Archive for the Cambodia Category

Oliver Stone joins Jeju residents’ battle against naval base [The Hankyoreh / 한겨레]

Posted in Australia, Cambodia, China, Encirclement of China, Hiroshima, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nagasaki, North wind campaign, Obama, Okinawa, Philippines, Protest action, south Korea, Taiwan, US foreign occupation, US imperialism, USA, USA 21st Century Cold War, Vietnam, World War II on August 10, 2013 by Zuo Shou / 左手

August 5, 2013

* Acclaimed director is touring Asia in criticism of the US government’s ‘pivot to Asia’ policy *

By Huh Ho-joon, Jeju correspondent

“Ever since the Second World War, the US has been building military alliances and setting up military bases overseas. A lot of those bases are in Japan and Korea. Jeju Island is less than 500 kilometers from Shanghai. It could end up on the front lines if a military conflict breaks out between the US and China.”

Internationally renowned filmmaker Oliver Stone said this about the naval base currently under construction on Jeju Island. The 67-year-old director, whose works on the Vietnam War include “Platoon” and “Born on the Fourth of July,” met with the Hankyoreh on Aug. 3 at the Peace Center in Gangjeong Village in Jeju.

Noting the US’s overseas military strategy, Stone said the issue with the Jeju base was “global, not regional.”

“The Obama administration has adopted a ‘pivot to Asia’ strategy as a way of containing China,” he said. “It’s similar to the way the Soviet Union was contained during the Cold War. And in its push to do this, Washington has built or is building military alliances not just with South Korea and Japan, but with the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Cambodia, and Myanmar. It’s a foolish, paranoid strategy.”

In view of this strategy, the Jeju naval base may be a military extension of the US forces, who could eventually end up using it, Stone said.

The director said he came to Jeju after seeing documentaries by US directors on Gangjeong Village and the April 3 Uprising of 1948 and reading articles on the villagers battle against the construction.

“I wanted to see for myself,” he said. He arrived on the island on Aug. 2 for a three-day stay.

As soon as he arrived, he went to visit film critic Yang Yun-mo, who was arrested while campaigning against the base, as well as people involved in the Grand March for Life and Peace, an event organized to call for a halt to the construction. On Aug. 3, he went to see activists opposing the base in their battle against police at the construction site in Gangjeong – a visit that left him looking very troubled.

“They’re calling the people who oppose the base ‘pro-North Korea,’ but that’s a very simplistic expression and their methods are easy to attack,” Stone said. “But the residents and activists are very sincere about their home, their rights, and this beautiful island of Jeju.”

He also spoke on environmental concerns, noting the base was “destroying beautiful soft coral reefs and contaminating the water.”

“I’ve heard that Jeju water was some of the cleanest and best in the world,” he said. “What happens when it ends up getting polluted?”

“The Gangjeong residents and activists aren’t alone in their battle against the base. This is going beyond South Korea and turning into a worldwide issue,” he continued. “I don’t know how this battle is going to go, but the residents’ fight will not be forgotten.”

Following his trip to Jeju, Stone plans to head to the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where atomic bombs were dropped during the Second World War. There, he plans to attend a conference opposing atomic and hydrogen bombs before traveling on to Okinawa, site of a large US military base.

Article link: http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_international/598369.html

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Top Constitutional Experts: Obama Is Worse than Nixon [Washington’s Blog]

Posted in Assassination, Cambodia, CIA, George W. Bush, Libya, Obama, Torture, US Government Cover-up, US imperialism, USA, Wikileaks on May 24, 2013 by Zuo Shou / 左手

May 15, 2013

Objective Analysis: Obama Versus Nixon

In the wake of the twin scandals [sic] of the IRS targeting conservative groups and the Department of Justice spying on AP reporters, the comparisons between Obama and Nixon are everywhere.

But what do experts say?

Former New York Times general counsel James Goodale – who represented the paper during its Pentagon Papers fight with the Nixon administration – said in an interview yesterday that Obama is worse than Nixon when it comes to press freedoms. And see this.

Former constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald noted last year:

We supposedly learned important lessons from the abuses of power of the Nixon administration, and then of the Bush administration: namely, that we don’t trust government officials to exercise power in the dark, with no judicial oversight, with no obligation to prove their accusations. Yet now we hear exactly this same mentality issuing from Obama, his officials and defenders to justify a far more extreme power than either Nixon or Bush dreamed of asserting: he’s only killing The Bad Citizens, so there’s no reason to object!

Jonathan Turley – perhaps the top constitutional law expert in the United States (and a liberal) – writes:

The painful fact is that Barack Obama is the president that Nixon always wanted to be.

Four decades ago, Nixon was halted in his determined effort to create an “imperial presidency” with unilateral powers and privileges. In 2013, Obama wields those very same powers openly and without serious opposition. The success of Obama in acquiring the long-denied powers of Nixon is one of his most remarkable, if ignoble, accomplishments. Consider a few examples:

Warrantless surveillance

Nixon’s use of warrantless surveillance led to the creation of a special court called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA). But the reform turned out to be more form than substance. The secret court turned “probable cause” into a meaningless standard, virtually guaranteeing any surveillance the government wanted. After hundreds of thousands of applications over decades, only a couple have ever been denied.

Last month, the Supreme Court crushed any remaining illusions regarding FISA when it sided with the Obama administration in ruling that potential targets of such spying had to have proof they were spied upon before filing lawsuits, even if the government has declared such evidence to be secret. That’s only the latest among dozens of lawsuits the administration has blocked while surveillance expands exponentially.

Unilateral military action

Nixon’s impeachment included the charge that he evaded Congress’ sole authority to declare war by invading Cambodia. In the Libyan “mission,” Obama announced that only he had the inherent authority to decide what is a “war” and that so long as he called it something different, no congressional approval or even consultation was necessary. He proceeded to bomb a nation’s capital, destroy military units and spend more than a billion dollars in support of one side in a civil war.

Kill lists

Nixon ordered a burglary to find evidence to use against Daniel Ellsberg, who gave the famed Pentagon Papers to the press, and later tried to imprison him. Ellsberg was later told of a secret plot by the White House “plumbers” to “incapacitate” him in a physical attack. It was a shocking revelation. That’s nothing compared with Obama’s assertion of the right to kill any U.S. citizen without a charge, let alone conviction, based on his sole authority. A recently leaked memo argues that the president has a right to kill a citizen even when he lacks “clear evidence (of) a specific attack” being planned.

Attacking whistle-blowers

Nixon was known for his attacks on whistle-blowers. He used the Espionage Act of 1917 to bring a rare criminal case against Ellsberg. Nixon was vilified for the abuse of the law. Obama has brought twice as many such prosecutions as all prior presidents combined [and see this]. While refusing to prosecute anyone for actual torture, the Obama administration has prosecuted former CIA employee John Kiriakou for disclosing the torture program.

Other Nixonesque areas include Obama’s overuse of classification laws and withholding material from Congress. There are even missing tapes. In the torture scandal, CIA officials admitted to destroying tapes that they feared could be used against them in criminal cases. Of course, Nixon had missing tapes, but Rose Mary Woods claimed to have erased them by mistake, as opposed to current officials who openly admit to intentional destruction.

Obama has not only openly asserted powers that were the grounds for Nixon’s impeachment, but he has made many love him for it. More than any figure in history, Obama has been a disaster for the U.S. civil liberties movement. By coming out of the Democratic Party and assuming an iconic position, Obama has ripped the movement in half. Many Democrats and progressive activists find themselves unable to oppose Obama for the authoritarian powers he has assumed. It is not simply a case of personality trumping principle; it is a cult of personality.

Long after Watergate, not only has the presidency changed. We have changed. We have become accustomed to elements of a security state such as massive surveillance and executive authority without judicial oversight. We have finally answered a question left by Benjamin Franklin in 1787, when a Mrs. Powel confronted him after the Constitutional Convention and asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got — a republic or a monarchy?” His chilling response: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

We appear to have grown weary of the republic and traded it for promises of security from a shining political personality. Somewhere, Nixon must be wondering how it could have been this easy.

Nixon’s “Enemies List” is famous, and the former head of the National Security Agency’s global digital data gathering program says that Obama also has an enemies list … which has been used to take down a wide variety of people, including the head of the CIA. The Washington Post’s Ed Rogers notes:

Obama doesn’t need a traditional Nixonian enemies list. In the digital age, with the Obama machine’s much-celebrated technological capabilities, the president can sort his enemies by keywords.

You’ve heard about the AP spying scandal, and the head of the Department of Justice implies that the government has spied on many other reporters.

Reporters who criticize those in power are being smeared by the government and targeted for arrest (and see this).

Indeed, the Obama administration is treating real reporters as potential terrorists.

After Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges, journalist Naomi Wolf, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and others sued the government to enjoin the NDAA’s allowance of the indefinite detention of Americans – the judge asked the government attorneys 5 times whether journalists like Hedges could be indefinitely detained simply for interviewing and then writing about bad guys. The government refused to promise that journalists like Hedges won’t be thrown in a dungeon for the rest of their lives without any right to talk to a judge.

Wikileaks’ head Julian Assange could face the death penalty for his heinous crime of leaking whistleblower information which make those in power uncomfortable … i.e. being a reporter.

Daniel Ellsberg notes that Obama’s claimed power to indefinitely detain people without charges or access to a lawyer or the courts is a power that even King George didn’t claim. Former judge and adjunct professor of constitutional law Andrew Napolitano points out that Obama’s claim that he can indefinitely detain prisoners even after they are acquitted of their crimes is a power that even Hitler and Stalin didn’t claim.

Indeed, Obama has turned America into the most spied upon nation in world history, and has rolled back liberties to the time of the enactment of the Magna Carta in 1215.

Article link: http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/05/top-constitutional-experts-obama-is-worse-than-nixon.html

Why Does America Media Continue to Honour Henry Kissinger? [Globalresearch.ca / 21st Century Wire]

Posted in Cambodia, Fascism, George W. Bush, Laos, Nazism, State Department, US Government Cover-up, US imperialism, USA, Vietnam, War crimes, World War II on April 29, 2013 by Zuo Shou / 左手

“Before the Freedom of Information Act, I used to say at meetings, ‘The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.’ [laughter] But since the Freedom of Information Act, I’m afraid to say things like that.” – Henry Kissinger (from Wikileaks’ “The Kissinger Cables”, as quoted by Amy Goodman [“WikiLeaks’ ‘Kissinger Cables’ underline the world’s debt to Bradley Manning”, The Guardian])

I simply cannot understand the way some Chinese and their allies deliberately overlook this man’s abject criminality, in particular the blatant war crimes. I suppose it’s because his enabling of the Nixon-Mao US-Chinese (anti-Soviet) bloc is seen as a good thing. In fact, I’m not inclined to see that event so positively. – Zuo Shou

“…Those who praise Mr. Kissinger for the opening to China but ignore his mass murder in Indochina shame human decency itself. By honoring Mr. Kissinger they dishonor themselves. And they are also blind to the careerist “Executive Branch mentality” he embodied, which poses a clear and present a danger to foreigners and Americans alike today…” – Patrick Henningsen, from below article

**************
April 23, 2013

by Patrick Henningsen
21stCenturyWire.com

It’s no surprise in 2013 to see the government media complex try it’s very best to preserve the delicate legacies of lauded members of the political establishment.

Look how much effort was poured into the media eulogies for Margaret Thatcher recently, only to see the whole facade come crashing down against the real weight of public opinion and negative feelings towards the iconic Iron Lady. In the end, even the all-powerful media could not hide her affinity with international friends like General Pinochet and Pol Pot.

In the American political theater, media treatment of men or women who are considered ‘political institutions’ tends to be much more vain and sycophantic, where junior anchors and talk show hosts will generally fall over backwards to secure 15 minutes with any such veteran, even a war criminal like Henry Kissinger.

Kissinger is widely regarded by most well-read people worldwide as the mascot for carpet bombing in Southeast Asia, regime change and last but not least – US domestic policy manipulation. You could say was the forerunner to the GW Bush era of making the illegal seem legal, and making the immoral seem moral. Although he regards himself as an American, it is rather disturbing to know that a US Administration – Nikon’s [sic] in this case, would allow someone with dual nationalist loyalties and who was not born in the US, to sit in one of the most important seats in Washington DC. There was a reason why he was inserted into that role at that specific time in history. America is still living with the repercussions of that oversight today.

Whether it’s the Bilderberg Group, Bohemian Grove, the Trilateral Commission, or the Council on Foreign Relations, Henry Kissinger has always been placed in the key steering positions in order to exact certain outcomes for those whom he really works for. Still, hopeless career media pundits will continue to paint him as an foreign policy guru, but the reality is that he was simply better at manipulating and politically blackmailing those around him than the next man.

Again, and like with his good friend Lady Thatcher, Henry Kissinger’s legacy will not be easy to contain within a few clever memes like, ‘foreign policy genius’ or ‘skilled diplomat’, and no matter what agit prop the media try to erect, there will be celebrations after the fact…

Henry Kissinger’s quote recently released by Wikileaks, ”the illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer”, likely brought a smile to his legions of elite media, government, corporate and high society admirers. Oh that Henry! That rapier wit! That trademark insouciance! That naughtiness! It is unlikely, however, that the descendants of his more than 6 million victims in Indochina, and Americans of conscience appalled by his murder of non-Americans, will share in the amusement. For his illegal and unconstitutional actions had real-world consequences: the ruined lives of millions of Indochinese innocents in a new form of secret, automated, amoral U.S. Executive warfare which haunts the world until today.

And his conduct raises even more fundamental questions: to what extent can leaders who act secretly ,illegally and unconstitutionally, lying to their citizenry and legislature as a matter of course, legitimately claim to represent their people? How much allegiance do citizens owe such leaders? And what does it say about America’s elites that they have honored a man with so much innocent blood on his hands for the past 40 years?

Mr. Kissinger’s most significant historical act was executing Richard Nixon’s orders to conduct the most massive bombing campaign, largely of civilian targets, in world history. He dropped 3.7 million tons of bombs between January 1969 and January 1973 – nearly twice the two million dropped on all of Europe and the Pacific in World War II. He secretly and illegally devastated villages throughout areas of Cambodia inhabited by a U.S. Embassy-estimated two million people; quadrupled the bombing of Laos and laid waste to the 700-year old civilization on the Plain of Jars; and struck civilian targets throughout North Vietnam – Haiphong harbor, dikes, cities, Bach Mai Hospital – which even Lyndon Johnson had avoided. His aerial slaughter helped kill, wound or make homeless an officially-estimated six million human beings, mostly civilians who posed no threat whatsoever to U.S. national security and had committed no offense against it.

There is a word for the aerial mass murder that Henry Kissinger committed in Indochina, and that word is “evil”. The figure most identified with this word today is Adolph Hitler, and his evil was so unspeakable that the term is by now identified with him. But that is precisely why it is important to understand the new face of evil and moral depravity that Henry Kissinger represents. For evil not only comes in the form of madmen dreaming of 1000 year Reichs. In fact, in our day, it is more likely to be committed by sane, genial and ordinary careerists waging invisible automated war in far-off lands against people whose screams we never hear, whose faces we never see, and whose deaths go unrecorded and unnoticed. It is critical to understand this new face of evil, for it threatens not only countless foreigners but Americans in coming years. And no one has embodied it more than Henry Kissinger.

The planes he dispatched came by day. They came by night. Remorseless. Pitiless. Relentless. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. Most of the people below had no idea where the bombers came from, why their lives had been turned into a living hell. The movie “War of the Worlds”, in which Americans are incomprehensibly slaughtered by machines is the closest depiction of what the innocent rice-farmers of Indochina experienced.

Hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam were forced to live in holes and caves, like animals. Many tens of thousands were burned alive by the bombs, slowly dying in agony. Others were buried alive, as they gradually suffocated to death when a 500 pound bomb exploded nearby. Most were victims of antipersonnel bombs designed primarily to maim not kill, many of the survivors carrying the metal, jagged or plastic pellets in their bodies for the rest of their lives.

Fathers like 38-year old Thao Vong were suddenly blinded or crippled for life as they lost an arm or leg, made helpless, unable to support their families, becoming dependent on others just to stay alive. Children were struck, lying out in the open, screaming, villagers unable to come to their aid for fear of being killed themselves. No one was spared – neither sweet, loving grandmothers nor lovely young women, neither laughing, innocent children nor nursing or pregnant mothers, not water buffalo needed to farm not the shrines where people had for centuries honored their ancestors and hoped one day to be honored themselves.

A farmer on the Plain of Jars in northern Laos wrote of being bombed by the U.S. in 1969 that “every day and every night the planes came to drop bombs on us. We lived in holes to protect our lives. I saw my cousin die in the field of death. My heart was most disturbed and my voice called out loudly as I ran to the houses. Thus, I saw life and death for the people on account of the war of many airplanes in the region of the Plain of Jars. Until there were no houses at all. And the cows and buffalo were dead. Until everything was leveled and you could see only the red, red ground.”

A 30-year old mother wrote that “at that time, our lives became like those of animals desperately trying to escape their hunters. Our lives were confided to the Lord Buddha. No matter when, all we did was to pray to the Lord to save our lives.”

A 39 year old rice-farmer wrote of the aftermath of a bombing raid: “The other villagers and I got together to consider this thing. We hadn’t done anything, nor harmed anyone. We had raised our crops, celebrated the festivals and maintained our homes for many years. Why did the planes drop bombs on us, impoverishing us this way?”

Mr. Kissinger exulted to President Nixon over this bombing, telling him that “it’s wave after wave of planes. You see, they can’t see the B-52 and they dropped a million pounds of bombs … I bet you we will have had more planes over there in one day than Johnson had in a month … each plane can carry about 10 times the load of World War II plane could carry.”

Although Mr. Kissinger claimed he was only bombing enemy troops, guerrilla soldiers were largely undetectable from the air. Investigating the bombing of northern Laos, the U.S. Senate Refugee Subcommittee concluded that “the United States has undertaken a large-scale air war over Laos to destroy the physical and social infrastructure in Pathet Lao (i.e., guerrilla) areas. Throughout all this there has been a policy of secrecy. The bombing has taken and is taking a heavy toll among civilians.” These words apply to Mr. Kissinger’s bombing throughout Indochina. The villagers of Indochina were not “collateral damage”. They were the target.

Those who praise Mr. Kissinger for the opening to China but ignore his mass murder in Indochina shame human decency itself. By honoring Mr. Kissinger they dishonor themselves. And they are also blind to the careerist “Executive Branch mentality” he embodied, which poses a clear and present a danger to foreigners and Americans alike today. Adolph Hitler dreamed of conquering…the world. Mr. Kissinger destroyed millions of lives primarily to further his career by preventing a communist takeover while he held office. And it is this kind of institutional, bureaucratic mentality, combined with new machines of secret war, which threatens the humanity today far more than the crazed ideologies of the past.

In the end Mr. Kissinger failed, as the communists took over Indochina in the spring of 1975…

Article link: http://www.globalresearch.ca/why-does-america-media-continue-to-honour-henry-kissinger/5332598

“A Terrible Normality: The Massacres and Aberrations of History” by Michael Parenti [Globalresearch.ca]

Posted in Africa, Belgium, Cambodia, Fascism, Genocide, Germany, Indonesia, Laos, Media cover-up, Nazism, Philippines, Turkey, US imperialism, USA, USSR, Vietnam, Yugoslavia - former FRY on February 3, 2013 by Zuo Shou / 左手

Through much of history the abnormal has been the norm.

This is a paradox to which we should attend. Aberrations, so plentiful as to form a terrible normality of their own, descend upon us with frightful consistency.

The number of massacres in history, for instance, are almost more than we can record. There was the New World holocaust, consisting of the extermination of indigenous Native American peoples throughout the western hemisphere, extending over four centuries or more, continuing into recent times in the Amazon region.

There were the centuries of heartless slavery in the Americas and elsewhere, followed by a full century of lynch mob rule and Jim Crow segregation in the United States, and today the numerous killings and incarcerations of Black youth by law enforcement agencies.

Let us not forget the extermination of some 200,000 Filipinos by the U.S. military at the beginning of the twentieth century, the genocidal massacre of 1.5 million Armenians by the Turks in 1915, and the mass killings of African peoples by the western colonists, including the 63,000 Herero victims in German Southwest Africa in 1904, and the brutalization and enslavement of millions in the Belgian Congo from the late 1880s until emancipation in 1960—followed by years of neocolonial free-market exploitation and repression in what was Mobutu’s Zaire.

French colonizers killed some 150,000 Algerians. Later on, several million souls perished in Angola and Mozambique along with an estimated five million in the merciless region now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The twentieth century gave us—among other horrors—more than sixteen million lost and twenty million wounded or mutilated in World War I, followed by the estimated 62 million to 78 million killed in World War II, including some 24 million Soviet military personnel and civilians, 5.8 million European Jews, and taken together: several million Serbs, Poles, Roma, homosexuals, and a score of other nationalities.

In the decades after World War II, many, if not most, massacres and wars have been openly or covertly sponsored by the U.S. national security state. This includes the two million or so left dead or missing in Vietnam, along with 250,000 Cambodians, 100,000 Laotians, and 58,000 Americans.

Today in much of Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East there are “smaller” wars, replete with atrocities of all sorts. Central America, Colombia, Rwanda and other places too numerous to list, suffered the massacres and death-squad exterminations of hundreds of thousands, a constancy of violent horrors. In Mexico a “war on drugs” has taken 70,000 lives with 8,000 missing.

There was the slaughter of more than half a million socialistic or democratic nationalist Indonesians by the U.S.-supported Indonesian military in 1965, eventually followed by the extermination of 100,000 East Timorese by that same U.S.-backed military.

Consider the 78-days of NATO’s aerial destruction of Yugoslavia complete with depleted uranium, and the bombings and invasion of Panama, Grenada, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Western Pakistan, Afghanistan, and now the devastating war of attrition brokered against Syria. And as I write (early 2013), the U.S.-sponsored sanctions against Iran are seeding severe hardship for the civilian population of that country.

All the above amounts to a very incomplete listing of the world’s violent and ugly injustice. A comprehensive inventory would fill volumes. How do we record the countless other life-searing abuses: the many millions who survive wars and massacres but remain forever broken in body and spirit, left to a lifetime of suffering and pitiless privation, refugees without sufficient food or medical supplies or water and sanitation services in countries like Syria, Haiti, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Mali.

Think of the millions of women and children around the world and across the centuries who have been trafficked in unspeakable ways, and the millions upon millions trapped in exploitative toil, be they slaves, indentured servants, or underpaid laborers. The number of impoverished is now growing at a faster rate than the world’s population. Add to that, the countless acts of repression, incarceration, torture, and other criminal abuses that beat upon the human spirit throughout the world day by day.

Let us not overlook the ubiquitous corporate corruption and massive financial swindles, the plundering of natural resources and industrial poisoning of whole regions, the forceful dislocation of entire populations, the continuing catastrophes of Chernobyl and Fukushima and other impending disasters awaiting numerous aging nuclear reactors.

The world’s dreadful aberrations are so commonplace and unrelenting that they lose their edge and we become inured to the horror of it all. “Who today remembers the Armenians?” Hitler is quoted as having said while plotting his “final solution” for the Jews. Who today remembers the Iraqis and the death and destruction done to them on a grand scale by the U.S. invasion of their lands? William Blum reminds us that more than half the Iraq population is either dead, wounded, traumatized, imprisoned, displaced, or exiled, while their environment is saturated with depleted uranium (from U.S. weaponry) inflicting horrific birth defects.

What is to be made of all this? First, we must not ascribe these aberrations to happenstance, innocent confusion, and unintended consequences. Nor should we believe the usual rationales about spreading democracy, fighting terrorism, providing humanitarian rescue, protecting U.S. national interests and other such rallying cries promulgated by ruling elites and their mouthpieces.

The repetitious patterns of atrocity and violence are so persistent as to invite the suspicion that they usually serve real interests; they are structural not incidental. All this destruction and slaughter has greatly profited those plutocrats who pursue economic expansion, resource acquisition, territorial dominion, and financial accumulation.

Ruling interests are well served by their superiority in firepower and striking force. Violence is what we are talking about here, not just the wild and wanton type but the persistent and well-organized kind. As a political resource, violence is the instrument of ultimate authority. Violence allows for the conquest of entire lands and the riches they contain, while keeping displaced laborers and other slaves in harness.

The plutocratic rulers find it necessary to misuse or exterminate restive multitudes, to let them starve while the fruits of their land and the sweat of their labor enrich privileged coteries.

Thus we had a profit-driven imperial rule that helped precipitate the great famine in northern China, 1876-1879, resulting in the death of some thirteen million. At about that same time the Madras famine in India took the lives of as many as twelve million while the colonial forces grew ever richer. And thirty years earlier, the great potato famine in Ireland led to about one million deaths, with another desperate million emigrating from their homeland. Nothing accidental about this: while the Irish starved, their English landlords exported shiploads of Irish grain and livestock to England and elsewhere at considerable profit to themselves.

These occurrences must be seen as something more than just historic abnormalities floating aimlessly in time and space, driven only by overweening impulse or happenstance. It is not enough to condemn monstrous events and bad times, we also must try to understand them. They must be contextualized in the larger framework of historical social relations.

The dominant socio-economic system today is free-market capitalism (in all its variations). Along with its unrelenting imperial terrorism, free-market capitalism provides “normal abnormalities” from within its own dynamic, creating scarcity and maldistributed excess, filled with duplication, waste, overproduction, frightening environmental destruction, and varieties of financial crises, bringing swollen rewards to a select few and continual hardship to multitudes.

Economic crises are not exceptional; they are the standing operational mode of the capitalist system. Once again, the irrational is the norm. Consider U.S. free-market history: after the American Revolution, there were the debtor rebellions of the late 1780s, the panic of 1792, the recession of 1809 (lasting several years), the panics of 1819 and 1837, and recessions and crashes through much of the rest of that century. The serious recession of 1893 continued for more than a decade.

After the industrial underemployment of 1900 to 1915 came the agrarian depression of the 1920s—hidden behind what became known to us as “the Jazz Age,” followed by a horrendous crash and the Great Depression of 1929-1942. All through the twentieth century we had wars, recessions, inflation, labor struggles, high unemployment—hardly a year that would be considered “normal” in any pleasant sense. An extended normal period would itself have been an abnormality. The free market is by design inherently unstable in every aspect other than wealth accumulation for the select few.

What we are witnessing is not an irrational output from a basically rational society but the converse: the “rational” (to be expected) output of a fundamentally irrational system. Does this mean these horrors are inescapable? No, they are not made of supernatural forces. They are produced by plutocratic greed and deception.

So, if the aberrant is the norm and the horrific is chronic, then we in our fightback should give less attention to the idiosyncratic and more to the systemic. Wars, massacres and recessions help to increase capital concentration, monopolize markets and natural resources, and destroy labor organizations and popular transformative resistance.

The brutish vagaries of plutocracy are not the product of particular personalities but of systemic interests. President George W. Bush was ridiculed for misusing words, but his empire-building and stripping of government services and regulations revealed a keen devotion to ruling-class interests. Likewise, President Barack Obama is not spineless. He is hypocritical but not confused. He is (by his own description) an erstwhile “liberal Republican,” or as I would put it, a faithful servant of corporate America.

Our various leaders are well informed, not deluded. They come from different regions and different families, and have different personalities, yet they pursue pretty much the same policies on behalf of the same plutocracy.

So it is not enough to denounce atrocities and wars, we also must understand who propagates them and who benefits. We have to ask why violence and deception are constant ingredients.

Unintended consequences and other oddities do arise in worldly affairs but we also must take account of interest-driven rational intentions. More often than not, the aberrations—be they wars, market crashes, famines, individual assassinations or mass killings—take shape because those at the top are pursuing gainful expropriation. Many may suffer and perish but somebody somewhere is benefiting boundlessly.

Knowing your enemies and what they are capable of doing is the first step toward effective opposition. The world becomes less of a horrific puzzlement. We can only resist these global (and local) perpetrators when we see who they are and what they are doing to us and our sacred environment.

Democratic victories, however small and partial they be, must be embraced. But the people must not be satisfied with tinseled favors offered by smooth leaders. We need to strive in every way possible for the revolutionary unraveling, a revolution of organized consciousness striking at the empire’s heart with the full force of democracy, the kind of irresistible upsurge that seems to come from nowhere while carrying everything before it.

Article link: http://www.globalresearch.ca/a-terrible-normality-the-massacres-and-aberrations-of-history/5320619

“U.S. intervention not conducive to Asia-Pacific stability” – ASEAN summit and H. Clinton’s ‘diplomatic encirclement’ [Xinhua]

Posted in Afghanistan, Cambodia, China, Diaoyu Islands, Encirclement of China, Hillary Clinton, Iraq, Japan, Laos, Myanmar, Obama, Philippines, South China Sea, US imperialism, USA, USA 21st Century Cold War, Vietnam on July 15, 2012 by Zuo Shou / 左手

BEIJING, July 14 (Xinhua) — Hillary Clinton’s whirlwind tour of China’s neighbors as part of the U.S. pivot to Asia strategy has made waves again in the South China Sea. The "strategic pressure" is not conducive to Asia’s development or U.S. long-term interests.

The U.S. secretary of state’s Asia trip, which took her to Afghanistan, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, was nothing but an apparent "diplomatic encirclement."

Though wary of overtly irking China, Clinton further meddled in the South China Sea issue by repeatedly highlighting America’s interests there and openly supporting individual ASEAN members’ scheme to complicate the maritime dispute.

Clinton also extended her hand to the East China Sea, clearly recognizing during the visit to Japan that the Diaoyu Islands fell within the scope of the 1960 Japan-U.S. security treaty, though Washington does not take a position on the ultimate sovereignty of the islets.

Many facts have proved that major changes have taken place in regard to the South China Sea since Washington made a military and economic "pivot" toward Asia, a strategy many interpret as a bid to counteract China’s influence in the region.

In the past decades, there has been mainly a lull in the South China Sea issue, as China and other claimant states sought solutions based on bilateral friendly negotiations.

However, at the ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting two years ago, Clinton announced Washington had a "national interest" in the South China Sea and would return to Asia. Since then, tensions have been simmering below the surface.

In particular, China’s maritime territorial sovereignty has been severely infringed this year, with the Philippines laying claims to Huangyan Island, Japan’s farce in attempting to buy the Diaoyu Islands and Vietnam’s enactment of a law asserting sovereignty over the Xisha Islands and Nansha Islands.

The United States claims it does not take a position on the one hand and intensively takes one-sided actions on the other.

Since the dispute over Huangyan Island between Beijing and Manila flared up in April, Washington not only held joint military drills with the Filipinos, but also sold two Hamilton-class warships to them.

Last month, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced a shift of deployment of the U.S. Navy from its current 50-50 split between the Pacific and the Atlantic to 60-40 by 2020.

As the Chinese saying goes, "the tree craves calm but the wind keeps blowing." Though China always exercises restraint and insists on diplomatic solutions to the disputes, some countries keep challenging China, which certainly has something to do with U.S. re-engagement in the region.

President Barack Obama’s strategy to focus U.S. foreign policy more intensely on the Asia-Pacific after a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is welcome, as long as it is beneficial to the peace, stability and prosperity of the region. However, what the strategic shift has brought in the past two years is evidently contrary to regional stability.

Washington must understand that returning to Asia by way of militarily flexing its muscle, and diplomatically intervening in bilateral disputes is wrong and short-sighted. It is wrong because it is favoring confrontation instead of cooperation, which does not contribute to Asia’s development and also goes against U.S. long-term interests.

Americans should do more to promote regional and win-win cooperation rather than mess up peace and development in the Asia-Pacific region.

Article link here

HISTORY: Reversing the Vietnam Verdict [Globalresearch.ca]

Posted in Afghanistan, Assassination, Cambodia, China, CIA, Encirclement of China, France, Historical myths of the US, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Laos, Obama, Pentagon, Torture, USA, War crimes, World War II on June 29, 2012 by Zuo Shou / 左手

June 6, 2012

by Jack A. Smith

The Pentagon has just launched a multi-year national public relations campaign to justify, glorify and honor Washington’s catastrophic, aggressive and losing war against Vietnam — America’s most controversial and unpopular military conflict.

President Barack Obama opened the militarist event, which was overwhelmingly approved by Congress four years ago, during a speech at the Vietnam Wall on Memorial Day, May 28. The entire campaign, which will consist of tens of thousands of events over the next 13 years, is ostensibly intended to “finally honor” the U.S. troops who fought in Vietnam. The last troops were evacuated nearly 40 years ago.

In reality, the unprecedented project — titled the Vietnam War Commemoration — will utilize the “pro-veteran” extravaganza to accomplish two additional and more long lasting goals:

• The first is to legitimize and intensify a renewed warrior spirit within America as the Pentagon emerges from two counter-productive, ruinously expensive and stalemated unjust wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and prepares for further military adventures in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Within days of Obama’s speech, for instance, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced a big increase of U.S. Navy forces in the Pacific, a move obviously targeting China. At the same time the Obama Administration’s drone wars are accelerating as the Oval Office’s kill list expands, and the president engages in cyber sabotage against Iran.

• The second is to dilute the memory of historic public opposition to the Vietnam war by putting forward the Pentagon’s censored account of the conflict in public meetings, parades and educational sessions set to take place across the nation through 2025. These flag-waving, hyper-patriotic occasions will feature veterans, active duty military members, government officials, local politicians, teachers and business leaders who will combine forces to praise those who fought in Vietnam and those on the home front who supported the war. There won’t be much — if any — attention focused on the majority of Americans who opposed this imperialist adventure, except as a footnote describing how tolerant U.S. democracy is toward dissent.

The principal theme of the president’s address was that American troops have not received sufficient laurels for their efforts to violently prevent the reunification of North and South Vietnam. He did not point out that there would have been no war had the United States permitted nationwide free elections to take place in Vietnam in 1956 as specified by the 1954 Geneva Agreement ending the French colonialism in Indochina. Washington recently decided that the war “officially” began in 1962 (although U.S. involvement dates back to the 1950s), allowing the commemoration to begin during the “50th anniversary” year.

President Obama told the large, cheering crowd of veterans and their families at the Vietnam Wall exactly what they — and all those who still resented the era’s large antiwar movement — wanted to hear: “One of the most painful chapters in our history was Vietnam — most particularly, how we treated our troops who served there….

“You were often blamed for a war you didn’t start, when you should have been commended for serving your country with valor. (Applause.) You were sometimes blamed for misdeeds of a few, when the honorable service of the many should have been praised. You came home and sometimes were denigrated, when you should have been celebrated. It was a national shame, a disgrace that should have never happened. And that’s why here today we resolve that it will not happen again. (Applause.)….

“[Y]ou wrote one of the most extraordinary stories of bravery and integrity in the annals of military history. (Applause.)…. [E]ven though some Americans turned their back on you — you never turned your back on America…. And let’s remember all those Vietnam veterans who came back and served again — in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. You did not stop serving. (Applause.)

“So here today, it must be said — you have earned your place among the greatest generations. At this time, I would ask all our Vietnam veterans, those of you who can stand, to please stand, all those already standing, raise your hands — as we say those simple words which always greet our troops when they come home from here on out: Welcome home. (Applause.) Welcome home. Welcome home. Welcome home. Thank you. We appreciate you. Welcome home. (Applause.)….

“May God bless you. May God bless your families. May God bless our men and women in uniform. And may God bless these United States of America.”

There was virtually no criticism in the corporate mass media about the president’s gross exaggerations concerning the “mistreatment” of Vietnam era veterans. True, there were no victory parades, but that was because the U.S. Armed Forces were defeated by a much smaller and enormously outgunned adversary — the guerrilla forces of the South Vietnamese National Liberation Front (NLF) and regular forces from North Vietnam.

By the time many vets returned home the American people had turned against the war and wanted it over, as did a significant portion of active duty troops, including the many who identified with the peace movement or who mutinied or deserted. Undoubtedly some veterans were disrespected — but to a far lesser extent than Obama and pro-war forces have suggested over the years.

Whenever the U.S. conducts unpopular invasions, as in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, Washington and the mass media invariably insist that it is the duty of patriotic citizens to “support the troops” even if they oppose the war. But to manifest the kind of support the government seeks inevitably implies support for the war. This is why the peace groups came up with the slogan “Support the Troops — Bring ’em home NOW!”

According to the Pentagon, which is in charge of staging the Vietnam War Commemoration, the main purpose is “To thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam War… for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States and to thank and honor the families of these veterans. To highlight the service of the Armed Forces during the Vietnam War and the contributions of Federal agencies and governmental and non-governmental organizations that served with, or in support of, the Armed Forces. To pay tribute to the contributions made on the home front by the people of the United States during the Vietnam War….”

Thousands of community, veteran, and various nongovernmental organizations throughout the U.S. are expected to join the Commemorative Partner Program “to assist federal, state and local authorities to assist a grateful nation in thanking and honoring our Vietnam Veterans and their families. Commemorative Partners are encouraged to participate… by planning and conducting events and activities that will recognize the Vietnam Veterans and their families’ service, valor, and sacrifice.”

In addition the government and its “partners” will be distributing educational materials about the war, according to the Pentagon, but it is unlikely that the Vietnamese side of the story or that of the multitude of war resisters in the U.S., civilian and military, will receive favorable attention. Many facts, including the origins of the war will undoubtedly be changed to conform to the commemoration’s main goal of minimizing Washington’s defeat and maximizing the heroism and loyalty of the troops.

Officially, the Vietnam war lasted 11 years (1962-1973), but U.S. involvement actually continued for 21 years (1954-1975). The U.S. financially supported the restoration of French colonial control of Vietnam and all of Indochina after the defeat of Japanese imperialism in 1945 (Japan earlier displaced French rule). By 1954, Washington not only supplied money and advisers but sent 352 Americans to Vietnam in a “Military Assistance Advisory group” supporting the French against liberation forces led by the Vietnamese Communist Party. The liberators defeated the French army at the historic battle of Dien Bien Phu that same year.

The Geneva Conference of 1954, facilitating impending French withdrawal, established that Vietnam would be divided temporarily into two halves until free elections were held in 1956 to determine whether the liberation forces, led by Ho Chi Minh, or Emperor Bao Dai, who had collaborated with both French and Japanese occupation forces and was a puppet of the U.S., would rule the unified state.

It is doubtful that the commemoration is going to emphasize the fact that the U.S., led by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, used its power to prevent nationwide elections from taking place when it became clear that Ho Chi Minh would win 80% of the vote. Eisenhower acknowledged this in his memoirs. Instead, Washington allied itself to right wing forces in the southern sector to declare “South Vietnam” to be a separate state for the first time in history and set about financing, training and controlling a large southern military force to prevent reunification. The U.S. dominated the Saigon government throughout the following war.

When Paris withdrew remaining French troops in April 1956, according to John Prados in “Vietnam: The History of an Unwinnable war, 1945-1975” (2009), “their departure made America South Vietnam’s big brother,” i.e., overlord and military protector against popular liberation forces in the southern half of the country.

By June 1962, 9,700 U.S. “military advisers” plus a large number of CIA agents were training and fighting to support the corrupt U.S.-backed regime in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), at which time President Kennedy’s Defense Secretary, Robert McNamara, announced that “every quantitative measure shows that we’re wining the war.”

By 1968, when the number of U.S. troops attained their apogee of 535,040, Washington was obviously losing to its tenacious opponent. This is when Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson decided not to seek reelection rather than face the humiliation of defeat. Republican President Richard M. Nixon succeeded to the presidency and vastly increased the bombings while also calling for negotiations to end the war. Facing an impending defeat and political catastrophe, American troops pulled out in 1973. The CIA and some U.S. military personnel and political advisers remained in diminished South Vietnam assisting the right wing government in Saigon until April 1975 when the entire country was liberated.

The U.S. lost 58,151 troops in the war. Between four and five million Vietnamese civilians and soldiers were killed on both sides in a catastrophe that could have been entirely avoided had Washington allowed the free elections to take place. Over a million civilians in neighboring Laos and Cambodia also were killed or wounded by U.S. firepower.

Vietnam, north and south, was pulverized by U.S. bombs and shells. The Pentagon detonated 15,500,000 tons of ground and air munitions on the three countries of Indochina, 12,000,000 tons on South Vietnam alone in a failed effort to smash the National Liberation Front backed by the North Vietnamese army. By comparison, the U.S. detonated only 6,000,000 tons of ground and air munitions throughout World War II in Europe and the Far East. All told, by the end of the war, 26,000,000 bomb craters pockmarked Indochina, overwhelmingly from U.S. weapons and bombers.

The Pentagon also dumped 18,000,000 gallons of herbicides to defoliate several million acres of farmland and forests. Millions of Vietnamese suffered illness, birth defects and deaths from these poisonous chemicals. The AP recently reported from Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, that “More than 100,000 Vietnamese have been killed or injured by land mines or other abandoned explosives since the Vietnam War ended nearly 40 years ago, and clearing all of the country will take decades more.”

It should also be mentioned — since it will be suppressed during the commemoration — that U.S. forces, including the CIA and the Pentagon-controlled South Vietnamese military, tortured many thousands of “suspected” supporters of the liberation struggle, frequently with portable electrical current. An estimated 40,000 “Vietcong” (suspected members or supporters of the NLF) were murdered during the long-running “Operation Phoenix” assassination campaign conducted by the CIA, Special Forces and killer units of the Saigon forces.

There were three main fronts in the Vietnam war, in this order: First, the battlefields of Indochina. Second, the massive antiwar movement within the United States and international support for Vietnam. Third, the Paris Peace Talks. Well over 60% of the American people opposed the war by the late 1960s-early ’70s. The first peace protest took place in 1962; the first very large protest took place in Washington in 1965. Subsequently there were thousands of antiwar demonstrations large and small in cities, towns, and campuses all over America.

[Disclosure; This writer was a war opponent and a conscientious objector during this period. His information about the war derives from when he functioned as the news editor, managing editor and then chief editor of the largest independent leftist paper in the U.S. at the time, the weekly Guardian. This publication thoroughly covered the war, peace movement, antiwar veterans (Vietnam Veterans Against the War [VVAW] was founded in 1967 and is still active today), the extraordinary resistance of active duty troops in Vietnam and at U.S. bases and COs in prison or in Canada and Europe throughout the period of conflict.]

Most of the allegations about insults directed at solders or vets from war opponents have been fabrications to discredit the antiwar forces — falsehoods Obama chose to repeat as part of the Pentagon’s campaign to reverse history’s negative verdict on the war in Vietnam. The peace movement’s targets were the warmakers in Washington and their allies abroad, not members of a largely conscript army. Perhaps the most notorious of the false accusations were frequent reports about antiwar individuals “spitting” at GIs and vets. The rumors were so wild that sociologist Jerry Lembcke wrote a book exposing the lies — “The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam,” New York University Press, 1998.

It’s extremely doubtful that the war commemoration will dare touch honestly upon the movement of active duty troops against the war and the hundreds of cases killing their own officers.

Historian Howard Zinn included this paragraph on the opposition to the Vietnam War by American soldiers in his “People’s History of the United States”:

“The capacity for independent judgment among ordinary Americans is probably best shown by the swift development of antiwar feeling among American GIs — volunteers and draftees who came mostly from lower-income groups. There had been, earlier in American history, instances of soldiers’ disaffection from the war: isolated mutinies in the Revolutionary War, refusal of reenlistment in the midst of hostilities in the Mexican war, desertion and conscientious objection in World War I and World War II. But Vietnam produced opposition by soldiers and veterans on a scale, and with a fervor, never seen before.”

According to the Washington Peace Center: “During the Vietnam War, the military ranks carried out mass resistance on bases and ships in Southeast Asia, the Pacific, U.S. and Europe. Military resistance was instrumental in ending the war by making the ranks politically unreliable. This history is well documented in ‘Soldiers in Revolt’ by David Cortright and the recent film ‘Sir! No Sir!'”

One of the key reports on GI resistance was written by Col. Robert D. Heinl Jr. and published in the Armed Forces Journal of June 7, 1971. He began: “The morale, discipline and battle worthiness of the U.S. Armed Forces are, with a few salient exceptions, lower and worse than at anytime in this century and possibly in the history of the United States.

“By every conceivable indicator, our army that now remains in Vietnam is in a state approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having refused combat, murdering their officers and non-commissioned officers, drug-ridden, and dispirited where not near mutinous. Elsewhere than Vietnam, the situation is nearly as serious.

“Intolerably clobbered and buffeted from without and within by social turbulence, pandemic drug addiction, race war, sedition, civilian scapegoatise, draftee recalcitrance and malevolence, barracks theft and common crime, unsupported in their travail by the general government, in Congress as well as the executive branch, distrusted, disliked, and often reviled by the public, the uniformed services today are places of agony for the loyal, silent professions who doggedly hang on and try to keep the ship afloat.”

According to the 2003 book by Christian Appy, “Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides,” Gen. Creighton Abrams — the U.S. military commander in Vietnam — made this comment in 1971 after an investigation: “Is this a god-damned army or a mental hospital? Officers are afraid to lead their men into battle, and the men won’t follow. Jesus Christ! What happened?”

Another former Army colonel in Vietnam, Andrew J. Bacevich Sr. (now a professor of international relations at Boston University and a strong opponent of U.S. foreign/military policy) wrote a book about how the U.S. military labored for a dozen years after the defeat to revamp its war strategy and tactics. (“The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War,” Oxford University Press, 2005.) One major conclusion was that a conscript army may become unreliable if the war is considered unjust in nature and unpopular at home. This is why conscription was ended for good and the Pentagon now relies on better paid professional standing military supplemented by a large number of contractors and mercenaries, who perform many duties that were once handled by regular soldiers.

Veterans’ movements from the professional military of contemporary wars, such as Iraq Veterans Against the War and March Forward, as well as from the Vietnam era, are still out in the streets opposing imperialist wars, and public opinion polls reveal that over 60% of the American people oppose the Afghan adventure.

Despite the colossal damage the U.S. inflicted on Vietnam and its people during the war years, the country has emerged from the ashes and is taking steps toward becoming a relatively prosperous society led by the Communist Party. The Hanoi government has received no help from Washington. During the Paris Peace Talks of 1973, Nixon promised Prime Minister Pham Van Dong in writing that the U.S. would pay Vietnam $3.5 billion in reparations. This promise turned out to be worthless.

What strikes visitors to Vietnam in recent years, including this writer, is that the country appears to have come to terms with what it calls the American War far better than America has come to terms with the Vietnam War. Despite the hardships inflicted upon Vietnam, the government and people appear to hold no grudges against the United States.

Hanoi has several times extended the welcome mat to former antagonists, urging Americans and residents of southern Vietnam who now live abroad to “close the past and look to the future.” Wherever touring U.S. citizens — including former GIs — travel in Vietnam, they are met with the same respect as visitors from other countries.

In the U.S., the Vietnam war still evokes fighting words in some quarters. Some Americans still argue that the U.S. “could have won if it didn’t have one hand tied behind its back” (i.e., used nuclear weapons), and some continue to hate the antiwar protesters of yesteryear, just as they do demonstrators against today’s wars. And some others — in Congress, the White House and the Pentagon — still seem to continue fighting the war by organizing a massive propaganda effort to distort the history of Washington’s aggression and unspeakable brutality in Vietnam.

Article link: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=31296

Clinton in Burma: Another US move against China [World Socialist Website]

Posted in Africa, Cambodia, China, Encirclement of China, Hillary Clinton, IMF - International Monetary Fund, Laos, Libya, Myanmar, Obama, Pentagon, Thailand, US imperialism, USA, Vietnam, World War II on December 29, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

“…[Hyped ‘democracy activist’ Aung San] Suu Kyi has endorsed the [hypocritical] US strategy [in Myanmar] in its entirety…” Why am I not surprised? Another in a series of imperialist-sanctified political tools like Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, Dalai Lama, Liu Xiaobo etc. – Zuo Shou

By Peter Symonds
3 December 2011

The three-day visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Burma (Myanmar) this week featured prominent meetings with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and a great deal of hypocritical hype about American support for “democratic rights.” The real aim of Clinton’s visit, however, was to further the Obama administration’s concerted campaign to undermine the influence of China throughout Asia.

The trip—the first by a US Secretary of State for more than 50 years—was announced just two weeks ago at the East Asian Summit, where Obama intensified pressure on China over disputes in the South China Sea. Obama was determined to seize on signs that the Burmese junta was seeking an accommodation with the US to loosen the regime’s close economic and strategic ties with Beijing.

In pointed comments before arriving in Burma, Clinton told an aid conference that developing countries should be “smart shoppers” and be wary of taking assistance from donors — like China — that were [allegedly] more interested “in extracting your resources, than in building your capacity.” The message was obviously addressed to Burma, among others, which is heavily dependent on Chinese economic aid and investment.

Clinton explained that she had come to “test the true intentions” of the junta and would make no significant concessions by Washington. She met with Burmese President Thein Sein on Thursday in the country’s artificial [sic] new capital of Naypyidaw, warning that recent political steps, while welcome, were “just a beginning.” Over the past year, the regime has released Suu Kyi from house arrest, handed nominal power to a civilian president and permitted Suu Kyi and her opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) to run in upcoming by-elections.

The Burmese government is anxious to reach a rapprochement with Washington that would ease its heavy dependence on Beijing, end Western sanctions and allow the transformation of the country into a new cheap labour platform. Thein Sein described Clinton’s visit as “a historic milestone” that he hoped would open a “new chapter in relations.”

In comments reported in Time, presidential political adviser Nay Zin Latt pointed to some of the junta’s motivations. “Before, whether we liked it or not, we had to take what China had to offer. When sanctions are lifted, it will be better for everyone in Myanmar,” he said.

An Asia Times article entitled “China embrace too strong for Naypyidaw” traces the regime’s shifting orientation back to a power struggle that took place in 2004 when then-Prime Minister Khin Nyunt, regarded as “China’s man,” was removed on corruption charges. It pointed to Chinese anger in 2009 over the Burmese army’s treatment of Chinese nationals inside northern Burma and to a recent decision to shelve a major Chinese-funded dam project.

Despite these tensions, the Burmese regime wants to keep Beijing on side. On Monday, prior to Clinton’s arrival, the country’s top general, Min Aung Hlaing, went to Beijing to reassure top Chinese political and military leaders of the junta’s continuing collaboration. Beijing has invested considerable resources in fostering an economic and strategic relationship that provides China with raw materials and direct access to the Indian Ocean.

China has begun energy pipelines through Burma to southern China as part of Beijing’s efforts to limit its reliance on the Malacca Strait to import oil from the Middle East and Africa. The strategy is aimed at countering Pentagon plans to control key “choke points” such as the Malacca Strait and thus have the ability to impose a naval blockade on China.

Speaking on Chinese Central Television, academic Gao Zugui highlighted Beijing’s fears, saying: “The US wants to strengthen relations with lower Mekong countries like Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. We can see this intention is strong, and it is very clearly targetting China.”

Burmese presidential adviser Nay Zin Latt also pointed to events in the Middle East as another motivation for improving relations with the US. “We do not want an Arab Spring here,” he said. The regime is concerned not only about the prospects of wide scale anti-government protests, which it has ruthlessly suppressed in the past, but also about the way in which the US exploited social unrest in Libya to intervene militarily to install a pro-American client regime.

Clinton arrived in Burma with a list of demands, including greater political freedom for the bourgeois opposition led by Suu Kyi; an ending of the protracted conflicts with the country’s ethnic minorities; and inspections of the country’s limited nuclear program by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In return, Clinton offered very little. “We are prepared to go further if the reforms maintain momentum. But history teaches us to be cautious,” she said, adding that “we are not ready to discuss” lifting sanctions. Nor is the US proposing to establish full diplomatic relations with Burma. Clinton indicated only that the US would no longer block financing from international institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund and will support the expansion of UN development grants for health care and small businesses.

Significantly, Clinton invited Burma to join the Lower Mekong Initiative as a means of further loosening its ties to Beijing. The grouping, which includes Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, was created by Washington in 2009 as a means of exerting a greater regional influence. The choice of name was quite deliberate—the “lower” Mekong region by definition excluded the “upper” Mekong inside China. The US is hoping to exploit grievances over China, including the impact of Chinese dam projects on the Mekong River.

Clinton also suggested that the US and Burma collaborate in recovering the remains of about 600 soldiers who died in the country during World War II. The proposal is similar to the joint US activities in Vietnam to locate missing American soldiers. It provides a convenient pretext for establishing direct contact between the Burmese and American military.

Clinton met twice with opposition leader Suu Kyi on Thursday and Friday in Rangoon. The Obama administration is collaborating closely with the Burmese opposition as it seeks to fashion a regime more closely aligned with American interests. Obama rang Suu Kyi from Bali two weeks ago just prior to announcing Clinton’s visit.

Suu Kyi has endorsed the US strategy in its entirety, again demonstrating that the Burmese opposition is not motivated by concerns about the democratic rights of ordinary working people. Rather Suu Kyi represents sections of the Burmese ruling elite who have been marginalised by decades of military rule and are pushing for close ties with Western powers and an opening up of the country to foreign investment.

Having boycotted the junta’s sham elections last year, Suu Kyi has now indicated that she and the NLD will stand in by-elections despite their anti-democratic character. In a video conference with the Council on Foreign Relations, Suu Kyi declared that she trusted President Thein Sein, a former general and longstanding junta apparatchik.

Suu Kyi is hoping to leverage US support to reach an arrangement with the junta that will allow the NLD to have a greater political say and give more economic opportunities to the business layers that support the opposition. Like the junta itself, Suu Kyi has expressed concern that there should be no “Arab Spring” in Burma — that is, no mass protests by the working class and rural masses.

A Wall Street Journal article entitled “Firms see Myanmar as next frontier” pointed to the benefits anticipated by major corporations from any economic opening up of the country. Business delegations are already beginning to flow into Burma keen to exploit its potential markets and rich natural resources, including gas and oil. The article noted Burma’s advantages as a cheap labour platform with “low manufacturing wages”, an intellectual class that speaks English and a legal system rooted in British common law.

While economic considerations are clearly a motivation, the primary aim of the Obama administration is to undercut China’s relations with Burma as it seeks to develop anti-China alliances throughout the region.

Article link: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2011/dec2011/burm-d03.shtml