Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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War is a Complex, Multi-Symptom Disease

by Dr. Victor Ragunathan

The author’s attempt at syllogistic reasoning based on a deductive and exploratory study has failed to generalize from the limited findings in her content analysis. Accordingly, selection bias lead to  reporting bias by not publishing uninteresting (usually negative) results, or results which go against the experimenter's prejudices, a sponsor's interests, or community expectations.

"However, the greatest death and destruction, loss and grief, dislocation and relocation, are associated with the man made disasters that have occurred through warfare. The slaying of man by man in either direct combat or through sophisticated weaponry bring cruel mutilating injuries and sudden untimely violent deaths. Such deaths bring little opportunity for the healing process of physicians or the healing rituals of grief. And, of course, warfare destroys the house and habitants, the livelihoods and even lives of many noncombatants.. Mankind's capacity to create psychic trauma through war, to create horrifying forms of warfare, has increased exponentially."- Prof. Raphael from Australia in”When Disaster Strikes. "

Funding the War not the Tigers

Whether it is Michael Moore (the director of 'Fahrenheit 911'), Jo Becker or the United Nations, can they claim that they have not contributed to any war; any acts of violence or human rights abuses? If they say they haven’t, then they are living in an illusion. All law-abiding citizens and residents of the western world are actively contributing to the war machines, and, willingly or unwillingly, contribute to some of the human rights abuses in the world. They contribute to the atrocities committed against the woman, children and the disabled. How does this happen? Am I concocting a story from baseless facts? Let me explain.

Almost all the residents (citizens, permanent residents and legal workers) of the USA are actively contributing to the war effort. They also contribute to some of the clandestine military activity not well known to the public. The 1994 article "School of the Americas: At War with Democracy?" by the Center for Defense Information describes how a US military training school, the School of the Americas, has trained many of the worst human rights violators and dictators in various Latin American countries. Who are the contributers to these activities?

Law abiding residents of the western world pay taxes to the government as part of their legal obligation to run the government. The governments run by the taxes collected from various sources. Some governments depend on external sources, such as funding from well-to-do governments. In the USA, for the fiscal year 2007, the budget can be broken down as Defense 16%, Health 25%, Social Security 19%, interest on public debt 13% and other expenses 27%. Defense takes a whopping US$462.7 billion. The war on Iraq, Afganistan and the support for NATO all come under this category. The expenses quoted as “other” fund many departments, including the State Department and foreign aid to many countries. A similer budget, although with much less expense on defense, has been used in Canada, the UK and other western countries. Out of every dollar we pay as tax (in the case of the USA) 16 cents goes to the war and defense. [Some compute that total defense expenses, direct and indirect, are over 50% of every dollar. --Editor] Out of the other 27 cents, who knows what percentage goes to some of the countries known to commit human rights violations.

Jo Becker has quoted in her report “Children as Weapons of War” that “The actions of third party governments are also critical. For example, arms-supplying countries bear a measure of responsibility for the abuses carried out with the weapons they furnish…” The countries she listed include Ukraine, Yugoslavia, Russia, Belarus, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Kazakhistan and Slovakia. How much assistance are these countries getting from the USA is not the issue, but whether or not they are getting any assistance from the USA is. If so, then who contributes to the American funds. The answer is the general public from their day to day earnings and the corporate tax collected by the government is the source of the funds.

Are UN employees exempt from contributing to war by means of tax? No, since the main UNO office is situated in the State of New York and hence in the USA, they pay a 12.4% tax to the US federal government. The UNO budget is made up of contributions from all UN members and, in fact, the USA contributes the bulk of it. At the end we not only contribute to the constructive forces, but also to the destructive forces.

Do Michael Moore, Jo Becker or I have control over this and can we say to the government that we will pay 16% less tax so as not to contribute to war? There is no mechanism to do such selective contribution as far as the tax law is concerned. If we don’t pay, we are subject to both penalties and punishments. If the same tax money could have been used for Medicare, social welfare and education of the underprivileged. It is apparent that by paying the tax we are contributing to war if we do, and if we don’t we deprive the underprivileged and are subject to punishment by the law of the land.

Funding the Tigers (LTTE) not the War

"Sometimes when I have felt a little depressed I would go to Parliament to sit in the public gallery and look down at all those ‘terrorists’ now occupying the government benches. It is something to lift the heaviest heart to behold those who were regarded by the previous apartheid government as the most dangerous terrorists, and who now, in the new democratic dispensation, are the Hon. Minister of this or that. I would recall that some of them were fellow marchers in rallies against the awfulness of apartheid, and with some we were targets for tear gassing, and now here they are, members of a democratically elected National Assembly." South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

The LTTE is currently in full control of large areas, especially in northern Sri Lanka. Within the areas they control, the LTTE runs a de-facto state administration, which includes revenue collection, police and judiciary, health care centers, charity hospitals, refugee welfare as well as public services and economic development initiatives. The emerging Tamil state builds upon the institutions and experiments in the period from 1990 to 1995, when the LTTE controlled Jaffna and parts of Vanni. While the control over Jaffna has been lost, these institutions and experiences have been incorporated into the new state-building project which is now centered in Kilinochchi.

On the one hand, the LTTE state institutions contain authoritarian and technocratic tendencies that provide a certain administrative efficiency, but prevent democratic accountability. On the other hand, they are also rooted in and committed to the rights, welfare and development of the Tamil community on whose behalf the militant and political struggles have been waged. The LTTE’s militant struggle, while targeting the armed forces and political leaders, has not attacked the local civil administration. It is in sharp contrast to the onslaught on the Sri Lankan state by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in the late 1980s. Rather, the LTTE has sought to make local state institutions work to their advantage, simultaneously developing complementing welfare programs, observed Kristian Stokke, of the Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo, Norway.

Stokke further observed that “Social welfare is the other state function that has been given a central place in the building of the LTTE state, although in a subordinate role to that of maintaining external and internal security through military, police and judicial means.” Two types deserve special attention. The most prominent example here is the Tamils Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), an NGO with close affiliation to the LTTE that relies on international resource mobilization and partnerships. Second, there are the LTTE departments in the health and education sector, which provide certain basic services to the civilian population, but also function as a check on public services provided by the Sri Lankan state.

James Hookway and Jay Solomon of the Wall Street Journal on 11 January 2005, quoting aid agencies and government officials, reported that “The Tamil diaspora network has helped the TRO execute one of the most effective tsunami-relief operations in Sri Lanka.” They further stated that the “TRO has deployed more than a dozen medical teams and scores of truckloads of supplies. It has raised more than $2 million….. The trust developed between the Tamil Tigers and the TRO has proven key for tsunami victims….” Dharitri Patnait, an Indian aid specialist at Bangalore-based Action Asia International has said "this is one of the most organized relief efforts I've seen, I think it's because they are used to dealing with displaced people because of the war." P. Rajendran, a fisherman, says he had to flee his home in the mid-1990s because of skirmishes between the Tigers and Sri Lankan troops. After a spell in a refugee camp, he says the TRO helped him find a new place to live further down the coast. On the other hand Wimal Weerawanse, a parliamentarian with the People's Liberation Front (JVP), a partner in Sri Lanka's ruling coalition, said, “the efforts of Tamils in other nations -- working largely through the Tamils' chief humanitarian-aid agency -- could steel the rebels' resolve." Tamils want to manage their own relief efforts "because it promotes their efforts to secure autonomy” the report further added.

In a landmark case in the District Court of California on Jan 22, 2004, a motion filed against the Patriot Act stated, “Plaintiffs allege that the LTTE, to further its goal of self-determination for the Tamils, engages in

  • Political organizing and advocacy
  • Diplomatic activity
  • The provision of social services and humanitarian aid
  • The establishment of quasi-governmental structure in Tamil Eelam
  • Economic development
  • Defense of Tamil people from human rights abuses and
  • Military struggle against the government of Sri Lanka

Four organizations and one individual filed motion to seek to provide support to LTTE. In the verdict Judge Audrey B. Collins ruled that “Plaintiffs' (three of the five) motion was granted to the extent that court finds that the term ‘expert advice or assistance’ is impermissibly vague.”

Tigers are running a de-facto state with many non-combative administrative units. An estimated couple of dozen health centers run free clinics with full supply of medications to the local people. Majority of the clinics have employed civilians. Some of the clinics are the only available medical resource for an over twenty-five mile radius. The staffs are locally trained. They also run another couple of dozen police stations. Nearly 300 policemen are recruited each year and all of them are paid employees, except the chief of police who is a member of the LTTE. Besides, the Tigers are taking care of nearly 17,000 families of war veterans and another few thousand families of the current military cadres.

Support from the Tamil Diaspora, the tax collected locally and income from business investments are the funding source for the de-facto Tamil state. When Diaspora provides assistance to the LTTE, there is no way of knowing that their contributions are used only for social assistance programs and not for the procurement of military hardware. The term assistance has many meanings and it is hard to define. Assist the war by funding the Tigers if we do, and if we don’t assist the human catastrophe of the displaced. 

Report by Human Rights Watch

"... Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, and unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized... The moment you follow someone you cease to follow Truth... “Jiddu Krishnamurthy.

The report “Funding the final war” by Human Rights Watch, a New York-based not-for-profit organization, has created a stir of controversy among the Tamil Diaspora. The Tamil Diaspora in Canada, home of over quarter million expatriate Tamils, came out strongly against the report which made Human Rights Watch issue a statement of clarification. Is this report a true reflection of the Tamil Diaspora built on a solid foundation of Canadian values oris this a collective statement of isolated incidents?

The author’s attempt at syllogistic reasoning based on a deductive and exploratory study has failed to generalize from the limited findings in her content analysis. Accordingly, selection bias lead to  reporting bias by not publishing uninteresting (usually negative) results, or results which go against the experimenter's prejudices, a sponsor's interests, or community expectations.

Let me analyze some of the terminology I have used in relation to the controversy, as well as the charactors of the actors, with some background information so that I can shed some light into this.


Social research refers to research conducted by social scientists' study of diverse things: from census data on hundreds of thousands of human beings, through the in-depth analysis of a life of a single important person or group. to monitoring what is happening on the streets today - or what was happening a few hundred years ago. Social research involves the interaction between ideas and evidence. Ideas help social researchers make sense of evidence, and researchers use evidence to extend, revise and test ideas. Social research thus attempts to create or validate theories through data collection and data analysis, and its goal is exploration, description and explanation. It should never lead or be mistaken with philosophy or belief. Social research aims to find social patterns of regularity in social life and usually deals with social groups (aggregates of individuals), not individuals themselves.

Social research can be deductive or inductive. The inductive inquiry is a model in which general principles are developed from specific observations. In deductive inquiry specific expectations of hypothesis are developed on the basis of general principles (i.e. social scientists start from an existing theory, and then search for proof).

Generaly the methods used by social scientists are either quantitative or qualitative. Quantitative methods are concerned with attempts to quantify social phenomena and collect and analyse numerical data, whereas Qualitative methods, on the other hand, emphasise personal experiences and interpretation over quantification. While quantitative methods are based on a natural science, positivist model of testing theory, qualitative methods are based on interpretivism and are more focused around generating theories and accounts. Quantitative methods are useful for describing social phenomena, especially on a larger scale. Qualitative methods allow social scientists to provide richer explanations (and descriptions) of social phenomena, frequently on a smaller scale.

Common tools of quantitative researchers include surveys, questionnaires, and  analysis of statistical data. On the other hand qualitative research uses focus groups, who are a pre-screened or pre-qualified group of respondents.

Social scientists usually follow many sociological paradigms and one of those is conflict paradigm. Conflict paradigm focuses on the ability of some groups to dominate others, or resistance to such domination. In conflict theory, competition plays a key part. The four primary assumptions of modern conflict theory are

  • Competition. Competition over scarce resources
  • Structural inequality. Inequalities in power and reward are built into all social structures. Individuals and groups that benefit from any particular structure strive to see it maintained.
  • Revolution. Change occurs as a result of conflict between competing interests rather than through adaptation.
  • War. Even war is a unifier of the societies involved, as well as war may set an end to whole societies

Research is often described as an active, diligent, and systematic process of inquiry aimed at discovering, interpreting and revising facts. It can be divided into either basic research or applied research.

There are three main forms of research. Those are

1) Constructive research where conclusion has to be objectively argued and defined.

2) Exploratory research which is normally not useful for decision-making by itself, but can provide significant insight into a given situation. Exploratory research is not typically generalizable to the population at large.

3) Empirical research is any activity that uses direct or indirect observation as its test of reality. Generally, the accumulation of evidence for or against any particular theory involves planned research designs for the collection of empirical data

Generally, research follows certain structural processes. One of them is gathering data. There are many methods used and one of them is interviewing the subjects. A research interview is a structured social interaction between a researcher and a subject who is identified as a potential source of information, in which the interviewer initiates and controls the exchange to obtain quantifiable and comparable information relevant to an emerging or previously stated hypothesis.

Sampling is the part of statistical practice concerned with the selection of individual observations intended to yield some knowledge about a population of concern. The sampling process consists of five stages:

  • Definition of population of concern
  • Specification of a sampling frame, a set of items or events that it is possible           to measure
  • Specification of sampling method for selecting items or events from the frame
  • Sampling and data collecting
  • Review of sampling process

Researchers use a variety of sampling methods: random samplng, systematic sampling, mechanical sampling and and convenience sampling.

In random sampling, also known as probability sampling, every combination of items from the frame or stratum has a known probability of occurring, but these probabilities are not necessarily equal. With any form of sampling there is a risk that the sample may not adequately represent the population, but with random sampling there is a large body of statistical theory which quantifies the risk and thus enables an appropriate sample size to be chosen. Furthermore, once the sample has been taken, the sampling error associated with the measured results can be computed. With non-random sampling there is no measure of the associated sampling error. While such methods may be cheaper, the results are largely meaningless since there is no measure of quality.

Convenience sampling is sometimes called grab or opportunity sampling. This is the method of choosing items arbitrarily and in an unstructured manner from the frame. Though almost impossible to treat rigorously, it is the method most commonly employed in many practical situations. In social science research, snowball sampling is a similar technique, where existing study subjects are used to recruit more subjects into the sample.

Snowball sampling is a technique for developing a research sample where existing study subjects recruit future subjects from among their acquaintances. Thus the sample group appears to grow like a rolling snowball. This sampling technique is often used in hidden populations which are difficult for researchers to access. Because sample members are not selected from a sampling frame, snowball samples are subject to numerous biases. For example, people who have many friends are more likely to be recruited into the sample. It was widely believed that it was impossible to make unbiased estimates from snowball samples.

On the other hand in survey sampling, many of the individuals identified as part of the sample may be unwilling to participate or impossible to contact. In this case, there is a risk of differences, between the willing and unwilling, leading to selection bias in the conclusions.

A bias is also a prejudice in a general or specific sense, usually in the sense for having a predilection to one particular point of view or ideological perspective A systematic bias is a bias resulting from a flaw integral to the system within which the bias arises. As a consequence, systematic bias commonly leads to systematic errors, as opposed to random errors, which tend to cancel one another out.

Syllogism is a logical argument in which one proposition (the conclusion) is inferred from two others (the premises). In other words, a syllogism consists of three parts: a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion. A syllogism can be defined as group A is from Population B (major premise). Group C is harrassing Group A (minor premise) and therefore Group C is harrassing population B (conclusion).

Generalization is a formulation of general concepts from specific instances by abstracting common properties. It is also a form of inductive reasoning from detailed facts to general principles. One kind of generalization is called 'Hasty generalization.' It is also known as the Fallacy of Insufficient Statistics, Fallacy of Insufficient Sample, Leaping to a Conclusion or Hasty Induction. This fallacy is committed when a person draws a conclusion about a population based on a sample that is not large enough. It has the following form:

  1. Sample A, which is too small, is taken from population B.
  2. Conclusion D is drawn about Population B based on A.

Inductive reasoning, sometimes called inductive logic, is the process of reasoning in which the premises of an argument support the conclusion, but do not ensure it. It is used to ascribe properties or relations to types based on limited observations of particular tokens; or to formulate laws based on limited observations of recurring phenomenal patterns as opposed to deductive reasoning, which is inference in which the conclusion is of no greater generality than the premises.

The Report

Author Becker in her artistic journalism, began her report with the quote from one Tamil activist as “Ninety percent of people, even if they don’t support” gives an illusion to the reader that only ten percent of the Tamil Diaspora willingly support the LTTE. In the subsequent paragraph, the report contradictes the above statement in a qualitative manner that many members of the Tamil diaspora willingly and actively support the LTTE, others have been subject to intimidation, extortion, and physical violence. It also stated that “many members of the Tamil diaspora vividly remember government abuses during the war, and willingly contribute funds to the LTTE.” It goes on to say that “the LTTE’s dependence on the Tamil diaspora for financial support, and the diaspora’s substantial size and influence, give the diaspora unique potential to influence the LTTE’s policies and behavior, including its human rights practices. However, that potential has been effectively neutralized by the LTTE’s effective use of intimidation and extortion within the community.”

In my analysis, based on my earlier description, the flow of the report's introduction clearly shows that the report was built on a deductive, and not an inductive, inquiry.

The author had evidently described the samples as “Few individuals dare to refuse directly the LTTE’s requests for money." In this respect, most of the individuals interviewed by Human Rights Watch for this report are not typical in the Tamil community. Individuals who are willing to speak to a human rights organization about their experiences are also much more likely to stand up to the LTTE. Many of the individuals interviewed for this report stated clearly that they did not support the LTTE’s methods and refused to give money, and were subsequently not pressed further for funds. By accepting that most of the individuals interviewed are not typical in the Tamil community, the report inadvertently accepts that they were a focus group and hence recruited as snowball sampling.

In the concluding comments, the author stated “The LTTE’s use of intimidation, harassment, extortion, and even physical violence against members of the Tamil diaspora is effectively stifling Tamil dissent regarding ongoing LTTE human rights abuses in Sri Lanka. LTTE extortion is also forcing Tamils, including those who do not support the LTTE to provide financial support for LTTE operations, including its continuing pattern of child recruitment and political killings. Both intimidation and extortion have significantly limited the ability of Tamils in the West who do not support the LTTE’s pattern of human rights abuses to effectively speak out and influence LTTE behavior.”

Applying the syllogism to report, I find that the author tries to project that group A (the snowball sample of the group who oppose or who do not support the LTTE) is from Population B, which is the Tamil diaspora (Major premise). Group C, which is considered the LTTE and World Tamil Movement, is harrassing Group A based on the exploratory research finding (minor premise) and therefore Group C (the LTTE and WTM) is harrassing Population B, the Tamil diaspora (conclusion). There are recorded incidents during which the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) used violence against a minority. Does this generalize to all minority criminals are being manhandled by the LAPD? Enron, MCI and Tyco executives were convicted of fraud. Does this generalize to all corporate executives are fraudulent? These are isolated cases which tend to tarnish the image of the very organization, society or group than general rule.


According to the report, the total number of the Tamil Diaspora is nearly between 600,000 and 800,000. Among those, nearly 450,000 live in the western world. In the report by HRW, the author has cited nearly 60 interviews in three different countries, besides another 10 email citations. Even in each interview, if sessions were conducted with a group of ten people, this will amount to 600 interviews. This represents, to be generous, 0.13% of the total diaspora population. Hence the report has committed the fallacy of concluding comments based on insufficient data.

Treating the disease and not the symptoms

Unless we change direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed.” -- Chinese proverb

War is perhaps the most dreaded disease known to mankind. It is also a silent killer of generations to come. It has many symptoms. It causes both physical mutilation and mental agony.  The consequences of war will reverberate endlessly and can be heard thousands of miles away. Why we need war, why can’t we compromise? I have searched for the answer for many years and I have only one answer. POWER. It is "Power" and holding on to power and greed for power over the others that has fueled the disease of war.

Jo Becker in her report “Children as weapons of war” stated “in early 1999, the U.K. reached an agreement with the government of Sierra Leone to provide a £10 million package of assistance to promote stability and reconciliation in the country. Among the conditions for the program, the U.K. government sought and secured an assurance from President Kabbah that children would not be used by the Sierra Leone Armed Forces or the Civil Defense Forces.  Later in 1999, and again in 2000, Human Rights Watch provided the U.K. government with information regarding child recruitment by civil defense forces. In both instances, the U.K. government raised the issue with Kabbah. There are currently no indications of child soldier use by government armed forces."

Torture, extrajudicial killing, arrest, fishing bans, intimidation and all sorts of acts against humanity are symptoms of war. Unless there are concrete measures taken to cure the disease, like the one in Sierra Leone by the UK with promising effort, treating or suppressing the symptoms will never help solve the problem.  It is high time that all concerned parties focus on solving the disease rather than aiding, abetting and arming more and more people and groups. It is high time that the Western governments look into the fundamental problems of the Tamil Diaspora as an oppressed, Trans-National people, rather than simply yet another immigrant population. The only way to eliminate the violence against humanity is to eliminate the fundamental problem.


Torture, extrajudicial killing, arrest, extortion, intimidation and violence against innocent civilians and students are some of the symptoms of the dreaded disease. It is not widespread yet. However, attempt to treat the symptom only will not treat the disease, and in fact will bring more symptoms in different forms. The disease has to be cured, not suppressed. Norwegians, the home of the Nobel Peace Institute have initiated attempts to cure the disease and it is the western governments' duty to strengthen their hands. An organization in the capacity of Human Rights Watch has a bounden duty to campaign for this cure rather than attempt to suppress symptoms or symptom complex. We have no control over human rights violations by either party, as violations are symptoms.

However, we can change collectively, if we cure and eliminate the disease.