|Big Lies from the Big Boys|
|Tuesday, 02 June 2009|
Setting the Stage
Last week, the Times of London announced that 20,000 civilians had died altogether in the course of this year because of the operations in the North. This claim was not surprising since, as I had just pointed out, the British were determined to crucify us and had already begun to inflate the figure. Six thousand had gone to seven and then to eight, in rapid succession, so more was inevitable, though the speed of the escalation was remarkable, even for the Brits. Predictably enough, the new figure began to reverberate round the Western World, with reference not to the Times but to its presumed sources.
These were as usual supposedly from the UN. From February on, the game had started, with the UN supposedly developing a count which was promptly leaked. Regularly the UN Resident Coordinator would bleat that the figures were just an extrapolation (i.e. completely made up, as his Security Coordinator admitted when we called him in and used logic and argument, elements with which he had evidently not been familiar with previously).
Then he (the RC, not the SC - no bleater he - with a Boer determination, now evidently at the service of the British agenda) would bleat that certainly there had been no leak from his office, though he left it open whether there had been leaks in New York. Then he would bleat that he would hold an inquiry, though these never seemed to get off the ground, and we were always too nice to press him on his promises. And then the whole cycle would start again.
This time around, there seems nothing for Buhne to bleat about, though it would be interesting to record his response if our Foreign Ministry were to call him in and get something on record instead of the customary sweet talk. This time, the Times claimed that it had gathered its own evidence, though with characteristic sleight of hand it tried to draw the UN in too - 'The UN estimated that 7,000 people were killed in the first four months of this year; the figure now appears to be at least 20,000’.
There was no note there that the 7000 was not an official UN figure, and that the 20,000 had nothing to do with the UN, unless it were gossipy underlings of the (both British) Dix and Campbell sort Buhne had to repudiate and get rid of, so hysterical were their emotions, so biased their assertions. The UN then does not have much to answer for in this instance. But their reaction, which is defensive, plays straight into the hands of the Times, since it allows others to declare that something is fishy and the Times allegations must be investigated.
Conjuring tricks - extrapolating from extrapolations
How exactly then did Catherine Page (or whichever groupie did the calculations) arrive at this magic figure of 20,000? The first article was extraordinarily vague. The manner in which the groupie uses language merits careful study -
“Some civilians were probably killed by the Tigers, whose brutality and ruthlessness over the past 28 years has fully justified their depiction as terrorists. Finding out what happened, however, is impossible: the army has barred entry to all outsiders. Food is short, sanitation appalling; wounded and traumatised civilians are in desperate need of help. That much is clear from those who have been able to escape. More sinister reports are now circulating of systematic “disappearances” of families separated and young men taken away. But until the Government allows in aid workers, the presumption must be that it wants nothing to be heard or seen of what is going on.”
This tactic was used in the final push to beat the Tigers.'
The language used provides a fascinating study in obfuscation. The transition from the past-tense to the present is intended to create the impression that the description is of the present situation in the welfare camps, where those who were rescued from the Tigers are housed. The second part of the paragraph, with its mention of the reports that British media outlets have been putting out with increasing shrillness, clearly applies to the current situation. In the process we lose sight of the fact that those who managed to escape, did in fact escape from the Tigers, and the hostage situation the British seemed to wish to perpetuate in refusing to follow the rest of the world and call upon the Tigers to surrender.
All this confusion has the effect, as doubtless intended, of drawing attention away from the absence of any argument to justify the newly inflated figure of 20,000. The text itself refers to hundreds of fresh graves, and apart from that there is no trace of argument for the new numbers.
This came later, first through a remarkably silly assertion that, to the earlier (and in any case, unverified) 7,000, there had to be added 1,000, a day which was what the UN was claimed (again with no verification) to have estimated. The Times itself, on the 30th, produced an even more lunatic argument, also worth quoting in full -
“The figures have been collated from deaths reported by priests or doctors and added to a count of the bodies brought to medical points. Of the total, the bodies collected, accounted for only a fifth of the reported deaths. After the bombing intensified this month, the only numbers available were by a count of the bodies. The 20,000 figure is an extrapolation based on the actual body count”.
Put in simple English, that means that the Times believes there were 4,000 bodies in May, which they multiplied by 5 to get at the figure they tossed into cyberspace. Even more astonishingly, it would seem that the earlier figures are based on reports from individuals, identified as priests or doctors, which were then added to bodies brought to medical points. This suggests there were 'doctors' not at medical points who added their stories to 'verifiable' bodies, also presumably reported by doctors. At all stages the figures were the highest possible that could be put together, and the failure to identify bodies to substantiate these claims was then turned into another instrument of aggression, to justify actual (or rather reportedly) verified figures to be multiplied by five.
The historical continuity of the current Western approach
Underlying this balderdash is the assumption that only callow Western reporters care about Tamils. This I find particularly irritating, since I have been concerned about Sri Lankan treatment of minorities long before it became fashionable. I remember taking Radhika Coomaraswamy, now wailing and gnashing her teeth because there is no war crimes probe, to task more than a quarter of a century ago because she kept quiet about what the J.R. Jayewardene government was doing to the Tamils. I could understand family gratitude, since I have been told regularly how well J.R. treated her father Raju, but that was no excuse for the International Centre for Ethnic Studies keeping quiet about what was happening to Tamils in the early eighties.
Radhika explained that ICES was allowed to operate on the condition that it would not look at internal problems - a compromise I found shabby - and which I described as such in an article at the time. Fortunately the situation changed after 1983, but even then Radhika operated through a different body that she had set up called the Committee for Rational Development, for which responsibility was entrusted to a younger, but still idealistic and clear-thinking Dayan Jayatilleke.
Now ICES has swung the other way, and even Mrs Tiruchelvam, forgetting how her determinedly anti-terrorist husband died, hankers after tying the Sri Lankan government up in knots for daring to go after his killers. But ambition makes strange bedfellows of us all, and the West and ICES which connived at the oppression of the Tamils and of democracy in the early eighties, when Cold War compulsions held sway, now wish to perpetuate a patronising unipolarity through an even more ruthless hypocrisy.
Secretary GeneralSecretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process
|Last Updated ( Wednesday, 03 June 2009 )|
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