Tides of War III

A continuing discussion on The New Yorker article about Sri Lanka - or as one of our readers called it The New Joker:

From a reader -

How do we counter what seem to be factual inaccuracies in major publications?

Examples from the Gourevitch article:

1. "...India's Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi.  That was Prabhakaran's most notorious hit, but his suicide squad of Black Tigers has claimed more than two hundred and sixty bombings in the last two decades-an average rate of nearly one a month-injuring and killing thousands of people, the great majority of them civilians."

Have Black Tigers killed "thousands of people, the great majority of them civilians?"  Maybe Gourevitch wrote this statement "in a fit of impassioned exaggeration."

2. "Thirty years after Prabhakaran shot and killed the mayor of Jaffna, he is probably the world's most prolific political assassin.  But the paradox of his monomaniacal pursuit of a Tamil homeland is that Tamils have borne the brunt of his violence."

Thamils have borne the brunt of Prabahakaran's violence?

During the war, international news agencies routinely included in their reports a standard line citing the number of people estimated to have died since the start of the conflict. Yet no one feels the journalistic responsibility to mention that of the thousands of people killed, the great majority of them have been Thamil civilians, or that the great majority of those Thamil civilians were killed by the violence of Sri Lankan security forces.

As a followup to another reader's comments [given below], here is a link to an interview with Gourevitch by PBS's Frontline on the genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda by the ruling Hutus.


There's too much irony.


From a reader -

This story of '3 Tamil girls raped by 13 soldiers who were ambushed by the Tigers' was rumor at that time, which was never substantiated.

What offends me about this '13-soldiers' story' is that Philip Guerevitch is the latest in a long line of western writers who try to link the 'death of the 13-soldiers' to the 1983 pogrom, in a cause and effect relationship.  The Sinhalese promote this, in the belief that the existence of a 'cause' would somehow diminish their barbarous behavior against the Tamils in July '83.  This tactic has worked to some extent.

But the truth is, there was no cause-and-effect relationship.

The late Paul Sieghart Q.C., Chairman of Justice, International Commission of Jurists, who led a mission to Sri Lanka to study the cause(s) of July 1983, wrote the following in his report:

"... Clearly this was not a spontaneous upsurge of communal hatred among the Sinhala people - nor was it, as has been suggested in some quarters, a popular response to the killing of 13 soldiers in an ambush by Tamil Tigers on the previous day, which was not even reported in the newspapers until after the riots began.  IT WAS A SERIES OF DELIBERATE ACTS, EXECUTED IN ACCORDANCE WITH A CONCERTED PLAN, CONCEIVED AND ORGANISED WELL IN ADVANCE."  Paul Sieghart: Sri Lanka-A Mounting Tragedy of Errors - Report of a Mission to Sri Lanka in January 1984 March 1984)

The Philip Guerevitchs of this world, however, continue to cite the death of the 13 Sinhala soldiers as the cause of the 1983 pogrom.

Tides of War II -- http://www.sangam.org/articles/view2/?uid=1148 

Tides of War I -- http://www.sangam.org/articles/view2/?uid=1145


Posted August 9, 2005