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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 104

The Tigers’ Air Terrorism: How To Respond

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Let’s have some perspective here. Dramatic and skillful as it is, the Air Tiger attack was successful in psychological and symbolic terms, not in material ones. They could not hit the vital assets of the Sri Lankan air force, nor, more importantly, could they manage a decapitation strike on our political or military command centers and leadership.

Furthermore, the Air Tiger raid is not unprecedented in the annals of irregular warfare and terrorism, as some breathless Western reporters would have it. The Palestinians launched a successful hang-glider raid on an Israeli army camp some years back! In the late 1960s, the Biafran separatists of the Ibo tribe in Nigeria had some Western volunteer pilots flying light aircraft rigged with rockets under their wings. Of course Cuba has been attacked by air-terrorists flying light and sometimes not so light aircraft (except none of these emanated from Cuban soil, unlike the Air Tiger strike).

The capacity to launch dramatic terror raids from the air is no guarantee of success and not even an indication of it. As the above mentioned examples demonstrate, the formations that launched these attacks were all defeated.

The Nazis blitzed London, and in the latter stages of the war, launched V1 and V2 rockets against it - and yet, the Nazis lost the war.

The fundamental lessons of the Tiger air raid are quite the opposite of those that will be drawn by the appeasers and their patrons in the West. These elements will say that the raid proves that a military victory over the LTTE is impossible and that only a peaceful negotiated settlement is feasible. I would argue the exact opposite. The air raid demonstrates the utter impossibility of peaceful coexistence between a militarized Tiger-controlled territory and the Sri Lankan state.

The Tiger air force was the product of the Ranil Wickremesinghe- Erich Solheim CFA. It is the same CFA that Britain’s Tony Blair wants us to go back to. Such a restoration of the CFA would only enable the LTTE to build up its fledgling air arm into an even more dangerous parallel air force. It would be suicidal for Sri Lanka to re-enter such a trap.

The only desirable peace negotiation with the Tigers is one that allows their territory to be as transparent as ours is and, crucially, involves demilitarization under international verification. Would the Tigers wish to give up their precious air assets in such a settlement? Obviously not. Therefore, the only meaningful kind of peace is unacceptable to the Tigers, and the only kind of peace that is acceptable to the Tigers would be suicidal for us Sri Lankans.

On a small island, there is no defense in depth from air attacks originating in the Wanni. Two outcomes are therefore, existentially intolerable for Sri Lanka. We cannot afford a lopsided peace, which is the only kind the Tigers may accept, and we cannot entertain the prospect of military defeat. If we surrender to international pressure and retreat into a CFA /ISGA, we shall have to live in the knowledge that the Tigers are building up their air force which can attack us at will. Worse still, if we lose the war, we shall have to live under the shadow of a fascist Tiger Eelam which will be worse than an Israel carved out of our soil.

We have nowhere to run. The sea is to our back. The majority of our people speak Sinhala, which is spoken widely only in this little island. There is no choice but to fight and win. We cannot coexist with a Tiger state, de jure or de facto.

How do states react when threatened by air attack? The British RAF fought the Blitzkrieg, but more pertinently, it sent commando teams into Norway to destroy the launchers of the V1 rockets, and it bombed the dams which held the heavy water for the Nazis atomic experiments. The Vietnamese fought the US air force by using Soviet made anti aircraft rocketry and mobilizing its ground militia which were equipped with machine guns. The Cubans shot down the terrorist intruder aircraft. None of these states, nations or peoples sued for peace; surrendered.

Our Air Force and Special Forces teams on the ground will have to seek out and destroy the Air Tigers. Radars and multi-barreled cannon or heavy machine guns such as the Russian ZSU 234 and 235 (or their newer generation) will have to be urgently purchased for air defense, while air defense alertness training and consciousness have to be imparted.

Unhappily all this means money, which imposes further strain on our economy, and in the medium term, our war fighting capacity itself. This is something that the Tigers know.

Right now the Air Tigers have the advantage of surprise, and therefore the initiative. This must be wrested from them.

The Tiger air raid proves conclusively the dimension of the threat we face: it is an existential one. There cannot be two air forces, two power centers on this small island. One has to prevail, the other has to be defeated, crushed. We have no other choice.

Whatever sermons the West and the UN agencies may preach, history, including the most recent history, shows that when those societies are faced with far less a threat, they react with great force, and when they have faced a threat such as we do - replete with attacks from the air - they react with total force and massive retaliation.

They do whatever it takes to protect their citizens. Do our citizens deserve less from our state? Is it because we are not white?

We can overcome the Air Tiger challenge only by taking the battle to the source; the Wanni. Yet not in haste; not prematurely: such haste is also what the Tigers are trying to provoke with yesterday’s raid. We must not fall into that trap. We have prepare the ground not only militarily but diplomatically and politically, which means a regionally and internationally credible power sharing arrangement with the Tamil democrats, and a summit level outreach to Putin’s Russia.

We must eventually obliterate all of the Tigers military assets and destroy them as a military force. This we have to do for our own survival, unless we want to live under the shadow of Tiger terror from our skies. Though we must desist from the equivalent of firebombing Dresden, in our response to the Tiger air raid we must absorb and emulate the resoluteness and determination of Winston Churchill

- Asian Tribune -

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