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Home > Tamil National ForumSelected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha > On Suicide Bombers & Educating Professor Robert Pape of University of Chicago


Selected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha

On Suicide Bombers &  Educating
Professor Robert Pape of University of Chicago

30 June 2006

Dayan Jayatilleka’s hyperbole

Professor Robert Pape (1960- ) of the University of Chicago is on a roll, these days. In two years, he has become the foremost ‘expert’ on the suicide bombers belonging to diverse cultures. He attracted my attention first in 2003, when one of his Op-Ed pieces on the suicide bombers [entitled,‘Dying to Kill Us’] appeared in the New York Times of Sept.22, 2003. Then, I also studied his research review paper ‘The strategic logic of suicide terrorism’ which appeared in the August 2003 issue of the American Political Science Review journal.

Thus, when I read the anti-Tamil polemicist Dayan Jayatilleka’s recent commentary [‘How to Beat the Tigers’, The Lanka Academic, June 26, 2006] in which he had swooned about Prof.Robert Pape’s research on suicide bombers, it made me chuckle. Why? As typical of his commentaries, Dayan Jayatilleka is half-dumb and half-blind on what he is writing about. His first paragraph of this anti-LTTE invective deserves reproduction first, before I tell my story. To quote Jayatilleka,

“Yes, we can beat the Tigers, and no, we ain’t headed that-away. The way to beat the Tigers has been pointed out by one man who has studied every single suicide terrorist attack, suicide bomber and suicide terrorist organisation on the planet from 1980 to 2003, paying considerable attention to the LTTE. That is the University of Chicago’s Professor Robert A.Pape who produced the volume ‘ Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism’ a year back. Scott McConnell writing in ‘The American Conservative (June 18, 2005) says that ‘in his [Pape’s] office is the world’s largest database of information about suicide terrorists’ and describes Prof Pape as ‘the man who knows more about suicide terrorists than any other American’.”

My correspondence with Prof.Robert Pape

I state three facts. First, the praise of Scott McConnell – parrotted by Dayan Jayatilleka – for Robert Pape is nothing but the usual American hyperbole and bombast. Secondly, the cover date of the ‘American Conservative’ piece was July 18, 2005 – a factual slip. Thirdly but most importantly, does Dayan Jayatilleka know who was Prof.Pape’s educator on the Black Tigers? Yours truly indeed.

Here is the evidence, in the form of 17 e-mails I shared with Prof.Robert Pape, between April 28th and August 5th in 2004. I had written 8 e-mails to him, and Prof.Pape sent me 9 e-mails. The most recent (18th) e-mail I sent to this University of Chicago professor was on June 27th, since I was somewhat irritated by his factual distortions on LTTE’s Black Tigers, which have appeared in his interviews to the media for the past year. I have yet to hear from him.

Nevertheless, since facts are sacred, I provide below the e-mail correspondence I had with Prof.Pape, in chronological order. I have no wish to deflate the scholarship of Prof.Pape on suicide bombers (though in a sequel essay, I will analyze his deficiencies and bias on how he distorts the traits of LTTE Black Tigers), but I sure wish to expose the ignorance of Dayan Jayatilleka, on the limitations of Prof.Pape when it comes to research on LTTE Black Tigers.

In multiple planes, poet Kannadasan’s pungent lyrics for MGR, in the ‘Panathottam’ (1963) movie, “Ulahaththil thirudarkal sari paathi; Oomaikal kurudarkal athil paathi” [A Half in the World do steal; the Dumb and the Blind are half of that deal] seem apt to the performances of Dayan Jayatilleka and his ‘American expert analysts’ like Scott McConnell, Bruce Hoffman, Philip Gourevitch and even to Robert Pape.

[1] E-mail to: Robert Pape [April 28, 2004]

Dear Dr.Robert Pape:

I thought of corresponding with you, after reading your recent contribution entitled, ‘The strategic logic of suicide terrorism’ [American Political Science Review, 2003 Aug; 97(3): 343-361]. As an academic research paper, it is a notable contribution to the political literature, and I praise you for selecting such an important theme in current global politics. You had studied militant groups Hezbollah, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Hamas/Islamic Jihad, Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Al Qaeda, Chechen Separatists and Kashmiri Separatists.

I cannot comment on the veracity of your inferences on groups other than LTTE. But as an ethnic Tamilian from Sri Lanka, I feel that your descriptions and inferences on the LTTE leaves much to be desired. Also clustering the suicide strategies adopted by all these seven groups with diverse ethnicities, diverse religious, historical and political backgrounds into one bigger convenient slot as ‘suicide terrorists’ for analytical convenience seems sloppy, akin to grouping all the books with the same color in their cover as a ‘single, convenient category’. Though this artificial categorization may be clever, it is childish and unwise in larger social context.

I would appreciate if you could let me know, answers to the following two questions.

(1) Can you speak, read, write and comprehend the Tamil language?
(2) Have you visited the Tamil Eelam region in Sri Lanka, where the LTTE has in fact set up a de facto separate state?

If your answers to these two questions are in the negative, then, I’m afraid that, your deductions from number crunching on the statistics culled from ‘Lexis Nexis’s on-line database of world news media’ have doughnut-like holes.

I’m familiar to the American Mid-West and Chicago region, having received my Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 1986. I lived in Illinois from 1981 to the end of 1985. I present an academic analogy, for you to grasp my criticism.

 I’d be laughed off the podium if I had wanted to present a research study on the subtle nuance and vibes of Carl Sandburg’s poetry on democracy and liberalism, if I could not comprehend English and had not read a book authored by poet Sandburg.

I wonder, how the hell you could read the minds and interpret the deeds of LTTE’s suicide warriors [Yes, that is the endearing term LTTE and Eelam Tamils use for these special military force, and not ‘suicide terrorists’] without reading the literature [in the original] generated by Eelam Tamils in the past two decades. In the ‘references’ section of your paper, you had not indicated any original literature in Tamil, which you had checked or studied, with the exception of a reference to Peter Schalk’s (1997) book chapter. Of course, Schalk is reasonably knowledgeable in Tamil militancy. But have you checked and analyzed the extensive Tamil Tiger literature in original?

For example, I provide you with 16 lines of a marching song of Black Tigers in original Tamil. In cultural terms, the sentiments expressed in these words are in variance with your academic findings predominantly based on the statistics provided in ‘Lexis Nexis’s on-line database of world news media’. Here is the marching song of Black Tigers.

The Marching Song of Black Tigers

[Tamil Original]

Karum Puli enroru peyar kondu
Kadum pahai thakarkira vedi kondu
Perum padai ani inri pohinrom – engal
Uyiraale pahai venru saahinrom.

Engalin saavoru varalaaru – athil
Ezhuthiya verrigal pala nooru
Ingithu pol veeram verillai – uyir
Eethale arathukku mel ellai.

Thappamal kuri mothum ninaivoodu selvom
Than maana chinam kondu ethiriyai kolvom
Em makkal vaazhvukkaai naam ingu saavom
Iranthaalum thamil nenjil naam vaazhuvom.

Thalaivanin thaazh vaazhthi idi pola paaivom
Thamil Eelam meedengu kodiyahi veezhvom
Nilaiyaha thai mannil puli kodi aadum
Niraivaana puhazh senru ulagathai moodum.

Dr. Pape, so as not to leave you high and dry, I provide below an English translation [which I admit is a poor substitute to the tone, mood and reflections on the dedicative spirit enriched in the Tamil original] of the above marching song. If you do not trust my English translation, you are welcome to satisfy your curiosity by checking it with a faculty member (whose native tongue is Tamil) at the Department of South Asian literature in your university,

[English Translation of Black Tigers’ Marching Song]

With the name of Black Tigers – would’u see
With a bomb which’d blast the strong enemy
We march without a battalion army
We die by routing our adversary

Our deaths are of exceptional history
In them are written hundreds of victories
There ain’t a thing like this bravery
Life gift – the max limit in philanthropy

Marching with thoughts of not missing our aim
With prideful anger –we kill the enemy
We die now – for our folks to enjoy their lives
In Tamil hearts – even in death we still live.

Greeting the Leader’s feet –like thunder we blast
Sagging like a flag - for Tamil Eelam to stand
Tiger flag will sway strong in the Motherland
Glory will engulf the global bands.

I thought that you’d be pleased to receive this Tamil verse on the LTTE’s Black Tigers for your data collection. It is an authentic, original piece of research material for you to analyze the mind of Tamil suicide warriors. If you cannot decipher the sentiments expressed in this marching song with empathy, your academic analysis on the ‘strategic logic of suicide terrorism’ would suffer from the deficiencies of a hypothetical English illiterate academic’s analysis on Carl Sandburg’s poetry on American liberalism. I had high regards for the academic rigor of the faculties of University of Chicago. But, reading your August 2003 analysis on suicide terrorism makes me think about revising my impressions.

If I hear from you, I will be more than willing to specifically point out the deficiencies in your analysis, pertaining to the LTTE’s Black Tigers. Having stated this, once again I extend my appreciation to you for contributing a paper [however loopy it is] on the Tamil Tigers to the American Political Science Review. The details on numbers and chronological events related to the ‘suicide terrorism’ is a plus point of your paper and is helpful for my research. With best wishes.

Sachi Sri Kantha

[2] E-mail from: Robert Pape [April 29, 2004]

Dear Sachi Sri Kantha,

Thank you for your message, and especially the marching song of the Black Tigers which I did not have before. I plan to do more work on this subject and am interested in deepening my knowledge of the Tigers. I have, for instance, been looking for transcripts of the ‘Voice of the Tigers’ radio addresses, but without luck so far. If you can help with these or other primary documents, I would greatly appreciate it. You're right that I don't speak Tamil. Although I can sometimes have small passages translated, English is naturally preferable.

Robert Pape

University of Chicago

[3] E-mail to: Robert Pape [May 22, 2004]

Dear Robert Pape:

Thanks for your prompt response of April 29th. Three weeks have lapsed already, and my response to your request has been delayed inadvertently. Apologies.

I welcome your serious interest in deepening your knowledge on the Black Tamil Tigers and LTTE. I would suggest the following website. www.tamilnation.org [which has been re-activated this month, after being closed for 3 years]. This site is encyclopedic on Tamil culture and politics….

Though I do not want to brag about my writings on South Asian politics (especially Sri Lankan-Indian), I would let you know that I have authored a lengthy series on the LTTE, entitled Pirabhakaran Phenomenon, from 2001 to 2003….This you may find of some interest. Currently, I'm revising all the chapters for a book. In this Tamil Nation site, you also can find quite a number of primary documents. Another good website for you to check is the Ilangai Tamil Sangam website. I contribute regular commentaries to this site as well. Best wishes for your enlightened research on South Asian politics. Regards.

Sachi Sri Kantha

[4] E-mail from Robert Pape: [May 23, 2004]

Dear Sachi Sri Kantha,

Thank you for all this information. It will take some time to digest. In the meantime, I wonder if you could help me find material that would resolve a specific puzzle.

Why did the LTTE rely so heavily on suicide attack to resist the Sinhalese during the 1990s, but not against the Indian forces from 1987-89? If you could help me resolve this, I would appreciate it.

Robert Pape

[5] E-mail to Robert Pape: [May 24, 2004]

Dear Bob Pape:

Thanks for your response of May 23. To answer your query, I provide as attachments, segments of parts 7 and 8 [10 pages], in my ‘Pirabhakaran Phenomenon’ series. In my analysis, suicide bombing is to be considered as a counter-offensive to aerial bombing initiated by the Sri Lankan government on civilians in the Northern Sri Lanka. The first suicide attack by LTTE was carried out on July 5, 1987. The Sri Lankan army began terrorising Tamil civilians by aerial bombing from the beginning of that year.

The peace accord between Rajiv Gandhi and J.R.Jayewardene was signed in Colombo on July 29, 1987. The Indo-LTTE war began in earnest in October 1987 and continued till March 1990, when the last Indian army battalion left the island. Unlike the Sri Lankan army, the IPKF did not use aerial bombing against LTTE. There were few occasions, but it was useless, since the conflict between the IPKF and LTTE had shifted from direct combat to guerrilla operations from the beginning of 1988. This was the main reason why, suicide attack was not used by LTTE against the Indian army.

I'm not sure whether you had referred to the paper of Scott Atran, entitled 'Genesis of Suicide Terrorism' [Science, March 7, 2003, vol.299, pp.1534-1539]. Though this paper appeared before your APSR paper, you had not cited it in your reference list. I'm not finding fault with you, for you not citing this Atran paper. One can assume that you would have read this paper, but opted to omit, thinking it was beyond your focus. Anyway, I agree with one of Atran's focus on suicide bombing. To quote him,

 "Although a suicide attack aims to physically destroy an initial target, its primary use is typically as a weapon of psychological warfare intended to affect a larger public audience. The primary target is not those actually killed or injured in the attack, but those made to witness it."

LTTE's use of suicide bombing strategy is also, in tune with this Atran's thought. I termed it 'Jimmy Malone offense' [referring to the words of Sean Connery's character, in the movie Untouchables]. In the absence of an air-wing, to counter the aerial bombing terror inflicted on Tamil civilians, LTTE developed suicide bombing as a weapon in the 1990s.

I'll mention a subtle phonetical nuance in the use of Tamil language, which they emphasize in celebrating the suicide martyrs. In Tamil, suicide is 'tharkolai' [thar=self; kolai=murder]. But LTTE and Sri Lankan Tamils do not use this term now for the suicide bombers. They refer the suicide bombing as 'tharkodai' [thar=self; kodai=benefaction =charitable deed].Offering one's life is the ultimate benefaction to one's society. This is highlighted in the marching song which I mailed you previously. Suicide bombing has not been used indiscriminately by LTTE leadership, since it is a precious weapon of psychological warfare of a relatively resource-strained army.

Majority of LTTE's suicide attacks against the Sri Lankan army was in conventional and quasi-conventional [like installations which service the military such as the Katunayake airport base attack in July 2001] military encounters in the land or sea. Adversary individuals are targeted only rarely, when it was deemed worthy on the long run to snuff their lives…. Regards.

Sachi Sri Kantha

[6] E-mail from Robert Pape: [June 15, 2004]

Dear Sachi Sri Kantha,

Apologies for the delay. I was away and just found your message. Thank you for this most helpful explanation. I had not realized that the Indians were less aggressive than the Sinhalese forces and will look more closely at the histories.

I'd like to ask another question. One of your articles mentions that the Black Tigers fit Durkheim's model of altruistic suicide. Are there any detailed discussions of the biographies of the LTTE suicide attackers that I could examine to see how Durkheim's model fits their demographic and other characteristics. Thank you.

Bob Pape

[7] E-mail to Robert Pape [June 18, 2004]

Dear Bob Pape:

Thanks for your mail of 15th. For the past 4 days, I have been digging my collections to respond to your query. Hence the delay. Yes, there are biographical profiles of some 'pioneers' (early 1990s) of suicide attack, presented in LTTE journal named ‘Erimalai’[which in English translation refers to volcano]. But, they are in Tamil language. And you cannot read Tamil. This is one dilemma. If you are really keen, you need to wait for a while, for me to do the translation.

LTTE celebrates July 5th as the day of remembrance of their Black Tigers. Currently, I'm preparing a study on the suicide warriors, and once it gets posted in the Ilangai Tamil Sangam website, I'll let you know. Regards.

Sachi Sri Kantha

[8] E-mail from Robert Pape [June 19, 2004]

Dear Sachi Sri Kantha,

Again, most helpful. Over time, I may be able to have key pieces translated. Please let me know if there are any others like ‘Erimalai’ that I should know about. Thank you.

Bob Pape

[9] E-mail from Robert Pape [July 8, 2004]

Dear Sachi Sri Kantha,

I read your excellent review of ‘Sooriya Puthalvargal, Memorial Souvenir 2003’. Could you please tell me how I could get a copy? Thank you.

Bob Pape

[10] E-mail to Robert Pape [July 9, 2004]

Dear Bob Pape:

Thanks for your yesterday's mail. In fact, I did receive your previous mail, and failed to acknowledge it. Sorry for that. My posted review of ‘Sooriya Puthalvargal’ is part 1 of my planned essay. I'm currently preparing a sequel for it, in which I'd like to incorporate my observations on your last year's APSR paper as well. Last week, I requested and received an extra copy of the Memorial Souvenir from Paris, for your study. I should let you know beforehand, that the material in the souvenir is in Tamil; this is one reason, for the benefit of academics like you, I took time to transcribe the vital details of 240 LTTE cadres into English. I'll send the item, if you can confirm whether the postal address of yours - which I gathered from the net - is correct.

Sachi Sri Kantha

[11] E-mail from Robert Pape [July 9, 2004]

Dear Sachi Sri Kantha,

I would very much like a copy. The address below is correct. I look forward to your sequel.

Bob Pape

[12] E-mail to Robert Pape [July 16, 2004]

Dear Bob Pape:

Thanks for your mail of 9th. This is to let you know that yesterday, I have posted the ‘Sooriya Puthalvargal’ souvenir to you, and you should be receiving it next week. My sequel has to wait for a while,…I'll let you know when I complete the sequel. Thanks for your interest. Regards.

Sachi Sri Kantha

[13] E-mail from Robert Pape [July 18, 2004]

Dear Sachi Sri Kantha,

Thank you. I look forward to receiving it and reading your future work.

Bob Pape

[14] E-mail from Robert Pape [July 23, 2004]

Dear Sachi Sri Kantha,

I just received ‘Sooriya Puthalvargal’ Souvenir. It is quite impressive and your English titles are especially helpful. Thank you for this. I am sure it will provide an excellent foundation for my future work.

I have also now read a number of pieces by you and Peter Schalk. One question comes immediately to mind: Are there Black Tigers from Christian as well as from Hindu families? If so, could you tell me more about these individuals or the number of them? Thank you, again,

Robert Pape

[15] E-mail to Robert Pape [July 24, 2004]

Dear Bob Pape:

Thanks for your mail of 23rd. Yes, there are have been (and there are) Christian Black Tigers [BT]. The list of 240 BTs, I prepared from the ‘Sooriya Puthalvargal 2003’ souvenir, and posted in the sangam website will be of help for you. It's for this reason, I took the time to prepare that list. Hope you have a print-out of that list. Then, I can provide you the numbers, who are Christians. The birth names of BTs which I have noted within parenthesis following their nom de guerre is the indicator of religion. This is also why the 2003 souvenir is a notable source, in that it provides the birth names of LTTE cadres, which are not available in open sources.

04 Fernando Sylvester
20 Gnanapragasam Angel
30 Sirankot Leppert Anthonydas
41 Anton Benedict
44 Francis Douglas
61 Thiruchelvam Robertson
67 Selvarajah Robinson
69 Justin Jude Nevil
71 Soosaipillai Selvakumar
74 Viswasam Daniel
79 Thiruchelvam Claimant
88 Ratnamalar Sebamalai
107 Maria Corotty Thamby Sebastian
117 Marusalim Alvin
142 Sebastian Augustine
146 Mariyanayagam Jeyasilan
160 Jansirani Alphonse Rajah
220 Jerin Sodadeyu
224 Mariyanayagam Dilip Stephen
234 Noel Imanuel Patrick Edban

Among Sri Lankan Tamils, the Christians belong to both Roman Catholics and non- Roman Catholics [predominantly Protestants, Methodists and Anglicans]. Roman Catholics have Christian names, and they were the early converts from the lower castes - by Portuguese, [AD~1500 to 1650] from Hinduism; they are predominant in the coastal towns and villages and traditionally they belong to fishing and mariner families….Non Roman Catholics [later converts during Dutch and British period, AD 1650 to 1940s] may or may not have Christian-sounding names; but there are a few characteristic names among Tamils [such as Soosaipillai, Marianayagam] which are common among Tamil Christians. So, from the list of 240 BTs, I can certainly identify 20 as Christians. 20 Christians [an underestimate] out of 240 is a reasonable estimate, in agreement with the Hindu-Christian population ratio among Tamils. Hope this answers your query. Regards.

Sachi Sri Kantha

[16] E-mail from Robert Pape [Aug.1, 2004]

Dear Sachi Sri Kantha,

This is extremely interesting and helpful. The large number of Black Tigers from Christian families in addition to those from Hindu families strongly suggests that the LTTE's concept of martyrdom is rooted in the cause of national liberation rather than a particular religion. I am now looking for interviews with Black Tigers or other extended explanations they might give for their willingness to accept death for the cause. Thus far, I found a good Ph.D. dissertation by Yamuna Sangarasivam that contains detailed interviews with two female Tigers. Are you aware of any other sources that would provide this kind of primary evidence? Thank you.

Bob Pape

[17] E-mail to Robert Pape [Aug.5, 2004]

Dear Bob Pape:

Thanks for your mail of 1st. As per your request, by early next week, I'll send you few materials on the Black Tiger theme. I did collect from my archives, three short pieces [in Tamil] on 3 of the 240 BTs recorded in the 2003 souvenir. I need to translate them into English. But, I'll send you the originals first. Also, I feel that scholars like you should explore 'suicide' in the larger context of cultural mileau. In 2000, one of my essays entitled 'Suicide: A Socratic Revenge' was published in the ‘Ceylon Medical Journal’. I'll send a copy of that to you as well. This essay was one of the six to be short listed in the ‘Lancet’ medical journal's 1998 Wakley Essay Prize contest.

I have been studying the theme of suicide for the past 10 years or so. As a scientist, I had been collecting information on the suicide of eminent scientists in history for an analytical paper. But it has been hard for me because, even if the scientist's death has been verified as a suicide, there is an aversion to record that fact in Encyclopedias and other reference books. I wonder why there is such a popular aversion to even mention the fact that a scientist committed suicide. Either this fact is ignored completely, or stated in an euphemistic manner. I wonder whether there is a Christian dilemma to accept the fact that suicide is afterall, one of the four modes of death; the other three being, natural death, accident and homicide.

If you take the statistics of death in any country in the world [I had checked the statistics for USA and Japan, where the annual statistics is easily available and reliable], the natural death of population is in the range of 90-93% for any year. Other three modes of death [homicide, accident and suicide] contribute to mere 7-9% of the total deaths in any year. Suicide alone contributes to only 2-4% of the total deaths for any country for any year. But the media, and the scholars completely ignore this fact, and unnecessarily exaggerate the suicides.

Logically, if there are 100 deaths, and 2-4 people commit suicide, one should take this as an inevitable outcome and nothing unusual. But the trouble with suicide reporting is that, the numbers are not seen in complete context. All the suicide hotlines and other suicide assistance programs are, I eccentrically consider, as ploys of psychiatrists and other connected personnel [including the drug industry] for funding and some mental soothing on their part for 'do-good hoopla'! I'm being politically incorrect here. But, one should be rational also, isn't it? In Japanese culture [predominantly Buddhist], suicide is not given such a morbid attention as is prevailing in Christian countries. Of course, the tragedy is noted, but they take a philosophical view as one mode of death; afterall, this is more rational. So much, for this mail. Best regards.

Sachi Sri Kantha

[18] E-mail to Robert Pape [June 27, 2006]

Dear Bob Pape:

It has been a while since I last corresponded with you. I was alerted by one of my friends to one of your interviews, which had appeared in the American Conservative (July 18, 2005). I have some comments to make. After I read your interview responses, I could infer that

(1) You have taken a little bit of poetic license in tagging the LTTE as a ‘Marxist group’, isn't it? Where did you find a recent reference to LTTE as a 'Marxist group?'

(2) In 2004, for your query, I had provided information that LTTE suicide cadres come from both Hindu and Christian families, isn't it? Why did you fail to mention the 'Christian families'? Is it because, this would offend the sentiments of the American Conservative readership?

(3) You had danced on a pretty thin ice, when you have stated that you have been collecting 'native language sources - Arabic, Hebrew, Russian and Tamil', which may be true. But, if you as a researcher are not fluent in these non-English languages to decipher the contents, don't you think that your analyses would be far from good, and nothing but half-baked? Can anyone research about Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, without learning English? And what do you think the quality of such lopsided research will be, if he or she depends only on the translations provided to him/her?

I'd appreciate your responses, since I like to hear from you first before I prepare a commentary on your research on suicide terrorism which has received some publicity in Sri Lanka. With best wishes.

Sachi Sri Kantha

My Impressions

The above-provided chronology of e-mail exchange should reveal to everyone that it was I who first reached for Robert Pape, after reading his 1993 review paper on what he has titled ‘The strategic logic of suicide terrorism’, which had appeared in the American Political Science Review journal.

Since he had included the Tamil Tigers in his study, I decided, ‘To heck with strategic logic! I’ll first check this guy’s research logic’. How reliable should be the assembled data on Tamil Tigers (even if he is an academic from the University of Chicago!), if he is ignorant on Tamil language? In his first e-mail (dated April 29, 2994), Robert Pape acknowledged his deficiency in Tamil language, which I accepted in good faith.

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) once quipped, “To be conscious that you are ignorant of the facts is a great step to knowledge.” Since Robert Pape let me know courteously in 2004 that his Tamil knowledge is zilch, I opted to provide material on LTTE’s Black Tigers for his data base. My logic was faultless. If an American academic was interested in researching on LTTE’s Black Tigers, let him get the authentic facts first from an Eelam Tamil than from twisted secondary or tertiary sources like Dayan Jayatilleka and Bruce Hoffman.

To conclude this essay, I should admit that Robert Pape’s research has disappointed me. It surely has attractive bells and whistles. But, his research logic is rather flawed. This will be dealt in a sequel essay. I wish Robert Pape had read the short 1974 commentary titled, ‘Some follies of Quantification’, by Peter Medawar (1915-1987), before embarking on his quantification of ‘suicide bombing statistics’ since 1980.

 I quote two sentences of Medawar from his commentary.

“It is in sociology that premature or inappropriate quantification is most obviously an embarrassment. This is because in their anxiety to appear truly ‘scientific’, many sociologists have based their activities on an entirely erroneous model of scientific procedure according to which important scientific truths grow out of semblage of facts, preferably in numerical form.” [Hospital Practice, July 1974, vol.9, no.7, pp.179-180].

For those who don’t know about Medawar, I merely annotate here that his credentials as a great experimental scientist/science ethicist/essayist are impeccable, since at the age of 45, he had become a Medicine Nobelist in 1960.

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