A riveting, cautionary tale about the consequences of unchecked political power in a country at war. A must-read. In the closing days of the thirty-year Sri Lankan civil war, tens of thousands of civilians were killed, according to United Nations estimates, as government forces hemmed in the last remaining Tamil Tiger rebels on a tiny sand spit, dubbed "The Cage. Tracing the role of foreign influence as it converged with a history of radical Buddhism and ethnic conflict, The Cage is a harrowing portrait of an island paradise torn apart by war and the root causes and catastrophic consequences of a revolutionary uprising caught in the crossfire of international power jockeying.
Employed by the United Nations for over two decades, he continues to consult on war, extremism, peace building, and human rights. mobile or address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required. To get the free app, mobile phone. Weiss accurately lays out the central challenges that regional actors, nongovernmental organizations and the international community face in Sri Lanka: ensuring ability for possible war crimes, and a life of dignity and equality for all Sri Lankan citizens.
This powerful book is a haunting reminder of the price countries in the developing world pay for the flawed choices of their founders. Scrupulously fair.
But Weiss, a UN official in Colombo at the time, provides harrowing details, as well as insight into the decades of brutal conflict that brought the two sides to the point where they were willing to commit war crimes. A sweeping discussion. Weiss deftly sketches the main issues for a general audience while also providing a solid bibliography and detailed endnotes.
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The book will appeal to readers interested in Sri Lanka, South Asia, political science, military history, and international relations. For those interested in this modern human rights tragedy and how basic political rights get shredded by both the government and the freedom fighters, then The Cage is a must read. Weiss pulls no punches in tackling the atrocities committed by the Tigers.
But he is equally scathing about the failure of the successive Sri Lankan administrations to deal with the aspirations of the Tamil minority and brutal tactics employed by the Sri Lankan Army to quash the rebellion.
Himself the grandson of a man who was murdered in Auschwitz, Weiss is aware of the thin line that separates civilised societies from those that sink into collective madness governed by hatred. Weiss is scrupulously evenhanded in describing the terrible excesses of the Tamil Tigers as well as the Sri Lankan authorities.
His book is a timely prod to the world's collective conscience. Weiss's scrupulously balanced should serve as a guidepost for decision-makers and scholars of international affairs. A book can change the world. A book that is long overdue. Read less. Print length. Bellevue Literary Press.
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Few Americans know much about Sri Lanka. I was one of them until I read this book. One of my first surprises was how little information there is available on Sri Lankan history, especially the quarter-century civil war that bled the country white. I loved the first third. It was exactly what I was looking for — an accessible and generally balanced narrative of Sri Lanka from its most early history and its colonial experience under the Portuguese, Dutch and then the British to its fitful steps as an independent nation struggling with racial, caste and economic cleavages, which resulted in one of the most vicious and horrific internecine conflicts of the modern era.
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Weiss consciously compares recent Sri Lankan history i. The roots of the conflict, as described by the author, are truly fascinating. For centuries, Buddhism dominated South and Central Asia. As Hinduism and then Islam pushed Buddhism out of the subcontinent, the island of Sri Lanka remained a bastion of the religion until the nineteenth century.
The British colonial government promoted the study of English, the worship of Christ, and the growing of tea, an activity for which they had to import tens of thousands of South Indian Hindu Tamils to work the expansive plantations of Thomas Lipton.
The upshot was that Buddhism was on its last legs when a swashbuckling American arrived in Colombo inColonel Henry Steel Olcott. A Civil War veteran and spiritualist, Olcott came to Sri Lanka then called Ceylon to re-awaken Buddhism, which he believed was the true universal religion of mankind, far superior to the Christianity of his birth and native culture. By the time the British retreated from their colonial empire after World War II the seeds had already been sown for future conflict. Suddenly, native Sri Lankan Tamils, most of whom only spoke Tamil and English, were treated like foreigners in their own land by their own government.
Byafter a dozen Sinhalese soldiers were killed in the Tamil north, the country erupted in anti-Tamil riots that left thousands dead and served as the impetus for the Tiger's quarter century violent quest for an independent homeland. The second two thirds of the book are pointed and repetitive, with a clear undercurrent of personal malice against the current Sri Lankan government. Weiss makes it evident that it was the strategy of Tiger supreme leader, Velupillai Prabakharan, to deliberately use his own people as a shield and, hopefully, to have the SLA kill as many women and children as possible so as to stoke a sufficient international response to save his incredibly violent, but crumbling secessionist movement.
Tiger artillery fired on SLA positions from areas crowded with refugees and then quickly evacuated the area, knowing full well that SLA radar-powered counter batteries would soon drop rounds in the area in response. The Tigers also deliberately used hospitals as command posts and would gun down any Tamil civilians who attempted to flee in the direction of the SLA lines seeking refuge.
Two men of immense ambition and absolute ruthlessness, the final conflict of The Cage, as told by Weiss, almost feels like a modern reenactment of the mythical clash and victory of the Sinhalese king Duttugemenu over the Tamil king Elara, a "Manichean battle" familiar to all Sri Lankans and core to the identity of Buddhist nationalists who proclaim Sri Lanka for the Sinhalese.
I dating Bellevue lankan man no doubt that the Rajapaksas are tough, uncompromising characters with blood on their hands.
But they certainly seem to me no worse than Prabakharan, a leader who killed thousands of his own people and led an organization that employed suicide bombings as a core tactic of an elite cadre of fighters, the Black Tigers, which launched missions involving bombers, including 47 women, over 27 years. Alarming reports from UN and Red Cross officials in the kill zone were suppressed or denied. With the Tigers finally surrounded and adhering foolishly to a last stand approach rather than melting back into the population to fight another day, the Rajapaksa brothers — president and minister of defense — were committed to extinguishing the insurgency once and for all.
The government loudly and proudly proclaimed a zero tolerance for civilian deaths, but Weiss says it was all a fatuous show. The extent of civilian casualties was known at the highest levels of the army and elected leadership, but was viewed as an acceptable price to pay for final victory, trusting that their authoritarian control of the domestic judiciary and media along with the international backing of the Chinese to provide interference at the UN would be enough to get them through the storm.
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Indeed, the role of the Chinese as recent benefactors to the Sri Lankan government is interesting and convincing. He suggests that the SLA defeated the Tigers because they had an overwhelming advantage in firepower. But insurgencies are rarely defeated by technology or weaponry. Did not the United States possess a staggering advantage in front line troops and firepower in Vietnam? Or the Soviets in Afghanistan? Forced conscription, often of children as young as ten, the deliberate use of civilians as shields, and the readiness to gun down anyone willing to seek shelter with government forces, turned the Tigers into a cancer on the Tamil people, a curse the vast majority were willing to see annihilated.
Weiss appears to have been successful in bringing together history, recent events and his recollection of what has happened during the civil war. I am neither a Tamilian nor in anyway associated to Sri Lanka, I bought this book to take a dive into the real background and I must say, the book does not disappoint relative to that desire. If anyone has a literary itch to know history related to Sri Lanka, this book would not be a bad one to read. The only issue that I have with this book - due to lack of adequate knowledge of the English on my part - is that, I had to constantly lean on a dictionary.
Weiss used rather uncommon and powerful words, however, I did not mind traversing back-and-forth between the book and an dating Bellevue lankan man dictionary, although, it was distracting at times.
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Gordon Weiss gordonkweiss organizes his book in a very interesting way. He starts off with a bit of a blitzkrieg covering Ceylonese history from creation myth onward to about the 30 or so years past independence in There are a few of things that, I think, could have been better about this book.
So while all the content is definitely necessary in building a coherent view of Sri Lanka's politics, the organizing principles are slightly off.