‘This powerful book is a haunting reminder of the price countries in the developing world pay for the flawed choices of their founders.’

The Wall Street Journal

‘A tightly-written and clear-eyed narrative about one of the most disturbing human dramas of recent years… a riveting cautionary tale about the consequences of unchecked political power in a country at war. A must-read.’

Jon Lee Anderson, New Yorker staff writer and author of The Fall of Baghdad

‘The first thing I was handed was a copy of ‘The Cage.’ Weiss’s… account should serve as a guidepost for decision-makers and scholars of international affairs. A book can change the world.’

Charles Petrie, diplomat and author of the UN’s ‘Petrie Report’ into the UN’s role and responsibilities during the Sri Lankan conflict

‘This shattering… tale of savagery and suffering not only lifts the veil that conceals one of the most awful tragedies of the current era, but also helps us understand what should be done… before other such horrors spiral out of control.’

Professor Noam Chomsky, MIT

‘A compellingly readable account of one of the very worst atrocity stories this century… Weiss is scrupulously evenhanded… a timely prod to the world’s collective conscience.’

Gareth Evans, former Foreign Minister of Australia, former President of the International Crisis Group, Co-Chair of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty

‘An excellent account of how that victory was won, and of the price paid for the present peace by Sri Lankans.’

The Economist



“As author, my objective was to challenge the myth that few civilians had been killed during the crushing of the Tamil Tigers by Sri Lankan government forces in 2009.

I’d also been thinking about, or dealing with, many of the matters I discuss in this book in my daily work with the UN over many years: war, insurgency, nationalism, idealism and dogma, human rights, the growth of international law, global currents, and the role of the media in war. So the book was a chance to distill those ideas, and bring them to bear on the Sri Lankan context.

Since the conflict itself was reasonably obscure, apart from occasional horrific images flashing across TV screens over three decades, I knew that the book had to be a fluid read, and could not afford to bore. I wanted to include a close reconstruction of the final battles of 2009, including the siege of more than 300,000 civilians, which is really the pivot on which the action turns.

But I needed to include a contextual history of the rise of Buddhist nationalism from the 19th century, and a wider history of ancient and 20th century Sri Lanka—its move to independence from Britain, as well as its troubled post-independence. There was an excruciating amount of detail to be boiled down into chapters that not only moved fairly swiftly along, but which also dealt evenly with the subject at hand.

The book tries to do a number of very different things, and to do them at varying speeds and depths—to analyze, to take the reader to the battlefields, to narrate, and to inform. It had to be relatively easy to read, and I was ruthless about keeping me as the author out of the narrative as much as possible. And in the final chapter, I tried to answer that most critical question—”so what?” Why does this matter?

My hope is that it has supported a clearer view among international decision-makers about what happened in the final days of the war. And, for general readers, to really understand conflict. One needs to know a country, its history and its people to be able to put any conflict in proper context. There is never a single set of facts, but instead a series of conflicting complexes of facts, often contradictory, but heading in a single trajectory…”