Photo by tigresblanco
Recently three doctors from the warzone recanted prior statements and say only 300 civilians died. Incidentally, this took place after weeks of detention. I think it’s a forced confession and more like thousands of civilians were killed. This is obvious and I don’t see any point pretending those people didn’t die. I’ve met people in the camps and hospitals and every single one has a relation that died. Almost everyone with shell injuries says that one of their immediate families was killed by the same blast. Perhaps they all know the same 300 people, or perhaps the number is tragically more. No one knows, but surely thousands not hundreds of civilians have died in the war.
I recently spoke to someone who covered wars in Africa and she said she’s used to seeing millions dead in civil wars. It’s downright chilling to perceive human life like so much arithmetic, but I can. Robert Kaplan wrote an analysis in The Atlantic which I think is spot on. He is a suddha, but he’s a serious academic on war and he’s been here. He says:
The insurgents are using human shields? No problem. Just keep killing the innocent bystanders until you get to the fighters themselves. There is no comparison between the few civilians that have been killed by American Predator drones in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, and the many that were killed by the Sri Lankan government. The Americans have carefully targeted select al-Qaeda members and, in the process, killed a few—at the most, dozens—of civilians among whom the fighters were surrounded. By contrast, the Sri Lankan military indiscriminately killed large numbers of civilians—as many as 20,000 in the final months of fighting, according to the United Nations.
As an indication, I also spoke to someone brokering a deal to buy 10,000 metric tons of spent shell casings from the MinDef. To recycle. I saw the documents and I read the amount again and again. 10,000 metric tons. I asked if that was right and he said it was only the first order. We have dropped a shitload of ordnance on our own land and a lot landed on our own people.
Many people were killed. This is true. Many civilians. However, the war was won and the LTTE was crushed and the better future made possible may be worth it. But we have to at least acknowledge the truth, the sacrifice, and mourn. We cannot return these Sri Lankans to their families, but we can give them truth. Thousands have died, not hundreds. It’s terrible, but it is also true.