The civil war in Sri Lanka was both brutal and a human tragedy. The United Nations estimated that the death toll from the Tamil Tigers’ long secession struggle might exceed 100,000. The Tigers were brutal in their tactics. Their kidnapping and exploitation of young Tamils was not unlike that perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. Like radical Islamists, the Tamil Tigers exploited a culture of martyrdom to promote suicide bombing. Like Hezbollah, the Tamil Tigers received technical assistance from North Korea (making Condoleezza Rice’s recommendation to remove North Korea from the state sponsor of terror list indefensible).
In May 2009, the Sri Lankan army did what hundreds of diplomats and UN pronouncements over more than a quarter century had failed to do: They defeated the Tamil Tigers and finally liberated Sri Lanka from the nightmare of terrorism and insurgency. No civil war is pretty, and the conclusion of Sri Lanka’s bloody struggle was no different. Britain’s Channel 4, for example, has acquired footage purporting to show the execution of the 12-year-old son of the rebel leader son of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the Tamil Tigers’ leader. If he was executed, that was wrong. But given Prabhakaran’s use of children and his glorification of suicide bombing, it would be unfair to ask any Sri Lankan soldier to risk life and limb to take prisoners. Had the Tamil Tigers cared an iota for the Geneva Conventions, perhaps it would be different, but if they eschewed the Conventions in life, then they should not seek their recompense in death.