Wars and Civillian deaths since....
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Wars & Civilian Deaths
The world has seen civil wars, revolutions, coups, insurrections, global wars & now terrorism. All throughout civilians have been affected in some way or the other. What makes modern terrorism more lethal than the varying types of conflicts we have faced historically is that terrorism is almost invisible & the terrorist without the gun becomes more dangerous than the terrorist holding the gun. The point of this discussion aims to look at the historical evidence of wars & conflicts & the deaths therein with particular emphasis on Sri Lanka in the light of the accusations it is facing.
At the offset of this discussion it is imperative to accept that civilian casualty figures for most conflicts are impossible to verify & to categorize into Killed in Action, Would in Action, Died of Wounds, Missing in Action, Prisoner of War etc. Therefore, it must tickle anyone's imagination how the UN derived at their round figures of 6000 dead civilians & pauses to wonder who could have counted the dead amidst the shelling & firing taking place just as much as wonder how credible a newspaper writing from the UK places civilians deaths at 20,000. While every Tamil is not a LTTE Terrorist but every LTTE terrorist is a Tamil & given the Army Commander claiming to have killed over 20,000 terrorists, it could possibly be that this newspaper has conveniently attempted to sell the wrong end of the story.
Having said that we must realize that the 21st century conflicts emerge with a larger framework of associated elements with stakeholders from across the globe participating indirectly or directly in the actual terror that eventually unfolds. Simply put everything is certainly not to be seen in black & white. Understanding these conflicts becomes painstakingly difficult purely because conflicts are hijacked into greater plans by nations & neighboring countries who make use of the terror for their own purposes. It then should come as no surprise how human smuggling, narcotics, illegal arms, NGOs, UN Agencies & even global corporations are all intricately connected to conflicts that exist globally - all helping each other survive in someway or the other. What use is a UN if people lived in peace? What use are NGOs & other humanitarian organizations if there were no conflicts or requirement for peace building etc...This lucrative industry accounts for billions of dollars being siphoned from charitable people into "humanitarian accounts" of which the majority is spent on the luxurious living styles of these people. Why are there demands for NGOs, INGOs to enter IDP camps...they want to take pictures, have these posted on their websites, create a very sad story which appeals to donors who then deposit sums into these accounts & thus secures the livelihoods of these people.
It was only following The Hague conventions of 1899 & 1907 that the first set of international treaties emerged codifying the rules of war. Therefore, militaries & their Governments & even the enemies are bound by a set of international laws. How far these are adhered is questionable & we are yet to see how facets like water boarding & other inhuman means of interrogation adopted by the US Government has been legally upheld & why thus far no actions have been taken against the US. A US Federal Court has forbidden release of these abuse photos on the grounds that it may raise the hate levels against US.
Returning to civilian figures the World War 1 figures are sourced from the US Military Academy & the study done by Col. Vincent J. Esposito. These official figures declared that 42,188,810 from the Allies (Russia, France, US, British Empire, Australia, Italy, Japan, Romania, Greece, Portugal, Spain, France, Serbia, Monte Negro) were committed to war while the Central Powers comprising Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, Bulgaria had committed 65,038,810. The Allies lost 23,029,309 lives while the Central Powers lost 16,007,477 of these numbers 925100 from the Allies died as Prisoners of War or by Disease while the Central Powers lost 1,206, 500 prisoners of war/by disease.
The civilian casualties in World War 2 where the Allies lost 25,410,000 civilians compared to 5,087.000 from Axis powers. In total 30,497,000 civilians had lost their lives in World War 2.
Great Britain + Commonwealth
China (from 1937 on)
The Operation Iraqi Freedom by US in 2003 has not come without casualties. A 2007 study by the British Medical Journal "Lancet" claims that 654,965 Iraqi civilians have died. Surprisingly post-Saddam Hussein has resulted in over 190,000 Iraqi casualties & warrants many to wonder what type of "Iraqi Freedom" the US invasion has actually brought about & how far the Iraqi people are "safe". Close upon 40,000 men & women from over 24 countries have also perished with the US & UK figures on top of the list & the US loosing over 5000 military personnel. Unprecedented in the history of US military is the rise in the numbers of mentally ill soldiers most of whom are unable to take up the emotions of being ordered to kill innocent men, women & children & forced to imagine they were targeting "terrorists".
Similarly, the Afghan war which commenced in 2001 & still continues has also claimed an unprecedented loss of life & property with no hope of any abatement in hostilities. The deaths to civilians receive only a mere "apology" from the US Government & no Pillay's or Moons dare to champion any secret dossiers against the US invasions that presently take place in 2 continents responsible for daily deaths upon civilians & this has set about an unhealthy surge in not only anti-American feeling but also an anti-Muslim trend as well.
The following conflicts have all taken place after The Hague convention & therefore it would be interesting to see how far investigations & accountability have taken place for the civilian deaths that have occurred below & again we are brought back to memories of the US & its unethical use of the atomic bombs not once but twice upon Japan's Hiroshima & Nagasaki which killed in an instance over 100,000 innocent people.
Congo Free State (1886 - 1908) goes down as the least publicized death toll of the 20th Century with 8,000,000 deaths as a result of colonial brutality. Adam Hochschild (Leopold's Ghost) puts the figure at 10million or half the original population.
China Nationalist era (1928 - 1937) is said to have accounted for 3,100,000 deaths with 1,000,000 being civilian deaths (Wallechinsky)
Korean War (1950 - 1953) has resulted in 2,800,000 deaths. 33,741 Americans killed in battle. At least 109,000 people of South Korea had been killed by US in 1949 alone.
North Korea (1948) Rummel estimates that the Communist regime had killed 1,293,000 North Koreans & 363,000 South Koreans. The Center for the Advancement of North Korean Human Rights estimates that some 400,000 prisoners died in labor camps since 1972.
Rwanda & Burundi (1959 - 1995) the massacres between Hutu & Tutsi's is said to have resulted in 1,350,000 deaths.
Vietnam War (1965 - 1973) is said to have resulted in 1,700,000 deaths. Lewy states that because of the lack of weapons recovered from many of the dead bodies it is possible that up to 222,000 killed by American troops may have been innocent civilians. Hanson's writings project 50,000 Vietnam civilians killed by indiscriminate US bombings. The My Lai Massacre was committed by U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War on hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese civilians. Such military action, which has the sole purpose of inflicting civilian casualties is illegal under modern rules of war, and may be considered a war crime or crime against humanity.
Cambodian Civil War (1970 - 1975)600,000 is said to have died.
Bangladesh (1971) Official estimate is 3million dead but it seems this total is incorrect & the figures are possibly much higher.
Indo-Pak war 1991 estimated death tolls by Hartman is 10,633 Indian & 17,000 Pakistani.
Cambodia, Khmer Rouge (1975 - 1978) resulted in 1,650,000 deaths during Pol Pot's reign of terror. Elizabeth Becker in When the War was over (1986) puts the total down to 2,000,000 while the US State Dept puts the figure between 1.2million & 1.8million.
Mozambique (1975 - 1992) estimated deaths at 1,000,000 killed & 300,000 starved.
Afghanistan war (1979 - 2001) involving the Afghan Govt, the Soviets, the Mujahideens & Taliban is said to have claimed 1800,000 lives - the Christian Science Monitor puts the civilians deaths at 400,000 upto the late 1990s.
Iran-Iraq war (1980 - 1988) is said to have resulted in 1,000,000 deaths. Iran has acknowledged 130,000 deaths though western analysts say it is likely to be much higher. War Annual puts the numbers as 600,000 Iranians & 400,000 Iraqi's.
The Sudan war (1983) was said to have claimed 1,900,000 lives
The Congo war (1998) was estimated to have cost the lives of 3,800,000 people (International Rescue Committee study)
There are exponents of the Just War theory & perhaps this merits why in 1999 NATO spokesman Jamie Shea declared "There is always a cost to defeat an evil. It never comes free, unfortunately. But the cost of failure to defeat a great evil is far higher," - this was following 3 separate attacks killing 32 people though NATO insisted the bombings were on "legitimate designated military targets". Juxtapose this with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albrights who was asked whether the over half a million children killed by the [Iraqi] sanctions were "worth it." Her response was: "It's a hard choice, but I think, we, think, it's worth it." [60 Minutes, May 11, 1996] - Did these human rights bodies call for special sessions against NATO or the US, where were the Human Rights Groups, were there diplomatic lobbying to bring these nations & their leaders to task for "crimes against humanity"....During the JVP insurrection first in the 70s & then in the late 80s thousands of young Sinhalese men & women were killed purely to crush the insurrection - not a single human rights body cared to spotlight these & pressure the then Sri Lankan Governments to stop....double standards is the reason why the UN, its bodies & other professing champions of human rights are not taken seriously purely on the grounds that there is no standard or equality to the allegations they make. All allegations must apply equal standards & status to all nations whether influential or less influential if they are being accused of any wrong doing. Moreover, those making the accusations must also have their hands clean from abuse of power, ability to be influenced & be accepted as impartial. Unless & until the world agrees in unison that there are a set of people who are unbiased & impartial - all these accusations should end up in the dustbin of history.
What is relevant to Sri Lanka essentially is that its present Government did not seek war - it did as its predecessors attempt to persuade the LTTE to come into a political solution based of course on their legitimate grievances on behalf of the Tamils. Therefore, the argument that Sri Lanka's military went all out to kill Tamils lacks credibility purely on the grounds that the LTTE enticed the Government into setting its forces upon the LTTE after denying water to over 15,000 farmers who needed water for their livelihood.
For those who enjoy arguing that Sri Lanka's military went on a killing rampage would like to explain why these soldiers risked their own lives carrying the elderly, children & pregnant Tamil mothers to safety & even declaring several cease fires to even allow the LTTE to release injured civilians whom the LTTE had been keeping as human shields.
The world demanded a ceasefire - why to save the Tamil civilians. Where were these civilians - they were amongst the LTTE & being used as human shields. Would it not have been practical to ask the party who was keeping the civilians as human shields to release them instead of a Government being asked to hold fire & given that the Government stopped assaults what guarantee was this that the LTTE would release these people & given that they didn't release them what would these foreign powers propose as their next counter plan? The Government offered several ceasefires with sufficient time to enable all civilians to be released (given the argument that shelling needed to stop for the civilians to move away from the LTTE) & for the LTTE to fight it out with the military. That did not bring the expected results & neither did world Governments exert any pressures on the LTTE to release these civilians. Instead it was seemingly apparent that these foreign governments insisted the military stop its advance as movements were afoot to offer a general amnesty to the LTTE leadership & safe transport to another country. This would have released the 200,000 civilians but then what about this "accountability" factor & why take pains to transfer a killer & his entire troop to safety? For what - is it as a sense of gratitude for their livelihood was taken care of during the LTTE reign? We are well aware that the LTTE is worth USD300million & therefore it is common knowledge that even the Western politicos have been recipients to handouts by the LTTE. What logic does it provide for the thousands Prabakaran & his killing machine have been responsible for throughout 30 years? Where is the JUSTICE?
The Government could have easily used their aerial power & completed the operation within days of identifying where the LTTE leader & his top men were located. That they sent soldiers reveals their commitment to zero civilian casualty. The LTTE is an outfit that first started out as a guerilla movement. All LTTE cadres are not in tiger uniform, many act as normal civilians. Most of these cadres in uniform even had sarongs to quickly change to in order to pretend they were civilians if the armed forces closed in on them. Therefore, it is quite remarkable how the UN can be positive that the round figure totals they disclose are not actually LTTE cadres & what is amazing is how journalists located in the UK can be 100% sure that 20,000 civilians had died. Why do we laugh at these figures....because of the inconsistencies...UN spokesman Gordon Weiss even went so far as to say the Sri Lanka army used white phosperous & eventually had to retract his statement for lack of proof. Did we not say the parties that are supposed to be impartial are actually partial?
Leaving aside all these arguments - if the concern of the world was the civilians caught up in the "no fire zone" it should have been top priority for the UN, US, UK, Norway, Japan & India to have ensured that the LTTE released all civilians being kept by them. The No Fire Zone was created by the Sri Lankan Government & no other & it was meant to have the civilians gather there to enable the armed forces to move them all to safety....it was not the Government who has failed these civilians it is these foreign nations for all they did was put pressure upon a democratic Government whose aim was to crush terror. The fault throughout these years arose in accepting the LTTE & giving them treatment given to political parties when they had not shunned any of their violent ways. None of these western nations other than giving a standard diplomatic statement did anything each time the LTTE planted bombs, killed innocent, sent suicide missions. Instead they came thundering down upon the Government when it was carrying out its final operations while also carrying out a humanitarian exercise. Instead of appreciating that the Government has rescued over 200,000 persons the world prefers to pin blame upon round figure civilian casualties which they cannot prove. Now they are turning upon the humanitarian catastrophe in the IDP camps.
It is no easy logistics feeding 200,000 people 3 meals a day. Just imagine what Pakistan is facing having to feed 2million people? There are different types of people within these camps. If we recall the 1983 riots we would remember how the authorities had a time segregating the Tamil people because tension arose within the camps because of caste issues. The higher castes refused to share the same toilets with the lower castes - even in calamity the Tamils were divided. There are 3000 NGOs in Sri Lanka if each donated a mobile toilet that would make 3000 mobile toilets....is the concern of the people more or their own need to utilize the catastrophe to maximize how best they could raise funds for their organization. During the 2004 tsunami we can recall how many "charitable" people came & walked away with little orphaned children - some to raise as their own (without legal formalities) & others to use as domestics or to be turned into prostitutes. Should we not understand why the Government is curbing the influx of people coming into these camps?
Ban Ki-Moon has again emerged into the picture & is again calling for a "fully accountable inquiry". Keeping to the subject of inquiry we would like to know how far UN officials have been held "accountable" for their role in the sanctions against Iraq on the behest of the US....did UN humanitarian officials realize that sanctions against Iraq would not effect Saddam Hussein at all but instead would make thousands of Iraqi civilians suffer ....5million children are said to have died as a result.....& more over the UN is guilty of the Oil for Food program where plenty of UN officers walked away with money again at the cost of Iraqi civilian life....Were was the "accountability".....we are talking about 5million innocents who died in the 20th century when the UN was supposed to save lives!!! What is this "unacceptably high" civilian casualty statement - Can Moon care to say how many civilian casualties are "acceptable"?
LTTE terrorists & the top 3 tier of their leadership are all no more. The Government is looking after the civilians & that is the relief...rehabilitation is also taking place...the LTTE cadres are now undergoing various rehabilitation programs & will be re-introduced to society when ready, resettlement is also taking place with people taken to new locations....can the world not be a little patient. We still cannot believe this LTTE nightmare 30 year terror is over! We are also alert to the fact that those very parties who helped LTTE terror are now using the humanitarian issue to demand devolution of power. Again we stress what do these people need - only the basics in life but mostly the ability to live in peace....demarcation of territory etc is of no consequence to them or to the majority of Sri Lanka...therefore all these moves for political solutions must take secondary place or no place at all. If the Government can showcase a new initiative to ensure that the needs of the masses in infrastructure, education, healthcare, transport, public service mechanisms, employment will be better looked after - THAT IS ALL THAT THE PUBLIC WISHES FOR....these political solutions suit only the politicians & their cronies & why should Tamil politicians who have not done anything for the Tamil public emerge to now steer a devolved solution...they have not cared to even ensure the civilians were released. Their political parties all carry Eelaam names which mean separatism & until they change these names...they should not be welcomed at all.
Then this reconciliation rhetoric Moon & all others are first advised to ask the Diaspora living abroad to stop their theatrics because at the end of the day they are unlikely to get their PR status now that the country is without terror. Obviously the ones on the streets are those who must be still on the waiting list for residency & now must be more than perturbed that they may have to return. Foreign Governments who have banned the LTTE must question why they continue to allow protestors to carry banned slogans & banned insignia...does this not break their laws?
The first part of the reconciliation is for Tamils to break their own caste differences....the Government declared that the elder & feeble were welcome to go & live with their families. Now most of these people were from areas that the Diaspora shouting abroad had not even been to even heard of...why is it that these elderly still remain in these camps...why are no Tamils coming to take care of them? Did they not shout for their release...what about the NGOs...should they not open up homes & feed these people...& nurse them...why do they just want to enter the camps???? It would also be worthwhile for these foreign nations not to benchmark against how they live. Do they know how many of these civilians have a toilet in their original homes...
Sri Lanka is alert more than ever before. Sri Lanka is a rejuvenated island feeling proud at present for being the only nation to have crushed terrorism & what gives Sri Lanka further pride is that our armed forces have carried out the world's highest humanitarian rescue operation - rescuing over 200,000 from LTTE clutches. It is ironic that instead of accolades Sri Lanka is being treated as the spoiler which makes us wonder whose lives we have spoiled because this Government broke the trend???