Robert Kaplan is a well-connected Jewish American author and journalist. As one he travels widely and chose to visit Sri Lanka as a newshound in mid-2009 just after the Sri Lankan government forces had vanquished the Tamil Tiger forces and rescued about 280-290,000 Tamil ‘civilians’ who had been deployed as a defensive barrier and bargaining chip for about 15-17 months by the LTTE as they, the Tigers, were forced into a west-to-east retreat in the northern Vanni.
Situation Map on 23rd December 2008 & then on 8th March 2009
As it happened, I was in Sri Lanka from mid-April 2009 because my sister Estelle’s 90th birthday was looming in early May …. and stayed on till June 2009. At this point of time, over several years I had been researching the total commitment to their cause displayed by the Tamils aligned with the LTTE. This work was pursued under the rubric of the concept “Sacrificial Devotion” and I had already fashioned several essays on that topic. My work was comparative and included studies of the Japanese kamikaze operations during World War Two and the jihadist actions of Palestinians and other Muslims.
Thus informed, I even feared that the LTTE would inspire and stimulate many of their civilian supporters and hostages to commit mass suicide with them as the battle turned against them. Some essays in Groundviews and in Transcurrents presented in the first months of the year 2009 were devoted to warnings about this possibility. As events turned out, many Tiger personnel and some of their civilian auxiliaries fought to the bitter end (and a few may have committed suicide). However, many Tamils revealed that they were not ready to face annihilation. Towards the end of 2008 a few escaped from the LTTE’s stranglehold. From January 2009 the numbers fleeing their hopeless situation increased – with some slipping through the battle lines on foot and others using fishing boats to escape northwards or southwards. The pitch-black nights were their cover.