Arrogance, Ignorance, Deceit: The Many Faces of Taylor Dibbert

Michael Roberts

Taylor Dibbert is an example of one stream in American academia: armed with a liberal arts degree, peace corps experience and links with the Pacific Forum, HR agencies[1] and such personnel as Frances Harrison,[2] he has now taken on Michael the Lord Naseby (Dibbert 2019). His essay is a shining example of intellectual arrogance and contention by ASSERTION. His assertions on the details of Eelam War IV in its last phase are typical of many writings from an educated bourgeoisie lacking experience in battle theatres. This major deficiency applies to many Sri Lankans as well as Yasmin Sooka, Marzuki Darusman, Ban-Ki-Moon,[3] Alan Keenan[4] and Charu Lata Hogg.[5]

Sooka Keenan Hogg

That shortcoming applies to Lord Naseby as well as this writer. It is a shortcoming that has been partially – I stress partially – reduced in Naseby’s case by attending to the voices of such personnel as Lt. Col. Gash (Defence Attache at the UK embassy in Colombo in 2008/09).[6] In my case it has taken many years of pouring over the literature, maps and photographs[7] relating to this war between the years 2011 and 2018 for a partial reduction of my incompetence.

Dibbert’s nitwit assessments of the specifics associated with Eelam War IV are rendered feasible by the practices of print-media and many web sites: they refuse to use bibliographies and footnotes. The lack of bibliographies hides the limited degree of study behind his assertions. So does the absence of footnotes. Such shortcomings also obscure the ignorance of Chief Editors: after all, few of them know much about battlefields either. There was considerable difference in the battle theatre in the Mannar District in comparison with those in the Mullaitivu-Oddusuddan area. My vivid secondary recollections of the Allied troops battling in Sicily and the Italian Pennines during World War II told me that conditions there[8] were quite different again from the two scenarios referred to above.

When Naseby faces Dibbert foursquare, he does so by questioning Dibbert’s facts on the death-toll, by presenting solid data in this regard and pinpointing an attendant set of figures that Dibbert did not bring to the attention of his readers: namely, that some 290,000 personnel within the “Vanni Pocket” in 2009 survived with roughly 11,000 of this number deemed Tigers.…. surely an omission on Dibbert’s account that suggests deceit.

dibbert -graph

refugee stream-Daylife Tamil refugee stream -Pic from Daylife

But Naseby is not short of ignorance either (so too most accounts of the war). He does not raise a cardinal issue: if 40,000 Tigers and civilians died, where were the 80,000 or so wounded?

It is the eternal credit of a Sri Lankan identified as “Mango” that the vital import of figures linking the WIA (wounded in action) to those who died in action (KIA) that I was led to this dimension of appraisal.[9] The basic point is this: the WIA always outnumber the KIA. In the Korean War the ratio for USA was over three: 103,284 WIA against 33,651. But the Gallipoli campaign of 1915-16 serves as a superior example because of its restricted and well-defined land area: the ratio for Australian wounded to dead in the Gallipoli Peninsula was 2.23.[10]

Tamil wounded in Vanni Pocket – TamilNet

Fortunately, the UN personnel in Colombo in 2009 computed figures for the wounded in hospitals and detention centres. They “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” (UNPoE 2011: paragraph 134). Though this data was in front of them, the Darusman Panel did not comprehend its significance. Stark ignorance surely.[11] Or, is it a question of well-educated lay personnel venturing into a technical field without any awareness of its basic yardsticks?

Taylor Dibbert, too, is a layman in this terrain. But his sensationalist headline-seeking venture also rests on DECEIT.

Let me dissect the organisation of his claims to justify this suggestion. Take his contentions in their sequence:

A = “The tragic way the war ended with the massive slaughter of Tamil civilians meant that accountability for wartime atrocities was urgently needed.”

B = “A credible UN investigation concluded that up to 40,000 people may have died during that time.”

C = “But the reality is that many people believe that that figure could be much higher”.

Unlike many Western media personnel (for example Kerry O’Brien of ABC), Dibbert presents the Darusman Panel claim as a possibility (an allegation). But that measure of truthfulness is then drowned out by the combination of A and C. There was “slaughter” and even more than 40,000 could have died.

There is no allusion to the fact that many LTTE fighters were not in uniform during the last months of the war. There is stark silence about the clever LTTE strategy of deploying the Tamil civilian mass as a protective barrier and a raison d’etre for Western intervention.[12] Since he does not serve up a bibliography and his eye-catching articles are presented in circuits that do not permit footnote-referencing, readers are therefore left susceptible to his duplicity.

***  ***

SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY

De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2009b “The Battle for the Vanni Pocket,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, March 2009, Vol. 35/2, pp. 17-19. … and http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/aulimp/citations/gsa/ 2009157395/156554.html

De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2010b “Information Warfare and the Endgame of the Civil War,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, May 2010, 30/4: 35-37. …. and http://www.asiapacificdefencereporter.com/ articles/40/Sri-Lanka.

Dibbert, Tayloe 2019 “On Lord Naseby’s Sri Lanka whitewash,” Daily Financial Times, 21 February 2019. Also in https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2019/02/26/lord-naseby-knocks-out-taylor-dibbert-in-stoush-over-eelam-war-iv/

Gamage, Daya 2014 The American Agenda for Sri Lanka’s National Issues, 1970s-2014,” 5 July 2014, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/07/05/the-american-agenda-for-sri-lankas-national-issues-1970s-2014/

Lord Naseby 2019 Lord Naseby responds to ‘On Lord Naseby’s Sri Lanka whitewash’,” 26 February 2019, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2019/02/26/lord-naseby-knocks-out-taylor-dibbert-in-stoush-over-eelam-war-iv/

Harshula 2011a “When allegations become evidence,” 6 June 2011, http://groundviews.org/2011/06/06/when-allegations-become-evidence/

Harrison, Frances 2012 Still Counting the Dead, London: Portobello.

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

Jeyaraj, DBS 2009 “Wretched of the Wanni Earth break Free of Bondage,” Daily Mirror, 25 April 2009.

Jeyaraj, D. B. S. 2011 “KP’ Speaks Out. An Interview with Former Tiger Chief, Vavuniya: NERDO.

Mango 2014 “Sri Lanka’s War In Its Last Phase: Where WIA Figures Defeat The Gross KIA Estimates,” 14 February 2014, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/sri-lankas-war-in-its-last-phase-where-wia-figures-defeat-the-gross-kia-estimates/

Marga 2011 An Analysis and Evaluation of The Report of the Advisory Panel to the UNSG nn the Final Stages of the War in Sri Lanka, https://www.dropbox.com/s/0eybj1ynej6spaa/The%20Darusman%20Report-%20Final%20doc-2.doc

Marga 2014 Issues of Truth and Accountability. The Last Stages of the War in Sri Lanka, https://www.dropbox.com/s/tdxwntf7wu5andq/The%20Last%20Stages%20of%20the%20war%20in%20Sri%20Lanka.pdf?n=66191473.

Mango 2014 “Sri Lanka’s War In Its Last Phase: Where WIA Figures Defeat The Gross KIA Estimates,” 14 February 2014, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/sri-lankas-war-in-its-last-phase-where-wia-figures-defeat-the-gross-kia-estimates/

Roberts, M. 2013 “BBC-Blind: Misreading the Tamil Tiger Strategy of International Blackmail, 2008-13,” https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2013/12/08/bbc-blind-misreading-the-tamil-tiger-strategy-of-international-blackmail-2008-13/#more-11221

Roberts, Michael 2014 “Generating Calamity, 2008-2014: An Overview of Tamil Nationalist Operations and Their Marvels,” 10 April 2014, http://groundviews.org/2014/04/10/generating-calamity-2008-2014-an-overview-of-tamil-nationalist-operations-and-their-marvels/

Roberts, Michael2014 Tamil Person and State. Essays, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2014

Roberts, Michael 2014 Tamil Person and State. Pictorial, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2014.

Roberts, Michael 2015 “Ambassador Blake in Never-Never-Land: Misreading LTTE Capacity in Early 2009,” 26 August 2015, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/ambassador-blake-in-never-never-land-misreading-ltte-capacity-in-early-2009/

Roberts, Michael 2016 “Saving Talaivar Pirapāharan,” 5 April 2016, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2016/04/06/saving-talaivar-pirapaharan/

Roberts, Michael 2017 “The Death Toll in 2009: Deceit, International and Sri Lankan,” 26 April 2017,  https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2017/04/26/the-death-toll-in-2009-deceit-and-myopia-international-and-lankan/

Roberts, Michael 2017  “Revelations in Britain: Lord Naseby undermines the received ‘Wisdom’ on Civilian Deaths,” 12 November 2017, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2017/11/12/revelations-in-britain-lord-naseby-undermines-the-received-wisdom-on-civilian-deaths/

Roberts, Michael 2018 “Reflections: Interpreting Gash Files IV,” 29 April 2018, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2018/04/29/reflections-interpreting-the-gash-files-iv/#more-30031

Roberts, Michael 2018Where USA sought to arm-wrestle Sri Lanka in March-April-May 2009,” 11 May 2018,  https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2018/05/11/where-usa-sought-to-arm-wrestle-sri-lanka-in-march-april-may-2009/

Narendran, Rajasingham 2014 Harsh Ground Realities in War: Decomposing Bodies and Missing Persons and Soldiers,” 28 January 2014, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/11702/

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/

UN PoE 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.

Vidura 2009 “The Great Escapes,” Sunday Leader, 17 May 2009.

Yatawara, Dhaneshi 2009 “Entrapped Civilians seek salvation in Force,” Sunday Observer, 17 May 2009, http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2009/05/17/fea05.asp

 END NOTES

[1] See https://www.huffpost.com/author/taylor-dibbert

[2] See column on the right in his profile in https://twitter.com/taylordibbert. Harrison’s cavalier modes of evaluation and easy acceptance of population totals presented by those aligned with the LTTE are evident in her computation s of the death toll in Appendix I in her book Still Counting the Dead –with her final appraisal allowing for “anywhere between 26,000 and 146,679 people” (2012: 238).

[3] Note my scathing review of Ban Ki-Moon’s readings from a helicopter in May 2009 in Roberts, “Reading ‘Devastation: …,” in Roberts, Tamil Person and State. Essays, Colombo, 2014, pp. 259-70.

[4] Keenan is the “Project Director, for International Crisis Group” in London ……………………………… (https://www.crisisgroup.org/who-we-are/people/alan-keenan). I have met him a couple of times in Sri Lanka in the 2000s after I was introduced by Jehan Perera. For his views on Sri Lanka in 2012, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WE7xrvjEwyk

[5] From early 2009 Hogg has been a central figure in Chatham House and indulged in slanted reports and interviews on Sri Lanka. I distinctly recall one such in May 2009 when I was in Colombo. Note the recent gathering of human rights experts focusing on Sri Lanka at Chatham House on 17th January 2019 —  with none of the Sri Lankan specialists on Sri Lanka at universities in London or its environs on the platform (see https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2019/01/27/prejudiced-and-infantile-readings-of-sri-lanka-at-chatham-house-in-2019/).  Also see https://www.chathamhouse.org/expert/charu-lata-hogg

[6] Lord Naseby visited Sri Lanka in early 2009 during the war and had chats with Col. Gash THEN. In recent years he has extracted the Gash reports (in redacted form) from the Foreign Office and read widely on the topic (see Roberts, “REFLECTIONS…,” 2018). I see no evidence that Dibbert has indulged in any such reading. Also see Roberts, ……………………………………………………… https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2017/11/12/revelations-in-britain-lord-naseby-undermines-the-received-wisdom-on-civilian-deaths/

[7] The photographs of the battles and advances of the Allied troops in World War II within the London Illustrated News in the library of St. Aloysius College in Galle were   absorbed indelibly by young Roberts and augmented by watching war films –specially those starring Audie Murphy.

[8] My vivid pictorial recollections of the landscapes in Sicily and the Italian mainland and Sicily from my interests as a teenager were brought home to me when my wife and I visited both Sicily and Tuscany in 2007, traveling in a hire car. The escarpments and spurs on which little towns nestled in Tuscany with relatively narrow with rolling plains and hill-slopes in between remain vivid in my mind; these conditions would surely have been a nightmare for the armoured might of the US armies in 1944.

[9] See Mango 2014. He is a Sinhalese educated in Europe and in a professional management field that is not related to war, but where his career will be compromised by any engagement with SL politics. I have met Mango in UK at his home and noticed some Royal and US Air Force magazines as well as several academic works on Sri Lanka in his bookshelves in the drawing room.

[10] For all these details see Roberts, “A Drama in Four Acts,” 2015. …. https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=17560&action=edit&postpost=v2

[11] The review of the report presented by the UN Panel of Experts by a collective assembled by Godfrey Gunatilleka of Marga, a group that included an ex-soldier David Blacker, concluded that the Panel’s methodology was slipshod (see Marga 2011 and 2014). It is unlikely that either Dibbert or anyone else in the Pacific Forum has bothered to read these reviews: they are high and mighty and rule the world’s media waves. Note this assessment on my part in 2017: “When Mango (2013) identified “a truly appalling misuse of civilian casualty numbers by international humanitarians, whose jaundiced view on Sri Lanka’s victory has led them to disregard basic mathematics, statistics, facts and logic,” he was pinpointing a species of intellectual myopia in high places. But the indictment can go further. There is a prima facie case to indicate a policy of deceit guided by the ploys of power at the heart of the international combinations” (Roberts, “Death Toll in 2009,” 2017)

[12] See Roberts, “Saving Talaivar Pirapaharan,” 2016 and Tamil Person and State. Essays, 2014

1 Comment

Filed under accountability, american imperialism, authoritarian regimes, centre-periphery relations, communal relations, ethnicity, governance, historical interpretation, human rights, insurrections, landscape wondrous, life stories, LTTE, mass conscription, military strategy, patriotism, politIcal discourse, power politics, prabhakaran, Rajapaksa regime, refugees, Responsibility to Protect or R2P, self-reflexivity, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, slanted reportage, sri lankan society, Tamil civilians, Tamil Tiger fighters, the imaginary and the real, trauma, truth as casualty of war, UN reports, unusual people, war crimes, war reportage, world events & processes

One response to “Arrogance, Ignorance, Deceit: The Many Faces of Taylor Dibbert

  1. Pingback: Beyond Sam Power — Dibbert’s Solution from Hell for Sri Lanka | Thuppahi's Blog

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