To the memory of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of LTTE, and his erstwhile colonels (other than traitors like Karuna and K.P.), I submit this felicitous essay on his 60th birthday.
In March 1, 2010, I contributed a parody of a beautiful poem by John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887), captioned ‘The blind men and the elephant’. I titled my parody as, ‘Six Blind Women of Gringo Land – who went to see the Tiger’.
There is a reason why I bring my 2010 creation here. First, to refresh the readers of what I wrote, ‘with apology to John Godfrey Saxe’.
It was six women of Gringo Land to learning much inclined
Who went to see the tiger though all of them were blind
That each by observation might satisfy her mind
The first approached the tiger and happening to fall
Against her broad and sturdy side, at once began to shriek
‘God bless me! But the tiger is very like a slippery pestle!
The second, feeling the canine, cried ‘Ho! What have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp? To me ‘tis mighty clear
This wonder of a tiger is very like a spear!
The third approached the animal, and happening to take
The growling jaw within her hands, thus boldly up and screamed:
‘I see,’ quoth she, ‘the tiger is very likely a terror!’
The fourth reached out an eager hand, and felt about its fur
‘What most this wondrous beast is like is mighty plain’, quoth she:
‘Tis clear enough this tiger is very likely a bear!’
The fifth, who chanced to touch the claw, said: ‘E’en the blindest woman
Can tell what this resembles most; deny the fact who can,
This marvel of a tiger is very like a needle blade!’
The sixth no sooner had begun about the beast to grope,
Than seizing on the swinging tail that fell within her scope,
‘I see,’ quoth she, ‘the tiger is very like a rope!’
And so these women of Gringo Land disputed loud and long,
Each in her own opinion exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right, and all were in the wrong!
I also quote excerpts from the first paragraph written then. “I should identify these six blind women from Gringo Land, who went to see the Tiger. Five of the six were from the venerable New York Times. The grandma was Barbara Crossette who was there in the late 1980s. Then, she was followed by Celia Dugger in the late 1990s. Amy Waldman and Somini Sengupta covered the 2000s. Lately, Lydia Polgreen has moved in. There was another one, Mia Bloom, who was a pretending terrorism scholar and linguist during the CFA period (2002-2004). None of them could read, write or speak either in Tamil or in Sinhalese. Their coverage about the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was sloppy at best and humor-generating at worst….”
The main focus of these six Gringo women were to portray the Tamil Tigers as terrorists, suicide bombers and ‘child’ soldiers. None of them cared to present the positive side of Prabhakaran’s Tiger army. Sex equality and lack of sexual harassment in LTTE army were special attributes of Prabhakaran’s discipline training. These were totally ignored by these blinded journalists. Punishment for such heinous crimes for disregarding the discipline inculcated by the leader was instant death. Even traitor Karuna (after he was sacked from the LTTE) had described in 2004, a case of two young love-struck LTTEers (a guy and a girl) who disregarded the discipline relating to sexual conduct were served with death as punishment. Karuna’s main motive in announcing this particular case to the media, was to splash mud on Prabhakaran’s cruel mindedness. But, Karuna had ignored the discipline Prabhakaran wanted for his army. What is Karuna’s plight now, after 10 years? What happened to all the empty boasts of him, as a better leader for Tamils than Prabhakaran? Was he able to project any leadership? He could only function as a sin-eater to the Rajapaksa clan without having any following either among Tamils or Sinhalese or Muslims.
The concept of sex equality was a non-entity in the Sinhala army, well into 1990s. Only after Prabhakaran showed the lead, the Sinhala army came to subscribe to this concept reluctantly. About the sexual harassment traits, torture and rapes perpetrated by the Sri Lankan army on Tamil population who were detained by them, the less said the better. The Lancet medical journal in 1999 and 2000 published two short reports describing the sexual torture on Tamils perpetrated by the Sri Lankan military personnel.
Lately, decades old, entrained culture of sexual harassment in Uncle Sam’s military had burst open (See below the Sources, for selected news reports on US military sexual assaults). Check also the Pat Oliphant’s cartoon, presented nearby, on this theme. Early this year, Helene Cooper reported that, “In 2012 there were an estimated 26,000 sexual assaults on military men and women, but only 3,374 were reported and only 880 cases were prosecuted. The implication is that keeping prosecution of those cases within the chain of command intimidates victims, who fear retribution from sexual assault to their commanders.” Last year, Jennifer Steinhauer reported, “A recent Pentagon survey found that an estimated 26,000 men and women in the military were sexually assaulted last year, up from 19,000 in 2010.” Compared to the performances of recent American Presidents and the Pentagon’s five star Generals, Prabhakaran’s record on military discipline for more than a quarter century was implausible and imperishable indeed. Isn’t Prabhakaran a pioneer in military discipline?
Prabhakaran – a victim of Procrustean Bias
For those who are uninitiated on Procrustean bias, I provide the details first. According to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, “Procrustes, in Greek legend, was a robber of Attica, who placed all who fell into his hands upon an iron bed. If they were longer than the bed he cut off the overhanging pats, if shorter he stretched them till they fitted it. He was slain by Theseus. Hence, any attempt to reduce men to one standard, one way of thinking, or one way of acting, is called placing them on Procrustes’ bed.”
Academics and journalists from the West have a specific mind-set of whom to designate as a terrorist (who doesn’t have a Christian name or a Jewish name and whose skin color is not ‘white’), who can be fitted in their Procrustes’ bed. A study of their books and research papers reveal this Procrustean bias. I wonder how could those six Gringo women (who had regular eyesight) ignore the positive traits in Prabhakaran’s leadership? I have yet to come across in the writings of any of these six women on Tamil Tigers, a particular distinction which separated LTTE soldiers from that of the beastly Sri Lankan army (1983-87 and 1990-2009 and up to 2012) and the Indian army (1987-1990). Not only these journalists, but also incompetent terrorism scholars among men (the likes of Robert Pape, Bruce Hoffman, Walter Laqueur and Rohan Gunaratna) are also blind to this Procrustean bias. University of Chicago’s political science professor Robert Pape’s book, ‘Dying to Win’ (2005) is an excellent example for such Procrustean bias-tinged analysis.
Ivor H. Evans: Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Centenary Edition, harper & Row, New York, 1970, p. 865.
Welsh J.: Sri Lanka: torture continues. Lancet, 1999 July 31; 354: 420.
Peel M, Mahtani A, Hinshelwood G and Forrest D.: The sexual abuse of men in detention in Sri Lanka. Lancet, 2000 June 10; 355: 2069-2070.
Robert A. Pape: Dying to Win, Random House Trade Paperbacks, New York, 2005.
Jennifer Steinhauer: Remark by Obama complicates military sexual assault trials. New York Times, July 13, 2013.
Helene Cooper: Senate rejects blocking military commanders from sex assault cases.
New York Times, March 6, 2014.
Helene Cooper: Two cases, one conclusion on military justice. New York Times, March 21, 2014.