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Webb Jets to NYC to Meet Another War Criminal

12:09 PM, Sep 28, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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What is it about the Burmese junta that Jim Webb just can't get enough? After traveling to Burma to meet with the junta's top brass in August, he ran over to the Burmese embassy in Washington last weekend to meet with Nyan Win, the junta's foreign minister whom Webb helped secure a visa for a jaunt to the nation's capital (the criminals that run the junta typically aren't allowed any further from the UN than Qaddafi or A'jad or other tyrants). Now we get word from Webb's office that he's jetting up to New York today to meet with the junta's Prime Minister Thein Sein. From the press release:

"I appreciate [United Nations Under-Secretary-General Ambassador Joseph Verner] Reed's initiative in arranging this meeting, and I look forward to continuing the dialogue with Prime Minister Tein Shein that was begun last month," said Webb, who similarly met with Burmese foreign minister Nyan Win last weekend to discuss U.S.-Burma relations....

You know who Webb won't be meeting with: members of Burma's democratic opposition. They aren't so enamored of Webb's work as the self-appointed junta spokesman in the United States. Webb's "efforts have been damaging to our democracy movement" wrote one opposition leader on the Post op-ed page. Another accused Webb of trying to "pressure my country's democracy movement into giving up economic sanctions--the most important tool in our struggle for freedom."

Meanwhile, the Washington Post has an editorial today that does not argue against engagement, but implicitly rebukes the kind of engagement in which Webb has become so deeply engaged. Webb has been calling for Burma's opposition to participate in next year's elections and for the U.S. to ease sanctions. The editors at the Post "hope that discussions lead to tangible progress, in which case the United States might begin to consider easing sanctions," but they ask, "what if they lead to no change in the regime's behavior or in its plan to stage phony elections in 2010 that only entrench military rule?"

Webb doesn't seem to care--he wants Suu Kyi to "fully participate in that country's elections," despite the fact that they will entrench military rule. If Webb were even remotely interested in the welfare of the millions who face routine violence, rape, and murder at the hands of the junta, he would be raising the profile of Burma's democratic opposition. Instead he is conferring legitimacy on the junta with what seem now to be weekly meetings with top Burmese officials who for decades have been persona non grata in the United States. And what is Webb getting in return?