Friday, May 29, 2009

Death of a Tamil brutaliser

Recently, both sides finally agreed that the leader of the Tamil Tigers is now dead. He had been killed in the recent action by the Sri Lankan army that, amidst a great deal of civilian anguish, elimanated the remnants of the Tigers as a (current) fighting force.

Velupillai Prabhakaran was apparently a rather obsessive man, at one time saying he'd instructed his people to shoot him if he ever deviated from their goals.

Prabhakaran is arguably credited with instigating the modern phenomenon of suicide bombing, the unpleasant rash sweeping the world.

It is easy to understand the level of desparation running through the populace in arenas of greatly uneven conflict: decades of brutalisation and privation, for example, have brought the Palestinians to where they are today. Motives of suicide bombers are the subject of much disagreement in a range of wildly conflicting studies, but it is clear that oppression - or its perception - is a key factor in most cases. And this directly equates to uneven conflict, which is where the suicide bomber's victimhood lies.

It is such an insidious, indifferent weapon. The prime perpetrators are those who consign the bombers to death, and there should be no sympathy for them. They are - in general - far too willing to murder people whose culpability in the conflict is negligible to none. Indiscriminate killing brutalises all sides: if there emerges any victor in such a conflict, they would have to preside over further decades of a violent society that they inflicted on the collective psyche.

The worst I've heard was reported by Owen Bennett-Jones, a BBC journalist with a strong reputation. He told of a family (in Pakistan, I believe) who recruited a 13-year-old boy to be a suicide bomber, who duly followed his orders. Although the boy was led to understand he would become a religious martyr, the root intention was far more prosaic: a single personal dispute.

All it takes is people who are too easily led (lack of education certainly helps, but it's not a prerequisite), plus someone who is lacking enough in humanity to propel someone else to certain death rather than do it themselves.

And this is not to neglect the greatest victims: those many civilians whose only crime is to try to live out the life they found themselves in.

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