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Warfare & truth: Deception, distortion rule

The writer is a senior TV journalist and author
Published : Mar 14, 2019, 7:29 am IST
Updated : Mar 14, 2019, 7:29 am IST

The Air Force, unlike the Army, carries out strikes on the basis of intelligence inputs as it has to penetrate deep into alien territory.

According to the IAF, it was a precision strike and the images taken by Synthetic-Aperture Radar (SAR) were given to the government.
 According to the IAF, it was a precision strike and the images taken by Synthetic-Aperture Radar (SAR) were given to the government.

Amid demands by the Opposition parties that the government give proof of its “surgical strikes” on the terror camps at Balakot in Pakistan, the Indian Air Force has rebutted the satellite image released by Reuters suggesting there was virtually no damage to the Jaish camp. The IAF reiterated that the bombs, which were fed in with satellite images and geographical coordinates of the JeM facility, hit the targeted buildings and exploded inside. The Air Force, unlike the Army, carries out strikes on the basis of intelligence inputs as it has to penetrate deep into alien territory. It carried out its operation on the basis of NTRO surveillance which found approximately 300 active mobile phones there. So it can be safely surmised that around the same number of terrorists were camping there. According to the IAF, it was a precision strike and the images taken by Synthetic-Aperture Radar (SAR) were given to the government. That an Indian pilot was captured in Pakistan is conclusive evidence of the airstrike but the controversy is over the number of dead.

In such operations, it’s simply impossible to give the exact number of the dead. But the question is: What is the truth and how far is it desirable to demand proof when the country faces an undeclared war from a hostile neighbour determined to “inflict a thousand cuts” and wage “a thousand-years war”? True, the family members of some slain CRPF jawans also demanded proof, but this can be overlooked given that they aren’t expected to be phlegmatic at such a time of tragedy. However, political parties are expected to behave more responsibly. The statement of a senior Congress leader that India should produce evidence as America did in the case of Osama bin Laden is a total distortion of facts. The US military had in fact refused to release any photographic or DNA evidence of his death.

Perceptions about the truth may vary. What appears as a snake may be a piece of rope when seen from close quarters, but may ultimately turn out to be a streak of coal tar. Actually, the truth has many facets. “Syadvad”, also known as “Anekantvad” in Jain philosophy, is a multiple-vision theory which believes that the truth is always multi-dimensional. There cannot be one final judgment as the truth is relative. Albert Einstein is best remembered for his Theory of Relativity. His contemporary American scientists, Michelson and Morley, tried to measure the speed of light, but their efforts came a cropper. Einstein commented that they were unsuccessful because in truth, the speed of light is always constant, while everything else in the universe is comparable or relative. However, even this has been contested lately. Prof. João Magueijo from Imperial College, London, and Dr Niayesh Afshordi of the Perimeter Institute in Canada refuted Einstein in the 1990s, suggesting that after the Big Bang there may have been a time when the speed of light was much higher than what it is now. They claimed that the density of the universe was erratic after it expanded subsequent to its formation after the Big Bang, and the expansion was rapid before slowing down to its present rate of expansion. Isaac Newton had said that time always remained the same. But Einstein propounded in his paper that time was relative. Perspectivism, a term coined by Friedrich Nietzsche, is the philosophical view that all ideations take place from particular perspectives. Thus, there can’t be only one way of visualising the world and the judgment of truth can vary according to perspectives.

Even the truth about many scientific inventions and discoveries is shrouded in mystery. At least three people lay claim to the discovery of oxygen, and each claim is rightful to a great extent. Swedish apothecary C.W. Sheele is the first claimant to have prepared a relatively pure sample of gas. But since he did not get it published until its discovery, his claim is not tenable. The second to make such a claim was Joseph Priestley, who, in course of his protracted normal investigation of the “airs” evolved by many solid substances, collected the gas released by a heated red oxide of mercury. In 1774, he identified it as nitrous oxide, and next year after further tests, as common air, which contained less amounts of phlogiston than is normally found. The third claimant, Lavoisier, perhaps taking a cue from Priestley, reported in 1775 that the gas procured by heating the red oxide of mercury was “air itself entire without alteration (except that)… it comes out more pure, more respirable”. In 1777, he enunciated that the gas was a distinct species, and was one of the two main constituents of the atmosphere, which Priestley never accepted. Thomas B. Kuhn writes: “Priestley’s claim to the discovery of oxygen is based upon his priority in isolating a gas that was later recognised as a distinct species. But Priestley’s sample was not pure, and, if holding impure oxygen in one’s hands is to discover it that had been done by everyone who ever bottled atmospheric air... Lavoisier’s claim may be stronger, but it presents the same problems. If we refuse the palm to Priestley, we cannot award it to Lavoisier for the work of 1775 which led him to identify the gas as the “air itself entire”.

War strategies include chicanery and deception as well. During World War II, Britain used actor and soldier M.E. Clifton James, Gen. Bernard Montgomery’s lookalike, to deceive Germany under Operation Copperhead. While the real Montgomery got busy chalking out strategies to attack France, on May 25, 1944, James flew to Gibraltar on Winston Churchill’s private aircraft where he was given a reception at the governor-general’s house. It was at this reception that he dropped hints of Plan 303 — a bogus invasion of southern France — which was overheard by German agents. Subsequently the Allied invasion of Normandy, codenamed Operation Neptune, popularly referred to as D-Day, took place with Gen. Montgomery as one of the main commanders. The blitzkrieg liberated German-occupied France from Nazi control. The Allies also conducted Operation Bodyguard to mislead the Germans about the date and location of the main Allied landings.

War or war-like conditions permit even deception, but in India, the Opposition excoriates the government for camouflaging the truth. Mark Twain, in an interview to Rudyard Kipling, said: “Get your facts first, and then you can distort ’em as much as you please.” Here some people distort matters without getting their facts right. The Army fights for the country, not for any political party, and the country is represented by the Prime Minister. Politicking over every security operation is loathsome.

Tags: indian air force, balakot strikes