Michael Roberts, courtesy of Groundviews, where the title differs and where readers will find critical comments
Summarising previous essays (see bibliography below) this article proceeds in point-form with an eye on greater impact via succinctness.
A. During the last phase of Eelam War IV in 2008/09 the LTTE attempted an international heist that is unprecedented in world history: they used some 320,000 of their own people to manufacture a picture of an “impending humanitarian disaster” so that concerned international forces would intervene and impose a ceasefire or effect a rescue operation. These entrapped Tamil people were not only so many sandbags and a source of labour and/or conscripts. Their primary purpose was to constitute a spectre of impending horror. A2 – Thus, the LTTE political commissar Puleedevan told some friends in Europe “just as in Kosovo if enough civilians died … the world would be forced to step in” (quoted in Harrison 2012: 63) — a line of policy confirmed subsequently by KP, the head of the Tiger international arm, during a frank interview with the redoubtable Tamil journalist in Canada, Jeyaraj: “[we] had to magnify the humanitarian crisis,” (Jeyaraj, “KP” speaks out, 2011: 25, 30). A3 — This spectre was disseminated by (a) LTTE satellite technology at their HQ, and by TamilNet and the extensive Tiger networks abroad; and A4 — was fed by the reports of the Tamil medical men within the battle theatre acting as patriotsor under duress.
B. From moral concerns humanitarian agencies such as AI, HRW, ICG and CPA became tools in the Tamil Tigers’ grand strategy. These sympathetic agencies do not seem to have fully comprehended the fact that the situation of entrapment was solely a creation of the LTTE. In other words, they were unintentionally complicit in this act of monumental blackmail.
C. So too were several Western states and the United Nations analytically blind and politically complicit – as witnessed in the active interventions of David Miliband, Bernard Kouchner and Hilary Clinton in late April 2009 and the implications of an unverified thread of rumour suggesting that a couple of US military officers had been introduced to the SL Army HQ in May 2009 to work out the modalities of a possible intervention from the US Pacific Command designed to contain the remaining LTTE forces and rescue the civilians.
D. The Western media followed suit and the reporters based in Colombo naively accepted the bloated figures of death and bombardment retailed by the Tamil medical men – a stance encouraged by their animus towards the Rajapaksa government in the wake of intimidation and killings of local journalists capped by the assassination of Lasantha Wickrematunga on 9 January 2009.
E. In sum, A, B, C and D indicate that there was an appalling intellectual failure on the part of leading personalities and agencies in the Western world – a failure to read the theatre of war and the LTTE’s strategy operationalized within a time-frame girded by the impending Indian General Election in May 2009. The failure can be underlined by addressing a critical question, one that is necessarily speculative: WHAT IF the UN, the Western states and Amnesty International had met in conclave, say on January 1st 2009, and told the LTTE abroad and in Mullaitivu in no uncertain terms that they would not step into Sri Lanka on any grounds and that the LTTE must lay down arms and surrender unconditionally (with maybe Eric Solheim flown in to convey that message!!!)….. A difficult question for us to answer now, but my argument is clear: it was a path missed because of a serious analytical error.
F. Thus informed and concerned about the trapped civilian population, the UN, the media, the aid agencies and the Western governments were steamrollered — then in January-May 2009 — into gullibly accepting the repetitive and insistent LTTE propagandadepicting “carnage” and “artillery barrages” – spiced as they were with illustrative images and video presentations in what was psy-ops of a sophisticated character.
G. The ground was thus established in 2009 itself for the LTTE international network to pursue its programme of vengeance by seeking “justice” for the alleged “carnage” wrought in the Vanni Pocket during the last phase of the war. Powerful allies (Channel Four and Gordon Weiss are examples) and telling word-imagery, such as “Killing Fields” and “Srebrenica Moment,” have consolidated the impact. The continuous repetition of these refrains then compounds the ramifying effects.
H. The refrains about carnage were supplemented by tales of severe malnutritionand starvation within the populace trapped in the Vanni Pocket and then within the Last Redoubt within this arena. While seemingly plausible and not entirely without substance, retrospective knowledge indicates that remarkable forward planning by the combination of GSL and LTTE administrators as well as convoy supplies organised by the ICRC and others over land and sea had ensured the availability of essential items. Dr. Shanmugarajah’s recent affidavit (2014) and his account (Roberts 2014a) demonstrate the extent to which the apocalyptic assertions of widespread malnutrition by both the human rights personnel and concerned Tamils were misleading the world.
I. The slipshod methodologyof the UNSG Panel (also known as the Darusman Panel) consolidated this process. Worse still, the Panel’s concluding statement that “a number of credible sources have estimated that there could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths” has been widely turned into a definitive figure by leading Western politicians as well as leading media personnel. Several Sri Lankan agencies and even members of the UTHR have adopted this figure.In brief, we have seen several outstanding acts of duplicity and gross error.
J. The figures on the “civilian dead” peddled by Tamil spokespersons and sympathetic Western outlets vary in range from 40,000 to 70,000 to 146,000. The range in these figures has an insidious effect: a cautious and non-partisan listener will discount the last figure as a likely exaggeration and settle on the lesser figure as probable fact.
K. Remarkably, not one expert, nor any reporter, has asked a simple question about these enormous counts of the dead: if there were so many dead, how many civilians were injured and what was done with the civilian injured? In any battle theatre it is a truism that the number of injured soldiers outnumber those that die. The casualty ratios among the forces of US forces during World War II was 1:1.7; during the Korean War 1: 2.8 and the Vietnam War 1: 2.6. The Vanni Pocket was a theatre of battle bearing risks for all of those kept corralled within its confines, soldier and civilian alike. Leaning on the side of conservatism therefore, one would expect at least two persons (whether Tiger fighters, Tiger auxiliaries or true-blue civilians) to be injured for every person killed (though one could also compute this at, say, one is to 2.5). So, for a supposed count of 40,000 civilian dead one should have at least 80,000 civilians injured or even perhaps 100,000. To this one must necessarily add some Tiger injured. Yet, in mid-2009, “in a document that was never released publicly,” the United Nations Country Team “estimated a total figure of 7,721 killed and 18,479 injured from August 2008 up to 13 May 2009, after which it became too difficult to count” (UNSG or Darusman Report, 2011: para 134). Gordon Weiss was UN media officer in Colombo at that point and his subsequent study tells us that “by late June, when all civilians were inside the [post-war IDP] camps, a collection of aid agencies had made a preliminary calculation of 15,000-20,000 wounded civilians” (The Cage, 2011: 321). If this estimate is deployed as a foundation for an approximate figure of civilians who were killed during the last phase, the latter statistic would rest at something between 8,000 to 12,000 dead. This figure is remarkably close to the estimates worked out separately (without access to this data) by the Tamil moderate Rajasingham Nadesanand by Professor Gerald Peiris (2014). That Weiss himself remains blissfully unaware that the WIA figures he presented in June 2009 fatally undermine his bloated guesstimates of civilian dead during his recent advocacy politicstells us more about the dangers of moral crusading extremismthan the topic at hand.
L. The incessant drum beats about “genocide” and “carnage” with their statistical estimates has so overwhelmed the media waves in some quarters of the world that educated people who attend to Sri Lankan affairs have lost their ability to contextualize the issue and introduce proportionality into their assessments. I met a Muslim Lankan in Australia recently who referred to 70,000 Tamil dead. When I asked him how many Tiger personnel and Tamils had survived, he had no idea at all: he did not know that at least 295,873 had survived (a figure that has to be set against the estimate of 8,000-12,000 dead in a scenario read with an eye on pertinent maps and pictorial images). The number that survived was not part of his evaluation. This kind of lacunae thereby marks the glaring absence of a contextualised overview that has enabled the Tamil agit-prop machine to make hay while darkness reigns.
M. The Tamils are aided by others. My Muslim friend is not an isolated case. A similar failure of contextualisation and proportionality is embodied in the report of the ICEP entitled Island of Impunity? (2014) as well as the moral condemnations aired so vigorously by one of Australia’s political parties, the Greens. The speeches on the subject delivered by the Greens’ Leader, Christine Milne, provide us with a classic example of cloistered armchair inadequacies within the new generations of educated peoplein the West. Many of these personnel do not seem to be able to read maps and grasp the import of such categories as KIA and WIA.
N. That is not all. Take Island of Impunity? composed by a panel of specialists assembled by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in Sydney. It included Gordon Weiss as one of the five specialists.In effect, he was a party to an investigation of events in which he had been an active, and possibly partisan, participant. Be that as it may, the ICEP document has displayed to the world their legalistic pedantry as well as their one-sided partiality and blatant duplicity. Their product (Island of Impunity?) does not contain a bibliography, but has umpteen citations that indicate their source material. Their principal sources include the UNSG report (also called UNoPE Report and Darusman Report) and The Cage by Weiss. They have chosen not to consult the careful reviews of the UNSG report by a Marga team or to study the Numbers Gameby IDAG (2013). Nor have they taken note of the numerous articles on the Eelam War IV from such outfits as the South Asia Terrorism Portal (2013) or such authors as Kath Noble (2013a, 2013b). Since Weiss must be aware of the literature on Sri Lanka, including the several criticisms on his data and world view by one Michael Roberts, there is prima facie evidence that the ICEP’s omission of this body of literature was a deliberate ploy — an act of intellectual dishonesty. If the ICEP document had been submitted to a reputed journal, it would have been rejected because it does not address the relevant literature in a fair manner. For its authors and such advocates as Christine Milne to pontificate in ethical tone about the processes of the war on this foundation is an example of arrogance that matches their duplicity.
In sum, the propaganda drive initiated by the LTTE and sustained by an ever-growing body of Tamil and other supporters from late 2008 to the present day has secured astonishing success. It is a monument that exemplifies the methods an organisation can use to fool a wide spectrum of intelligent people all over the world, besides drawing support from powerful agencies in powerful state capitals. This success, no doubt, was aided by arcane forces hidden within such state agencies, but I am no Snowden and cannot dwell on these factors in any useful or intelligent way.
ABC2013 “Continuing Genocide in Sri Lanka – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) http://www.lobbyforpeace.com OR http://search.mywebsearch.com /mywebsearch/video.jhtml?searchfor=ABC+VIDEO+ON+SRI+LANKA&id=UXxdm014YYau&n=77edea53&ptnrS=UXxdm014YYau&ss=sub&st=sb&ptb=BCB5529D-57B4-40DA-B145-2649C52BFBCF&tpr=&si=maps4pc&vid=e05NpvXpeKc
BBC 2009a “Sri Lanka army ‘killed civilians’,” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8009459.stm.
BBC 2009b “Civilian casualties in Sri Lanka,” http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/language/wordsinthenews/2009/05/090511_witn_sri_casualites_page.shtml
Citizen SilvaSee IDAG
CNN 2009 “London Tamils lament Conflict,” 28 April 2009, https://www.dropbox.com/s/3c7v54v80ab0uca/CNN%20%20London%20Tamils%20lament%20conflict.avi
Colombo Telegraph 2013a “WikiLeaks: LTTE Stored Weapons at Hospitals – ICRC to US Mission to UN,” 4 November 2013, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/ index.php/wikileaks-ltte-stored-weapons-at-hospitals-icrc-to-us-mission-to-un/
Darusman Report 2011 Report of the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts report on Accountability in Sri Lanka, March 2011…. http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/Sri_Lanka/ POE_Report_Full.pdf.
Gamvaesiya 2012 “The full version of ‘boy in the bunker’ — faked photo or real?” 21 February 2013, http://dh-web.org/place.names/gamv/boybunker.html
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Harrison, Frances2011 Still counting the Dead, London: Portobello Books.
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ICEP 2013 Island of Impunity? Investigation into international crimes in the final stages of the Sri Lankan civil war, http://www.scribd.com/doc/205066154/Island-of-Impunity
IDAG [i.e. Citizen Silva] 2013 “The Numbers Game: Politics of Retributive Justice,” http://www.scribd.com/doc/132499266/The-Numbers-Game-Politics-of-Retributive-Justice OR http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/shrilanka/document/TheNG.pdf.
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Jeyaraj, D. B. S.2011 “KP” speaks out: an Interview with former Tiger Chief, Vavuniya: Kum Pvt.
Marga2011 Truth and Accountability. The Last Stages of the War in Sri Lanka, http://www.margasrilanka.org/Truth-Accountability.pdf.
Mango 2011 “Jim Macdonald of AI boxed into corner by Mango in 2009,” 10 August 2011, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2011/08/10/3133/
Milne, Christine 2014a “Christine Milne speaks on human rights abuses in Sri Lanka,”[Speech in the Senate], March 2014, http://greens.org.au/node/3507
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Noble, Kath 2013“Numbers Game reviewed by Kath Noble: The full monty,” 14 July 2013,https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/numbers-game-reviewed-by-kath-noble-the-full-monty/
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Samarajiva, Indi2012 “Channel 4’s – A Review,” The Nation, 18 March 2012, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm131118/debtext/131118-0001.htm#1311188000001
Shanmugarajah, V. 2014 “Dr. Veerakanthipillai Shanmugarajah’s Affidavit Description of Conditions in the Vanni Pocket in Refutation of Channel Four,” 5 January 2014, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/dr-veerakanthipillai-shanmugarajahs-affidavit-description-of-conditions-in-the-vanni-pocket-in-refutation-of-channel-four/
Somasundaram D, and S. Sivayokan 2013 “Rebuilding community resilience in a post-war context: developing insight and recommendations – a qualitative study in Northern Sri Lanka,” International Journal of Mental Health Systems 7(3).
Weiss, Gordon2011 “Sri Lanka faces its ‘Srebrenica moment’,” The Australian, 23 April 2011, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/sri-lanka-faces-its-srebrenica-moment/story-e6frg6ux-1226043466322.
UNSG 2011 Report of the UN Secretary General’s (UNSG) Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, 31 March 2011, http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/Sri_Lanka/POE_Report_Full.pdf.
Weiss, Gordon2011 “Sri Lanka faces its ‘Srebrenica moment’,” The Australian, 23 April 2011, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/sri-lanka-faces-its-srebrenica-moment/story-e6frg6ux-1226043466322.
Weiss, Gordon2011b The Cage, Sydney: Picador.
In response to my inquiry [at the Narratives of War conference, Nov 2013] Professor Peter Stanley told me that he could not think of any other instance of this sort with reference to the period 1789-2013 in the world order. This needs checking out of course.
 Roberts, “The War in Sri Lanka: Ravi Nessman’s Slanted Story for USA on the Tavis Smiley Show, 18 February 2009,” 31 January 2014.
Speaking to the media in New York on 26 March 2009 John Holmes (Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, UN) admitted as much when he remarked that “the civilians trapped … they are not being allowed to leave by the LTTE” — http://content.time.com/time/video/player/0,32068,187756390011889799,00.html orhttp://youtube/tikQZTbDxg.
 I am giving them (some) the benefit of the doubt.
 My critical reading of their politics THEN in Frontline (Roberts 2009b) has since been reprinted with the title “Simpletons at the World’s Peak: Sri Lankan Situation stumps the World,” in Roberts, Fire & Storm, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2010, pp.289-302.
 I picked up this rumour from the gossip circuit in Colombo way back; but more recently it was noted by some of the personnel at an in-house brainstorming discussion at Marga (information from Amar Gunatilleke). I surmise that the intention of the US government was to implement a scheme tentatively outlined by KP Pathmanāthan (located in Malaysia) whereby (a) the Liberation Tigers would lock-off their heavy weapons in specified locations; while (b) other areas would be deemed no-fire zones and (c) the US Pacific Commandwould then transport the Tamil civilians by sea to Trincomalee (Jeyaraj 2011: 29-32). Clearly, if this information is valid, Gothabaya Rajapaksa and other elements in GSL were inveigled into cooperating with this exploratory move, but have kept their silence on the topic.
 See http://jdsrilanka.blogspot.com/2009/08/sri-lanka-thirty-four-journalists-media.html & Roberts, “The Rajapaksa Regime and the Fourth Estate,” 2009b. Also note this comment from an Indian think tank: “….President Rajapaksa’s growing authoritarianism, his personalized vendettas against critics and opponents, and the progressive undermining of institutional governance” (SATP 2013).
 Thus, for instance, the TamilNet headline on the 10th May2009: “2000 feared slaughtered in a single night” and its account was accepted without question by the BBC (2009), CBS News (2009) and many leading Western media agencies. Note the way one Tim Martin in UK swallowed every bloated tale wholesale (CNN 2009).
 Located in Colombo as UN Media Officer, Gordon Weiss told the BBC on 11th May that the UN believed that “malnutrition levels are extremely high” (BBC 2009a), This supplemented a more serious note: “The UN’s spokesman here, Gordon Weiss, told the BBC that more than 100 children died during what he called the large-scale killing of civilians over the weekend. He said the UN had ‘warned against the bloodbath scenario‘ and the weekend’s events showed that ‘that bloodbath has become a reality’.” (BBC 2009b).
 Note the severe criticism within Marga, Truth and Accountability. The Last Stages of the War in Sri Lanka, http://www.margasrilanka.org/Truth-Accountability.pdf. Likewise Kath Noble tells me that there is a marked disjunction between the “Executive Summary” and the body of the work –almost as if the summary was pre-ordained (Skype telephone chat, late 2013).
 See Somasundaram and S. Sivayokan 2013: page 5 of 24.
 See Roberts, “The Tamil Death Toll in early 2009: Challenging Rohan Gunaratna,” 1 December 2011.
 See the charts depicting the Weiss claims at various points in Mango 2013 and IDAG 2013.
 Re the either/or epistemology that distorts the claims of some humanitarian and/or civil rights a campaigners in the West, see Mango 2011 and Roberts 2011b and 2011d; and Roberts 2012d
 Minimally those evaluating the scenario should study the maps and images (mostly photographs from Tamil sources) in Roberts, “BBC Blind,” 2013 and Roberts, “Congestion in the “Vanni Pocket” January-May 2009: Appendix IV for “BBC Blind,” https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/ congestion-in-the-vanni-pocket-january-may-2009-appendix-iv-for-bbc-blind/; and Roberts,” Pictorial Illustrations of the Mass Exodus from the Last Redoubt, 20-22 April and mid-May 2009: Appendix V for “BBC Blind”, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/exodus-from-the-last-redoubt-late-april-mid-may-2009-appendix-v-for-bbc-blind/
 Older generations in the West who had some experience of World War Two and the Korean and Vietnam wars would have better groundings.
 Three were from a legal background while Col Desmond Travers provided the military expertise. There was no sociologist and/or geographer and/or political scientist in this review panel