A. Loewenstein Online Newsletter

Calls for Colombo to face war crimes trial grows

Posted: 18 Jun 2011

From Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times

Will the Sri Lankan government be able to shrug off the persistent allegations that war crimes were committed, in its successful assault on the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) in 2009? I have always assumed that the answer to that question was – probably Yes. But now I’m beginning to wonder.
My reasons for thinking that the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa would probably shrug off the human-rights charges against it, were various. First, the LTTE’s own record of human-rights abuses and terrorism had hardly endeared it to most of the rest of the world. Second, it was clear to most outsiders that the Sri Lankan civil was had exacted a terrible toll, over decades – so a government offensive that definitively ended the conflict would gain approval, even if it involved excessive brutality to civilians. Finally, Sri Lanka is a small country. If India, its own vast neighbour was prepared to turn a blind eye to accusations of human-rights abuses, the West would probably follow the Indian lead.
However, calls for an international inquiry into the events of 2009 have not gone away – in fact they have been renewed, in Britain at least, following the screening of a widely-viewed television documentary with new footage of the fighting. These calls now seem to be getting some resonance with a wider public. Mike Atherton, a former England cricket captain, has just suggested that England might reconsider plans to tour Sri Lanka.
The kind of Sri Lankan government that has emerged in the aftermath of the military victory – intolerant of the free press and dominated by the Rajapaksa family – has also damaged the country’s image. Certainly the Rajapaksas present an awful face to this world. Take a look at this memorable clip from the BBC Hardtalk interview with Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the defence minister, in which he threatens to hang a Sri Lankan general who had fallen out of favour with the government.

Don’t play Israel and join the Gaza flotilla

Posted: 18 Jun 2011

Canadian film-maker John Greyson unleashes yet another fine work: 
Gaza Island from Albino Squirrel Channel on Vimeo.
More here.

Chomsky; life is empty without love

Posted: 17 Jun 2011


Praising Sri Lanka for murdering countless Tamils

Posted: 17 Jun 2011

Oh what a glorious war. 
After killing up to 40,000 Tamils civilians during the end of the country’s civil war, Colombo recently organised a conference to show the world the wonderful techniques used to silence, intimidate and destroy Tamil hopes for a homeland.
Naturally, many other countries were keen to hear such wise words, including the US, whose official seemed to deny that government forces had deliberately targeted surrendering Tamil Tigers. The facts show otherwise.
Then Australian-born counter-terrorism “expert” David Kilkullen – I discussed his failures before and wondered how a man who has helped the US get crushed in Iraq and Afghanistan is asked by the media to comment on such matters – opined on the war and started with this:

Defense Secretary Rajapaksa, Professor Peiris, General Jayasuriya, distinguished officials, officers, and delegations: Good morning. Thank you for organizing this important conference, and for your kind invitation to talk frankly with you about Sri Lanka’s experience in Eelam War IV.  As I said when I accepted the invitation to attend, I believe your defeat of LTTE is a remarkable achievement that deserves to be studied. At the same time, the international community has legitimate questions about human rights and about the way operations were conducted, and it is in Sri Lanka’s interest to be as open as possible in answering those questions. I am not known for being diplomatic, so let me say from the outset that I do believe Sri Lanka has achieved a great success, but before you can put forward your approach as a model for others, it’s extremely important to address some important human rights critiques, and consider how to turn a military success into a sustainable peace. I don’t believe we are there yet.
Before I begin, let me also note that none of my comments today are or can be definitive. It would be arrogant and presumptuous for me to lecture you on “proper” tactics and strategy. All I can do is to provide an outsider’s perspective, and to share some of the lessons I’ve learned in the campaigns of the last decade: it is for you to decide how, and indeed whether, these insights apply to you.

It seems to me that the best hope for long-term peace, following the remarkably successful defeat of the Tigers in Eelam IV, lies in robust political and economic reform at the local, community-level in all former insurgent-controlled areas. A government that brings peace, justice, and reconciliation to its people will be defended by its people, regardless of ethnic group.

In reality, and Kilkullen would know this by appearing at an event that celebrated Colombo’s “victory” over the Tigers, Sri Lanka is moving in the opposite direction and his presence simply gave tacit backing for the government’s brutal activities.

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