Thursday, January 15, 2009

"Indiscriminate slaughter from the air is a barbarism that must be abolished"

I find this piece from Simon Jenkins in the Guardian written in the context of the aerial bombardment of Gaza very very relevant to Sri Lanka's war in the North as well.

The tragedy in Gaza surely marks the time when the world declares air-launched bombs and long-distance shells to be illegal under the 1983 Geneva convention. They should be on a par with chemical munitions, white phosphorous, cluster bombs and delayed-action land mines. They pose a threat to non-combatants that should be intolerable even in the miserable context of war.

I can accept Israeli claims that they are not intentionally targeting civilians in Gaza - or the United Nations base set on fire yesterday. But the failure of their chosen armaments had the same effect. The civilian death toll is now put at 673, mostly women and children.

It is barely conceivable that the most accurate weapon of war, an infantryman, would deliberately enter a house and massacre unarmed women and children as they have their dinner. As a result, mercifully few do. When such cold-blooded murder is committed, from the 1968 My Lai killings in Vietnam to those now coming to light in Iraq, we are appalled, and inquiries, trials and disciplinary procedures follow.

Those killing from the air need have no sight of the carnage they unleash. They are placed at both a geographical and a moral distance, with a licence allowed no soldier on the ground. Whether they are dispatching free-fall bombs or GPS-guided missiles, tank shells or predator drones, Hamas's Qassam rockets or improvised explosive devices, they know they often miss their targets, but they launder any carnage as "collateral damage" and leave politicians to handle the backlash. The soldier shrugs and walks away, with no obligation to humanity beyond the occasional apology and a reference to the other side being just as bad.

If gas, landmines, chemical weapons and cluster munitions are now banned - a ban broadly obeyed by most civilised armies - why not aerial bombardment? Instead, bombing is becoming ever more prevalent. It precedes any operation, as a sort of overture, and eagerly takes part in each tactical twist. Counter-insurgency war, in Iraq and Afghanistan, has seen western armies take heavy casualties. But such is the political aversion to them that Israeli, American and British ground forces operate under strict "force protection" rules to minimise losses.

This has led to the reckless use of stand-off munitions, as regularly reported by embedded correspondents. Rather than employ infantry to clear an apparently hostile settlement, commanders call in air strikes and pound it to rubble. The Israelis have responded to the Hamas bombardment of their towns with a far heavier bombardment of Gaza. Both endanger civilians to a degree that cannot be other than criminal. That human shield tactics may be involved is no excuse: the law does not permit the killing of innocents in the hope of reaching the guilty.

Also see Jayantha Dhanapala: (I wonder whether he has the guts to see the same thing to the SL Govt)

the high number of civilian casualties in Gaza indicates once more that there is no such a thing as a clean, technological and aseptic warfare where civilians are spared and only combatants (soldiers or insurgents) are hit.

Friday, January 09, 2009

The connection between the celebration and the mourning

Lankadissent run under the auspicies of the Sri Lanka Freedom party (Mahajana Wing) - Mangala Samaraweera's party - and edited by Senior Journalist Kusal Perera (good friend of murdered Journalist Dharmaratnem Sivaram-'Taraki') has decided to call it a day after Lasantha's killing.

They have issued a statement in this regard. Hats off to Kusal Perera for this part of the statement

"Many who thought they as the media have a right to freedom of expression, they have a right to information, that the people also have the same right and that it is a fundamental right in a modern civilised society, have been told very bluntly and at times most brutally, that it isn't so in this land of the compassionate, democratic republic, run by a "patriotic" regime.

The Tamil media in the North were the first to have been told this bluntly and ruthlessly while the Colombo media did not want those dissenting voices in the North, heard elsewhere. They had to learn that lesson, first hand."

My friend Dinidu has got it spot on:

"If you tell me that four guys on four unmarked bikes, wearing all black, can kill a man in broad daylight and vanish, or twenty people can come to an office, blow it up, and then disappear without anybody knowing, yet I can’t stand on the road for my bus for longer than five minutes without one of your uniform clad brainwashed cronies coming and asking me who I am, what I’m doing there, and when I plan on buggering off, then there is something seriously wrong in what you say."

This capturing of land business if it is done in the name of providing humanitarian relief to the Tamil people why would you celebrate that? Why celebrate as if though you have annexed land to your territory or as if though you have conquered the Tamil people? The celebration has a direct link to providing courage to those parties who now think they can do anything they want. I was so dismayed with the fire crackers yesterday. Would it not have been right for the President if we has so much of feeling for the death of Lasantha to say lets not 'celebrate' this time, unless of course he saw that the incident on the 8th is also a reason for celebration.