Friday, 5 September 2014

Reply to Ryan Goodman 3 of 4 - Politics behind

Politics behind  

Ryan Goodman, a professor of Law of Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz at New York University, writes the following;
"… Sri Lanka’s historic defeat of an insurgency is emerging as a competing model to US counterinsurgency and counterterrorism strategy. It is a draconian alternative that, if adopted by other militaries, risks counterproductive and blowback effects to the detriment of US interests." 

Goodman has not paid enough attention to the significant difference between these two models of counterterrorism operations, the US model and the Sri Lankan model. 

While the US counterterrorism operations are conducted on foreign territories the Sri Lankan counterterrorism operation was conducted within its own territory. These are the operations I refer to as US counterterrorism operations – Goodman does the same.

This is a significant different. Unlike the Sri Lankan operation, I point out, this different causes each US counterterrorism operation to maintain a balancing act between its long term national interests and helping out foreign sovereigns to eradicate terrorism within their territories. I call this a perfect equilibrium. This perfect equilibrium is a condition which the US administration tries to maintain in foreign territories.  

The winning means to the US administration is maintaining that perfect equilibrium intact.

The winning means to all the others like you and me is a total eradication of terrorism. We expect, post counterterrorism is followed by nation-state building, reforms, democratization, market liberalization, bestowing universal rights upon citizen and many others will follow.   For the US administration they are just rhetoric.

In a realist point of view, it is not in the US interests to see those things are being genuinely materialized in those territories. This is a very simple understanding of what realist school of international relations teaches.

For anyone who wonders about what is wrong with the US counterterrorism operations around the world today - even if the US asserts how badly they want to win the operations - this article is a nice place to start on reflecting on inert impossibility of winning any counterterrorism operation within a foreign territory. Be mindful I refer to the winning with the second meaning of the wining I outlined above.

To conduct a successful counterterrorism operation within a state, the state has to follow certain principles in military operations. The ‘political will’ shall be the first principle of any winning counterterrorism operation, I argue. The Sri Lankan authority followed that principle. This article only discus that principle.

As Goodman also admitted the victory against the LTTE was a historical victory. And no nation as such in recent history has managed to claim such a victory against terrorist organization.

The counterterrorism operation conducted by the Sri Lankan authority remains a unique counterterrorism operation. The operation not only managed to totally eradicate the terrorist elements within the country but it also has managed to prevent any terrorist attacks occurring in the country aftermath of it. It has been five years since the totally eradication of terrorism in the country in May 2009.  It has won the hearts and minds of local people too. The post-war economic developments are seemingly consolidating those.

Therefore, I argue against Goodman that the US counterterrorism model and the Sri Lankan model are two different models. They cannot be compared.

The Sri Lankan counterterrorism operation does not emerge as a competing model to the US counterinsurgency and counterterrorism strategy in that regard.

But the Sri Lankan model remains as the only counterterrorism model available to eradicate terrorism within a state. Goodman has gotten that wrong.

Secondly, I point out that the Sri Lankan model offers a wealth of new perspectives to all the actors dealing with counterterrorism operations. They may include state actors, their armies, policy researchers, academics and so on. The must-have-tools to win a counterterrorism operation could be learned studying the Sri Lankan experience.

Finally, I assert Goodman mingles humanitarian law with US national interests. He advises the US Justice Department to indict Gotabaya back to the US. He lacks enough reflections on those issues that he is discussing. Or he is deliberately plays a dirty game with the Sri Lankan administration and the people of Sri Lanka.


Goodman has written three articles on Sri Lanka. In reply I have already written two articles. I have outlined some context in those two articles. Some may find those context is supportive to read this article too. I have linked his articles to my first article. My first article is titled, Reply to Ryan Goodman 1 of 4 - What is this all about?. The second article is titled, Reply to Ryan Goodman 2 of 4 - What does Goodman leave out?. I will address the US administration in the next article. That article will be titled Reply to Ryan Goodman 4 of 4 - The US position on Sri Lanka. I will argue that an attempt made to indict Gotabaya to US would have counterproductive effects to the US national interests in Sri Lanka and abroad, especially to the US’ shifting interest of Pivot to Asia.  
Very few occasions in this article I attribute the US Global War on Terror and US counterterrorism operations as one. But there are differences in their definitions. I have made sure this use of two concepts does not lead to any confusion.  

The Difference - US Counterterrorism Model & Sri Lanka Counterterrorism Model

President Obama states the US national interest is the first priority of any US Army operations. These army operations include counterterrorism operations too. (Available here, National Security Strategy in 2010

However, the interesting thing about the national interest of US is that there is no clear definition to define it. That seems to go for any nation state and their nation interests - to do justice to the US.

To understand the reason for a lack of clear definition, I bring Peter Trubowitz’s explanation on the political nature of nation interest.

Trubowitz writes,
 ‘the national interest is defined by those societal interests who have power to work within the political system to translate their preferences into policy’. (Trubowitz, P (1998) Defining the National Interest: Conflict and Change in American Foreign Policy. Chicago: University Chicago Press. P.4)  

This is a good place to start understanding the political nature of national interest. If you want to read further the changing and adopting nature of US nation interest read the article of Joseph S. Nye, Jr, Redefining the National Interest.   

Meanwhile General Dempsey, current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the principal military adviser to Obama, has adopted the following definition to define the ‘success’ of an counterterrorism operation, or rather the Global War on Terrorism

SUCCESS – ‘the direct approach focuses on protecting US interests.’
(Read: Counterterrorism: JointPublication 3-26. 13 November 2009. p.1-7)

If you want to fully understand how the US policy evolution is taking place in detail in this regard - from the US national interest to the US counterterrorism strategy - read the paragraphs under the title of ‘Prioritized Strategic End States for the Global War on Terrorism’ in the same policy report linked above.

Coming back to Ryan Goodman, Goodman has gravely mistaken the model US counterterrorism operation with the Sri Lankan counterterrorism operation.

The Sri Lankan operation remained within its borders. The US operations always remain outside of its national borders. While this enables the Sri Lankan authority to act within its own territory with its untainted national interest to eradicate terrorism, the US administration either has to help or go against a foreign sovereign to secure the condition needed for the US to eradicate terrorism within that sovereign. Furthermore, at the same time, the US has to secure its long-term national interests intact in that foreign territory.    

This is the fundamental difference between those two models of operations. The US has to balance out how much it helps another sovereign to eradicate terrorist elements against its own nation interest.  This is the case regardless if the operation is carried out with or without the consent of the hosting state. For the US the dilemma remains.    

Ideally, at an attempt to eradicate terrorist elements within a country, the US has to commit itself to provide all the necessary resources needed to do so to that country. Only that will secure the long-term conditions necessary. The US counterterrorism manuals also say that.

However, that means the US has to stay in those countries for a generation or two with their purest intentions and enough resources. We have witnessed this today in the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan.       

If ever the US does that, what would be the eventual consequence? The eventual consequence would be the emergence of a prosperous sovereign state. I would argue the total eradication of domestic rivalries for good would lead that country to become the latter.  

What does that mean to be a sovereign state? It means, among many other things, as a nation-state it knows and it is capable of securing its own nation interest. Will the US want that?

If you ever think the US wishes to see that kind of nation-states around, as the super power today, you have gotten one simple principle of international relations wrong. It is the principle of national interest.  

But then again you are not alone with that belief. Most of the liberal international theorists and those who profess more cooperation in the context counterterrorism operations it seems genuinely believe so.    

In my understanding it is not in the interest of US national interest to secure those conditions – however the US counterterrorism manuals keep stipulating that is the case - in any state. It is against the US national interest. That is the bottom line.

You could now understand what the US means by a successful US counterterrorism operation. It means a totally different thing to the US – maintain of a perfect equilibrium. But we have been lead to believe success means success.

The success to the US means things like followings, oil fields are being secured, navigating waters and airspaces are being secured, the US business interests are citizens are being secured, and embassies are being secured in those countries. 

Those who argue the universal values do also mean something to the US, look around before you make that argument.  

In the second sense of success - that means the real success to me and you - happens when a US counterterrorism operation went wrong, which they always do.  The complex dynamics surround any counterterrorism operation could easily till the outcome against the US interests. That happens all the time. That is way sooner or later every empire has to wrap them up and leave.   

With this new wisdom, let me briefly reflect on a word Goodman uses to describe the Sri Lankan counterterrorism model, draconian. What is the draconian model? Is it the model that tries to eradicate terrorism or is it the one that tries to contain terrorism for prefectural gain.  

The numbers speak on my behalf. Thirty years of arm conflict in Sri Lanka had cost about 70,000 civilian lives. That is for three decades. Look it up on the Uppsala Conflict Encyclopedia. How many lives have perished in Afghanistan? How many in Iraq? I don’t want to go through each of US counterterrorism operations. But those numbers amount to millions in total. And it is continuing. So, Ray Goodman what is the draconian model?

The inevitable peril of US Global War on Terror and its counterterrorism operations

Since the World War II, the US is praised to be the master of counterterrorism strategy. That is not because all those operations the US engaged in were successful but because the US is still strong enough to defend its nation interest as a/the super power. The US is still the super power, which is strong enough to defend its national interests militarily and economically in distance corners of the world. That means, according to the US national interests, none of the military operations, including counterterrorism operations, have been unsuccessful.

However, since the al Qa’ida is a global phenomenon, and their bases are located within numerous foreign territories, the US is facing the toughest challenge so far defending its national interests abroad.    
To defeat the al Qa’ida the US has to create favorable conditions within many foreign territories to eradicate those terrorist elements. Since most of those states are failed states – and we have lot to do with that too – and corruptions have taken roots in cores of those state the US sees no easy fixed. Nation buildings are not in the interest of us – I mean the US.

The US has realised this dilemma its faces in terms of securing its long term national interest within those states. The US is preparing.   

The US has only one realistic option left. Nation buildings are out of the question. The US could not wrap everything up and come back home for good either. That would not eliminate the generations of hatred and mess we are leaving there. It would also be detrimental to the US national interests in those countries and regions. Surgical strikes seem to be the answer. It is cost effective and the US has already secured enough logistic capabilities around to do so. Neutralization of those threats, as they surface in distance territories, could be done without waging full scale wars.

Those small stationary forces are to enable those logistics and surgical strike capacities. The modernization of US Army and investments in new technologies seems to go long way enabling these kinds of counterterrorism operations too.  

However, according to my understanding, the US will still be struggling to maintain this perpetual dilemma of securing its long term national interests and pretending to be helpful to those nation-states. If you don’t think so, you have not learnt anything from history.

The perfect condition, which is just enough to temper both sides of the issues – maintaining the US national interest and the interests of local actors - cannot be sustained forever. It is becoming costly and less attractive when other players offer attractive packages to local players.  

This perfect equilibrium is impossible to maintain. It is also impossible to calculate all those complex possibilities surrounding an operation.

Just to give a hint of what these conditions are like, think of the interests of different global and local actors. These are interconnected now. And then add the interests of all the neighbouring countries, interests of local actors such as war lords, actions of non-state actors, interests of the local public and interests of international communities and multinational organizations as such.

With a different degree of successes and failures, the actions and reactions of most of these actors might be calculable. But to foresee the unforeseeable is always impossible.  

Here, they lay the enough ingredients for the peril of US counterterrorism operations. What would the US get at the end of its failure to maintain this prefect equilibrium is that the whole world – at least a more than half of it – standing against the US interests abroad. While at the same time, those counter developments abroad and change in the public perception will be creating an increased number of radicalized home grown terrorists compromising the US national security within its own borders. Rising super powers with opposing national interests to the US would find reassurance in the hands of US immediate neighbours too to knock the doors at the US border territories.  

There is another way out of this inevitable peril of trying to manage the perfect equilibrium thou. The one that the US plays down the rhetoric a bit and do actual good in those territories instead while the each US tax payer eventually pick up a slightly higher bill for fuel prices and so on. That would be the admirable thing to do. And that is also the right thing to do. That will also leave the US self proclaimed desire to be the beacon of hope. That would be the legacy the US left behind, which will be remembered for millennia to come.      

Despite those remodernizations of its Army and technological boosts, the US counterterrorism operations in foreign territories are taunted by the impossibility of accruing that perfect equilibrium in long term.

The successful Sri Lankan counterterrorism operation

Goodman writes indicting Gotabaya back to the US could somewhat mitigate the lost the successful Sri Lankan counterterrorism model has done to the US counterterrorism model. 

Goodman tries to politicize the issue in favor of the US interest. The thing is that there is no issue at stake for the US administration to worry about at the first place regarding the Sri Lankan model, I have explained above. If the US administration understands indicting him back to the US would enhance its nation security strategy and national interests in Sri Lanka and within that regional, the US administration has gotten it wrong. I make this argument in the next article.   

In this section, I argue the success of the Sri Lankan operation and the experience of the Sri Lankan Army could instead offer a wealth of new resources to all the actors involved in counterterrorism operations worldwide.  

The strategy which was adopted by the Sri Lankan counterterrorism model exists as the only winning formula to defeat terrorism within a state.

The Sri Lankan counterterrorism strategy was based on solid principles.

The first principle of this winning formula is the political will - Gotabaya has outlined these principles in an article published in Indian Defence Review. (Read: Lessons from Sri Lanka's War)

Sarath Fonseka has also confirmed this. 

‘It is the political leadership with the commitment of the military that led the battle to success … And no Defence Secretary was there like the present Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa who had the same commitment and knowledge on how to crush the LTTE. Finally, they gave me the chance of going ahead with the military plan.’ (Read: Army Commander assures LTTE is finished)    

With a negative spin to it, Goodman has also pointed out that the ‘complete-operational-freedom’, the sixth principle of Sri Lankan model, had enabled Fonseka to have a ‘rock solid political backing’ for the operations. Gotabaya had promised Fonseka that he would take ‘the blame’ on behalf of the Army commanders.

In a different note, but yet another few significant points have to be made here. 

The US’ campaign on the Global War on Terror had given the strength to the administration of Sri Lanka to defeat the LTTE. There is a connection between this and the Sri Lankan President’s untainted political will. 

What is remarkable here is to the extent to which the Sri Lankan administration managed to capitalise on that. It is never an easy task. It requires faultless calculation of global political realities and its changing dynamics. It requires an acute knowledge in how to capitalise on the disfavouring elements in the equilibrium that the US tries to maintain. 

For the readers of this article, it should come as a no surprise now why the US administration has twisted its official position towards Sri Lanka aftermath of the war. That is in the US long term interest. Read the next article.   

Coming back to the original point of this section, the Sri Lankan counterterrorism operation and the US counterterrorism operations could not be compared. 

Goodman tries to prey on and try to place the US administration on a collision path with the Sri Lankan administration.     

The principles adopted by the Sri Lankan counterterrorism model offered a decisive military victory against terrorism.   

In that sense, the victory of Sri Lankan Army is of significance to many. The legitimate governments, their armies, policy researchers and academics could be direct benefactors of this Sri Lankan experience. The academic disciplines such as international relations, diplomacy, war studies, counterinsurgency and counterterrorism studies and studies of post-war developments are all have a great wealth of knowledge to extract from the Sri Lankan experience. How the Government of Sri Lanka maintains the diplomatic relations with different actors prior-to and aftermath-of the military operations, how the actual kinetic operations were conducted, and what enabled the unprecedented level of post-war developments in that country shall be in the interest of those disciplines. It would also be interesting to research what went wrong with the US’s interest in maintaining the perfect equilibrium in the case of Sri Lanka.  

Is the US national interest secured by the US domestic humanitarian law mechanism? 

Could it be justified Gotabaya is being brought back to the US to indict because the Sri Lankan counterterrorism operation was successful?

Is it worth it for the sake of securing US national interests in Sri Lanka and in that region? Goodman thinks so. 

I argue it would be a great mistake if the US administration is taking no interest in cooperative alliance in Sri Lanka. In terms of shifting US national security strategy towards Asia, and particular to the South China Sea, Sri Lanka could be a convenient foothold in Indian Ocean for the US. Diego Garcia is far too away and far too small in the Indian Ocean to reach the continent for prompt actions.   

Apart from that, politically stable Sri Lanka could be a greater asset to smoother transactions of the US’ interests through the Exclusives Economic Zone of Sri Lanka’s in Indian Ocean than politically unstable Sri Lanka. A handful of the US direct investments will secure this favoring climate in this small country. 

One way or another, Sri Lanka, this tiny island nation of Sri Lanka, would never ever be in a position to threaten any of the US’s geographical interests in that region. So, why does the US do ill in that country when very little good could achieve the same and much more? The argument here is a little of good deed could go long way in this small island. China is also doing that. China is doing that not only in Sri Lanka but also in India, Pakistan and elsewhere too.

It seems like it is not much of an argument. But this argument has its own gravity. This argument lies in the middle of where the US has to make a decision regarding Sri Lanka whether the US administration likes to maintain its classical perfect equilibrium in Sri Lanka or follow the other path. I would like to see the US is following the latter path in Sri Lanka.      

As I have outlined in the previous articles, the operations were conducted by the Sri Lankan Army within the thresholds of humanitarian principles. There are a wealth of facts available outlining every aspect of the factual realities in the final phase of the operation.  

The incidents which seem to raise eyebrows are very few in number, and insignificant in comparison to the total humanitarian nature of the operations. If you wish to keep stressing on those few incidents in the final phase you should first look at into your own history - that is if you have a nation-state. Look into the creation of the US as a nation-state or any other nation-states in that matter. I am not saying that because they did we could do it too.  What I am saying is that it has to be looked through the contextual basis and on the foundation of utility for the majority of Sri Lankan.   

In trying to favor the US interests in Sri Lanka Goodman has undermined himself as a professor of law. He mingles humanitarian law with the US national interests. I would say it would be quite okay to do so for the right reasons. But Sri Lanka is a wrong place to go after when so much evidence is available to prove the humanitarian nature of the Sri Lankan counterterrorism operation.

Goodman has to know the following:

In history, victors of war were never kept accountable for wining their wars. The norms of humanitarian law always were behind that classic practice. The legitimacy of law derives from the power of the victors not from the shame of losers.    

That is why we recall the Nazis for their gruesome crimes. The nuclear victim of Japan is recalled for her expansionist attitude.

The victors of World War II, the US, the UK and the rest, are praised for getting rid evils off the planet and saving humanity. Neither the post-war justice delivered aftermaths of World War I nor the Napoleonic wars contradict that wisdom. 

The contemporary international legal system is widely perceived as a something else, a something from bottom up, especially since the international community’s involvement in Rwanda and in former Yugoslavia.  
In reality, nothing has changed. The aspirations of small nations are, of cause, sometimes reflect in these developments. But they never surpass the aspirations of powerful. The Security Council is the living testimony for that. They are the authority which gives legitimacy to international public law. Those institutions, like ICC, are not there to go beyond than conserving the interests of those powerful nation-states.   

The international public law is a tool of maintaining conservative international peace and security. It is ideally to conserve the perfect equilibrium.

The question of what then keeps the Sri Lankan authorities away from these politicized international criminal investigations is also a good example of the dynamics of that equilibrium.  

Those who wish to see any changes in this status-quo shall praise the Sri Lankan authorities for the successful conduct of counterterrorism operation instead of the annual bashing of the administration.   

Concluding remarks

Goodman argues it is in the best interests of the US to indict Gotabaya back to the US using the domestic legal avenues available. He creates an unnecessary fear that the Sri Lankan counterterrorism model poses a threat to the US counterterrorism model.

Goodman has made that statement very lightly.

I have argued above these counterterrorism models could not be compared.

The US counterterrorism operations, which conducted on foreign territories, battle with a unique dilemma, a task of maintaining a perfect equilibrium. Each of the US operation has to secure the US national interests while it has to help out a foreign sovereign to establish the necessary conditions to eradicate terrorist elements within that sovereign.   

The US national interest is fundamentally at odd with helping out foreign sovereigns.

However, even if the US administration thinks they have a chance of maintaining a perfect equilibrium in long run, each operation is destined to fail because of complex conditions surrounding these operations are unable to fully comprehend.

The Sri Lankan authority did not conduct a foreign counterterrorism operation. Its untainted political will helped to defeat terrorism from its soil. I have argued, the Sri Lankan counterterrorism model is the only model available to defeat terrorism within a state.  

Indicting Gotabaya back to the US will have counterproductive effects to the US national interests in Sri Lanka. I will argue Sri Lanka could be a great foothold to the US to secure its national security strategy of 
Pivot to Asia in the next article.  

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Reply to Ryan Goodman 2 of 4 - What does Goodman leave out?

What does Goodman leave out?

Ryan Goodman states "there is also prima facie evidence in the public record that he [Gotabaya] ordered the execution of political leaders and their families upon their surrender, that he directed the systematic bombing of civilian hospitals, and that he repeatedly suggested that he could target and deliberately kill innocent civilians in order to win the war against the LTTE".

Goodman makes those accusations offering only one side of the account of the final phase. Goodman, then, invites the reader to be the judge.

In a way it is ironic, that this is how the all critics accuse the administration of Sri Lanka and Gotabaya for those crimes.

In this second article, I reply to Goodman's accusations of Gotabaya. You could access the first article here, Reply to Ryan Goodman 1 of 4 - What is this all about?. There are four articles in total. You could access the the third article here, Reply to Ryan Goodman 3 of 4 - Politics behind

In the above, Goodman refers to few incidences in the final phase. So-called the execution of political leaders is now referred to as the White Flag Incidence (WFI). This incidence happened in the early morning of 18 of May 2009. Later that day, the President of Sri Lanka declared the military victory against the LTTE. Goodman writes it is the 16 of May that the military victory was declared. This mistake hinders the real sequence of the WFI.

The incidences around shelling hospitals were direct result of the fact that LTTE used wounded carders and civilians (WCC) for their military purpose. This had caused operational delays to Sri Lankan Army. And had put greater number of civilians at harm too. The LTTE did that despite the fact that Army had facilitated safe passages to Red Cross to access those WCC in the No-Fire-Zones (NFZs). Furthermore, the LTTE was found firing their arms within those areas allocated to hospitals too.

Gotabaya did not ever suggest that he has given order to ‘kill innocent civilians’. That is Goodman’s words. Gotabaya had made it clear that everything existed outside of those NFZs are legitimate targets, including hospitals.    

Goodman plays with lot of facts. He has not provided balanced account of what has really happened in the final phase.

Goodman forgets that the LTTE was/is a terrorist organization. Goodman does not come up with the real casualty figures of the final phase either. He sticks to an speculated number of 40,000 to 70,000.

Goodman does not distinguish the difference between ‘civilians’ and ‘incidental loses’.

He does not pay even the slightest bit of attention to the terrain in which Sri Lankan Army had to rescue those 350,000 civilians from the human shields of LTTE.

He does not pay attention to the fact that the Sri Lankan Army had to slow down the military operations intentionally to limit the number of unnecessary civilian casualties in the final phase. And, as a result Sri Lankan Army was inflicted with heavy casualties.

The Final Phase - Military Operations

The final phase spans from January 2009 to the end of operations on 18 May 2009. At the beginning of 2009, the Army had liberated most of the North and East from the LTTE. The LTTE was cornered in Wanni.

Some of the civilians were moving along with retreating LTTE cadres. Some of the civilians were living in those areas where the LTTE moving in. However, it was not a coincidence that the LTTE retreated to Mullavikkal, where the final battle took place. In Mullavikkal, the LTTE had built extensive military installments, including a complex of underground bunkers.

Respecting one of the fundamental principles of International Humanitarian Law, the principle of distinction, the Sri Lankan authority had demarcated a No-Fire-Zone (NFZ) on 20 January 2009. It was the first one, among other two NFZs declared by the authority. The NFZ I was consisted of 35 sqkm of an area. (Read further, here)

The Sri Lankan administration had demarcated these NFZs anticipating zero military activates within those zones. The Sri Lankan authorizes had informed the civilians about these safe zones dropping leaflets and using loudspeakers. (Read further, here)

The LTTE infiltrated those NFZs. The LTTE stated using the civilians within as human shields.

At the time of the demarcation of the NFZ I, about 350,000 civilians were within that zone. (Read further, here)

Apart from using the civilians as human shields, the LTTE used civilians to move military equipments and had stored their weapons within these zones. The LTTE fired their weapons at Sri Lankan Army within these zones. These weapons included MBRLs (Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers). (Read further, here)

The LTTE force recruited from civilians, including children, to fight for them. (Read on the above link)  

The civilians, who tried to flee those human shields, were shot dead by the LTTE. The LTTE, in fact, practiced a policy of ‘shoot to kill’, shooting at those civilians whom tied to flee the human shield. (Read further, here)

Those who were caught trying to flee were hung in public, and left the bodies hanging for days for public display, spreading fear among the civilians.  (Read further, here)


At the beginning of February 2009, the LTTE was taking about 300,000 civilians by force with them. About 50,000 had managed to flee to Government's hand using those human corridors opened by the Army, and risking their lives. The LTTE was moving the rest of civilians to Mullavikkal. (Read further, here)

This area is a small stretch of land, which was surrounded by Nanthi Kadal Lagoon to the west and Indian Ocean to the east. The landmass of this area was about 14 sqkm in total. On 12 February, the Sri Lankan Army declared this area the NFZ II.

This strip of land, like a bottle-neck type from the North and South, had given the LTTE full control over the civilians within. The civilians put their lives at great risk to escape this area. In the western frontier, along the western borders of the Lagoon, and in the northern and in the southern frontiers, the LTTE had erected earth bunds to restrict the visibility of military targets within for the Army. (Read further, here)

The LTTE, meanwhile, was waiting for an international intervention. (Read further, here)

This is the terrain that the Army had to rescue those civilians from. In order to do that, now, the Army had to cross the Lagoon, which is about 1 km of water stretch at the narrowest place, and then climb up those earth bunds.

The Sri Lankan Army took more than two more months to break this earth bunds. The Army had re-evaluated their code-of-conduct for the second time in this period. These precautionary measures were took even if the Army had the upper hand of using extensive Air power to break the bunds and finish the war quicker.

The Army had intentionally slowed the military operations to reduce civilian casualties.

In this period along, the Army lost about 2,000 army personals to the incoming fires of LTTE, and injured about 7,000. (Read further, here & here)

Finally, on 19 April, the 58th division managed to break this NFZ II into two, liberating about 100,000 civilians with it. 

The humanitarian law stipulates that nothing should impair the civilians’ lives in the war. The fact that civilian were used as constantly moving human shields or they were kept forcibly within those NFZs does not permit discriminatory fires at them. The fact that the LTTE had blurred the principle of distinction does not permit discriminatory fires either. The fact that the LTTE constantly fired their MBRLs at the Army within these NFZs, camouflaging within the crowd, and then fleeing the immediate area, leaving the civilians vulnerable to immediate retaliatory fires, does not permit discriminatory fires either.

This terrain brought challenges to the operations. To overcome those the Sri Lankan Army had to prove themselves exceptional.

The White Flag Incidence - WFI

A day before the conclusion of war, 17th May, Nadesan, the head of Political wing of LTTE, and Pulidevan, the head of the Tiger Peace Secretariat, had started to mediate their surrender with the government officers. Gotabaya was among those officials whom knew those developments on behalf of the Sri Lankan administration. (Read Goodman's writing on this, here)

Nadesan and Pulidevan had made contact with international community as well. They had informed Norway and Washington and had requested a presence of third party at the surrender.

Instead, President Rajapaksha had guaranteed their safety.

About 6:30 in morning, on 18 May, Nadesan and Pulidevan with their family members were crossing the Wadduvakal Bridge, waving white flags, to the government forces.

Later, they were all found dead. This is the incidence now referred as the White Flag Incidence.

The LTTE is a terrorist organization

By the time the Army of Sri Lanka declared full scale military operations in 2008, the LTTE had been banned by 32 countries including the U.S and the European Union members. Even the UK had banned it. (Read further, here).

Its decades of gruesome terrorist activities had earned the LTTE the title of world’s most ruthless terrorist outfit. (Read further, here) In fact, the LTTE was the one invented modern day suicide bombing, which later adopted by al-Qa’ida and Taliban and  other terrorist groups. The LTTE was the only terrorist outfit in the world to have a fleet of its own Air Wing. The LTTE had a Navy Wing too.  

The thirty years of LTTE’s terrorist activities had cost almost 60,000 lives of innocent civilians.

The LTTE's political assassinations had paralysed the country too. Among the high profile political assassinations of the LTTE, the assassination of Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi; the assassination of a Sri Lankan Defence Ministers, Ranjan Wijeratna; the assassination the Sri Lankan President, Ranashighe Premedasa; a suicide attempt on another Sri Lankan President, Chandrika Kumaratunga; the assassination of a Foreign Minister, Hon. Lakshman Kadiragamar are significant.

Both Gotabaya Rajapaksha and Sarath Fonseka also had escaped suicide attempts in 2006. (Read further, here)

Getting the casualty figures right

Goodman is not bringing up the real casualty figures to the readers. He sticks to the articulated number, going along with rest of his compatriots, as about 40,000 to 70,000.

Real incidental losses are as follows. This data is available to public since 2011.

Total Number of War Victims – Jan to 18 May - (read further, here)

  • 7,934 had died in 2009 during the final phase along. This number includes civilians who died due to various reasons, including LTTE shootings and crossfire.
  •     2,635 persons were reported as untraceable in the Northern Province.
            a). Further investigations have already been carried out with regard to 2,360 of these cases.

            b). 1,625 of them were confirmed to be forcibly recruitment by the LTTE.

            c). There are signs that some individuals escaped to foreign countries through illegal means.

Total Number of LTTE Cadres Killed - (read further, here)

  •     The LTTE lost 22,247 cadres of which 11,812 have been identified by names.
  •     11,872 LTTE cadres were surrendered to the Sri Lankan Army.
  • That places the total number of cadres LTTE had at 34,139.

Total Number of Sri Lankan Army casualties - (read further, here)

  •     From July 2006 to May 2009 the Security Forces had lost 5,556 personnel in action, 28,414 were wounded and 169 went missing in action.
  •     In the final phase along, from January to the May 18th the SLA had lost 3,000 soldiers and sustained more than 20,000 injuries.

The Conflict Encyclopedia of the University of Uppsala in Sweden has recorded 59,676 fatalities in total for three decade of war. (My emphasis added)

The incidental losses of about 6,000 have occurred in the final phase.

These facts are missing in Goodman's writings.


Ryan Goodman’s take of the final phase of the war, which the Sri Lankan Army had waged aginst the LTTE, is gravelly partial.

He does not clarify the difference between ‘civilian casualties’ and ‘incidental losses’.  He exaggerates the casualty figure. The real incidental losses occurred in the final phase is about 6,000.

The incidental losses has occurred when the Army had targeted their military targets. The incidental losses could occur as collateral damage when targeting a legitimate military target.

The evidence suggests that the Sri Lankan Army had never fired at civilians intentionally with a criminal purpose. The available facts prove that. The LTTE violated the laws of war gravelly, including using their own wounded carders for military purpose.

The humanitarian nature of the Army’s operation was evidence in the casualty figures of Army personals. Three thousand Army personal were killed in the final phase along.

This is also one reason why the operations conducted by the Army of Sri Lanka could not be categories under the fashionable category of New Wars. The Sri Lanka Counterterrorism Strategy begs a new definition. (Read the next article)

While the Army took those heavy casualties about 350,000 civilians were rescued from human shields of the LTTE.

About the White Flag Incidence the following has to be said.

No one knows what exactly had happened or from where those first shots came from.

In few reports, which are claiming to have compiled records of eye witnesses of the real event, also contradict what they say has happened in that morning. Read the following two reports. One is from White Flag Org (Read further, here), and the other report is from the US State Department (Read further, here).

Even these witnesses contradict the events and the immediate surroundings of the event.

In the report compiled by the White Flag Org, the incidence was recorded as that ‘the LTTE leaders surrendered, accepted tea and were then beaten. And then they were all shot by the commandos.’ Who is this commando that is claimed to be saw this and handed over the information is unknown.

In the report compiled by the US State Department, meanwhile, reports that ‘the Sri Lankan Army started firing machine guns at them’ while they were walking towards to the Sri Lankan Army ‘waving a white flag.’

Gotabaya has hinted that a single bullet fired by either a LTTE carder or a nervous Army soldier could have created this mess.

On the top of that, I have argued that tedious and horrific details of that event hinders the well-being of whole country and speedy post-war recovery.

By knowing those details neither going to help the development of Sri Lanka nor uplifts the lives of the Sri Lankan people. This is a classic utilitarian argument. I would argue for the greater good of Sri Lankan public rather than few individuals on any side.  

This is the reason why an investigation into a high profile political killing usually do not go that extra mile seeking to establish those tedious details. Look for the evidences available on the assassinations of Osama bin Laden. It does not mean that Hilary Clinton and Obama enjoyed watching the assassination live. It is a political necessity that has to be done with.

In another scenario, imagine that these high profile individuals, Nadesan and Pulidevan, have been granted asylum in the west. There is no guarantee from anyone that they would not capitalize on their political power against the administration of Sri Lanka. A handful of former LTTE carders do exactly that today in western capitals. This could have had detrimental effects on the post-war national building efforts.

And then again, if I ever want to find the truth about the WFI, the twisted words of Fonseka would be the last place I would find reassurance. (Read the first article) Sitting down with the US Ambassador, Patricia Butenis, next day after his public announcement of his defection from the Sri Lankan government and the intention of competing for the upcoming Presidency, infers a lot to me about his intentions. (Read here)

Now, coming back to the Goodman's writings again, it seems, it is very impartial of him to pay no attention at all to the context of the final phase. Goodman leaves out those points for some reason.

For this reason, the reader is unable to make well-informed decision regarding Gotabaya.


Acknowledgement - initially edited and proofread by Roisin Ni Caoimh. But, since then, the writing went through some changers.

Note - to verify sources visit those links next to each paragraph. Some of the sources, which were linked on the first article, Reply to Ryan Goodman 1 of 4 - What is this all about?, are not repeated here. I am aware there are some grammar and spelling mistakes are visible on those linked articles. But the credibility of sources is guaranteed.  

Last updated - 19 Aug 2014, on 14:53.