Sunday, September 30, 2012

Virtual 911

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

Pakistan ‘categorically rejects’ claim that it tacitly allows US drone strikes

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.

UK helps Israeli human rights abuses


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.

Robert Francis, the Texan judge closing America's jails

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.

Our Pitilessly Intoxicating Drones

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.

Myanmar’s Ethno-Sectarian Clashes: Containing China?

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]

CrossTalk: Israel Snubbed