Saturday, October 27, 2007

Missing the Point and the Tiger

A certain candidate for the forthcoming Democratic Elections in the United States has claimed the LTTE cannot be described as a terrorist group. We understand the yardstick not fitting the measured but must we restate the obvious? Maybe reframing the issue in post 9/11 jargon and within the theories of terrorism would help.

The LTTE’s acts fall within many different categories of terrorism ever identified (Schmidt). These include Nationalist and Separatist/Ethnic terrorism (LTTE defines it as Tamil vs Sinhalese), Insurgent Terrorism (LTTE’s Insurgent Behaviour), Political Terrorism (elimination of political dissenters), Social Revolutionary Terrorism (correcting social ills like Caste, Gender-discrimination) and Pathological Terrorism (pregnant women suicide bombers).

Whilst acts such as indiscriminate bombings, armed assaults on civilians and focused assassinations are considered criminal offences in national or international law, mere crimes do not become terrorist acts (means rather than ends). There must be a distinct political motivation for it to become terrorism (i.e. LTTE’s demands for Eelam through political cessation). There is also a distinct connection between guerilla-warfare and Terrorism. Mao Tse-Tung in his book ‘Guerrilla Warfare’ (1937), concluded terrorism as a second stage of a three stage model of insurrection (1. Organisation, consolidation, and preservation of base areas; 2. guerrilla war; 3. conventional army to destroy the enemy). Mao would have been proud of the LTTE (at least in theory) for they seem to embody all three characteristics of guerilla warfare.

Terrorists also frequently elevate irregular practices of warfare into regular tactics. Suicide bombing for example is an irregular tactic the LTTE has regularized, internalized and regimentalized in, for example, the Black Tigers. Terrorists avoid open combat and avoid meeting its adversaries in conventional warfare.

Schmidt claims that “Acts of terrorism, then, can be understood as a special kind of violence; the peacetime equivalent of war crimes.” The Hague Regulations and Geneva Conventions stipulates that “irregular fighters”(guerrillas, partisans, resistance groups) must fulfill four conditions:

1. Irregulars must be ‘commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates’; (The LTTE seems to have a loosely defined Rank and File)

2. They must have a ‘fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance’; (Violation by LTTE suicide bombers, recent Black Tiger infiltration squad, pistol gang etc)

3. They must carry their arms ‘openly’; (Violation: suicide bombers, Pistol Gangs etc)

4. They must conduct their operations ‘in accordance with the laws and customs of war’. (Violation: child combatants, pregnant women suicide bombers etc)

Terrorist violence is aimed at behaviour-modification by coercion and propaganda by persuasion. Terrorism, when using violence against one victim, seeks to coerce and persuade others. The immediate victim is merely an instrument for a calculated impact on a wider audience. Terrorism is perpetrated as an indirect strategy aimed at a larger audience than the victims of the specific act itself. For example the audience of the Dr Thiruchelvam assassination was the moderate Tamils seeking a negotiated solution.

From which angle we look, the Tigers bear all the hallmarks of a terrorist outfit. So what next? Perhaps we should wait and see how the candidate greets the reality of the world outside the US to make further conclusions. The International Community can be ignorant at times, but it is certainly not foolish.

(1) A.P. Schmid et al. Political Terrorism. A New Guide to Actors, Authors, Concepts, Data Bases, Theories, and Literature. Revised, expanded and updated edition prepared under the Auspices of the Centre for International Affairs, Harvard University. Amsterdam, North-Holland Publishing Company, 1988, p. 48. – with additions by J. Post.


perein said...

Defencewire team;

Can you please confirm the below story from

Mannar tiger intelligence leader nabbed
(25th October 2007 06:55 S.L.T )
S.L. Navy has been able to arrest a tiger intelligence leader who had been active in Mannar area. Vivekanandan Vijayakanthan was arrested with five more tiger terrorists.The arrested terrorists have been handed over to the Mannar Police for further investigations.

Defencewire said...

Confirmed and authentic!

Sam Perera said...


We nabbed a tiger intelligence leader man and just haneded him to Mannar Polica Station? No acton from MI? Am I missing something here?

Defencewire said...

He is an area leader. Not a big wig. So its not a matter of urgency. Army must follow established procedure (Remember HR and FR) because it was a public or 'visible' arrest. The Police will charge him and produce him in court, and keep him in remand. Takeover point of Mi depends on cooperation of police afterwards. in many places, especially in Mannar and Vavuniya, there's an 'understanding'.

Illegal.existence said...

"A certain candidate for the forthcoming Democratic Elections in the United States has claimed the LTTE cannot be described as a terrorist group."

Come on people read the frigging interview. This incident has been blown totally out of proportion by the media and apparently you guys have latched on to it. For starters, she actually does refer to the LTTE as a terrorist group in making those comments, so what you say is just plain incorrect.

Anyone who has read the actual interview, and I don't mean the seleted version published in the Daily Mirror, will understand the context in which Clinton made that statement. The question posted to her was,

"Do you think that the terrorists hate us for our freedoms, or do you think they have specific geopolitical objectives?"

Bush has a habit of saying that all the terrorist problems in the world are due to the terrorists hating the the freedoms the people of the "free world" enjoy. Clinton's remark was all about politics, along the lines of most of her objectives, which are to show the voters that she'll fight the war against terrorism "better" than Bush has.

Whether she'll be softer on the LTTE and harder on our government's HR violations is hard to say, but what we're talking about is her becoming President of the US. And no matter what is going on in Iraq, the American president cannot be soft on terrorists. If anything, while withdrawing troops in Iraq, she might choose to focus on eliminating terrorists elsewhere in the world (I don't mean direct intervention), to prove that she is still fighting the global war against terrorism.

But first of all she needs to get elected, and no matter what anyone says, that is in no way a sure bet.

Illegal.existence said...

And the Guardian interview is here, for anyone who wants to read it.,,2197197,00.html

onecountry said...

It may be just 2 votes. But, 2 votes from my family will depend on Hillary's view on LTTE. Not only that. I will canvas at least 100 votes away from her if she maintains positive stance towards LTTE.

defenceAnalyst said...

I saw the overall context in which she has placed this and its in the US domestic interest context. This is the reason why it warrants greater analysis. The statement was
"There are personality-driven terroristic objectives. The bottom line is, you can't lump all terrorists together. And I think we've got to do a much better job of clarifying what are the motivations, the raisons d'ĂȘtre of terrorists."

These 'motivations' would be identified based on US domestic interests of national security. So groups that are 'motivated' to destroy the US would be the target and not those that have other motivations. This statement has an internal a classification system ("lump all terrorists together")between groups posing a threat to US interests and those that do not. This is a marked departure from the existing thinking, which is somewhat more 'equitable' for small states like us battling such groups. We require this existing thinking based on OUR own national interests.

The statements resounds general theories that try to decipher between terrorists and liberation struggles. Any move away from viewing LTTE as a terror group and viewing it as a liberation struggle must be better clarified. Our exploration was on what constitutes a terrorist group and demonstrates how a terrorist group can also be a guerrilla group fighting for separation/liberation.In this analysis terrorism is a tactic for liberation or cessation. But as a tactic, terrorism is against international law and established rules of engagement and can benefit groups unduly in fighting conventional armed forces.

Hillary's statements to me reflect a general argument that the LTTE is a lesser threat to US interests than certain Islamic groups branded also as terrorists. Therefore the criticism is not Hillary's statement but the yardstick for describing what is terrorist and what is not in the international community. Should the IC identify a group as terrorist depending on its interest in defeating such or should it develop better yardsticks based on the knowledge available that terrorism as a tactic, whether it is to destroy the US or to 'liberate' the Tamils should be defeated? As explained in the article is it the means or the end? means would be terrorism but end would be liberation/self-determination etc. So if one concentrates simply on the end and say it is justifiable based on ones own national interest and not on global interests, is that justifiable?

GoldenEagle said...


Could you tell me how many Chinese JY-11 3D radars have been brought by Lanka? Are they even operating at all?

Defencewire said...

We procured two JY-11 3D's from China last April. Recent developments cannot be further discussed here.

GoldenEagle said...


I hope they can detect those f**king tin cans next time.

Defencewire said...

Its specially designed to detect low-flying aircraft and detects anything within 180km range so technically it should, but as defanalyst says, its the human element or the guy manning the system who makes the difference, not the technology.

tangara said...


Out of topic,

Did the LTTE attack damaged the A'Pura radar ?

If yes, what kind of Radar is that?

Answer where possible.

Thank you..

GoldenEagle said...


I heard that CDL is undertaking a joint venture with the Croatian Brodarski Institut to build bigger ships for our Navy.

Do you know if the government gave the green light for this endevour?

Defencewire said...

CDL and Brodarski Institut will build six aluminum FACs.

No confirmation on radar system damage at A'pura.

tangara said...

Out of topic,

At this stage,
SLA must avoid another Muhamalee type dibacle at all costs...It could be a disasster for all Sri Lankans..
That will set a negative trend on all SLDF operations in the future..

tangara said...

ooops , wrong HTML tags...

Unknown said...

is there any truth in the claim that black tigers were captured sollowing the anuradhapura attack...?

please respond.

Unknown said...


there are many wils stories floating about captued black tigers.
your confirmation is much appriciated...

is this true...?

Jambudipa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jambudipa said...

It seems the LTTE lobby have already made contact with Hilary Clinton. My calculation is Mrs. Clinton will become the next President of USA. It would be in our interest that we make contact and build relationships all major candidates and pay special attention to Mrs. Clinton. What should be made clear to her is that unlike other “freedom fighters”, LTTE wasn't a spontaneous reaction to discrimination of Tamils. LTTE was artificially created by the Indira Ghandi administration to “teach a lesson” to JR govt who was trying get close to USA. Not only RAW provided LTTE with arms and training, they setup the support structure for arms procurement and funding. In fact, LTTE may may still be funded by TN politicians. Although there were problems with how Tamils were treated, none of it warrants the level of violence directed by LTTE. The additional reason is also some Tamils is their “aspirations” which are grossly unfair when the amount of land area they claim. Furthermore, none of the claims have been proved as historical facts.

Once you destroy the legitimacy of LTTE violence, you can move on to how LTTE is a threat to US global interests. The LTTE has proven to be highly innovative. Other groups attacking western interests have copied LTTE tactics in the past and may well do in the future. The suicide bombing of USS Cole and extensive use of IEDs in Iraq may have been influenced by LTTE tactics. Going further, an innovative group such as LTTE may even have crude WMD at planning stage or initial development. They have the means to deliver WMD by by air or probably by submarine. Its not in anyone interest to have a sea faring terror group close to major sea lanes either. All in all, US does not benefit nor can it give any political justification for removing LTTE from the terror list.

GoldenEagle said...


Why build FACs? We already build UFAC III UAVs locally in CDL. I am sure that CDL won't need Croatian help to build FACs cause they already master that technology.

Are you sure they are FACs? Cause I read that they were supposed to try and build "large patrol ships" that can venture out into the oceans.

BTW did you hear that we are currently building a 40m long Patrol boat for the Maldives coast guard. Its supposed to cost $40 million. Why so expensive?

Unknown said...

Excellent comments mate. I hope our foreign affairs people get their act together and "market" our case to the IC cos ltte seems to be doing their 'marketing" very well...
We do miss those greats like Kadir at these stages who could properly put a point across to the world community and make them believe it...
It's sad that we have truth on our side but still can't get that across to IC without screwing up

Lankapura said...

Do you think the damages due to A'pura attack in this article are accurate?
Tamilnut also claimed only 8 aircraft destroyed. Is it not as bad as we thought before?

hemantha said...

Please read the following article.

Lankapura said...

Thanks Hemantha.

Defencewire said...

No LTTE captured. All died fighting. Some unable to fight committed suicide.

CDL has bid for 6 fast gunboats. There will be some type of joing venture enabling techinological transfer. I think they are more sophisticated than the UFACs.

Sanath said...

DW and all other friends, As we all know The impossible happened in anuradhapura and there is no guarantee that our airbases are a prime target and the VIP convoys too.
Is there a possibility that the tigers using a fake VIP convoy as a mask for a major attack in the city. Look I might be telling impractical things but u cant take anything for granted now. For a masking attack like this, they only need few motor cycles, 1 0r 2 tinted glasses BMWs and few defender jeeps. Is there any contingency plan to face such a situation (IF SO NO NEED TO EVEN DISCUSS HERE... these plans must be carried out in total secret manner as u all know)
REMEMBER THAT TIGERS ARE MASTER PLANNERS AND ALL THE TIME THEY HAVE USED NEW TACTICS AGAINST US so please be aware of this threat as well. IF someone who is related to the national security is reading this pls make this to the notice of our security policy makers.(If measures have already been taken ....WELL DONE!!)
REMEMBER we need to think ahead of our enemy

Anonymous said...

i think sri lankan intelligent should start one department which can think from prabakarans brain. tat department should come out with every n each possible breaking point of sri lankan defence. tatz wht we need if we want to face this kind of attacks

hemantha said...

Good point man. But what if there is a one traitor in that unit?

Defencewire said...

There are many such hypothetical scenarios but the LTTE thinking might be different. They are in this for the long-haul. Putting an act together like that would expose its network in Colombo and elsewhere. They will look at the cost-benefit ratio and would resort to such an attack only as last resort.

On the Hilary issue,
I myself doubt whether Americans would elect a woman president. When you say America, most people think of the modern metropolises. 'Real' America is the rural and conservative America like Iowa, New Hampshire etc. I think its doubtful still. But having a contingency plan in busting some of the myth is crucial. The government must also not use the Army for terror tactics, which seemingly would justify LTTE's use of terrorism.

SL intel officers, 2nd Lt upwards have one thesis they write their entire career. That's the LTTE. I wouldn't want to comment on the 'old guard' by we have some brilliant young MI officers who have dealt only with the LTTE since they joined and they need to be listened to more. Its therefore not a lack of resources but a lack of institutional nurturing etc.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

as my point of view there should be a unit which can plan attack on their own establishment they need to identify wht are the weakness of defence. which way they can approach at least this kind of units need be eye on special places like military bases ,airport, harbor etc. armories cannot do every thing for defeat terrorism this kind of strategies also we need to use for minimize our own casualties. as i knw there is some kind of units but we cant satisfy with their job they should be think about attacks b4 prabakaran think tatz wht we need

Defencewire said...

I once remember how a few young MI officers raised the issue of not having an MI officer at Anuradhapura due to the threat they perceived to the airbase. They were 'shot-down' by some claiming they wanted to move to Anuradhapura from the front-line for their personal comfort. Our establishments have this weakness don, and unless we admit that and rectify that, these things will not be preventable.

Unknown said...

This article is so funny:

Every aspect of this Terrorism fits well with Sri Lankan State Terrorism:

1. Separatist/Ethnic terrorism (Sri Lankan Government introduce Sinhala only act, standardization, colonization?? )

2. Insurgent Terrorism (Look at the JVP, current stake holders in the government)

3. Political Terrorism (recent killings of TNA Parliamentarians, priests, media personals, social-works, ngo’s etc… )

4.Social Revolutionary Terrorism (hhaha, erecting social ills like Caste, Gender-discrimination?? think again!)

5. Pathological Terrorism (Arial bombing and shelling by state forces that kills pregnant women, infants, kids and many more??).

these are just few, I don't want to elaborate, but remember, truth never dies!

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