Category Archives: power politics

Douma: Terror from Many Sides and Confusing Tales. Hypoxia not Gas?

Robert Fisk, in The Independent, 15 April 2018with this titleThe search for truth in the rubble of Douma – and one doctor’s doubts over the chemical attack”

This is the story of a town called Douma, a ravaged, stinking place of smashed apartment blocks – and of an underground clinic whose images of suffering allowed three of the Western world’s most powerful nations to bomb Syria last week. There’s even a friendly doctor in a green coat who, when I track him down in the very same clinic, cheerfully tells me that the “gas” videotape which horrified the world – despite all the doubters – is perfectly genuine.

an image from another source -viz. The Guardian

War stories, however, have a habit of growing darker. For the same 58-year old senior Syrian doctor then adds something profoundly uncomfortable: the patients, he says, were overcome not by gas but by oxygen starvation in the rubbish-filled tunnels and basements in which they lived, on a night of wind and heavy shelling that stirred up a dust storm.

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April 19, 2018 · 2:03 pm

The Gash Files IV: The War on Land

Michael Roberts, with emphasis in bold being my imposition

I will be reproducing pertinent sections of Lt Col. Gash’s “Situation Reports” (or Sitrep) verbatim below in single spacing with the date of each despatch specified at the outset, while indicating blacked out sections where pertinent. These reproductions are extensive and demand careful reading. Vital bodies of information will be highlighted in red as a guideline for readers; but they are encouraged to form their own appraisals.

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April 16, 2018 · 10:59 am

Sri Lanka is Drowning in its Own Shit. Two Appraisals. Ajit and Elmo

Emphasis by highlighting in blue is the work of The Editor, Thuppahi

parliamentary kehel mal!

ONE: “The Perfect Storm” by Ajit Kanagasundram in Sunday Island, 15 April 2018

The optimism that accompanied the Yahapalana government in 2015 has evaporated. We simply seem to have exchanged the misguided and dictatorial regime of Rajapaksa for the misguided and weak government of Sirisena/Ranil. There is a confluence of factors – political, economic, financial, inter-ethnic relations and international that are converging and will cause a major crisis within two years. Continue reading

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The Gash Files III: Trapped Tamils Out by Sea in 2009

Michael Roberts

As evident then and as confirmed by subsequent accounts, during the last phase of Eelam War IV from circa December 2008 segments of the corralled Tamil population began to rebel against the privations and dangers they were being subjected to by the LTTE’s grand strategy. While a considerable section of the people remained loyal to the LTTE to the very end,[1] others secured release from their situation through the efforts of international agencies working in cooperation with the LTTE and involving[2] the ICRC acting in concert with the Sri Lankan Navy and the Red Cross.

  Also see Roberts: TPS. Pictorial. Fig. 95 and its details

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The History of Caste in South Asia via a Work on the Rise of the Karava in Ceylon

Susan Bayly  in 1983, reviewing  Caste Conflict and Elite Formation: The Rise of a Karava Elite in Sri Lanka, 1500-1931 by Michael Roberts Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1982.

The literature on the south Asian caste system is vast and contentious and the current war of words shows no sign of abating. This book conforms to current trends both in focusing on the experience of a single caste group under colonial rule, and also in adopting a polemical tone towards other historians. Roberts’ subject is the Karava population of Sri Lanka and his first aim is to explain why this group of poor fishermen and artisans managed to throw up a disproportionately large elite of businessmen, lawyers and other western-educated professional men by the end of the nineteenth-century. The discussion is set against the background of works on comparable Asian business communities such as the Marwaris and Parsis. An important theme, then, is the relationship between individual enterprise and the corporate structure of caste: did the Karava magnate class emerge because of, or in spite of, their roots in a hierarchical caste order? Continue reading

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TIGERS AT THE GATE from ABC: Mark Corcoran reads Prabhakaran in Mid-1999

After seeing the ABC production in the FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT SERIES entitled Tigers at the Gate” in mid-1999 I had the temerity to criticize the ABC and its producer Mark Corcoran. I should have attended to the blurb which presented this documentary on the ABC web site. This note ran: “The truth is a political solution is as impossible as a military breakthrough because for the (Tamil) Tigers its all or nothing– a homeland or glorious death.” (signed Mark Corcoran).

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The Gash Files II: LTTE’s Strategic Design

Michael Roberts

In Despatch COL/2/08 of12 March 2009 Lt. Col Anton Gash has this summary appraisal for his superiors: The LTTE has been forcing the civilian population to move in accordance with their tactical requirements. The NFZ is rigorously policed and patrolled by LTTE cadres, who control access to food and medical facilities, ensuring that their own needs are met before any capacity is allowed for civilians.”

This is a critical observation pointing in the right direction. Nevertheless, it falls short of the mark. The mass of Tamil civilians was not merely a tactical element. They were a central pillar in the LTTE’s grand strategy. For one, they constituted a defensive formation: just so many sandbags restraining the full deployment of the government forces’ military weaponry. While the standard description of the civilians as “hostages” in HR and Western circles does point in this direction, the terminology is “weak” and does not fully capture the overarching strategic purpose of the corralled civilian mass. In addition to serving as a restrictive ‘bund’, the civilian mass provided an active incentive for Western intervention in favour of a ceasefire and some sort of “political solution.

 a tent citty in the Tigers’ last redoubt –-Pic from UNPoE circa February 2009

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