The following letter was sent to the Post-Crescent on November 12, 2007 (although it was never published):
Recently, our administration did a rare thing: speak favorably about a truly democratic movement (i.e. Burma). President Bush called the military junta’s treatment of monks “vicious persecution” and Secretary Rice calls the violence a “travesty”. Unfortunately, the seriousness of these words is betrayed by our country’s history of action in the region.
Respected Asian scholar George M. Kahin pointed out years ago our country’s history of disrupting democratic movements in Indonesia and surrounding countries for the benefit of American business, going back at least as far as Eisenhower and Dulles and continuing to the present. Burma was by no means an exception, where discontent was created in an effort to intimidate China.
Rice knows more about Burmese repression than anyone else in the Administration. Secretary Rice was on the board of directors for Chevron (the junta’s leading financier) for a decade. Unocal, owned by Chevron, built their pipeline through Burma using what has been described in court papers as “slave labor”. How difficult would it be to put trade or business sanctions on Chevron as we’ve done with businesses operating in Cuba and elsewhere? (Currently, Chevron is “grandfathered” in, exempted from the sanctions placed in 1997.)
And why won’t we act more directly against the Burmese military junta? Unlike the other brutal regimes we’ve supported, financed and finally overthrew (Saddam, the Taliban, Noriega, etc.) this one provides no tactical or entrepreneurial advantage by being removed or weakened.
Our government can sing the praises of freedom and democracy whiling propping up puppet regimes all it wants, but until our leaders embrace the values they claim to promote, their words aren’t worth the waste of breath. Real democracy comes from the people, not from the military orders of a serial interventionist.