I have a hard time of making it to the end of stories like this. Where military-level violence takes place and the militaries involved all say "I don’t know what you’re talking about."
A few things are true. Guerrilla groups often put civilians in the line of fire on purpose, or cynically exploit crossfire deaths to score a PR win. Or just flat-out slaughter people and lie about why. And the Tamil Tigers are very nasty guerrillas. They’re like the Shining Path with tanks.
But then, the Sri Lankan army’s other claim is … they’re all dead. For weeks, the line on this story has been that only a few hundred survivors, surrounded, leaderless and powerless, remained on the battlefield. The government was in control, and days from winning the whole thing. The poor diehards couldn’t even leave their trenches.
So how did they level a goddamn village?
The spokesman doesn’t even claim to have one story.
Udaya Nanayakkara said radar had detected Tamil Tigers themselves using artillery and mortar fire on two occasions on Saturday morning, directed against civilians within their zone.
"These doctors are giving statements based on some of the false propaganda given by the LTTE [Tamil Tigers]," he said. "Maybe there is an LTTE gun pointing at them and asking them to give a statement. All these stories are exaggerated to tarnish the image of the Sri Lankan troops
I’m not sure radar works that way, but let’s call it a typo. We’re still left with ‘the thing that didn’t happen is by the way being completely exaggerated and anyway was totally horrible because the people who had no fight left in them precision shelled everything to shit.’
Next week: the Spinal Tap theory.
Spontaneous Municipal Combustion
Look, I hope the Government wins this war, and wins it quickly. Sri Lankans deserve to build skyscrapers, not dodge exploding cars for another 30 years. But as a part of that, major civil institutions need to join accountable reality.
It’s as old as war to say all bad things were done by other people. But it’s very post-modern, very Soviet, to stand in front of a camera and argue against the background.