"Is the World Ignoring Sri Lanka’s Srebrenica?"
The New York Times blog, Lede, carries a post authored by Robert Mackey, under this title, seeming to want to up the ante on MIA and Arundathi Roy's wild accusations, that others, like Indi.ca, have taken up. The post itself is that familiar mixture of sanctimoniousness and bad reporting, the so called 'free press' has been quite liberal with for a long while, especially in relation to Sri Lanka.
But even more remarkable is 'balance' that emerges from Mackey, when he is challenged in posted comments. One of the most reasoned comes from "DJ" who writes:
As a photographer who has shot the war in Sri Lanka, I find it frightening that you associate the situation there with Srebrenica. The war in Sri Lanka is horrific and there is plenty of blame to go around for both sides. The tens of thousands of civilians held by the Tigers and shelled by the government are innocent victims. But Srebrenica was genocide planned and executed by Bosnian Serbs to murder innocent Bosnian muslims. They were lined up and shot, a la the Eisengruppen. The Sri Lankan government has no desire to murder the Tamil civilians trapped on the beaches of Mullaitivu. It has a reckless disregard for their lives. This is bad. But it is not the same, not even close.
Saying that the American fire-bombings of Dresden and Tokyo, designed to murder civilians, were on par with Nazi death camps would be ridiculous and offensive. But it is no worse an analogy than between the premeditated ethnic cleansing of Srebrenica and the murderous crossfire of Mullaitivu. We should be very careful making analogies with genocide. The slippery slope of relativity can confuse war crimes with war. Maybe war is a crime. But even so, we need a word for the worst of the worst, and as horrific as the situation must be for those civilians right now, it is not, and hopefully never will be, Srebrenica.
It reminds me of Michael Roberts recent, and more sophisticated attempt to think through the question of war and its victims in a historical frame; he was of course shouted down, even though his arguments had merit. Mackey on the other had is so illogical in his response, that is seems disingenuous.
[DJ, The blog post cites a statement by our reporter in India that the rebel group's treatment of civilians is clearly wrong -- that they "have effectively held them hostage as a civilian shield" -- but the comparison here is to similar "pockets" or enclaves packed with civilians trapped by fighting in Sri Lanka now as in Bosnia then. I worked in Bosnia for the UN during that war and it seems to me that Channel 4's Alex Thomson, and our headline, is not making a judgment as to the relative rightness or wrongness of any of the combatants in either war, but only of the horrifyingly similar situation the civilians find themselves in. -- RM, Lede Blog]
In any reasonable use of language, that is historically and politically sensitive, Srebrenica is a code word code for a deliberate civilian massacre, and has been deemed to be genocide, by the International Court of Justice. There were perpetrators and victims here; and justice was sort. Surely this is not a word to through around, because Mackay and Sen Gupta are 'horrified.'
This is an extremely poor comparison, that holds no water or weight, and Macky's qualifications raise questions, either about his judgment or motives. Or its just that its the meaning of "Srebrenica" is being re-made here: its now to mean, oh the 'Horror, the Horror" in the Heart of Darkness, that natives have (re)made, half naked in loin clothes no doubt, after the good white folk left.