Thursday, September 27, 2007

Burma, Bush and Oil

As the situation in Burma worsens, the White House is once again placing itself as the moral authority of the world but the Bush regime has hardly been a beacon of light when it comes to allowing citizens their right to peacefully protest. The most that can be said is at least their thugs haven't killed anybody, as has happened in Burma.

Via Thursday's WH press briefing and this statement read on behalf of Bush, spot the contradiction:

I call on all nations that have influence with the regime to join us in supporting the aspirations of the Burmese people and to tell the Burmese Junta to cease using force on its own people who are peacefully expressing their desire for change. By its own account, the Junta has already killed at least nine non-violent demonstrators, and many others who have been injured and arrested as they seek to express their views peacefully. I urge the Burmese soldiers and police not to use force on their fellow citizens. I call on those who embrace the values of human rights and freedom to support the legitimate demands of the Burmese people."

Let's take a little trip back to the 2004 RNC protests in NYC:

Numerous troubling cases were reported, notably:

* A 15-year-old diabetic girl on her way to a movie was arrested. [39]
* A former vice president of Morgan Stanley was arrested while riding her bicycle. [39]
* A 16-year-old protestor was lost to her mother for two days, even though her mother knew about and supported her daughter's participation. [40]
* Small pens were used to contain "30 to 40 people" at once. [41]
* Many people were detained longer than 24 hours on relatively trivial charges. [42][43] One was a 23-year-old Montreal student arrested for disorderly conduct and released three days later. "He says he spent a total of 57 hours between the pier and Central Booking, during which time he says he was moved 14 times and repeatedly handcuffed and shackled to other protesters as young as 15." [37]

The City reportedly refused to release the prisoners until a judge threatened to fine it for every extra hour every prisoner would spend in prison. The victims of the arrests have filed lawsuits against the City of New York.

One of the most prominent personalities arrested was Eric Corley "Emmanuel Goldstein", an important advocate of public rights and independent medias, and editor of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly [38]. The complete report of 2600 is available at[39].

Several cases have since gone to court, and it has come out that the charges of resisting arrest in those cases were completely fabricated. Video evidence was shown of defendants complying peaceably with police demands. Many of the cases have since been summarily dismissed.

The New York Times has reported on two occasions that the police videotaped and infiltrated protests, as well as acting as agents provocateurs during the protests. [44]

A second citation: "City Police Spied Broadly Before G.O.P. Convention," Jim Dwyer, New York Times, March 25, 2007, Sunday, Late Edition - Final, Section 1, Page 1, Column 5, 2460 words.

Agents provocateurs infiltrate a protest dressed like protesters and try to change the character of the protest, such as by attempting to get the crowd to commit acts of violence or other acts that would incite the uniformed police to take action against the crowd, thereby falsely justifying violence against protesters. Such covert provocation can also change the wider public's perception of what happened at a protest.

In addition, the New York Times reported that prior to the protests, NYPD officers traveled as far away as Europe and spied on people there who planned to protest at the RNC. [44]

And that's only one example of the Bush regime's disdain for peaceful protests.

While the WH attempts to use freedom in America as an example of how regimes should operate, it was revealed in August that it actually has a detailed manual on how to "deal" with protesters. The only thing missing is the actual use of firepower.

As for what Bush actually plans to do to affect the situation there:

Q But what could he do to make the members of the military regime listen? They haven't listened for 19 years.

MS. PERINO: Sanctions have worked in the past in other places. We're going to try to tighten those and make them stronger and stricter so that they have to have -- so that they have some effect that will hopefully force an action.

In addition, what the President can do is use this podium and his bully pulpit in order to shine a bright spotlight on this problem, so that the rest of the world can help -- and can come along and try to help us.

And that's about all he'll do. Anything beyond that would mean dealing directly with China (which is busy crushing the dissent of schoolboys in Tibet) and the fact that China owns massive amounts of American debt which it could leverage at any time to severely impact the US economy, practically ensures that the WH will not entangle itself in Burma's affairs to any extent that might have an impact. And that's not the only consideration for the Bush regime.

The courageous monks and the Burmese people are on their own while the world watches - as much as it can, since coverage of the protests in being channeled through underground sources. On a broader scale, it's been widely reported that the current protests began, in part, as a reaction to higher fuel prices. If there's one thing the Bush regime actually could do that might have an effect in Burma, it would be to stop pursuing and pillaging the world's oil resources. The west's "addiction to oil" obviously has very far-reaching consequences. And the Bush administration's thirst for oil has also spread directly into Burma:

Even in Burma, however, Bush’s support for human rights yields to his fondness for the oil and gas industry. Burma has large natural gas reserves, and multinational oil corporations want to cash in. Chevron Corporation is currently the largest U.S. investor in Burma, with a partnership stake in the multi-billion-dollar Yadana gas pipeline project. The Yadana project was originally developed by Unocal, another American oil company, which was acquired by Chevron last year. (Although new investment in Burma is prohibited, the pipeline is grandfathered in under an exception, pushed by Unocal, for preexisting projects.)

The Yadana pipeline has been repeatedly condemned by human rights and environmental advocates as one of the most destructive “development” projects in the world. The Burmese military government is a direct partner in the project, and Burmese soldiers providing security and other services to the pipeline project have conscripted villagers for forced labor on a vast scale, as well as committing murder, rape and torture. These abuses have been widely acknowledged; before Bush took office, the U.S. Department of Labor concluded that “refugee accounts of forced labor” on the project “appear to be credible.”

The Bush administration has close ties to Chevron. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was a member of the Chevron Board of Directors for 10 years before Bush was elected, and even had a Chevron oil tanker named for her until it was quietly renamed after Bush took office. And Halliburton, the oilfield services giant formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, has numerous ties to Chevron, signing several multimillion-dollar contracts during Cheney’s tenure. And yet there is no evidence that the Bush administration has used its connections to convince Chevron to divest its Burmese holdings, despite the evidence of abuses committed on the Yadana project and Bush’s public position on promoting human rights and democracy.

Indeed, even before Chevron acquired Unocal and the Yadana project, Bush’s government actively took steps to thwart accountability for the Yadana project. When refugees who had suffered rape, torture, enslavement, and murder at the hands of soldiers protecting the Yadana pipeline sued Unocal in U.S. court, the Bush administration intervened to try to convince the courts that the lawsuit should not proceed. The administration essentially argued that, even if the case would not actually interfere with U.S. relations with Burma, holding Unocal liable would create a precedent that could conflict with U.S. foreign policy in other parts of the world. (The lawsuit, Doe v. Unocal Corp., was ultimately resolved before the courts considered the administration's position, with Unocal compensating the victims in a historic settlement—see

So, Bush can bluster all he wants to about human rights and the need for the protesters to be protected, but he's talking out of both sides of his mouth yet again - all in the name of oil.

9 Killed in Burma Crackdown on Protests

Human Rights Watch - Burma: Allies Should Call for Peaceful Resolution of Protests

Amnesty International - Myanmar authorities step up crackdown on protesters (text, video and a list of supportive protests being held worldwide this weekend)

Time magazine - Will China Intervene?

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