Sep 302012

From the website, written by Mike Rivero: “VIRTUAL 9-11: Will Israel Hack The US Banking System Computers and Falsely Blame It On Iran?”

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Sep 302012

The Bureau Investigates
Chris Woods

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry has bluntly rejected claims by the Obama administration that it tacitly approves CIA drone strikes on its territory, saying that ‘drone attacks are illegal, counterproductive, in contravention of international law and a violation of Pakistani sovereignty.’
The remarks came after the Wall Street Journal revealed that US claims of legality appear built on a monthly fax from the CIA to its ISI counterpart which goes unanswered, and on Pakistan’s apparent acceptance of  ’no fly zones’ over the tribal areas which enable the drones to operate.
Islamabad’s foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar also waded into the fray, telling an audience in New York that  ’What the drones are trying to achieve, we may not disagree… If they’re going for terrorists — we do not disagree. But we have to find ways which are lawful, which are legal. The use of unilateral strikes on Pakistani territory is illegal.’
According to the Bureau’s data, at least 2,570 people have died since 2004 in 346 US drone strikes. Senior Pakistani officials have labelled the attacks ‘illegal’ on more than a dozen occasions this year. Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK recently told the Guardian that CIA strikes were ‘a violation of the UN charter.’ And on September 24 President Asif Ali Zardari, speaking at the UN General Assembly said that ‘drone strikes and civilian casualties on our territory add to the complexity of our battle for hearts and minds through this epic struggle.’
Despite these public protests, US officials still hint that they have Pakistan’s tacit permission to carry out the attacks. Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan insisted recentlythat ‘We do not use force whenever we want, wherever we want… The United States of America respects national sovereignty and international law.’
Drone attacks are illegal, counterproductive, in contravention of international law and a violation of Pakistani sovereignty.’
Pakistan Foreign Ministry September 28 2012
According to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal, that ‘respect’ rests on tenuous grounds, and it is causing concern among some senior Obama administration officials about the legality of the attacks. One described US policy as ‘cowboy behaviour’.
No Pakistani officials have any input or say into the CIA bombing campaign, the paper reports. Instead, once a month the CIA sends a fax to Pakistan’s spy agency the ISI outlining ‘the boundaries of the airspace the drones would use—large areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border referred to as flight “boxes” because they are shaped like three-dimensional rectangles in the sky.’
For at least 17 months nobody at the ISI has acknowledged or answered the faxes.
Kill Boxes
Those ‘flight boxes’ are better known as Restricted Operating Zones, precise military jargon for a three-dimensional air exclusion or ‘kill zone’. These enable other air traffic to go safely over or around ongoing combat or surveillance operations. Pakistan and the US may never have signed a formal agreement on the drone strikes – but in order to avoid collision between aircraft such zones have been in place over  the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA), for some years.
Their existence is confirmed in a secret US diplomatic cable dated March 24 2008. Admiral Mike Mullen, US chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, was in Islamabad to meet with Pakistan’s chief of the army staff (and now head of the army) General Ashfaq Kayani. Mullen secretly ‘asked Kayani for his help in approving a third Restricted Operating Zone for US aircraft over the FATA,’ the US embassy noted at the time.
The zones are not connected to the US and NATO air traffic corridor above Pakistan. Another secret cable dated December 14 2007 identifies that route as The Boulevard, noting that up to 150 Coalition aircraft were then using it daily.
All but two CIA strikes have taken place inside FATA, suggesting that the CIA restricts itself to defined ‘kill boxes.’ US officials believe they have ‘permission’ from Islamabad to carry out the drone strikes because ‘Pakistan continues to clear airspace in the targeted areas,’ the Wall Street Journal reports.
The United States of America respects national sovereignty and international law.’
John Brennan, US chief counter terrorism advisor
However a western defence analyst – who asked to remain anonymous because of his links to the Pakistan military – warned that consent should not simply be assumed. ‘They [Pakistan] know full well that they would have something set on them if they tried to enter these boxes. It’s more likely the Pakistan air force and army are instead turning a blind eye.’
Former president Pervez Musharraf recently said that regardless of what it wanted, Pakistan was too weak militarily to oppose US attacks, and certainly could not shoot down the CIA’s drones as some proposed: ‘You cannot do it… If the air force does it, let’s see how they confront the joint might of the coalition forces.’
There is concern too in some parts of Washington. US congressman Dennis Kucinich told the Bureau that he and others in Congress questioned the legality of US strikes: ‘If in fact Pakistan has made this request and asked us to stop and we continue this bombing, then we are at war with Pakistan.’
Foreign Ministry spokesperson later said that Islamabad ‘categorically rejected the insinuation made in the [Wall Street Journal] report’ and that ’there can be no question of Pakistan’s agreement to such attacks.’
Follow chrisjwoods on Twitter.
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Sep 302012


London is allowing British security giant G4S help the Israeli regime in its violation of the Geneva Conventions on the rights of the victims of war despite the government’s obligation to protect those rights.

According to corporate accountability campaigners, G4S has a contract with the Israeli Prison Authority to provide services to several Israeli detention facilities, including those keeping Palestinian prisoners transferred from the West Bank, British Labour MP Lisa Nandy wrote in an article for the New Statesman.

Nandy said the British government has confirmed that Tel Aviv’s policy of detaining Palestinian prisoners violates Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The regime’s military courts have imprisoned an estimated 730,000 Palestinian men, women and children since 1967.

Many of the inmates have been moved to the Palestinians’ Occupied Territories in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention while Tel Aviv has also breached article 37 of the convention by restricting children in conditions that leave them without family contacts.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Prison Service has acknowledged to holding at least 285 Palestinians in administrative detention without charge or trail.

This comes as G4S continues to operate in Israeli detention centers, including in Ofer Prison, where the company’s services are linked with military trial of Palestinian prisoners.

While the Geneva Conventions do not apply to companies, they do apply to governments and the British government can simply intervene in G4S’s services in the Israeli regime’s prisons but it refuses to do so.

G4S has promised to end its contracts in Israeli prisons but has not announced a deadline.

The British government seems as unwilling to end G4S’s contracts with Tel Aviv.

Nandy quoted Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt as saying “provision of services in [the Occupied Territories] is a matter for G4S” and not for the British government.

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Sep 302012

Ian Birrell

He’s the tough-on-crime Republican radically overhauling the criminal justice system – with rehabilitation programmes

I am getting the biggest bang possible for taxpayers’ bucks while
achieving something positive for society”: Judge Robert Francis. 

The motley gaggle of miscreants shuffles into the court, lining up silently in three rows on the benches. There are some 20 of them, men and women of all ages, most with long records of theft, violence and weapons misuse, and all with hardcore drug problems. I am passed their court biographies; the top one describes a man who has spent 12 years in jail, has 26 convictions over two decades and lists his “drugs of choice” as cocaine and heroin.
While Felin Bell’s fellow convicts look like they have walked straight off the set of a Hollywood crime caper, he is a portly man in a smart check shirt who could pass as a middle manager. Almost before he has sat down, he is picked out by the judge as the week’s shining star, commended for his positive attitude and sent home as a reward. “You look surprised – you shouldn’t be,” he is told.
Already it is clear this Dallas court for drug offenders is no normal court. As proceedings unfold, it seems like therapy crossed with a reality television show. The judge doesn’t wear a robe, seldom sits on the bench and swears a lot. His name is Robert Francis, a fast-talking 52-year-old Republican, a rock fan and a keen hunter who proudly showed me, in his office before proceedings started, the heads of huge hogs he has shot.
As the offenders troop in, he warns if anyone lies or bullshits he will go “fucking ballistic”. Then he discusses the difficulties of staying straight as he dissects their jobs, their families, their desires for the future. He responds to their comments with bawdy jokes, short homilies or sharp threats. “Stay positive, brother,” one man is told, while another is warned: “You might think I’m crazy but I’m the crazy bastard who can put you back in jail.”
There are outbursts of applause, then cheers for a young man who looks embarrassed as he reveals he got married two days earlier. The judge tells a woman who has started helping her mother around the home that she makes him proud. “You gotta be proud, too,” he says.
Until recently, these people would have been discarded in overcrowded prisons. After all they were caught in Texas – the toughest state of a nation that locks up more offenders than any other in the world, with more than one in every 100 adults behind bars. Instead they receive counselling and assistance with housing and employment, although they can be sent back to jail if they fail drug tests, abscond or reoffend. One woman, a crystal meth addict, tells me the sessions in court are like walking on eggshells. But there are small incentives for those doing well, such as $10 gift vouchers or – on the day I visited – barbecue lunch out with Francis. “These people have to believe we care and want them to succeed,” he tells me later. “Once they believe in me they can start to change.”
They are beneficiaries of a revolution in justice sweeping the United States, one with illuminating lessons for Britain. It is a revolt led by hardline conservatives who have declared prison a sign of state failure. They say it is an inefficient use of taxpayers’ money when the same people, often damaged by drink, drugs, mental health problems or chaotic backgrounds, return there again and again.
Remarkably, this revolution was unleashed in “hang ’em high” Texas, which prides itself on its toughness and still holds more executions than other states. But instead of building more prisons and jailing ever more people, Texas is now diverting funds to sophisticated rehabilitation programmes to reduce recidivism. Money has been poured into probation, parole and specialist services for addicts, the mentally ill, women and veterans. And it has worked: figures show even violent crime dropping at more than twice the national average, while cutting costs and reducing prison populations.
In the process, right-wingers have allied with liberals who long advocated such an approach, detoxifying one of the most poisonous political debates at a time when US party divisions have never been sharper. “This used to be one of the most emotive and ideologically divisive issues in the country,” says Adam Gelb of the Pew Center on the States, a social-policy research charity which is backing the initiative. “We are starting to see the triumph of sound science over soundbites.
“There is not agreement on the causes of crime or even the purpose of punishment,” Gelb continues, “but there is agreement on the solutions. Liberals and conservatives are getting to the same destination from very different routes.” Now the Texan tactics are being adopted in other “deep red” republican states such as Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and South Carolina, while well-known conservatives flock to promote the cause, including Newt Gingrich, Jeb Bush, Bobby Jindal and Grover Norquist. It is a Nixon in China moment. “The fact that it began in Texas has resonated around the country,” says Gelb. “We hear again and again that if Texas can do it, then it cannot be soft on crime.”
Just as in BRITAIN, it has been an iron rule in US politics that candidates win elections by talking tough on crime. The result has been a wave of stiff sentencing laws which, combined with the backfiring “war on drugs”, mean that the prison population is currently growing 13 times more quickly than the general population. As a result, a nation with 5% of the global population accounts for 25% of prisoners worldwide – and is spending £43bn a year keeping them there. The criminal justice system also stands accused of worsening racial inequality, with Hispanic men three times as likely to be locked up as white men and black men nearly seven times more likely. According to a landmark Pew report, one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars.

Texas typified the trend. Just eight years ago, it had the highest incarceration rate in the world, with one in 20 adults in prison, on parole or on probation. The biggest deficit in state history had led to cuts in probation, giving judges little alternative but to increase prison admissions.
In 2006, however, a political earthquake started to shake conventional wisdoms. It began when the state budget highlighted the need for $2bn for seven new prisons to accommodate a predicted 17,700 extra inmates by 2012. When Republican stalwart Jerry Madden was appointed chairman of the house corrections committee, the part of the state government responsible for criminal justice, jail and parole, he was asked to avoid building more prisons since they were too expensive.
The white-haired Madden is an unlikely hero of prison reform. A fan of George W Bush and sympathetic to the Tea Party, he happily describes himself as “a typical Texan Republican – which makes me very conservative when viewed nationally”. He admits that when he took over the committee, he knew nothing about the subject and had no interest in what has since become his life’s mission. But he was trained as an engineer and, with an open mind, set about working out solutions. Perhaps it helps that he is at the end of his political career – when we meet, he is packing up his office in Austin, having announced his retirement. “I’m not interested in the feel-good stuff, I’m interested in what works,” he says. “And since my job was not to build more prisons, I had to investigate the alternatives.”
Madden turned to Tony Fabelo, a former adviser to both Democrat and Republic governors, for evidence to defeat the “lock ’em up and throw away the key” lobby. Fabelo’s figures were frightening: in just two decades incarceration rates in Texas had risen from 226 people to 691 people per 100,000 residents, yet other states with slower growth rates saw faster falls in crime. Meanwhile, one in three Texan inmates was back behind bars within three years. “They had created a totally broken system,” says Madden.
Fabelo told Madden to focus on short-term facilities to tackle the underlying problems of repeat offenders, such as substance abuse and mental health problems. He suggested spending $240m on these services – under half the amount earmarked for new prisons that year – and pointed out that every dollar spent in this way saved at least $2 in the long run. Each prisoner, after all, costs $50 a day.
Madden looked at the numbers and took a leap of faith. He went on the attack, using traditional right-wing arguments to subvert those seeking hardline penal policies. “We moved the issue from one of being soft on criminals to one of being smart over the use of money. If you are keeping people in prison who do not need to be there, then that is a waste of taxpayers’ money.
“We call it the department of corrections, so we should try our best to correct people, not just incarcerate them,” Madden continues. “Some people deserve to be in prison until they die, but you don’t fill up prisons with people we are mad at who have done dumb things in their lives. You try to change their behaviour.”
Few typify this better than Jose Barajas. As this bulky 31-year-old man told me his life story a shy smile flashed occasionally across his face; when it did so he looked almost like the sweet kid whose father was taken into the desert and shot dead by rival gangsters. Jose was just 11 then.
In subsequent years Jose drank hard, took lots of drugs and was determined no one would get the chance to take advantage of him like the men who murdered his father or abused his mother. “Me and my pistol was enough,” he tells me. “I felt like a cowboy in the Wild West. I did a lot of robberies, a lot of carjackings, all sort of other things.”
Barajas was furious at a world that seemed unforgiving. One night, off his head at a party, he decided to die in a blaze of glory. “I wanted to go out with a suicide by cop, get them to shoot me down,” he said. “So when the police came I started shouting at them, taunting them, but they refused to shoot me. I was so angry I did not die. Now I realise how selfish that would have been to my family and kids.”
Given his record, Barajas was looking at a long stretch in prison when he was arrested. Instead he is working as a roofer, trying to be a good dad and nursing ambitions to open his own tyre shop. “I always thought I was on my own and never understood all my anger,” he says. “I’m not saying I don’t have bad days and bad experiences, because of course I do, but I am confident I am going to make it.”
There are only two ways to cut prison populations: slow down the flow of people entering the system or speed up the numbers being released. Texas did both. Figures reveal that crime rates fell 8.3% in 2011, far outpacing national falls, with murder and robbery rates down about 15%. Property crime fell 10 times faster than in the rest of the country. Meanwhile, despite the soaring state population, prisoner numbers dropped by 2,500 last year.
Probation services used to rely on little more than gut feelings to determine if inmates might get into trouble again. Now they use sophisticated risk-analysis tools that have cut the number of low-risk offenders who reoffend within a year from 26% to under 1%. “We kept asking politicians to listen to us,” says Geraldine Nagy, head of probation in Travis County. “But I thought the idea that prison was the only option was so ingrained in the minds of so many people we would never get this shift.”
At the root of the reforms is an idea alien to many on the right: to understand more and condemn less. “The people we are dealing with are not like you and me,” Judge Francis told me. “I found this a shock. I grew up in a house with married parents, both of whom had college degrees. I thought this was normal, but now I know it isn’t.”
The vast majority of people parading through his court come from broken homes, failed to graduate from school, began using drugs in their teens and had children before they were 20. “These people are preconceived to have a harder path through life than the likes of us,” he said. “I don’t even say we offer rehabilitation. We are trying to provide 18 years of parenting in one year of drug court.”
Francis’s 15-strong team deals every year with about 320 offenders, who typically spend six months in special treatment units in prison, then a year attending court several times a week with regular drug testing, followed by a decade on probation. Recent graduates include Lavoris Neal, a smartly dressed 33-year-old who grins as he tells me his check shirt, chinos and shiny black shoes cost $12 from a thrift store. He never knew his father, had an illiterate mother, was drinking by the age of eight, delivering drugs by 12 and using them the next year. “I thought this was normal,” he said. “No one told me I was raised wrong, and when they did I was in tears. But I was a kid and did what I was told.”
Soon he was armed and dangerous and using PCP – a hallucinogen that leads to paranoia. He stole, shot at people, went on the run from police for months. When I ask what was the worst thing he did, he smiles. “I’ve not been caught for some things.” Then he pulls out some documents from a folder. “Look at this,” he says. “I’ve never had insurance for a car before.”
Now this energetic character works as a business consultant, has twins on the way with a new partner and spends his leisure time devouring political biographies at the local library. “I never want to know that person I was again,” says Neal. “This was the best thing that could have happened to me. I feel like I am starting life completely afresh.”
The revolution that began in Texas and is sweeping conservative America remains in its infancy; the hope is it will also reach this country, which locks up more prisoners than anywhere else in Europe and where debate is stagnant. Whatever populist politicians say, it is far tougher to force people to change errant behaviour than it is to simply slam them behind bars. Yet all the evidence shows this approach cuts both crime and the costs of incarceration. As Judge Francis says: “What I am doing here is the most conservative thing possible. I am getting the biggest bang possible for the bucks of taxpayers and achieving something positive for society at the same time.”
The author travelled to Texas on a grant from Make Justice Work (

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Sep 302012
Project Censored
Andy Lee Roth

The initial US response to the deadly attack on the nation’s Libyan embassy includes deploying spies, Marines, and drones. Currentreports indicate that US drones operating in Libyan airspace will be limited to surveillance. But the decision to deploy them in this highly volatile situation ought to force American citizens to reflect on a somber anniversary. It warns against believing that drones provide a costless way to curb our terrorist enemies.
Americans should remember September 30, 2011, the day that drones unleashed by the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) targeted American citizen Anwar Al-Aulaqi, killing him and at least three other people, including a second US citizen, Samir Khan. Al-Aulaqi had been on CIA and JSOC “kill lists” since late 2009 or early 2010, and the target of previous drone strikes. Although US officials alleged that Khan was not a target in the September 2011 strike, they contended that he too played an active role in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. A subsequent US drone strike in Yemen on October 14, 2011, killed seven people, including Al-Aulaqi’s 16-year old son, Abdulrahman, also an American citizen.
Their deaths were part of an ongoing, systematic program of US drone strikesagainst suspected terrorists in countries outside the context of armed conflict. The US has conducted targeted killings in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia since 2002, though this campaign intensified dramatically in 2009 after President Obama took office.
The anniversary of Anwar Al-Aulaqi’s death underscores two interrelated and intractable problems with our reliance on drones. Internationally, drones intensify our enemies’ resolve because dronesno less than the suicide bombers and roadside devices that Americans have come to dread, are instruments of terror and lawless death. Domestically, drone strikes against US citizens on foreign soil usurp even the pretense of legal due process.
Force, Simone Weil once observed, is pitilessly intoxicating to those who possess it. So it is not surprising that neither the American public nor their leaders have sought an informed public debate about the use of drones for targeted killings. Does their deployment makegood sense in terms of national security? Is the nation’s drone-based response to terrorism even legal under the US constitution and international law?
By invoking vague, shifting legal standards and asserting secrecy in the name of national security, government officials, including President Obama himself, have effectively situated the drone campaign on the periphery of public concern. With few exceptions, the corporate media have followed officials’ leads.
Government officials seldom provide the public with evidence that targeted individuals posed specific and imminent threats, except for the assertion that they were “on the list.” This was true in Al-Aulaqi’s case. Government officials, including Obama’s counterterrorism chief Michael Leiter, compared al-Aulaqi to Osama bin Laden. Just as exaggerated descriptions of bin Laden as a “terrorist mastermind” oversimplified the complexity of Islamist terrorist networks, so comparisons of Al-Aulaqi to bin Laden overemphasized al-Aulaqi’s importance to Al Qaeda and his threat to US security. The corporate media dutifully conveyed these official views while describing Al-Aulaqi as an “alleged” or “suspected” terrorist.
By and large, the American public seems to have accepted the government’s argument of guilt by assertion and rhetorical association: A February 2012opinion poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News found that 83 percent of Americans approved of drone strikes against terrorists overseas, including 65 percent who approved even when “those suspected terrorists are American citizens living in other countries.”
Neither President Obama nor Republican challenger Mitt Romney has shown any inclination to make targeted killings a campaign issue. Overshadowed by the hoopla of the Democratic National Convention, President Obama conducted a brief, formal interview with CNN’s Jessica Yellin in which he acknowledged that drones are “one tool we use” in order “to keep the American people safe.” Obama affirmed that targets must be “authorized by our laws” and pose threats that are “serious and not speculative.” In response to Yellin’s question, “Are the standards different when the target is an American?” Obama avowed that American citizens “are subject to the protections of the constitution and due process.” Neither Yellin nor Obama mentioned Al-Aulaqi, and Yellin chose not pursue the contradiction between the President’s claim and the facts regarding September 30, 2011.
A combination of divided oversight and economic conflicts of interest have kept Congress from effectively holding the White House, the CIA, or JSOC accountable. As theWashington Post’s Greg Miller has reported, congressional lawmakers “receive scant information about the administration’s drone program,” and executive claims of secrecy typically muzzle them from discussing the little information they do receive. Meanwhile, drone manufacturers—including Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and General Atomics—lobby Congress for increasingly lucrative federal contracts through industry organizations such as AUVSI, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. AUVSI lobbyists and similar industry groups meet willing sponsors in Congress: The House of Representatives has its own drone caucus with over fifty bipartisan members. Divided oversight and corporate lobbying combine to render Congress ineffective in challenging the White House, CIA, and JSOC on drones.
In June 2012, a sharply worded letter to President Obama from Rep. Dennis Kucinich and 25 additional members of Congress questioned the authority for so-called “signature” strikes, characterizing drones as “faceless ambassadors” that cause both civilian deaths and “powerful and enduring anti-American sentiment.” Corporate media all but ignored this congressional rebuke, thus contributing to a counter-democratic dynamic in which the American public is unaware of developing Congressional opposition, while a majority in Congress will not take a position against targeted killing until their constituents demand that they do so.
Due to the persistence of civil rights groups, the courts may be the first branch of government to hold the illegal drone campaign’s commanders accountable. A July 2012 lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union names Defense Secretary and former CIA Director Leon Panetta, Commander of US Special Operations Command William McRaven, JSOC Commander Joseph Votel, and CIA Director David Petraeus as defendants in the deaths of Anwar Al-Aulaqi, Samir Khan, and Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi. Al-Aulaqi v. Panetta argues that the targeted killing of Anwar Al-Aulaqi was not “a last resort to protect against a concrete, specific, and imminent threat of death or serious physical injury” and is therefore a violation of both the US Constitution and international human rights law. It also charges that the defendants failed in their obligations, under the Constitution and international law, “to take measures to prevent harm to Samir Khan, Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi, and other bystanders.”
As present, the government’s global drone campaign operates with minimal transparency, accountability, or oversight. The lawsuit could force the defendants to reveal the process used to determine that Al-Aulaqi must die and the evidence for that decision. If Rep. Kucinich is right—drone strikes pose significant threats to national security because they promote widespread, powerful anti-American sentiment—then the court’s decision in Al-Aulaqi v. Panetta could do more to protect the US and its citizens than was accomplished by the targeted killing of Al-Aulaqi and other alleged terrorists. The case could sober the American public enough to reckon with the reality that, although drones seem a costless substitute for boots on the ground, our intoxication with them threatens our national security and our most cherished values.
Andy Lee Roth, PhD, is associate director of Project Censored and co-editor of Censored 2013: Dispatches from the Media Revolution, which includes the study on which this analysis is based.

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Sep 302012
Global Research
Nile Bowie

The sectarian violence in Myanmar’s western state of Arakan began in June 2012, and the plight of the persecuted Rohingya ethnic group has since created an international uproar. Displays of solidarity with the predominantly Muslim Rohingya people have been most potent throughout the Islamic world, with a broad spectrum of support ranging from moderate political leaders to extremist groups.

While rights advocacy groups robustly condemn Myanmar’s government for its role in the conflict, evidence suggests that the overwhelming majority of violence was attributed to rioting civilians from both the ethnic Rakhine Buddhist community and the ethnic Rohingya Muslim community. The initial violence broke out on May 28th after reports circulated that a Buddhist Rakhine woman was raped and killed by three Muslim men in the town of Ramri. Buddhist communities throughout the state responded by circulating an incendiary pamphlet containing details of the crime. This only served to enflame the already tense situation in Arakan, precipitating a series of events that would draw the attention and condemnation of much of the world.

On June 3rd, a large group of Rakhine villagers in Toungop stopped a bus and brutally killed 10 Muslims on board. In response to this contemptible act of brutality, several thousand Rohingya rioted in the town of Maungdaw on June 8th, destroying Rahkine property and killing an unknown number of predominately Buddhist villagers. These events prompted large-scale, sectarian violence that quickly swept through the Arakan State capital of Sittwe and surrounding localities. Mobs from both communities stormed unsuspecting villages, killing residents and destroying homes, businesses, and places of worship. Given the extreme poverty and sparse government security presence in the region, residents armed themselves with machetes, sticks, sharpened bamboo spears and other basic weapons in order to defend themselves. Vast stretches of homes, businesses, and property from both communities were completely destroyed, leaving thousands of residents displaced.

These events elicited an international outcry, with much of the world showing sympathy for the Rohingya communities who have long suffered systematic discrimination under Myanmar’s military junta that continues today under the newly elected civilian government. During the British colonial occupation, the lack of political borders between Arakan and Bengal (presently referred to as Bangladesh) caused the Muslim population to surge prior to Myanmar’s independence. It is precisely this migration that Burmans interpret to be evidence of the community’s illegal status. [1] Since 1982, a citizenship law passed by the former military government has excluded the Rohingya from citizenship, effectively rendering them stateless. Although records of Rohingya settlements in Arakan date back to the late 7th century, successive governments have asserted that the Rohingya are foreigners with no right to live in Myanmar, a view shared by much of the Arakan population and much of the dominant Burman ethnic group throughout the country.

The communal violence in Arakan has created a refugee crisis for neighboring Bangladesh – a nation of extreme poverty and high rates of population growth – which is not well prepared to cope with an influx of refugees. According to the United Nations Human Rights Agency (UNHCR), Bangladesh is currently host to some 29,000 recognized refugees who are housed in camps and receive international aid, as well as several thousand undocumented Rohingya living in makeshift communities. [2] Additionally, rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report on the violence in Arakan state titled, “The Government Could Have Stopped This,” which alleges that Myanmar’s security forces initially stood by without intervening during the early stages of the unrest, before joining in with Rakhine mobs to target Rohingya communities. While it must be noted that the credibility of HRW’’s reports have come under scrutiny even from founder Robert Bernstein, who accuses the organization of using poor research methods and politicizing their testimony, the content published by HRW examining the violence in Arakan gives a general indication of what occurred. [3]

HRW’s report acknowledges the difficulty of verifying credible information and is based on 57 interviews with eyewitnesses and affected individuals, all of whom remain anonymous. Contrary to the popular perception of Rohingyas being victimized by unprovoked violence, the report concedes that members of the Muslim community indeed used brutal tactics of violence:

   A 31-year-old Arakan mother of five told Human Rights Watch how a large group of Rohingya entered her village outside Sittwe around June 12 and killed her husband. She said the government had provided no security. “They killed him right there in the village,” she said. “His arm was cut off and his head was nearly cut off. He was 35 years old.” A 40-year-old Arakan man in Sittwe said, “The government didn’t help us. We had no food, no shelter, and no security [when we fled], but we protected ourselves using sticks and knives.” [4]

The report further details how local law enforcement, military personnel, and border patrol officers targeted Rohingya groups in the ensuing riots; a quite plausible scenario. This is followed in the report by hysterical accusations of systematic rape against Rohingyas carried out by security forces, a likely exaggerated claim. In the Libyan conflict 2011, HRW played a vital role in publishing accusations that Muammar Gaddafi’s forces took part in campaigns of mass rape. [5] Advocacy groups later questioned these allegations, leading some to accuse NGOs of knowingly publishing false claims. [6] The dominant theme throughout the report of unrest in Myanmar is the absence of security forces and their general inactivity. HRW also reports the prevalence of anti-Muslim sentiment being disseminated by Myanmar’s Buddhist monks:

   Some Rohingya in displacement camps told Human Rights Watch that some Burmese soldiers had shown great compassion and gone to the market on their behalf to purchase rice and other necessities, but that their willingness to do so has since stopped. The soldiers’ refusal to informally help Rohingya buy food correlates with a local campaign by Arakan Buddhist monks—the most revered members of local Arakan society—who have distributed pamphlets advocating for separation of the communities and imploring the Arakan people to exclude Muslims in every way. “They are eating our rice and staying near our houses,” the author of one pamphlet told Human Rights Watch. “So we will separate. We need to protect the Arakan people…. We don’t want any connection to the Muslim people at all.” [7]

Myanmar’s President Thein Sein, whose administration instituted the most substantial economic and social reforms in decades, shocked many by telling the United Nations refugee agency that the Rohingya were not welcome, stating, “We will take responsibility for our ethnic people but it is impossible to accept the illegally entered Rohingyas, who are not our ethnicity. We will send them away if any third country would accept them, this is what we are thinking is the solution to the issue.” [8] Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, whose movement has long received diplomatic and financial support from Britain and the United States, has disenchanted many international sympathizers by remaining willfully silent on the issue. It is essential to understand that the immigration policies of the Burman-dominated national political system remain consistent within both the ruling national government and Suu Kyi’s opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), especially when dealing with the issue of the Rohingya:

   “The Rohingya are not our citizens.” – Nyan Win, National League for Democracy Spokesperson

   “There is no ethnic group named Rohingya in our country.” – Khin Yi, Immigration Minister [9]

Popular Ethno-Sectarian Nationalism & Democracy Promotion

Decades of international isolation under the rule of a paranoid and superstitious military elite have perpetuated the chauvinistic and xenophobic traits of the Theravada Buddhist culture practiced in Myanmar. In attempts to prevent political fragmentation, official mythology has long encouraged a sense of racial and moral superiority among the majority Burman Buddhists – who comprise 60 percent of the population – to the detriment of the nation’s many diverse ethnic and religious minority groups. Built on the foundations of Myanmar’s contemporary culture of national pride and militarism, the former regime perpetuated propaganda warning against multiculturalism, alleging that the health and purity of a uniquely Burman form of Buddhism were at risk from external contamination. Dr. Maung Zarni, an exiled dissident and research fellow at the London School of Economics, writes:

   Burmese society as a whole remains illiberal and potently ethno-nationalist. The dominant Burmese worldview continues to rest on an enervating combination of pre-colonial feudalism, religious mysticism, belief in racial purity and statist militarism. This is a potent and poisonous combination. [10]

Zarni also highlights how the politics of Buddhist nationalism greatly restrict Suu Kyi’s options as she pursues reform, especially when dealing with the issue of Rohingya persecution. Zarni writes, “Politically, Aung San Suu Kyi has absolutely nothing to gain from opening her mouth on this, she is no longer a political dissident trying to stick to her principles. She’s a politician and her eyes are fixed on the prize, which is the 2015 majority Buddhist vote.” [11] Since being elected to parliament, Suu Kyi’s focus has been in the realm encouraging foreign investment; it is unlikely that she will use her platform to encourage racial tolerance. As she writes in her 1985 book Burma and India, for the Burman “racial psyche,” Buddhism “represents the perfected philosophy. It therefore follows that there [is] no need to either to develop it further or to consider other philosophies.” [12] Despite the liberal reforms undertaken by the civilian government, popular ethno-nationalist sentiment is pervasive, especially among communities of Buddhist monks.

In Myanmar, the revered status of monks prompted religious leaders to trigger a failed uprising against the former military junta during the 2007 Saffron Revolution, a policy directive funded and supported by the United States and British governments. A report issued in 2006 by Burma Campaign UK entitled “Failing the People of Burma?” offers valuable insight into the “democracy promotion” efforts of Western governments. The report cites a statement issued by the US Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs on October 30, 2003:

   “The restoration of democracy in Burma is a priority U.S. policy objective in Southeast Asia. To achieve this objective, the United States has consistently supported democracy activists and their efforts both inside and outside Burma…Addressing these needs requires flexibility and creativity. Despite the challenges that have arisen, United States Embassies Rangoon and Bangkok as well as Consulate General Chiang Mai are fully engaged in pro-democracy efforts. The United States also supports organizations, such as the National Endowment for Democracy, the Open Society Institute and Internews, working inside and outside the region on a broad range of democracy promotion activities. U.S.-based broadcasters supply news and information to the Burmese people, who lack a free press. U.S. programs also fund scholarships for Burmese who represent the future of Burma. The United States is committed to working for a democratic Burma and will continue to employ a variety of tools to assist democracy activists.” [13]

The US State Department, through the National Endowment for Democracy and the Open Society Institute, have financially supported dissident media both within and outside of Myanmar, including the New Era Journal, the Irrawaddy, the Democratic Voice of Burma, Radio Free Asia, the Voice of America, in addition to supporting organizations affiliated with Aung San Suu Kyi. [14] The popularity enjoyed by Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party within Myanmar is largely attributable to her affiliation with networks of Buddhist monks that have championed her cause. In a September 2012 article titled, “Monks stage anti-Rohingya march in Myanmar,” AFP reported that many of the same monks who took part in 2007’s Saffron Revolution in support of Suu Kyi had now rallied behind President Thein Sein and his position on expelling the Rohingya. [15] Reports describe Wirathu, referred to in popular media as an “activist monk,” who rallied against Rohingyas and long advocated the release of political prisoners.

Ironically, Human Rights Watch reports that Wirathu was arrested in 2003 and sentenced to 25 years in prison along with other monks for their role in inciting violent clashes between Buddhists and Muslims. [16] Though he was later granted amnesty and released, his conduct hardly describes that of a “political prisoner.” HRW reports that organizations such as the Young Monks Association received support from Aung San Suu Kyi’s political movement – the same organization now inciting violence, calling for the expulsion of the Rohingya community. [17] In an article entitled, “Burma’s monks call for Muslim community to be shunned,” the Independent mentions the Young Monks Association as one of the groups involved in distributing anti-Rohingya propaganda flyers and attempting to block humanitarian aid from reaching Rohingya camps. [18] Ashin Htawara, another prominent exiled dissident and Buddhist monk encouraged Myanmar’s government to send Rohingya people “back to their native land” at an event in London hosted by the anti-Rohingya Burma Democratic Concern. [19] After fleeing Myanmar in 2007 following the Saffron Revolution, he continued to enthusiastically support the NLD, stating, “Aung San Suu Kyi is my special leader.”

In response to his comments toward the Rohingya community, Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK, stated: “We were shocked to have [Ashin Htawara] propose to us that there should be what amounts to concentration camps for the Rohingya.” [20] Additionally, prominent democracy activists within the country such as Ko Ko Gyi, a former political prisoner, maintain that “the Rohingya are not a Burmese ethnic group. The root cause of the violence… comes from across the border.” [21] Myanmar’s nascent media freedom has developed in surprising ways, with social media users calling for ethnic cleansing of the kalar, a pejorative term used to demean people with Indian features. Foreign Policy reports of a popular backlash against foreign media outlets such as the BBC, while the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma recently fell victim to cyber attacks for their position on the Rohingya issue. [22]

The Role of Saudi-linked Terror Networks in Arakan

Appalling poverty, state-sponsored discrimination, and an absence of basic education are only some of the attributes that make Arakan state fertile ground for ideological extremism, especially as Rohingya feel pressured to preserve their cultural and religious identity. In his book, “The Talibanization of Southeast Asia” author Bilveer Singh describes how many of the predominantly Sunni Rohingya population population have opted for jihad in resentment following the destruction of their holy sites and removal of citizenship rights in 1982. Singh acknowledges that few Muslims in Myanmar have advocated armed struggle, but notes that groups such as the Bangladesh-based Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO), as well as Myanmar’s most prominent political Islamic organization, the Arakan Rohingya National Organization (ARNO), have historically maintained links with foreign organizations such as al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. [23]

ARNO originated from the Arakan-based Mujahid Party, formed in 1947 with the aim of creating an autonomous Muslim state within the then-Federal Union of Burma. The group changed its name several times before shifting its objective to forming an autonomous state specifically for Rohingya. ARNO, in its contemporary form, is the result of a merger between three groups long marred by disunity and infighting: the Arakan Rohingya Islamic Front, the Rohingya Solidarity Organization, and the Rohingya National Alliance. The UNHCR’s official chronology of Rohingya civilization in Myanmar cites the insurgent activity of Islamic groups from 1991 onwards:

   At a secret camp deep in the jungle, run by the RSO [Rohingya Solidarity Organization], young Muslims are training to make war on the Buddhist military government of Burma. The goal of the rebels, calling themselves Mujahideen, is to restore the once independent Muslim homeland of Arakan on Burma’s west coast. It was an independent Muslim kingdom from 1430 to 1784 and now is the only Muslim majority province in Burma. [24]

Upon merging into ARNO, a new Central Committee was formed with Nurul Islam as President. Singh writes of Islam that he “has become a symbol of hope and confidence for the entire Rohingya people.” [25] Confidential diplomatic cables from the American Embassy in Yangon released by Wikileaks in July 2012 cite Myanmarese intelligence documents highlighting ARNO’s connections with al-Qaeda and other insurgent groups, and reveal that ARNO President Nurul Islam had departed to Saudi Arabia and onward to the United States:

   ARNO group had an estimated strength of about 200 insurgents, of whom about 170 are equipped with a variety of arms. According to Fayos Ahmed, ARNO Military-in-Charge, Salem Ulah, had contacts with Al-Qaeda and some members of ARNO forces were arrested when they were sent to join the Taliban in Afghanistan and attacked the Americans. These ARNO forces were sent to Afghanistan along with Rohingya groups in Karachi, Pakistan. Rohingya groups are in many countries like Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, UAE, Palestine and Australia. Chairman Nurul Islam has received an American visa and departed for Saudi Arabia from Bangladesh, with an intent to reside in Saudi Arabia for a short period and then depart for the United States. [26]

If the Myanmarese intelligence reports cited by the US Embassy in Yangon were indeed accurate, then it would open the possibility of a foreign component fuelling the recent unrest in Arakan. This assertion makes sense considering the global rise of Saudi-sponsored Salafist movements aligned with US strategic objectives. Existing reports describe how communal violence was carried out with basic weapons, the role of ARNO operatives may have ranged from simply encouraging and inciting an armed response, to using small brigades of fighters to destroy property and commit violence, causing larger mobs to follow suit. Although the lack of technology, media penetration, and general instability in the region at the height of the violence make these accusations very difficult to prove, it is entirely plausible given that Myanmar’s state media has reported the presence of al-Qaeda in Arakan during the unrest. [27] Reports issued by the Associated Press assert that security officials detained and charged three aid workers with “inciting religious hatred and participating in arson attacks,” including 73-year old Kyaw Hla Aung from Netherlands-based AZG, accused of having terrorist links and arrested under Article 505 of Myanmar’s penal code:

   “An hour or two before I was arrested, my home was raided. I don’t know by whom. All my papers and documents were scattered outside my house,” he said. “They said I had links to Al Qaeda.” [28]

These reports suggest that Myanmar’s government strongly believes that foreign terror networks have influenced the unrest in Arakan. While many would argue that Myanmar’s government could use the pretext of Islamic extremism to maintain its campaign of political repression, the ongoing persecution of Rohingya, as well as sectarian clashes, open a new strategic risk that could be exploited by foreign and domestic Islamist groups in order to further justify a violent response that would only cause the situation to deteriorate. In Indonesia, several hundred “hard-liners” from organizations such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT) threatened to storm the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta at the height of the unrest, but were prevented by security forces. [29] Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan also expressed willingness to wage jihad against Myanmar:

   “We warn [the] Pakistani government to halt all relations with [the] Burmese government and close down their embassy in Islamabad otherwise we will not only attack the Burmese interests anywhere but will also attack the Pakistani fellows of Burma one by one… We want to remind our Muslims in Burma that we haven’t forgotten you, we will take revenge of your blood.” Ehsan added: “We appeal to [the] media especially who call themselves representative of Muslims to broadcast the real situation in Burma and what’s happening to Burmese Muslims… Taliban are with the Burmese Muslim brethren.” [30]

The Geopolitical Component: Thwarting Chinese Economic Development

The situation in Myanmar is not merely to be understood on an emotional and ethical level. Rather, it is shaped by significant geopolitical and economic realities. Enormous natural gas deposits valued at several billion dollars have been found in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of Arakan State, where predominantly Chinese companies are mining in partnership with the state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise. [31] Construction has begun on oil and gas transport pipelines from Arakan State to Yunnan Province in China. [32] Sittwe, capital of the Arakan State, is effectively the epicenter of one of China’s most crucial international investments, indispensable for Beijing in its effort to meet the increasing energy demands of its densely populated southwestern provinces. Additionally, ongoing ethnic conflicts in Myanmar correspond directly with large-scale Chinese development projects. Similar to other joint US-Saudi sponsored forms of destabilization; the modus operandi of these external networks has been to exacerbate long-standing ethnic and religious tensions to bring about far-reaching unrest. Political analyst Eric Draitser writes:

   This project, a twin oil and gas pipeline, which would traverse Myanmar to link China’s southwestern Yunnan province with the Indian Ocean would, consequently, provide the Chinese land-based access to energy imports from Africa and the Middle East. Because of US naval dominance, not being completely reliant on commercial shipping is an integral aspect of the overall Chinese strategy. The pipeline itself is not the only issue for the Chinese. Sittwe is the site of the major Chinese-funded port, which, aside from being the starting point of the pipeline, is a vital access point to Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Imports such as minerals and other raw materials from Africa as well as oil from the Middle East would be shipped through this port (along with the Pakistani port of Gwadar) for sale on the Chinese market. It is for this reason that Sittwe is of crucial significance to Chinese economic development. Naturally, as Sittwe and the rest of the Rakhine state descends into chaos and the international community clamors for some form of intervention, the port, pipeline and other projects cannot continue as planned. [33]

The development of China’s economy has been accompanied by a dependence upon offshore resources, primarily from reserves in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Angola. For Beijing, energy security is essential to the continued growth of its economy, which, in turn, ensures domestic political stability. 80 percent of China’s oil imports currently pass through the Strait of Malacca, a narrow waterway located between Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, linking the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea and Pacific Ocean. [34] The importance of the Myanmar-China Oil and Gas Pipeline, consisting of two parallel oil and gas pipelines, is its function as an alternative transport route for crude oil imports from the Middle East to potentially bypass the Strait of Malacca, thus deterring the ability of hostile naval powers to disrupt a vital energy corridor to China. The United States has announced its plans to reposition 60 percent of its navy to the Asia Pacific region by 2020, as cited in the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance report entitled, “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense.” This crucial document highlights Washington’s growing emphasis on containing China’s military buildup in a move to enhance American presence in one of the most economically dynamic parts of the world. [35]

Washington’s endorsement of a strategy designed to contain China is attributable to US foreign policy theoreticians such as Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution, co-founder of the neoconservative political organization, Project for the New American Century. Kagan’s 1997 article, “What China Knows That We Don’t: The Case for a New Strategy of Containment,” argues that the most effective means of preserving the present international order that “serves the needs of the United States and its allies, which constructed it,” is not to accommodate the peaceful rise of China, but to strengthen American military capabilities in the region and to work towards political change in Beijing:

   The changes in the external and internal behavior of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s resulted at least in part from an American strategy that might be called “integration through containment and pressure for change.” Such a strategy needs to be applied to China today. As long as China maintains its present form of government, it cannot be peacefully integrated into the international order. [36]

Kagan describes how China’s leadership interprets Washington’s interests in the Asia-Pacific as a move to “severely limit their own ability to become the region’s hegemon,” namely by countering Chinese influence in Southeast Asia. Reports issued by the United States Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute reflect the adoption of Kagan’s containment methodology. “String of Pearls: Meeting the Challenge of China’s Rising Power Across the Asian Littoral,” authored by Lieutenant Colonel Christopher J Pehrson, highlights China’s geopolitical interests and economic presence in several regions, which include a container shipping facility in Chittagong, Bangladesh, the construction of a deep water port in Sittwe, Myanmar, in addition to the construction of a navy base in Gwadar, Pakistan, among other locations. Reports issued by the Washington Times confirm that Pehrson’s containment strategy has been employed as policy, reissued in a paper entitled “Energy Futures in Asia,” produced by defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. [37]

It appears that the sectarian violence in Arakan State beginning in June 2012 is the likely result of covert intelligence operations aiming to destabilize western Myanmar to counter China’s vital economic investment in the region. This is in line with Washington’s policy objectives of curbing Beijing’s influence in Southeast Asia. Reforms introduced by President Thein Sein have opened the door to mass foreign investment, the political ascension of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and the presence of American NGOs associated with and financially supported by US State Department, including Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Open Society Foundations, U.S. Campaign for Burma, and others. [38] While the United States has placed its support behind the National League for Democracy in the person of Suu Kyi, she has in turn exercised her influence to execute political and economic objectives that adhere to US foreign policy.

Suu Kyi and a stable of Western-funded NGOs have successfully used their influence to block the construction of a joint energy project between the Myanmar Ministry of Electric Power, Asia World Company, and the China Power Investment Corporation. The Myitsone Dam project in the northern Myanmar state of Kachin would have been the world’s 15th largest dam, set to be located on the Irrawaddy River in the northern Myanmar state of Kachin. The dam is intended to export a large percentage of its power to China’s Yunnan province, which would be taxed to provide revenue for Myanmar’s government and future development before being turned over fully to Myanmar after a 50-year contract. [39] While groups such as Human Rights Watch use their influence to oppose the construction the Myanmar-China Oil and Gas Pipeline and other projects under the guise of defending human rights, a remarkable lack of criticism is attributed toward Western oil firms operating in the country. [40]

In 2005, a group of villagers in Myanmar filed a lawsuit against Unocal, an oil firm that merged with the American-owned Chevron, and was later obliged to compensate the victims by court order. [41] Western corporations at the time exploited a legal loophole that allowed them to operate in Myanmar in defiance of US-led sanctions because their investments were agreed upon prior to the sanctions being issued. [42] Alongside the French-owned Total, Chevron was accused of collaborating with Myanmar’s military junta, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), by hiring military personnel to illegally confiscate land. Reports claim that soldiers used tactics of torture and intimidation to force villagers into unpaid labor during the construction of the Yadana Gas Project, a pipeline project that was established to transport natural gas from Myanmar’s Andaman Sea into Thailand. [43] While Beijing’s economic investment projects are sharply criticized by Aung San Suu Kyi, she has invited the very same Western corporations into Myanmar, despite the highly documented misconduct of these companies:

   “I have to say that I find that Total is a responsible investor in the country, even though there was a time when we did not think they should be encouraging the military regime by investing in Burma. They were sensitive to human rights and environmental issues and now that we’ve come to a point in time when we would like investors who are sensitive to such issues, I am certainly not going to persuade Chevron or Total to pull out.” [44]

It would appear that the clear preference toward Western companies held by Myanmar’s opposition is maintained in exchange for the continued rhetorical support they receive from the United States and Europe – despite those companies presiding over the very same human rights abuses that Chinese firms are accused of. The political undercurrents of Western support are laid bare as American corporations begin to fully engage in investment opportunities throughout the country. Political analyst F. William Engdahl writes:

   The US corporations approaching Burma are handpicked by Washington to introduce the most destructive “free market” reforms that will open Myanmar to instability. The United States will not allow investment in entities owned by Myanmar’s armed forces or its Ministry of Defense. It also is able to place sanctions on “those who undermine the reform process, engage in human rights abuses, contribute to ethnic conflict or participate in military trade with North Korea.” The United States will block businesses or individuals from making transactions with any “specially designated nationals” or businesses that they control — allowing Washington, for example, to stop money from flowing to groups “disrupting the reform process.” It’s the classic “carrot and stick” approach, dangling the carrot of untold riches if Burma opens its economy to US corporations and punishing those who try to resist the takeover of the country’s prize assets. Oil and gas, vital to China, will be a special target of US intervention. [45]


Myanmar faces innumerable challenges in its pursuit of development. They range from combating forms of racism and violence that target Myanmar’s ethnic minorities to the lack of basic infrastructure and civic educational initiatives to maintaining national sovereignty while introducing liberalizing economic reforms. Although Myanmar’s civilian government led by Thein Sein has issued meaningful reforms, many exiles and activists perceive this administration to be a new face on an old and belligerent regime – despite being praised domestically for its position on expelling Rohingyas. As the country approaches its highly anticipated national elections in 2015, a victory for either side will likely not sit well with the other. Given the Western support allotted to Aung San Suu Kyi and her political party, it can be expected that the ruling government – should it win the 2015 elections – would be categorically condemned. Myanmar’s diverse mosaic of politically oppressed ethnic groups put the national government in a sensitive position; continued Western support for their autonomy or independence could give rise to the formation of break-away states, too small to assert their sovereignty at the foot of multinational corporations.

It remains very unlikely that Myanmar will repeal the 1982 Citizenship Law that removed basic rights from the Rohingya and other minorities. However, President Thein Sein has pledged to open schools for Rohingya, insinuating that they would be allowed to remain in the country. [46] Myanmar’s government would benefit by appeasing advocacy groups and lifting restrictions on humanitarian agencies to ensure they can freely move to remote villages in order to deliver necessary medical assistance, with governmental oversight.– Additionally, such agencies could investigate credible allegations of human rights violations and provide legal counsel to those detained in northern Arakan State. Greater focus should be placed on reconciliation talks between ethnic minority groups, although very little likelihood exists that such suggestions would be meaningfully applied given the tense climate of racial prejudice in Myanmar. In his 1934 novel, Burmese Days, author George Orwell writes:

    “To talk, simply to talk! It sounds so little, and how much it is! When you have existed to the brink of middle age in bitter loneliness, among people to whom your true opinion on every subject on earth is blasphemy, the need to talk is the greatest of all needs.”


[1] The Development of a Muslim Enclave in Arakan (Rakhine) State of Burma (Myanmar), Kanda University of International Studies, 2005

[2] A review of UNHCR’s response to the protracted situation of stateless Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, UNHCR, December 2011

[3] Rights Watchdog, Lost in the Mideast, The New York Times, October 19, 2009

[4] The Government Could Have Stopped This, Human Rights Watch, August 2012

[5] Libya: Transitional Government Should Support Victims, Human Rights Watch, September 19, 2011

[6] Human rights organisations cast doubt on mass rape in Libya, June 24, 2011

[7] The Government Could Have Stopped This, Human Rights Watch, August 2012

[8] Myanmar president says Rohingyas not welcome, Daily News, July 12, 2012

[9] Special Report: Plight of Muslim minority threatens Myanmar Spring, Reuters, June 15, 2012

[10] Popular ‘Buddhist’ racism and the generals’ militarism, Democratic Voice of Burma, September 4, 2012

[11] Suu Kyi’s silence on Rohingya draws rare criticism, Associated Press, August 16, 2012

[12] Aung San Suu Kyi’s Buddhism Problem, Foreign Policy, September 12, 2012

[13] Failing the People of Burma? Burma Campaign UK, 2006

[14] Ibid

[15] Monks stage anti-Rohingya march in Myanmar, AFP, September 02, 2012

[16] The Resistance of the Monks, Human Rights Watch, September 2009

[17] Ibid

[18] Burma’s monks call for Muslim community to be shunned, The Independent, July 25, 2012

[19] Crowd adores Suu Kyi at Nobel address, The New Age, June 16, 2012

[20] Burma’s monks call for Muslim community to be shunned, The Independent, July 25, 2012

[21] Ibid

[22] The Freedom to Hate, Foreign Policy, June 14, 2012

[23] The Talibanization of Southeast Asia, Bilveer Singh, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007

[24] Chronology for Rohingya (Arakanese) in Burma, UNHCR, 2004

[25] The Talibanization of Southeast Asia, Bilveer Singh, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007

[26] Arakan Rohingya National Organization Contacts With Al Qaeda And With Burmese Insurgent Groups On The Thai Border, Wikileaks, July 10, 2012

[27] The Freedom to Hate, Foreign Policy, June 14, 2012

[28] Three Arakan Aid Workers Handed Jail Terms, Democratic Voice of Burma, August 27, 2012

[29] Indonesian Islamic Hard-Liners Vow Jihad for Myanmar’s Rohingyas, The Jakarta Globe, July 13, 2012

[30] Burma’s Rohingya: A New Lightning Rod For Islamic Militants? International Business Times, July 26, 2012

[31] Shwe gas and pipelines projects, Bank Track, August 18, 2012

[32] China takes risky step with Myanmar pipelines, Reuters, February 03, 2012

[33] Towards a New “Humanitarian Front”? Myanmar and the Geopolitics of Empire, Centre for Research on Globalization, June 20, 2012

[34] China’s Energy Consumption and Opportunities for U.S.-China Cooperation To Address the Effects of China’s Energy Use, U.S. Navy War College, June 14, 2007

[35] Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense, United States Department of Defense, Janurary 2012

[36] What China Knows That We Don’t: The Case for a New Strategy of Containment, Carnegie Endowment, Janurary 20, 1997

[37] China builds up strategic sea lanes, The Washington Times, Janurary 17, 2005

[38] US eases Myanmar restrictions for NGOs, AFP, April 17, 2012

[39] Burma: Natural Gas Project Threatens Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, March 24, 2007

[40] Burma dam: Why Myitsone plan is being halted, BBC, September 30, 2011

[41] Killings alleged at Chevron’s Burma pipeline, SFGate, April 29, 2009

[42] Burmese Project Tests Unocal Resolve, The New York Times, May 22, 1997

[43] UNOCAL in Burma, Santa Clara University, November 3, 2005

[44] UPDATE 4-Suu Kyi says Myanmar needs responsible investment, Reuters, June 14, 2012

[45] Obama’s Geopolitical China ‘Pivot’: The Pentagon Targets China, Centre for Research on Globalization, August 24, 2012

[46] Burma’s President Tells VOA He Will Open Schools for Rohingya, Voice of America, August 14, 2012

Additional editing by Eric Draitser of

Nile Bowie is a Kuala Lumpur-based American writer and photographer and frequent contributor to Global Research. He explores issues of terrorism, economics and geopolitics.

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Sep 292012

Russia Today

 A former Chechen militant has accused Georgia of training a network of Islamic terrorists, claiming that a recent anti-terrorist mission on the border with Russia was in fact a pseudo-operation targeting Georgian-trained jihadists. Last month Georgia claimed its forces had killed 11 militants who infiltrated the country through the Russian republic of Dagestan in a special operation personally led by the Georgian interior minister.

But Khizri Aldamov, who was an emissary of Chechen militants in Georgia for 18 years, before switching sides and returning to the fold of Moscow loyalist Ramzan Kadyrov earlier this year, has now put forward a different version of events. In a recent video conference at Moscow’s Ria Novosti news agency, he claimed the people shot were recruited by Georgia to stir up Chechen separatism in Russia, and the whole operation was staged.

“Georgian President Saakashvili’s plan was to send his own guys across the border into Russia, not the other way round, and then shoot them. But there was no mission; this was a set-up,” Aldamov told RT.

He says the purpose of the operation was to frame Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, and present Georgia as an anti-terrorist force, while getting rid of those Aldamov says “knew too much” about the country’s Islamic training program. “Saakashvili is allergic to Russia, allergic to Putin, allergic to Kadyrov,” said Aldamov.

The two neighbors have been locked in a long-standing dispute over the two republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, whose independence Moscow supports, a conflict which escalated after the August 2008 war.

Along with some of the Georgian media, Aldamov questions some of the details of Tbilisi’s operation against the militants, the aftermath of which was shown on Georgian television.

“First of all, their weapons were American-made, second – none of them fired a single shot. That’s not all; the uniforms of these so-called fighters were brand new,” he alleges.

Aldamov claims that in his role as a go-between for Georgia and Chechen separatists, he trained many Islamist recruits himself. The practice supposedly continues today in Georgia, through the official Counter Terror Center.

“Everything is still controlled by the center – all the Mujahideen are in its hands. Any Chechen who lives in Georgia and wants to study in an Islamic country has to go through the center, and there they recruit him.”

Aldamov’s allegations caused a stir, but have not received universal endorsement. Badri Nachkebia, a Georgian expert in conflict and political violence present at the conference, questioned whether Aldamov had a pro-Russian agenda after his sudden return to Chechnya. He also contradicted the assertion that the militants had been killed with one shot each – as if by their trusted allies – noting that three Georgian special services soldiers had been killed during the operation, and six more injured.

Meanwhile, political expert Nana Devdariani said that while the country may have harbored Chechen militants, it is unlikely that the operation was an inside job, or that there was a border crossing from Georgia into Russia, considering how well fortified the Russian side is.

On the official level, Georgian ministers insist there was a crossing from Dagestan, while Russian officials have categorically denied the claim.

In the clandestine circumstances of a simmering regional conflict where both sides have an agenda (not to mention that Georgia faces a national election next week), the truth will be hard to come by, and claims such as Aldamov’s may be impossible to confirm or deny.

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Sep 292012

Washington’s Blog

 In America, Journalists Are Considered TerroristsPainting by Anthony Freda:

While Government Pretends America Values Freedom of the Press, Real Journalists Are Treated As Terrorists

We’ve previously noted that American journalists are an endangered species (click on the links for stunning details):
If they criticize those in power, they may be smeared by the government and targeted for arrest (and see this).
Indeed, because the core things which reporters do could be considered terrorism, in modern America, they could even targeted under counter-terrorism laws.
And an al-Jazeera journalist was held at Guantánamo for six years, partly in order to be interrogated about the Arabic news network.  And see this.
Experts who write about the truth – without any middleman – are also being harassed(and see this).
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.
Former attorney general Mukasey said the U.S. should prosecute Assange because it’s“easier” than prosecuting the New York Times.  But now Congress is considering a bill which would make even mainstream reporters liable for publishing leaked information   (part of an all-out war on whistleblowing).
Do you think that I am being melodramatic and over the top?  Think again …
Glenn Greenwald wrote yesterday:
A US air force systems analyst who expressed support for WikiLeaksand accused leaker Bradley Manning triggered a formal military investigation last year to determine whether she herself had leaked any documents to the group.
The investigation was ultimately closed when they could find no evidence of unauthorized leaking, but what makes these documents [Air Force investigative documents, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request ] noteworthy is the possible crime cited by military officials as the one they were investigating: namely, “Communicating With the Enemy“, under Article 104 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
That is one of the most serious crimes a person can commit – it carries the penalty of death – and is committed when a person engages in “unauthorized communication, correspondence, or intercourse with the enemy”. The military investigation form also requires investigators to identify the “victim” of the crime they are investigating, and here, they designated “society” as the victim:
airforce In America, Journalists Are Considered Terrorists
The US government, as part of Obama’s unprecedented war on whistleblowers, has now fully embraced the pernicious theory that any leaks of classified information can constitute the crime of “aiding the enemy” or “communicating with the enemy” by virtue of the fact that, indirectly, “the enemy” will – like everyone else in the world – ultimately learn of what is disclosed.

It seems clear that the US military now deems any leaks of classified information to constitute the capital offense of “aiding the enemy” or “communicating with the enemy” even if no information is passed directly to the “enemy” and there is no intent to aid or communicate with them. Merely informing the public about classified government activities now constitutes this capital crime because it “indirectly” informs the enemy.
If someone can be charged with “aiding” or “communicating with the enemy” by virtue of leaking to WikiLeaks, then why wouldn’t that same crime be committed by someone leaking classified information to any outlet: the New York Times, the Guardian, ABC News or anyone else?
International Law Professor Kevin Jon Heller made a similar point when the charges against Manning were first revealed:
“[I]f Manning has aided the enemy, so has any media organization that published the information he allegedly stole. Nothing in Article 104 requires proof that the defendant illegally acquired the information that aided the enemy. As a result, if the mere act of ensuring that harmful information is published on the internet qualifies either as indirectly ‘giving intelligence to the enemy’ (if the military can prove an enemy actually accessed the information) or as indirectly ‘communicating with the enemy’ (because any reasonable person knows that enemies can access information on the internet), there is no relevant factual difference between [Bradley] Manning and a media organization that published the relevant information.”
It is always worth underscoring that the New York Times has published far more government secrets than WikiLeaks ever has, and more importantly, has published far more sensitive secrets than WikiLeaks has (unlike WikiLeaks, which has never published anything that was designated “Top Secret”, the New York Times has repeatedly done so: the Pentagon Papers, the Bush NSA wiretapping program, the SWIFT banking surveillance system, and the cyberwarfare program aimed at Iran were all “Top Secret” when the newspaper revealed them, as was the network of CIA secret prisons exposed by the Washington Post). There is simply no way to convert basic leaks to WikiLeaks into capital offenses – as the Obama administration is plainly doing – without sweeping up all leaks into that attack.
The same [Obama] administration that has prosecuted whistleblowers under espionage charges that threatened to send them to prison for life without any evidence of harm to national security, and has brought double the number of such prosecutions as all prior administrations combined. Converting all leaks into capital offenses would be perfectly consistent with the unprecedented secrecy fixation on the part of the Most Transparent Administration Ever™.
The irony from these developments is glaring. The real “enemies” of American “society” are not those who seek to inform the American people about thebad acts engaged in by their government in secret. As Democrats once recognized prior to the age of Obama – in the age of Daniel Ellsberg – people who do that are more aptly referred to as “heroes”The actual “enemies” are those who abuse secrecy powers to conceal government actions and to threaten with life imprisonment or even execution those who blow the whistle on high-level wrongdoing.
And – 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 aboutbad 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.  Indeed, Hedges believes that the government hasalready detained American citizens under the NDAA.
As plaintiff Wolf notes:
I have discussed the terms of the Homeland Battlefield Bill – also known as the National Defense Authorization Act – with numerous other journalists, writers, and members of democracy-supporting organizations across the political spectrum, from the Bill of Rights Defense Committee to the Tenth Amendment Center. I have also discussed the bill with various political leaders, including city council members and legislators, who span the political spectrum in the United States. They all agree that the bill can potentially affect an American journalist who meets with and publishes reports on individuals connected to organizations deemed terrorist by the United States government.
Wolf notes that the NDAA has already had a drastic chilling effect, interfering with her ability to be a journalist:
I declined, in writing, a proposed meeting with … Julian Assange, because of statements made by high-level United States officials regarding their belief that Assange is a terrorist …. I have declined to meet directly with members of Occupy Wall Street, because that group is being threatened with being named as terrorists in Miami. As a result, I have ceased conducting one-on-one interviews with them.
I have declined, in writing, to follow up with a proposed meeting with a support group in London that serves former prisoners, released without charge by the US government from the US detention center at Guantánamo Bay. Because some of these prisoners were released without government determination of whether they were connected to a terrorist organization, I declined to meet with this group for fear that this story could conceivably be considered some form of support to a group affiliated with terrorists.
I declined, in writing, to give additional media attention to a reporter who produced a documentary based on the bombardment of Gaza, and its effect on the Palestinian civilian population. Since I did not know who else, or which other entities, may have contributed to its production, I was concerned that my shining a media spotlight on the film, and gathering other members of the press to see it, might lead to wider attention and further fundraising that could conceivably fall under the term “material support”.
Thus the Homeland Battlefield Bill has already a chilling effect upon my ability to investigate and document matters of national controversy that would ordinarily be subject to my professional inquiry. It has therefore prevented my readers from receiving the full spectrum of truthful reporting which, in a functioning democracy, they have a right to expect.
Postscript: Hedges, Ellsberg and Wolf won their trial. Specifically, a federal court judge granted their request to stop the application of the NDAA to Americans.  The government has appealed, and it will be a tough fight.  Everyone who values a free press may wish to consider supporting their effort.

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