an area of the map for world news.
the November 2001 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 48,
The Island (independent),
Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sept. 13, 2001.
carried out the attacks on the hub of American business and finance
as well as the headquarters of the mightiest military force ever,
for whatever reasons, committed acts that go against norms of modern
civilization. It was hi-tech barbarism.
Americans are no angels. They can be held responsible for many human
tragedies of modern times in many countries. But the crashing of
aircraft loaded with innocent passengers into the twin towers of
New York and the Pentagon while around 100,000 people were working
in these establishments and its environs is not going to bring opprobrium
to America or sympathy for whatever cause in which name these insane
and criminal acts were committed.
Palestinians danced in the streets upon receiving news of the attacks,
but their joy is misplaced, because these attacks are not going
to help their cause in any way. In fact, the fallout can only be
We, in this little island nation, know all too well the anguish
and rage the Americans are going through today. We have been through
this torment many times in the past 18 yearsthe last occasion
being the terrorist attack on the military and civilian airports
at Katunayake [committed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE), who are fighting for a Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka, on July
24]. We see similarities and divergences in the fallout of the two
acts of terrorism.
Immediately after the attacks on America, the cry that emanated
from President Bush, leading American politicians, and the ordinary
people shown on TV was that terrorism must be eliminated, root and
branch, from the globe. Countries that gave shelter or support to
such terrorists should be held responsible for their actions, they
said. In contrast, after the Katunayake tragedy our national leaders
did not call for a determined effort to eliminate terrorism. Leaders,
including fellow travelers of the peace brigades and ambassadors
of Western nations, asked us to hold negotiations with the terrorists!
Apparently, there are terrorists, and then there are Terrorists.
The attacks on American targets were described as crimes against
humanity. But in the case of Katunayake, some of our academic pundits
attempted to justify the attacks as legitimate because a military
air base was involved. Who in the world today would justify the
attack on U.S. military headquarters, the Pentagon, on the grounds
that it is a military target? When the central bank of this poor
country was bombed in 1996, some also claimed it was legitimate
because freedom fighters had a right to select economic
targets. Now, who would justify the attack on the hub of American
business and finance?
Immediately after the bombing of Katunayake, this poor country,
which depended so much on tourism, was hit viciously below the belt
by our friendly Western nations, which declared it to be a war zone
and issued travel advisories to their citizens not to travel to
Sri Lanka. The robber barons of international insurance not only
hiked up insurance premiums for aircraft landing here by astronomical
amounts this country could not afford, but went on to hike up freight-insurance
premiums for shipping, crippling our export and import businesses.
Today, America has declared war on its unidentified aggressor. Its
airports are closed and all aircraft grounded. But which insurance
company will declare the United States to be a war zone and jack
up insurance premiums on ships and aircraft landing in America?
True, little Lanka is not mighty America. But the effects of terrorist
attacks on poor countries are many times more disastrous than on
a big power. And those who are responsible for the proliferation
of international terrorism are our brothers, big and powerful as
well as big and not so
In the 1980s, Sri Lanka watched in desperation as our neighboring
Big Brother took a ragtag band of terrorists and molded them into
efficient guerrilla fighting units. They, with their active canvassing,
helped spread the Tamil diaspora around the world. It is today the
main source of terrorist funds keeping the carnage going on here.
On Tuesday, we ran a report from the Canadian newspaper the National
Post, which accused the Canadian government of permitting the
LTTE to collect as much as US$30 million in Canada to fund terrorism
in Sri Lanka. Thus, when U.S. leaders look around for countries
helping international terrorism, it should look at not only the
rogue states of the Third World but also their own G-7
We are indeed sorry that America has had to bear the brunt of international
terrorism, because it is the first country that recognized the dangers
of international terrorism, named the organizations openly, and
proscribed some of them from operating in America. But elimination
of global terrorism needs a much more concerted effort than the
United States is making today.
It was the indulgent attitude shown toward so-called liberation
movements by Western nations in the 80s that resulted
in the proliferation of numerous terrorist groups. Religious bodies
and human-rights groups spoke of terrorism as being the result of
injustices caused to various ethnic and religious groups. Terrorism
had to be tackled by eliminating the causes of terrorism, they held.
This is indeed true, but today many such groups that have sprung
up believe they are justified in being terrorists because their
causes are just. The question now before America and other powerful
nations is whether these terrorist groups should be shown indulgence
because their causes are supposedly just causes.
The horrendous attacks in New York and Washington now quite clearly
indicate that the world cannot tolerate such terrorist groups anymore,
although terrorist groups like that of the LTTE exist today due
to the munificence and tolerance of European governments. The West
knows too well the links that are being established between international
terrorist outfits. It cannot ignore any outfit in this globally
linked terror chain. President Bush has vowed to crack down not
only on terrorists but on countries that harbor them. He should
be supported by the civilized world.
Western nations have been the foster fatherand some still
arelooking after this Frankenstein monster. It is now up to
them to destroy it.