Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
May 17, 2008

Myanmar - Politics, Media Manipulation and Help

BANGKOK (Reuters) - An international aid agency has confirmed some cases of cholera in Myanmar's cyclone-hit Irawaddy delta but the number was in line with normal levels in previous years, an aid official said on Friday.
...
"We don't have an explosion of cholera. Thus far the rate of cholera is no greater than the background rate that we would be seeing in Myanmar during this season," [World Health Organization representative Maureen Birmingham] said.
Some cholera confirmed in cyclone-hit Myanmar

My 12 year old RC cars and Lego cranes co-enthusiast, Lukas, today told me that cholera was a big problem in Burma because of the recent storm and the criminal non-action of the government there. He had read such in the local right-wing fish-wrap this morning which had a headline to that regard.

I can't blame him for getting the impression he had. But, according to the WHO, it was obviously wrong. So I explained to him that there are always some cholera cases in nearly every society and especially in hot and moist places with little technical hygiene facilities. Cholera is also relative easy to heal, I said. I then laid out that there are political reasons that drive such propaganda. That's what he immediately got.

There are other scare stories around now of "dead bodies floating" in Myanmar and that these may cause epidemics. The second part is just as wrong as the cholera stories:

"There has never been a documented case of a post-natural disaster epidemic that could be traced to dead bodies," the WHO said in a statement.

What many get from the news on Myanmar are scare stories about a bad government and lots of people dying because of that government.

Not that I like the military dictatorship in Myanmar, but the people who recently died there were killed by a natural disaster. A storm that drove an unexpected high wave onto a low laying area. No Myanmar government of any form could have prevented that.

But the hypocrites are out in full force:

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the United Nations is concerned with saving lives, not with politics, as he tries to ramp up aid efforts following Cyclone Nargis which struck Myanmar and has severely affected up to 2.5 million people.

A few months ago the same 'unconcerned with politics' Ban Ki-Moon was pressing on Myanmar:

“Now, more than ever before, the Government of Myanmar should take bold actions towards democratization and respect for human rights,” he said. “The national reconciliation process must be accelerated and be made as broad-based, inclusive and transparent as possible.”

Today that stooge wonders why the government of Myanmar doesn't believe his 'unconcerned with politics' talk? Since when is it the task of the head of the U.N., or anywhere in the U.N. charta, to prefer a certain form of government in some nation? When did Ban Ki-moon call for 'democracy' to determine the next head of state in Britain, Canada and Australia?

There are other hypocrites fighting Ban Ki-moon for the top rank in that category. The French minister for War Without Boarders, Kouchner, made noise a week ago about Myanmar not immediately taking French aid from his military vessel Mistral.  As it turns out, the French ship Mistral picked up the aid Kouchner pressed Myanmar to accept ten days ago only the day before yesterday. Let's follow the trail:

May 7: France wants UN Security Council to press Myanmar on aid

Earlier Wednesday, in an interview with France Inter radio, Kouchner expressed frustration with "the very tough position by Myanmar authorities" on foreign aid and said he and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband were planning a joint media article "demanding access to victims."

Kouchner also said that French boats with helicopters aboard were in waters near Myanmar and could move quickly to help. The boats were in the area for a naval maneuver, he said."

May 11: France seeks approval for direct aid to Myanmar

Kouchner said he hoped the Mistral would arrive in Myanmar by Thursday and would receive permission to distribute aid.

So the ship was ready to go? Then why, four days later, on the 15th, I read:

The French amphibious landing ship Le Mistral, which was pulled out from war exercises with the Indian Navy off the Vishakhapatinam coast, made a call at the Chennai port to load relief material it will be taking to Myanmar for the victims of Cyclone Nargis.

If you don't believe the Indian sources linked above, check the France 24 video report linked here under the headline "FRENCH SHIP READY TO HELP". It is dated May 14th/15th and at that time, long after Kouchners bluster, the ship was still driving circles with empty holds waiting to load the aid Kouchner pressed for to deliver.

Kouchner was making a lot of noise on May 7th, days after the catastrophe, without being able to deliver anything earlier than today. Some humanitarian ...

A comment to a Guardian op-ed by some Burmese variant of Ahmed Chalabi said it best:

When you have a disagreement with someone & they suffer a disaster.

Do you (a) help them - or - do you (b) try to exploit the situation for your political advantage?

If you choose A - you are a genuine humanitarian. You did not allow a golden opportunity for self-interest to sway you from putting the interests of the people first. YOu didn't stand back & dictate condemnation. YOu got your hands dirty & did everything to help. And only when the people were fit & ready for debates about politics - do you raise your interests. YOur actions prove you are a good leader.

if you choose b - you join a wealth of regime change NGOs who pretend to care for the people - but are only using them in their patrons pursuit of power & wealth. You put your self interests before the interests of the people. You say otherwise but your actions reveal your true motives. And the puppet western media will back you as long as you let them dictate (interpret) what the people want - what's best for them.

Choose

There is a U.S fleet currently in manoeuvers with the Thailand navy. Those will be finished on the 22nd. Expect renewed pressure from the U.S. on Myanmar to accept the "urgent help needed" immediately after those ships are no longer involved in useless war games and ready to deliver what they do not have to then no longer endangered people.

i expect a lot of 'cholera epidemic dangers' and 'floating dead bodies' stories will pop up again in the news within that context.

Posted by b on May 17, 2008 at 21:02 UTC | Permalink

Comments

b

i don't think it is necesary for you to add that you do not support the junta in myanmar. it is clear from your posts what your position is & it seems to me that you do not have to apologise for opening up controversial arguments

that is the gift of your site. not only the depth of your attack but your sometimes quite distinct views. i think debs too is as hostile to a military junta - but what you are both doing is contextualising that - & taking us through a chomskyian or john bergerian lesson on how - very real issues are immediately instrumentalised by the empire. i thank you for the lesson

the whole story for example that the empire had prepared for their coup in lebanone revealed in full flight when it miserably failed under the people's wheel & the perceptive strategies of hezbollah

i think we need apologise only in circumstances where we have got out facts wrong or that we have dealt with someone unfairly in debate. you have done neither of those things

you are doing what the site seems borne to do - offer contexts

Posted by: remembereringgiap | May 17 2008 21:17 utc | 1

@r'giap

not everybody reading that piece above will know my context and that of this site. That's why I include some disclaimers in such writings.

Not including these would leave people new here without context.

But you are right in that we do not have to excuse for the stand we stand for. We only have to expose it and, if asked, its foundation.

I long for and thrive on every comment here at MoA from any side. That is why I want to keep it open in mind and try to make clear my, admittedly subjective, stance on issues.

Posted by: b | May 17 2008 21:47 utc | 2

i know that sometimes it is difficult - even with friends & allies. for example - i believe powerfully in the chinese experiment with history but certain of its developments & some of its current realities- are in deep contrast to my own - yet i think it is necessary to defend it - especially against hysteria

myanmar is a clearer - when a plitical class becomes bankrupt no matter how deep their principles - then they become a burden to their people but it is also true that that burden is instrumentalised at every level by the empire & its lackies. & in the crudes pôssible way

it seems to me that in an imperial world -that one of the intentions in the blockading of countries - is the corruption or ossification of a political classso that the empire can make interventions amongst the organic dissent of a people

i am one of those who believe that the soviet experiment did not have to lead to stalin - & i do not believe in the petit bourgeois intellectual's horror stroies about lenin - but the interventions, the civil war & the constant blockade created the possibility of a stalin perhaps even the necessity of one

the people of myanmar are suffering from a corrupt political class, they are sufferring from a natural disaster of catastrophic proportions but they are also suffering from an external world that really does not give a fuck about them masking that in the sentimentalised 'concern' constructed by the medias of the empire. & their goal in myanmar is the same as it always was. resources & geopolitical advantage

& the prize whichever way you look at it for the empire in the long war is - china

Posted by: remembereringgiap | May 17 2008 22:36 utc | 3

LA Times op-ed:
Save us from the rescuers

Calls for military action to force aid on Myanmar march us down a dangerous road.

The ease with which the rhetoric of rescue slips into the rhetoric of war is why invoking R2P should never be accepted simply as an effort to inject some humanity into an inhumane situation (the possibility of getting the facts wrong is another reason; that too has happened in the past). Yes, the impulse of the interveners may be entirely based on humanitarian and human rights concerns. But lest we forget, the motivations of 19th century European colonialism were also presented by supporters as being grounded in humanitarian concern. And this was not just hypocrisy. We must not be so politically correct as to deny the humanitarian dimension of imperialism. But we must also not be so historically deaf, dumb and blind as to convince ourselves that it was its principal dimension.

Lastly, it is critically important to pay attention to just who is talking about military intervention on humanitarian grounds. Well, among others, it's the foreign ministers of the two great 19th century colonial empires. And where exactly do they want to intervene -- sorry, where do they want to live up to their responsibility to protect? Mostly in the very countries they used to rule.

When a British or French minister proposes a U.N. resolution calling for a military intervention to make sure aid is properly delivered in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, then, and only then, can we be sure we have put the specter of imperialism dressed up as humanitarianism behind us. In the meantime, buyer beware.

Posted by: b | May 18 2008 10:26 utc | 4

I have watched the news stories with increasing incredulity as the offers of help seemed to be increasingly carried by military transport. I may be wrong but I don't remember the tonnes of aid delivered to the Ache Tsunami needed to be done by frigates and destroyers.

I'm glad you have the cohones to say it though. I felt I was just being overly cynical. Glad I wasn't the only one.

Posted by: mo | May 18 2008 10:35 utc | 5

b,

"But the hypocrites are out in full force"

Yes they are. They would rather invade a country and kill the women and children than let that country attend to its own affairs if that means they have a government we do not like.

Is there not a single spot on the planet that we can say, "there they can do as they will"?

Posted by: bucky1 | May 18 2008 11:03 utc | 6

b,

**But the hypocrites are out in full force**

“Gordon Brown urged the Burmese authorities to give ‘unfettered access’ to humanitarian agencies. ‘We now estimate that two million people face famine or disease as a result of the lack of co-operation of the Burmese authorities. This is completely unacceptable,’ he said.” (Alan Brown, ‘Burmese officials “are seizing emergency aid and selling it for profit”,’ Daily Telegraph, May 13, 2008)

Posted by: denk | May 18 2008 14:18 utc | 7

This French UN ambassador is a lying bastard:

http://www.baynews9.com/content/36/2008/5/16/349116.html">France criticizes Myanmar for barring aid ship

Ripert told reporters that when he got up to speak in the U.N. General Assembly about the government's failure to allow foreigners to deliver aid, he was immediately interrupted by Myanmar's U.N. ambassador who accused France of sending "a warship" to the country.

"I had to intervene to explain that it's not true," Ripert said. "It's not a warship, it's a ship on which we have 1,500 tons of food, drugs, medications. We have small boats which could allow us to go through the delta to most of the regions where no one has accessed yet. We have small helicopters to drop food, and we have doctors."

No warship? Wikipedia calls it an amphibious assault ship ... wonder why ...

and note:

"As of today the government of Myanmar refused to the French the authorization of using this ship, and asked to us to convey the material through airlift in Rangoon, which of course is a nonsense," he said, using the former name of the capital, Yangon. "This is purely unacceptable."

Why is that unacceptable? The ship has transpotr helicopters. Load 'em up and fly 50 miles north to Yangon airport.

But the real aim is to withhold the aid and to use it as pressure to put soldiers and special forces on the ground to instigate civil war and regime change.

Posted by: b | May 18 2008 19:15 utc | 8

Pretend American Princess
Real British Princess

Did I miss the memo? Is America a royalist theocracy now?
Did they cancel the charter of Company of 100 Associates?
Is the Magna Carta defunct? Is the 100 Years War back??!!

Posted by: Tiny Pepe | May 20 2008 5:16 utc | 9

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