Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Prabhakaran’s Tigers and Mandela’s Spears

Part 2

by Sachi Sri Kantha, December 12, 2011

GPS reached its initial operational capability in 1993. The resilience of Tamil Tigers was blunted by this new advance in military warfare. That they lasted for another 15-16 years, without the ability to use GPS, while their adversary had the advantages of using GPS against them was a miracle. Half-baked analyses written by naïve defence analysts like Dayan Jayatilleka extols the bravura of insurgent armies of Mao Zedong (in 1930s and 1940s) and Che Guevara (during the 1960s), and belittles Prabhakaran’s Tigers. But, these analysts fail to recognize that during Mao and Che’s times, there was no GPS. I have no hesitation to say that Tamil Tigers were doomed by the GPS warfare.

Part 1

Don Wright cartoon on CIA activities 1983

CIA as a dark network

There are many institutions in America that Americans can be proud of. But, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is not one of them. Its deeds insult American decency and openness. For decades, CIA’s deeds had served as good fodder for more than one political cartoonist. As sample, I offer two such cartoons in my collection.

In defining what is a ‘dark network’, Rene Bakker and colleagues (2011) provide the following description.

“Dark networks (as opposed to ‘bright’ networks) are covert and illegal. Although dark and bright are metaphors, and admittedly are normatively biased, we mean empirically that ‘a bright network is legal and visible and a dark network is illegal and tries to be as invisible as possible.’ Two dimensions thus stand out in differentiating dark networks from bright: visibility and legality. [Italics, note as in the original.] Visibility refers to how easily network activity is discerned without investigative effort. The second dimension, legality, refers to the laws of the state, not to whether a network’s goals are morally lamentable.”

Ranan Lurie cartoon on CIA exposing itself to Americans 1994

CIA’s deeds in other countries around the world lack visibility and legality. Don Wright’s 1983 cartoon about Nicaragua, illustrates humorously what CIA misses out on the visibility front. Ranan Lurie’s 1994 cartoon also depict the legality factor of what CIA boasts about and how American people feel so uncomfortable about it.

Those partisans who argue that CIA’s deeds are regular and acceptable under law, should answer, why CIA fails to honor the names of its fallen officers openly, rather than hiding them under engraved stars, in its memorial slab at the main lobby of its headquarters? In this act alone, CIA fails the visibility and legality tests. The scans I have are from two authentic books on CIA, published in 1986 and 1992. The 1986 book has 47 stars. The 1992 book has 53 stars. One is not sure, whether these stars are for individuals, or composites representing many heads. As I have not visited the CIA headquarters, I’m not sure what is the current star count in the CIA memorial slab, as of December 2011. During the past 10 years alone (since the Al Queda attack in New York on September 11, 2001), the fallen CIA officers may have exceeded a dozen or more.

I  mention these facts to show that it would be prudent for Rene Bakker and colleagues to include CIA as a ‘control’ dark network, in expanding their theory on the functioning of MK and LTTE.

CIA operatives killed - 47 stars 1986 bookDrug Trafficking

Rene Bakker et al. in their paper included a sentence “The Tamil Tigers engaged in drug trafficking as well (Felbab-Brown, 2010, pp. 188-189).” The cited reference is that to a book of an assistant professor, Vanda Felbab-Brown from Georgetown University. I sent the following email to Vanda on December 2nd.

“Dear Dr.Vanda Felbab-Brown:
I have been reading a recent paper that has appeared in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management (2011), authored by Rene Bakker, Jorg Raab and Brinton Milward, entitled, 'A Preliminary Theory of Dark Network Resilience'. In this paper, they cite your 2010 book, Shooting Up: Counterinsurgency and the war on drugs'. Unfortunately, I have yet to read your book.

Raab et al. makes a passing mention quoting you that "The Tamil Tigers engaged in drug trafficking as well (pp 188-189 of your book). I'm interested in knowing the original reference for your assertion on drug trafficking by the LTTE. If you can answer the following questions: (1) Have you by any chance visited Sri Lanka? (2) Are you fluent in Tamil language?, I'd be grateful. Thanks in advance for the courtesy.”

As of now, I have not heard from her. But, I did check her curriculum vitae posted in the internet and she had listed her language fluency as “fluent in Czech, competent in French and German, reading knowledge in Spanish.” That answers, my first question, that Vanda Felbab-Brown is not fluent in Tamil!

It would help Rene Bakker and colleagues, if they bother to study CIA’s record on drug trafficking. For a sampler, I provide a scan of a Washington Post news report that appeared in 1993. Then, there is this 1991 paper by Jonathan Marshall of San Francisco Chronicle, entitled “CIA assets and the rise of the Guadalajara connection”, published in the Crime Law and Social Change journal. If LTTE had indulged in drug trafficking (which I doubt), then they are in good company with CIA! Former Panamanian dictator, General Manuel Noreiga (who himself was a CIA asset) would be more than happy to reveal the secrets of CIA’s games in drug trafficking.

CIA operatives killed - 53 stars 1992 book

Spears and Tigers: The Differences

In comparing Mandela’s Spears and Prabhakaran’s Tigers, Rene Bakker and colleagues make the fundamental error in comparing apples and oranges. The important one is as follows: In July 2008, the population of South Africa was 43.786 million. The chief ethnic groups were: Black (79%), Whites (9.6%), Indian (2.6%) and Others (8.6%). In July 2008, the population of Sri Lanka was 21.128 million. The chief ethnic groups were: Sinhalese (74%), Tamils (18%), Muslims (7%) and Others (1%). Whereas, in South Africa, Blacks were in the majority, in Sri Lanka, Tamils were in a minority. Within the boundaries, drawn by the British colonialists, South African Blacks led by Mandela were able to earn external legitimacy, by being in a majority. But, this couldn’t work for Prabhakaran’s Tigers, as the arbiters of colonialism (especially British) did not want to accept what they did in the 19th century - tampering of the ethnic boundaries - was wrong.

Secondly, Prabhakaran’s Tigers were unlucky in that Eelam lacks natural resources, compared to that of Mandela’s South Africa (mining industry of gold, platinum and chromium). The natural resources alone provided external legitimacy for Mandela’s demand.

Thirdly, again Prabhakaran’s Tigers were unlucky in not having Jews in their team. Mandela was lucky to have notable liberal Jews (sons and daughters of immigrant Jews from Europe) supporting his cause. Not being Black, they stood out prominently when it came to courting Uncle Sam’s support among the corridors of power.

Fourthly, check the age at which Mandela and Prabhakaran established their ‘dark networks’. In 1961, Mandela was 43. In 1976, Prabhakaran was 22. Mandela was caught within months of establishing his Umkhonto we Sizwe group and was inside prison. Prabhakaran was held in detention for a short time in Tamil Nadu (1982), when he was only 28. After that, he was elusive for capture and daringly stood out for 27 years, despite many intelligence services (Sri Lankan, Indian, Pakistani and Israeli) aiming for his scalp. Martin Meredith, one of Mandela’s biographers had written that Mandela’s career as an insurgent in the field lasted only for five weeks!

Fifthly, according to Rene Bakker et al. MK was “unbanned” in 1990, after Mandela’s release from the prison. But, Tamil Tigers’ activity continued for another 19 years. One should note that advances in military science didn’t come to a standstill in 1990. Global Positioning System (GPS) came into use widely during the first Gulf War in 1991. GPS reached its initial operational capability in 1993. The resilience of Tamil Tigers was blunted by this new advance in military warfare. That they lasted for another 15-16 years, without the ability to use GPS, while their adversary had the advantages of using GPS against them was a miracle. Half-baked analyses written by naïve defence analysts like Dayan Jayatilleka extols the bravura of insurgent armies of Mao Zedong (in 1930s and 1940s) and Che Guevara (during the 1960s), and belittles Prabhakaran’s Tigers. But, these analysts fail to recognize that during Mao and Che’s times, there was no GPS. I have no hesitation to say that Tamil Tigers were doomed by the GPS warfare.

Washington Post Nov 22 1993 article on CIA & drug smuggling Michael IsikoffThe role of CIA in Mandela’s Capture

In his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom (1994), Mandela was diplomatic in muting CIA’s role in his capture. As such, I provide five paragraphs from  Martin Meredith’s biography, describing this issue.

“There were persistent rumours that the United States Central Intelligence Agency was involved. Mandela’s links with communists had made him a target for US officials embroiled with the Soviet Union in a murky struggle for influence in a number of newly independent African states and obsessed with the need to contain communist encroachment in Africa. The CIA was active throughout southern Africa, keeping track of the activities of liberation movements there, determined to prevent what it saw as communist-supported armed intervention ‘under the guise of African liberation’. It found an ally in the South African government, which was only too willing to collaborate. Intelligence information was exchanged on a regular basis.

The CIA covert-operations section in Johannesburg had expended considerable energy penetrating the ANC. Its chief undercover agent, Millard Shirley, the son of American missionaries who had been born in South Africa, had cultivated contacts at all levels of the organization. A stocky, balding figure, with a reputation as a heavy drinker and a womanizer, he passed himself off as a reporter for an American television news network, readily gaining access to dissident groups. He was known by South African intelligence to possess a high-ranking ‘deep throat’ –a Durban-based Indian in the ranks of the Communist Party there.

Two pieces of evidence subsequently came to light linking the CIA to Mandela’s arrest. The first concerned the local CIA agent in Durban at the time, Don Rickard, a consular officer who, at the end of his tour in South Africa, was heard boasting at a diplomatic party of the role that he had played in Mandela’s arrest. The second concerned Paul Eckel, the CIA station chief based at the US Embassy in Pretoria. Eckel, who died in 1986, confided what had happened to another US official and in 1990 that official, then retired, told an American journalist, Joseph Albright, what Eckel had said: ‘We turned Mandela over to the South African Security Branch. We gave them every detail, what he would be wearing, the time of day, just where he would be. They picked him up. It was one of our greatest coups.’

Given Mandela’s amateurish conduct in the days before his arrest, it was equally possible that the South African police already knew of his whereabouts from their own efforts. Mandela had been carried away by romantic notions of his role as ‘Commander-in-Chief’, the showman of the law courts now wanting to become the showman of the battlefield, wearing army fatigues and khaki, carrying a gun, though never intending to use it, flaunting his presence at gatherings of the faithful. These were dangerous pretensions at such a time. In all, Mandela survived in the field in South Africa as head of Unkhonto since its launching in December 1961 for no more than five weeks. And in that time, as a result of keeping notebooks, he came close to incriminating a considerable number of other people.

He chastised himself for his own foolhardy behavior. ‘In truth, I had been imprudent about maintaining the secrecy of my movements,’ he wrote. ‘In retrospect, I realized the authorities could have had a myriad of ways of locating me on my trip to Durban. It was a wonder in fact that I wasn’t captured sooner.’ When asked in later years about evidence of the CIA’s involvement in his arrest, his response was, ‘Let bygones be bygones. Let’s forget about that, whether it is true or not.’ ”

CIA and Tamil Tigers

It is beyond belief that CIA was not interested in Tamil Tigers. Here are some facts from Ronald Kessler (1992).

“By agency policy, CIA operations officers may commit espionage in any country of the world. The only exceptions are Great Britain, Australia and Canada. By CIA thinking, no country is completely friendly.” (p.10)

“CIA has stations in 130 countries. They range in size from one-person stations in some African countries to sixty-person posts – including support employees – in such cities as Tokyo and Rome. About 15 percent of the CIA’s employees are stationed overseas.” (p.32).

“Through liaison, the CIA obtains information on people of interest to the agency. In exchange, the CIA usually gives the host country information it wants – perhaps the location of a fugitive.” (p.32)

Two particular events indicate that CIA was involved in the Sri Lankan civil war. First, the honey-trapping incidence of RAW’s agent K.V. Unnikrishnan in 1980s. Second, the high-octane eulogy delivered by then President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary Clinton, on the death of Neelan Tiruchelvam in 1999, assassinated by LTTE for being an informer. Many Eelam Tamils believe that even the 2004 split in LTTE was induced and facilitated by CIA’s local conduits such as the slimy politico Milinda Moragoda, by having Col. Karuna trapped with trickery. A Wikipedia entry on this Moragoda, which I just checked [Dec.12, 2011], provide the following details:

“US Embassy cables released by wikileaks show Moragoda to be a long time information source of the US Embassy in Colombo. The cables also state the US Government's interest in Moragoda as their key partner in Sri Lanka. Writing to Washington in 2003, then US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Ashley Wills says of Moragoda:

[Regarding] ‘the U.S., the intelligent, articulate Moragoda is a perfect fit. Born in Washington, D.C, he is a dual national Amcit (please protect) married to an American, with plenty of Washington connections, many from his days as a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation and at Harvard. A ‘big picture’ person, Moragoda is also highly aware that the U.S. is the most powerful country in the world, and he feels that it is better that Sri Lanka recognize that fact and work within it.’ ”

If  memory serves, during the 2004 General Election, Moragoda (then with the United National Party) claimed that they split the LTTE. If you fill in the dots now, with the cables sent by the then US ambassador to Sri Lanka, Ashley Wills (released by Wikileaks), the hanky-panky job of CIA’s local conduits becomes crystal clear. Now, Moragoda has switched sides, and serves as a ‘senior advisor’ to President Rajapaksa.

Rene Bakker et al. reporting on Col. Karuna’s desertion from LTTE, had described the following:

“Colonel Karuna, one of the most important members of the LTTE, realized that Prabhakaran did not want to negotiate for a possible political solution, and he left, taking approximately 6,000 of the LTTE’s best troops with him. This was a huge blow to the LTTE, since it meant the loss of about 50 percent of its resource base.”

The source for this information was noted as “R. Gunaratna (pers.comm., December 13, 2010) in The Hague, The Netherlands.” Obviously, this was erroneous propaganda of CIA’s conduits – bloating the number who sided with Karuna in 2004. Karuna’s ranks were so depleted that he couldn’t even maintain an identity as a rival Tamil militant group, let alone competing with Prabhakaran’s LTTE. That particular year (in November 2004) Karuna delivered a ‘Maaveerar address’ to rival Prabhakaran. It was a show, stage-managed by India’s RAW skunks . Next year in November 2005, Karuna had to prostrate himself to President Rajapakasa and joined the SLFP to protect his political career. The question Rene Bakker and his colleagues have to answer now is “what happened to that 6,000 of the LTTE’s best troops?”


In sum, it would be helpful if Rene Bakker and colleagues re-format their theory of dark network resilience, using CIA as one of their optimal controls, and investigate in depth, CIA’s links with MK and LTTE. I doubt that they will do this.

Cited Sources

Bakker, R.M., Raab, J and Brinton Milward H: A preliminary theory of dark network resilience. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 2011, DOI: 10.1002/pam.20619 (30 pages).

Kessler, R: Inside the CIA, Pocket Books, New York, 1992, 358 pp.

Marshall, J: CIA assets and the rise of the Guadalajara connection. Crime, Law and Social Change, 1991; 16: 85-96.

Meredith, M: Nelson Mandela – a biography, Penguin Books, London, 1997, pp.220-221.

Quirk, J.P., Phillis, D.A., Cline, R. and Pforzheimer, W. The Central Intelligence Agency: A photographic History, Foreign Intelligence Press, Guilford, Connecticut, 1986, 256 pp.



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