The Blog

At Webb's Junta Love-In, Cont.

6:30 PM, Sep 30, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Credit to Kurt Campbell. At today's Burma hearing he acknowledged that State has handled the Burma policy review very poorly. Last Friday, two senior state officials briefing Hill staff on the results ran into a buzz saw of complaints over the process State used in rolling out their review. The policy was disclosed to foreign governments in New York by Secretary Clinton before anyone on the Hill had a hint as to what was going on. Cambpell scored points for acknowledging the mistake and also clarifying State policy that no sanctions are being lifted until there are meaningful steps taken by Burma's military.

On the other hand, the testimony of one of Senator Webb's witnesses, Thant Myint-U, might as well have been ghost written by Burma's military. His testimony is worth a read if only for the regime cheerleading. If you click into the PDF, search for these words:

Number of hits
Rape (the military's use of): 0
Refugees (from military attacks): 0
Attacks (on ethnic groups): 0
Abuses (as in human rights): 0
Suu Kyi (Burma's democracy icon): l 1

Revealing, to say the least.

In a scolding screed Thant Myint-U blames the U.S. for Burma's problems. He uses the Senate podium to castigate the U.S. for economic sanctions and for not pouring more assistance dollars into Burma. He complains that U.S. assistance to Burma amounts to only $4 per person -- the lowest per capita of the 55 poorest countries. He boasts about Cyclone Nargis opening the country to humanitarian assistance -- a lie. He says nothing about the tens of thousands murdered by the regime when they rejected U.S., British, and French food, water and help in the days following that catastrophe. Humanitarian assistance workers wanting to work in the delta are still denied visas to Burma and forced labor on assistance projects has been documented by no less than Johns-Hopkins University in a report that compiles charges that likely rise to crimes against humanity.

It is worth noting that Thant Myint-U refused to call for the junta to cut spending on their military (one of the largest in Southeast Asia) or halt human rights abuses. One can only assume his doing so would curtail the access and privilege he enjoys among the military on his visits back to Burma.

Burma is at a crossroads where -- to quote his testimony -- "…the demise of current leaders could lead to elite fracture and even state collapse."

OH NO! To think we should be so fortunate.

Dr. David Steinberg, the director of Asian Studies at Georgetown University and another of Webb's witnesses, pointed out that the U.S. through its policy along with others had "created a garrison state" because of sanctions. He pressed his point on trying to reach into the military ranks to cultivate future allies.

To those who believe that Burma's elections offer a way forward, read this from the testimony today of David Williams, a constitutional expert at Indiana University: "even if the 2010 election are free and fair -- which they won't be -- they won't bring about civilian rule because the constitution does not provide for it." He goes on to point out that the constitution gives the military the power to do anything it wants, when it wants. This is what the junta calls the "Burmese way to Democracy."

So now that Senator Webb has had his love-in. What will he do for the junta next?