sri Lanka has therefore been subject to excessive interference by large scale actors and this has severely disrupted its political, military, social and cultural order.
In late 2008, these influences coagulated together and found an outlet in the form of organised, funded, planned and irreversible ethnic cleansing.
In the early part of 2009, a very heavily funded and equipped Sri Lankan military began a disproportionate operation against a poorly equipped and disorganised ethnic minority in the northern territory absent an international media or adequate aid provision. The operation was claimed to be of a humanitarian type and an attempt to rescue the Tamil population from armed guerrilla’s. Heavy weapons, air, sea and land forces were deployed against that ethnic minority resulting in large scale loss of life. Despite international objections from the international community, no attempt was made to abbreviate the stride of the operation resulting in terrible suffering to unarmed civilians. Along with evidence of shelling of civilian areas, safe zones and de-militarised areas, evidence of shelling with heavy weapons of aid agencies, evidence of persistent multi-directional shelling of areas in which civilians had been herded and persistent evidence of interference of transit of medical supplies and the targeting of medical staff, the operation to rescue the Tamils undertaken by the Sri Lankan military and government was clearly ethnic cleansing dressed in humanitarian regalia.
In total it is estimated that as many as 40,000 people have been killed during the government operation with as many as 180,000 – 200,000 abandoned to concentration camps. Rape, sexual abuse, assassinations, summary executions, extra judicial killings, unexplained disappearances of key figures and targeting of media figures have gone on along with murder and massed extermination. Bodies have been left to decompose where they have been dropped, have been cremated in makeshift pits and the injured simply left to die. At every opportunity the nationalist posture of the Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, along with his brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has concerned itself only with prosecuting the policy toward a deliberated end point.
As large quantities of evidence now circulate of organised ethnic cleansing, much of it recorded by the Sri Lankan military itself, the world has been shocked out of its ‘terrorism malaise’ and into a stark state of realism regarding the shortcomings of political, security and military polemicism. The operation undertaken by nationalists in Sri Lanka has pole-axed the foreign policy arrangements of the United States and United Kingdom and sent a tidal wave of indignation throughout the world crippling the established order. Above all, the globalised state of security provision prompted into existence post 9/11 in the United States has experienced broad-scale failure and revealed a complete inability of the ideology to be successfully supplanted across national, social, political and military boundaries.
The globalised state of security apparatus attempted by the United States since September 11th 2001, has successfully revealed a slumbering terrorist state from covert to overt status in the immediate vicinity of the world’s second most populist state, India. At a time when the international stage is migrating toward the appearance of multiple actors or multiple superpowers, in international parlance known as multi-polarity, Sri Lanka has been emerged by China and the United States at a critical fracture point displaying stridently nationalist colours. The emergence of this nationalist state in such an open and critical position, renders international law broadly redundant, and the future relationship between the United States and China centred around a nationalist pole with a firm tendency toward international lawlessness.
1. Rhetoric [Def] Wikipedia
2. Global Terrorism: 35,000 Worldwide Convicted For Terror Offenses Since September 11 Attacks by MARTHA MENDOZA [AP] 09/03/11 Huffingdon Post
3. Sri Lanka’s Eastern Provincial Council Convenes; Muslim-tamil Tensions High. US Embassy Colombo – 5th June 2008. Classified By: Charge d’Affaires James R. Moore for reasons: 1.4(b,d). Wikileaks
4. Sri Lanka War Crimes Evidence. WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT. YouTube
5. Sri Lanka’s killing fields. Channel 4, London. Channel 4, London, UK.
6. Sri Lanka’s killing fields: War Crimes Unpunished. Channel 4, London. Channel 4, London, UK.
7. “India Worries as China Builds Ports in South Asia.” by VIKAS BAJAJ – February 15th 2010. New York Times, US.New York Times.
8. HUMANITARIAN OPERATION FACTUAL ANALYSIS JULY 2006 – MAY 2009. Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence. Published July 2011. DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF SRI LANKA, MINISTRY OF DEFENCE. July 2011.
9.”Understanding Sri Lanka’s defeat of the Tamil Tigers” by Major Niel A. Smith, USA, Executive Officer of 5–1 Cavalry at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. “Understanding Sri Lanka’s defeat of the Tamil Tigers”
10.”Destroy India Says Rajapakse in Interview – 1988″. “Understanding Sri Lanka’s defeat of the Tamil Tigers”
– Courtesy terencebunch.co.uk –