What the scale of the Sri Lankan attacks tells us
On Easter Sunday, the country of Sri Lanka was rocked by a series of bomb blasts at Christian churches and tourist hotels. Yet that was only one of the two disasters that day. The other was a demonstration of perhaps the most incompetent regime in history for fighting terrorism. If we want to avoid making similar mistakes, we had better pay attention to the Sri Lankan regime’s colossal failures.
Not long after a series of coordinated bomb blasts rocked the island in the Indian Ocean, we learned that intelligence agencies had warned the Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena (who is also the defense minister) on April 4 that terror attacks were about to hit the country’s churches. The president did absolutely nothing. He didn’t even tell his prime minister, whom he dislikes. That prime minister was in charge of the country’s Security Council, and would have prepared a response. Even Inspector Clouseau might have thought to it prudent to at least warn the country’s churches that an attack was coming. Perhaps Easter might have even been a likely date for the terror attacks.
Fewer in history received so many clues, and did so little to act on them.
Sri Lanka has a history of incompetent anti-terrorism. The country’s Sinhalese Buddhist majority marginalized the minority Tamil population once the British left, since the latter worked for the U.K., and were Christian. After decades of peaceful protests which the Sri Lankan regime ignored, a rag tag terror group named the Tamil Tigers or LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) waged a brutal campaign of terror against the government, after getting Hezbollah training. The men and women of LTTE invented and perfected the suicide vest, using it to kill a Sri Lanka president and former Indiana Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on his comeback tour.
The Sri Lankan government patted itself on the back when they killed the LTTE leader (probably aided by Tamils tired of being just as victimized by their own cruel kinsmen), but they sure brutalized the Tamil population in the process, and did very little restorative justice, research on the many who “disappeared” in the fighting. Months ago, the Sri Lankan president tried to sack his prime minister and bring back a former president who presided over many of the human rights abuses. The government turned a blind eye to anti-Muslim riots that left several deaths. And the Sinhalese majority regime did little to help keep Tamil Christians from being victims of Sunday’s bombing attack.
This regime that was too inept to even issue warnings was sure quick to blame a Muslim organization, the NTJ, even after numerous Muslim groups immediately condemned the attacks. It’s worth noting that the NTJ has done little more than vandalize some Buddhist statues. That was a pretty well-coordinated attack for a group so inexperienced in terror.
It reminds us of the Bush Administration’s pre-9/11 failures, with little security upgrades when the CIA reported Bin-Laden was determined to strike within the U.S. almost a month before the attacks. And it reminds me of the Clinton Administration allowing Saudi Arabia to conduct the investigation of the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996. The Saudis spent more time covering up what really happened instead of catching the terrorists, so we’ll probably never know if it was the Iranian Revolutionary Guards of al-Qaeda.
Sri Lanka learned nothing from their experience with terrorism. The only question is whether we’ll learn from their utter incompetence and our history or not when it comes to terrorism.