Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Everything Is Broken!

The title was stolen from 'Everything is Broken : A Tale of Catastrophe in Burma' by Emma Larkin.  This excellent book was published by THE PENGUIN PRESS - New York - 2010.  ISBN:  978-1-59420-257-5.  While this article is not intended to be a book review.  I do however; want to make the suggestion that Ms. Larkin's critical work has not been read, or at least not understood by many in political power. This assumes that those in political power operate with good motives; alas this is doubtless a bad assumption. Nevertheless. The book is organized 3 major parts.

I   'A Sky Full of Lies' discusses the Burmese government's efforts to keep the truth about the devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis when it made landfall in the Irrawaddy Delta on 2 May 2008.  The scope of damage is unfathomable.  According to official figures, 84,500 people were killed and 53,800 went missing.  Many sources who were on the ground in the weeks following claim that the actual casualty figures were two to three times higher!  More incredible was the reactions of the Burmese government.  U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert M. Gates accused them of criminal neglect.  He was only one of many who made similar statements.   Larkin suggests that paranoia may be one explanation for their bizarre refusal to accept aid followed by their conniving attempts to make the relief workers tasks as difficult as possible. Perhaps they were afraid the United States and other western powers would see the post Nagris period as an opportunity to invade and topple their regime.  One thing is certain:  In an environment where information is blocked rumors are ramped, take on a life of their own and often serve as the only news available.  Certainly this was true after Cyclone Nargis.

II  'No Bad News for the King' points out that bad news NEVER goes up the chain of command in Burma.  The lengths they go to keep any negative news from reaching the highest echelons of government are truly flabbergasting.  One has to ask just how informed can Senior General Than Shwe really be when subordinates are terrified of presenting anything other than good news for his consumption.

III 'Everything is Broken' presents a summary of the facts, the denials, the corruption and the horrible results of the government's reaction.  Cyclone Nargis killed and injured so many people and created so much psychological , economic and physical damage that relief under the best of circumstances would have been extremely difficult.  The Burmese government displayed a behavior that under no circumstance could be classified as acceptable.  To prevent relief from reaching the victims of Cyclone Nargis was proof of just how inhumane and self serving the Burmese generals can be.

This book is highly recommended for anyone who is interested in a well written book on Burmese politics, events or recent history.  There are many other well written accounts of the on goings in Burma. My assumption is that if I can find them so can the United States Central Intelligence Agency, the British Intelligence Agencies and any other government with a modicum of interest in international affairs.

Know This!  Senior General Than Shwa rules Burma.  He commands the Burmese Army and the Burmese Army Generals are extremely loyal to him.  Those who have demonstrated possible opposition, real or imagined are dead! The current constitution  requires that the Army hold enough seats that it is impossible for any law to pass without the blessing of the senior general. President Thein Sein has limited power and is paraded out for ceremonial purposes as evidenced in the last link below. Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's long time political prisoner and hope for democracy, is now a member of parliament.  However, her opposition party can do little without the support of the international community.   Almost all of their political clout was stripped from them by the United States and the European Union when the sanctions were lifted.

The international community KNOWS the truth about the Burmese junta.  So why do they cow tow to the corrupt generals? The simple answer is that we have lost our moral compass, or to quote Emma Larkin "Everything is Broken". Is it really as simple as greed and corruption?   I think not.  While it is true that there will be massive fortunes made from the rape and plunder of Burma's resources it's more complicated than that.  

Forbes magazine published an Article entitled 'Myanmar - The Last Frontier?'  November 9, 2012.  Being a business journal it discusses business opportunities. Not one word was written about human rights violations, not one!  Frankly it's not worth reading but in fairness I've provided the link. 

Posted at Small WarsJournal is an article entitled ' Sharing the Wealth:  Burma's Post-Military Rule and Natural Resource Governance'   The article is interesting though I doubt the veracity of any writing that talks of post-military rule in the present tense.  Further, I find it noteworthy that in the bio's provided for the three authors there is NO MENTION of Kirk Talbott, John Waugh or Douglas Batson having ever actually been to Burma.

North Korean Involvement - Perhaps a year ago, I was on the outskirts of a conversation that I mostly regarded as empty bravado.  A man who claimed to be a journalist was telling a story about being refused a visa to Burma because he had let it slip to a Burmese embassy official that he knew about Burma's nuclear dealings with North Korea.  He is full of it, I thought. A simple trip to google would have proven me wrong. A quick search for Uranium in Burma reveals some very scary information including photographs.
Areal Photo of possible nuclear plant under construction near Mandalay
Japan confiscated contraband cargo of North Korean metal pipes and specialized aluminum alloy bars that were bound for Myanmar in breach of international sanctions.  These are essential components for building nuclear reactors.  The BBC reported that 'Burma may be building missile and nuclear sites in remote locations with support from North Korea, according to secret US cables released by Wikileaks".
Burma Democratic Concern wrote "Wikileaks cables have also made evident that the U.S. regularly lies in its public statements about international issues. The government isn t even close to being open with American citizens and the people of the world. For Burma, the Obama Administration is obliged under the Tom Lantos JADE Act to disclose publicly what it knows about the SPDC s nuclear program. The State Department has refused to publish the Act s Report on Military and Intelligence Aid, even in the face of our Freedom of Information filing..."  They went on to point out several specific cables including:

  • China revealing that Burma s North Korea relationship includes a nuclear component and that the North is providing hardware and Russia software and training - 09Rangoon502 
  • China promoting the idea that Burma-North Korea cooperation is acceptable - 09Rangoon732 
  • An offer to sell uranium to the Embassy in Rangoon - 08Rangoon749
  • Burma named as a WMD proliferation risk - 09State80163 (This alone might have made the Burmese generals paranoid).

The China Factor - It's a safe bet that as incompetent as the current United States administration is, they must be concerned about China.   Projects include a major copper mine near Monywa, oil pipelines from Burma's coast to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan.  There is also the huge Myitsone Dam project worth some $3.6 billion; it has been suspended until the end of Thein Sein's term as president.    I recommend the article 'China Didn't See This Coming' which appeared in the Atlantic on March 15th, 2013.   The United States, the European Union and others are fearful of China taking all the cherries from the Burma bowl; so afraid that they have lifted sanctions pretending that all is well in Burma.  Is keeping the truth on the table so difficult? Will denial continue to be the order of the day?  Will they say that there are no human rights violations to report?!   The United States is now offering military aid to the junta.  With more weapon technology they can kill more Karen, Rohingya, Kachin, Shan and any other ethnic group they choose to annihilate!   Of course the United States will play innocent, denying any knowledge of the carnage. How stupid do they think we are? They might even give the junta a wink and a 'solemn warning' to behave.  I'm ragging on the United States simply because that's where I come from and the behavior of my government is a source of great shame and frustration to all who care about human rights.  I'm pretty sure the European Union is no more pure.

Human Rights Violations As I said earlier, as incompetent as they are, these governments should be able to find unclassified documents.  Certainly they would argue that they are smarter than me and I have found many, far too many include in this article. Perhaps I should define them as inhumane rather than incompetent.  Herer is a small sampling of what I have found:

  • License to rape: How Burma’s military employs systematicsexualized violence  The author of this article points out that the "The 2008 Burmese Constitution places the military outside the purview of the civilian courts and includes an amnesty provision which precludes the prosecution of military perpetrators of crimes, including sexualized violence; raising global concern, including from the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar..."
Barack Obama, against the advice of top advisors, and human rights organazations around the globe, went calling on the president of Burma sending a clear message that anything he said about human rights was nothing more than political white wash.  This short video is well worth seeing:  Obama in Burma:  AMilestone for Reform or Groundwork for Oil-Friendly Junta Rule?
Two of a kind
President Thein Sien was given, given not earned, the ICG'S Peace Award.  Why?  I personally think it all has to do with greasing the slide through which the coffers of the west will be filled at the expense of the Burmese people.  While he does't  directly address the possible motives behind the award, Guy Horton definitely articulates the valid arguments such praise.  Please read:  Burma's Shame: Why the ICG's Peace Award froThein Sein is Unconsionable.  To me, it's more evidence that everything is broken when it comes to the grab for the resources of Burma. 

There will be presidential elections in 2015 and Thein Sien will be replaced, at the pleasure of Senior General Than Shwa.  His replacement will be toothless unless there is a revision of the Burmese constitution. Such a revision cannot happen without Than Shwa's blessing.  Not likely!

In the United States there will be another presidential election on Tuesday November 8, 2016.  This of course assumes that the current president and his cronies don't succeed in totally destroying the United States of America, where almost Everything is Broken!

If Everything is Broken, why do I bother?   If enough people know what is actually happening, then perhaps it will be possible to repair many of the wrongs that are now being committed.  My Quote Action for today reads:  "Truth, like surgery, may hurt but it cures" writer Han Suyin - Your action for today is to see if you are avoiding telling someone the truth.  What do you think it's costing them and you?  Please share this article with everyone !

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