Sunday, May 11, 2008


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Dear Friends:

These past several weeks have provided all of us, as students of the Human Condition, with an amazingly rich wellspring of observations and insights into the way in which our world functions (using this latter term clinically, and neutrally). By studying current events during these several action-packed weeks, we see some fascinating Human behaviors in full bloom, and not veiled in political sublety or cooperative secrecy. Two things are actually frightening in just re-reading the previous sentence: 1) that the perpetrators of some very anti-social and anti-humanitarian activities simply do not care about the "court of world opinion," and 2) that the people in power throughout the world think that we are, all of us, either to defeated to rebel, or too stupid to even perceive any significant difference in our standard of living. The persons in power, for the most part, have come to feel safely assured of our impotence of initiative to interfere with the course that they have charted for us. We prove them right time and time again. Yet, every so often, there is a major rebellion or revolution. This is usually when living conditions have become so harsh, that people defy their own risk-averse "mere survival" mode and pose serious opposition. This happens at some special tolerance point when even "mere survival" in its lowest form is threatened.

1. Firstly, let's take a quick view at the tragedy in Myanmar (Burma) as described in a news article posted by the ASSOCIATED PRESS:

UN halts aid to Myanmar after junta seizes supplies

A U.N. official says the World Food Program is suspending cyclone aid to Myanmar because its government seized supplies flown into the country.

He says the WFP has no choice but to suspend the shipments until the matter is resolved.
WFP spokesman Paul Risley said Friday that all "the food aid and equipment that we managed to get in has been confiscated." The shipment included 38 tons of high-energy biscuits.
Risley said it is not clear why the material was seized.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below:

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — The United Nations blasted Myanmar's military government Friday, saying its refusal to let in foreign aid workers to help victims of a devastating cyclone was "unprecedented" in the history of humanitarian work.

While the junta dithered and appeared overwhelmed by last Saturday's disaster, more than 1 million homeless people waited for food, shelter and medicine. Many crammed into Buddhist monasteries or just camped out in the open.

Entire villages were submerged in the worst-hit Irrawaddy delta, with bodies floating in salty water and children ripped from their parents' arms. At least 62,000 people are dead or missing, state media reported, and aid groups warned that thousands of children may have been orphaned and the area is on the verge of a medical disaster.

On Friday, Japan said it will give aid worth $10 million through the U.N. to Myanmar, adding to the massive amounts of aid that has been pledged by foreign governments.
But while accepting international aid, the isolationist regime of this Southeast Asian nation has refused to grant visas to foreign aid workers who could assess the extent of the disaster and manage the logistics.

"The frustration caused by what appears to be a paperwork delay is unprecedented in modern humanitarian relief efforts," said Paul Risley, a spokesman for the U.N. World Food Program in Bangkok. "It's astonishing."

He said the WFP submitted 10 visa applications around the world, including six in Bangkok, but none has been approved.

"We strongly urge the government of Myanmar to process these visa applications as quickly as possible, including work over the weekend," he said.

The junta said in a statement Friday it was grateful to the international community for its assistance — which has included 11 chartered planes loaded with aid supplies — but the best way to help was just to send in material rather than personnel.

One relief flight was sent back after landing in Yangon on Thursday because it carried a search-and-rescue team and media representatives who had not received permission to enter the country, the junta said. It did not give details, but said the plane had flown in from Qatar, apparently referring to a U.N. flight.

The announcement came as critical aid and experts to go with it were poised in neighboring Thailand and elsewhere to rush into Myanmar, one of the world's poorest nations.

"Believe me the government will not allow outsiders to go into the devastated area. The government only cares about its own stability. They don't care about the plight of the people," said Yangon food shop owner Joseph Kyaw, one of many residents angry at the regime for doing little to help them recover from the storm's destruction.

Among those waiting in Thailand were members of the USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team. Air Force transport planes and helicopters packed with supplies also sat waiting for a green light to enter Myanmar, also known as Burma.

Myanmar allowed the first major international aid shipment Thursday — four U.N. planes carrying high-energy biscuits, including one which was apparently turned back. On Friday, state-owned television showed a cargo plane from Italy with water containers, food and plastic sheets at Yangon international airport.

It is not clear how much of the aid is reaching the Irrawaddy delta. The U.N. estimates 1.5 million people have been "severely affected" and voiced "significant concern" about the disposal of dead bodies.

A Norway-based opposition news network, the Democratic Voice of Burma, provided graphic details of misery. In the village of Kongyangon, someone had written in Burmese, "We are all in trouble. Please come help us" on black asphalt, a video from the opposition group showed. A few feet away was another plea: "We're hungry," the words too small to be seen by air rescuers.
According to state media, 22,997 people died and 42,019 are missing from Cyclone Nargis, which hit the country's Irrawaddy delta on Saturday. Shari Villarosa, who heads the United States Embassy in Yangon, said the number of dead could eventually exceed 100,000 because of illnesses.

Grim assessments about what lies ahead continued: The aid group Action Against Hunger noted that the delta region is known as the country's granary, and the cyclone hit before the harvest.
"If the harvest has been destroyed this will have a devastating impact on food security in Myanmar," the group said.

Anders Ladegaard, secretary-general of the Danish Red Cross, called the relief operation "a nightmare."

"There are problems to the aid inside (Myanmar) and there are problems to get the aid out to the delta area. There are almost no boats and no helicopters," Ladegaard said by satellite telephone to Danish broadcaster DR.

In Yangon itself, the price of increasingly scarce water shot up by more than 500 percent, and rice and oil jumped by 60 percent over the last three days, the group said.
Hardships in the country's largest city have prompted some embassies, including that of the U.S., to send diplomats' families out of the country.
Although the military regime had begun allowing in the first major international aid shipments, it snubbed a U.S. offer to help cyclone victims.

By doing so, the junta refused to take advantage of Washington's enormous ability to deliver aid quickly, which was evident during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen nations.

With roads in the Irrawaddy delta washed out and the infrastructure in shambles, large swaths of the region are accessible only by air, something few other countries are equipped to handle as well as the U.S.

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej told reporters Friday that he will try to go to Myanmar on Sunday to persuade the junta to accept U.S. help.

But the junta told Samak his Myanmar counterpart is too busy to meet with him, said a Thai army general, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

But a Taiwanese Buddhist leader who just returned from Yangon said Friday that Myanmar had mobilized soldiers and civilians to transport aid to cyclone victims.

"They try to handle the relief work by themselves as much as possible because they don't have the time to deal with external criticism," Master Hsin Tao said.

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.

2. Secondly, let's look at the economics and military dynamics of the United States:

We have, during the course of the past several years made some courageous forays into the realms of overt imperialism, bullying, threatening, labelling and blatant lawlessness. It is indeed a brazen and self-confident administration that unapologetically lies to its own Congress; defies the rulings of its own Supreme Court; circumvents the letter and spirit of its contract with the people (the U.S. Constitution) by fiat, and with the simple explanation that the laws "were not made to apply to these circumstances," or that they are an "encumbrance to our national security." We have chosen to disregard the laws of other nations, and have created an enforcement machine out of the FBI which covers the world -- the CIA is a whimpering pup by comparison. In brief, we may have lost the trust of most of the civilized (and yet-to-be civilized world). The citizenry in the U.S. is increasingly worried (albeit very secretively, with Oprah Winfrey turned up very loud if any questioning of government policy takes place amongst the foolish youngsters in the house -- say, did you just get a flash of a mental picture of THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, or was it just me?) about what exactly our country stands for. If we disregard our own due process, and if we disrespect the sovereignty of other nations, we could be perceived as bullies. People of high moral strandards who wish to form meaningful long-term alliances generally should avoid the perception of being bullies. And what is the purpose of national security when there are no freedoms or advantages left to protect?

3. Thirdly, in the Worldview, the junta (which doesn't even warrant capitalization) is comprised of barbarians and butchers...too paranoid and contol-obsessed to let an outside force come in even if it means saving the lives of hordes of sick and dying people. That constitutes depraved indifference.

In the Worldview, the U.S Administration is increasingly seen as a paranoic, completely unreceptive bully.

What then is the difference between these two power groups? The short answer is distressing:

  1. Several trillion dollars;
  2. Enormous weaponry;
  3. Some allies, although sycophantic ones, at that;
  4. More physical comforts;
  5. Better tailoring;
  6. More potent domestic media control and propaganda;
  7. A greater percentage of the population in prison or under restriction or supervision;
  8. Tendrils of influence throughout the world;
  9. An unsurpassed quotient of conceit.

Bullies make enemies. Bullies never have genuine allies. Bullies never engender unity. Bullies are feared and hated. Bullies are never trusted. Bullies are only temporary unifiers -- they cannot build lasting peace except during the time of their strict domination. Brutality invites reprisals and revolution -- it is only a matter of time.

In my simplistic view, a bully is simply a bully. At the heart of every bully is either a depraved sociopathic humanoid, or a horribly hypervigilant coward.

Further, each Human being is a sovereign unto himself or herself, with a right to be heard, with a right to defend himself or herself, with a right to fraternize with friends, and with an obligation to treat other sovereigns with respect.

An Internationalist is a social creature. He or she obtains value by giving value, and not by threats or acts of brutality. He or she builds a following by cooperation and attraction, and gains respect without imposing fear.


Douglas Castle, Internationalist

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