Burma Bargaining

The junta are taking a very basic approach to relations with the UN, they effectivley made Charles Petrie, the UN Resident Coordinator redundant by declining to renew his permission, on the face of it because they were displeased with what he had said about their regime. Something along the lines of- you brutal bunch of fascist Neanderthal muppets, your people are starving you ludicrous uniformed asswipes (I’m paraphrasing here but that’s the main gist…probably). This was just ahead of Gambari visiting today which is what lets the other shoe drop…By expelling the UN they suddenly create a crisis that the envoy will need to talk to them about, suddenly they can make the negotiations all about the UN, it gives them a greater stake of diplomatic currency to bargain with and ooh gosh maybe we’ll let him stay if you’re nice, or maybe we’ll demand a different guy. Meanwhile all the other stuff that they needed to negotiate on cannot get as mush attention and they can slide on it more easily. They are slippery buggers who quite frankly are taking the piss, they have again cut net access and are happily signing a $60 million deal for a hydro electric plant with an Indian bank. Gambari was intending to push for proper negotiations between the junta and the opposition (otherwise known as the democratically elected government, ahem)-

Internet connections in Myanmar, which had been cut on Thursday, were still not operating on Saturday.The restrictions on internet access have been widely seen as an attempt by Myanmar’s rulers to limit the flow of information before Gambari’s visit, his second in a month.

Gambari is seeking to persuade Myanmar’s ruling generals to instigate political reforms, weeks after a violent military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. He is expected to meet generals and other senior officials in the capital Naypyidaw, as well as representatives of non-governmental organisations, a Myanmar official said. He will also meet detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party, the official told AFP news agency.

At the same time the The International Committee of the Red Cross are requesting access-

In a statement, released yesterday, the ICRC said it “is ready to resume all its activities at very short notice, provided it is given the necessary guarantees that it will be able to act as a neutral and independent humanitarian organization.” Permission to visit those being held in detention as a result of their roles in the protests of August and September is given as a driving force behind ICRC’s request.

The request to again conduct work in Burma comes four months after the organization issued an atypical public censure of a national government: “The ICRC has repeatedly drawn attention to abuses but the authorities have failed to put a stop to them. The continuing deadlock with the authorities has led the ICRC to take the exceptional step of making its concerns public,” stated ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger.

Assesment of the General’s sincerity is not rosy-

Ahead of Gambari’s visit, some experts said the international scrutiny faced by the junta since the crackdown could pave the way for a meeting between Aung San Suu Kyi and the regime’s top general Than Shwe, a key demand of the international community.

“Than Shwe does not … want to have dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, but current international pressure and sanctions may force him to have talks,” said Thai-based Myanmar analyst Aung Naing Oo. Others, though, see any concessions made by the junta as an attempt to give the impression it is trying to meet demands for reform without ceding any real power.

“The junta is trying to make some concessions. But in terms of substance, I don’t think the concessions are real,” said Win Min, a lecturer at Payap University in Chiang Mai.

Internally the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front vowed yesterday to continue with its armed struggle to bring democracy to Burma and farmers may be gearing up to lead the next wave of protests-

“Maybe the next time it will be the farmers who take the lead in response to the rapid inflation between their plantation season and crop harvesting seasons who see their investment evaporate,” said U Maung Maung, general secretary of the National Council of the Union of Burma.

An interesting comment piece Playing God in Burma by May Ng a regional officer for Justice for Human Rights in Burma and rounds up some background on the junta’s strategic alliances, future deals with China & Russia and their relations among the ASEAN nations. The network of trade and geopolitical game playing is what keeps the junta in place, would that realpolitik was replaced with humanpolitik, then we could make some genuine claim to being civilised. Until then, well Jarvis said it nicely.

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Torture- From One Who Knows

 I know the waterboard personally and intimately. SERE staff were required undergo the waterboard at its fullest. I was no exception. I have personally led, witnessed and supervised waterboarding of hundreds of people. It has been reported that both the Army and Navy SERE school’s interrogation manuals were used to form the interrogation techniques used by the US army and the CIA for its terror suspects. What was not mentioned in most articles was that SERE was designed to show how an evil totalitarian, enemy would use torture at the slightest whim. If this is the case, then waterboarding is unquestionably being used as torture technique. 

Waterboarding is a controlled drowning that, in the American model, occurs under the watch of a doctor, a psychologist, an interrogator and a trained strap-in/strap-out team. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning. How much the victim is to drown depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim’s face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs which show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.

Waterboarding is slow motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of black out and expiration –usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch and if it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia. When done right it is controlled death. Its lack of physical scarring allows the victim to recover and be threaten with its use again and again.

I had previously visited the Nazi death camps Dachau and Bergen-Belsen. I had met and interviewed survivors of Buchenwald, Auschwitz and Magdeburg when I visited Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. However, it was in the S-21 death camp known as Tuol Sleng, in downtown Phnom Penh, where I found a perfectly intact inclined waterboard.

 The torturer will trigger within the subject a survival instinct, in this case the ability to breathe, which makes the victim instantly pliable and ready to comply. It is purely and simply a tool by which to deprive a human being of his ability to resist through physical humiliation.

 Most people can not stand to watch a high intensity kinetic interrogation. One has to overcome basic human decency to endure watching or causing the effects. The brutality would force you into a personal moral dilemma between humanity and hatred. It would leave you to question the meaning of what it is to be an American.

That is the problem, even this fine piece asks ‘American’ when it should ask ‘human’ the patriotism, nationalism is a large part of the problem. Simply put- tribalism to exempt members from moral criteria when dealing with others not of the tribe. Put that into service of imperial expansion and it’s an old story told by millions upon millions of murdered, abused and mutilated bodies. Countries don’t do evil, people do evil, as soon as someone tells you how ‘we’ must do whatever is necessary to protect ‘our’ country you know the evil isn’t out there, it’s sat right in front of you… about to be confirmed as Attorney General.

Jerusalem Post Reports Syria Raid Was By USAF, Using Nuclear Weapons

I can only post the original story, it seems incredible, it is the Jerusalem Post relaying a report from the Al Jazeera website, no link to that is provided and on the english version I cannot find the story, so caveat emptor at this point-

The September 6 raid over Syria was carried out by the US Air Force, the Al-Jazeera Web site reported Friday. The Web site quoted Israeli and Arab sources as saying that two US jets armed with tactical nuclear weapons carried out an attack on a suspected nuclear site under construction. The sources were quoted as saying that Israeli F-15 and F-16 jets provided cover for the US planes.

The sources added that each US plane carried one tactical nuclear weapon and that the site was hit by one bomb and was totally destroyed. At the beginning of October, Israel’s military censor began to allow the local media to report on the raid without attributing their report to foreign sources. Nevertheless, details of the strike have remained clouded in mystery.

On October 28, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the cabinet that he had apologized to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan if Israel violated Turkish airspace during a strike on an alleged nuclear facility in Syria last month.

In a carefully worded statement that was given to reporters after the cabinet meeting, Olmert said: “In my conversation with the Turkish prime minister, I told him that if Israeli planes indeed penetrated Turkish airspace, then there was no intention thereby, either in advance or in any case, to – in any way – violate or undermine Turkish sovereignty, which we respect.”

The New York Times reported on October 13 that Israeli planes struck at what US and Israeli intelligence believed was a partly constructed nuclear reactor in Syria on September 6, citing American and foreign officials who had seen the relevant intelligence reports.

According to the report, Israel carried out the report to send a message that it would not tolerate even a nuclear program in its initial stages of construction in any neighboring state.

On October 17, Syria denied that one of its representatives to the United Nations told a panel that an Israeli air strike hit a Syrian nuclear facility and added that “such facilities do not exist in Syria.”

A UN document released by the press office had provided an account of a meeting of the First Committee, Disarmament and International Security, in New York, and paraphrased an unnamed Syrian representative as saying that a nuclear facility was hit by the raid.

However, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency, SANA said media reports, apparently based on a UN press release, misquoted the Syrian diplomat.

If it is true the USAF used nuclear weapons then Bush & Cheney must be removed from office immediately. (h/t Head On Radio)

UPDATE: From comments at Information Clearing House there is a link (comments link here) to the story in Arabic on what appears to be Al Jazeera, link here.
Translated by Google language tools Arabic to English link here.

That’s all I can find, just a few other repetitions of the same source- the Al Jazeera report but no additional information. If someone familiar with Al Jazeera’s Arabic site cares to have a search around and verify the story is a genuine report hosted on their site and not a clever fake, that would be good. Then we will have to wait to see if they can expand and verify the story. On the other hand this is the sort of report that makes the net infamous as an amplifying echo chamber for nonsense. This story of the attack on Syria certainly has its twists and turns and again if this is true, this is not good at all.