Saturday, May 17, 2008

Saturday Reading

Regime-Quakes in Burma and China
by Naomi Klein, May 16, 2008

When news arrived of the catastrophic earthquake in Sichuan, my mind turned to Zheng Sun Man, an up-and-coming security executive I met on a recent trip to China. Zheng heads Aebell Electrical Technology, a Guangzhou-based company that makes surveillance cameras and public address systems and sells them to the government.

Zheng, a 28-year-old MBA with a text-messaging addiction, was determined to persuade me that his cameras and speakers are not being used against pro-democracy activists or factory organizers. They are for managing natural disasters, Zheng explained, pointing to the freak snowstorms before Lunar New Year. During the crisis, the government “was able to use the feed from the railway cameras to communicate how to deal with the situation and organize an evacuation. We saw how the central government can command from the north emergencies in the south.”

Of course, surveillance cameras have other uses too—like helping to make “Most Wanted” posters of Tibetan activists. But Zheng did have a point: nothing terrifies a repressive regime quite like a natural disaster. Authoritarian states rule by fear and by projecting an aura of total control. When they suddenly seem short-staffed, absent or disorganized, their subjects can become dangerously emboldened. It’s something to keep in mind as two of the most repressive regimes on the planet—China and Burma—struggle to respond to devastating disasters: the Sichuan earthquake and Cyclone Nargis. In both cases, the disasters have exposed grave political weaknesses within the regimes—and both crises have the potential to ignite levels of public rage that would be difficult to control.

When China is busily building itself up, creating jobs and new wealth, residents tend to stay quiet about what they all know: developers regularly cut corners and flout safety codes, while local officials are bribed not to notice. But when China comes tumbling down—including at least eight schools in the earthquake zone —the truth has a way of escaping from the rubble. “Look at all the buildings around. They were the same height but why did the school fall down?” a distraught relative in Juyuan demanded of a foreign reporter. “It’s because the contractors want to make a profit from our children.” A mother in Dujiangyan told The Guardian, “Chinese officials are too corrupt and bad….They have money for prostitutes and second wives but they don’t have money for our children.”

That the Olympic stadiums were built to withstand powerful quakes is suddenly of little comfort. When I was in China, it was hard to find anyone willing to criticize the Olympic spending spree. Now posts on mainstream web portals are calling the torch relay “wasteful” and its continuation in the midst of so much suffering “inhuman.”

None of this compares with the rage boiling over in Burma, where cyclone survivors have badly beaten at least one local official, furious at his failure to distribute aid. Simon Billenness, co-chair of the board of directors of U.S. Campaign for Burma, told me, “This is Katrina times a thousand. I don’t see how it couldn’t lead to political unrest.”

The unrest of greatest concern to the regime is not coming from regular civilians but from inside the military – a fact that explains some of the junta’s more erratic behavior. For instance, we know that the Burmese junta has been taking credit for supplies sent by foreign countries. Now it turns out that it have been taking more than credit—in some cases it has been taking the aid. According to a report in Asia Times, the regime has been hijacking food shipments and distributing them among its 400,000 soldiers. The reason speaks to the deep threat the disaster poses. The generals, it seems, are “haunted by an almost pathological fear of a split inside their own ranks…if soldiers are not given priority in aid distribution and are unable to feed themselves, the possibility of mutiny rises.” Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK, confirms that before the cyclone, the military was already coping with a wave of desertions.

This relatively small-scale theft of food is fortifying the junta for its much larger heist—the one taking place via the constitutional referendum the generals have insisted on holding, come hell and high water. Enticed by high commodity prices, Burma’s generals have been gorging off the country’s natural abundance, stripping it of gems, timber, rice and oil. As profitable as this arrangement is, junta leader Gen. Than Shwe knows he cannot resist the calls for democracy indefinitely.

Taking a page out of the playbook of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, the generals have drafted a Constitution that allows for future elections but attempts to guarantee that no government will ever have the power to prosecute them for their crimes or take back their ill-gotten wealth. As Farmaner puts it, after elections the junta leaders “are going to be wearing suits instead of boots.” Much of the voting has already taken place but in cyclone ravaged districts, the referendum has been delayed until May 24. Aung Din, executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma, told me that the military has stooped to using aid to extort votes. “Rainy season is coming,” he told me, “and people need to repair their roofs. When they go to purchase the materials, which are very limited, they are told they can only have them if they agree to vote for the constitution in an advance ballot.”

The cyclone, meanwhile, has presented the junta with one last, vast business opportunity: by blocking aid from reaching the highly fertile Irrawaddy delta, hundreds of thousands of mostly ethnic Karen rice farmers are being sentenced to death. According to Farmaner, “that land can be handed over to the generals’ business cronies” (shades of the beachfront land grabs in Sri Lanka and Thailand after the Asian tsunami). This isn’t incompetence, or even madness, as many have claimed. It’s laissez-faire ethnic cleansing.

If the Burmese junta avoids mutiny and achieves these goals, it will be thanks largely to China, which has vigorously blocked all attempts at the United Nations for humanitarian intervention in Burma. Inside China, where the central government is going to great lengths to show itself as compassionate, news of this complicity could prove explosive.

Will China’s citizens receive this news? They just might. Beijing has, up to now, displayed an awesome determination to censor and monitor all forms of communication. But in the wake of the quake, the notorious “Great Firewall” censoring the Internet is failing badly. Blogs are going wild, and even state reporters are insisting on reporting the news.

This may be the greatest threat that natural disasters pose to contemporary repressive regimes. For China’s rulers, nothing has been more crucial to maintaining power than the ability to control what people see and hear. If they lose that, neither surveillance cameras nor loudspeakers will be able to help them.


The natives are restless in many places across the globe, except in America where we really need to be.




DEN said...


Make room for porn.

Coffee in the corner and sorta fresh pastries on the side.

Keep an eye on Spike, he is showing interest in those pastries.

DEN said...

Alan, do not mistake a down web site for extinction of the feces-species.

Neo-cruds are in 'deep cover' and have not left just yet.

Be vigilant.

Saladin said...

DEN, they don't need a website anymore, they've done what they set out to do which was bring America to it's knees starting with "The New Pearl Harbor." It was a cakewalk after that! Now just sit back and watch the fireworks.

Iran Intercepts U.S. Terrorists Plotting Attack on Russian Consulate

Kurt Nimmo

May 16, 2008

As if to underscore neocon retired general Thomas McInerney’s call for terror attacks against Iran (see Paul Joseph Watson, Neo-Con General Calls For Terror Attacks In Iran) , the Russian news and information agency RIA Novosti reports “Iran has arrested a terrorist group that planned to blow up the Russian consulate building in the town of Rasht near the Caspian Sea, the Iranian intelligence and security minister said on Wednesday.”

It appears the neocons are attempting to drag Russia into the coming conflagration, particularly because Russia has cooperated with Iran, specifically in regard to Iran’s light water reactor at Bushehr. In late 2005, Russia proposed an arrangement under which Iran would end its uranium enrichment activities in return for a Russian guarantee to enrich, in Russia, all uranium needed for Iranian nuclear power plants, an arrangement permitted under the NPT. It appears the neocons and their terrorist proxies are now targeting Russia for its perceived impertinence.

As award-winning journalist Seymour Hersh reported back in 2004, U.S. intelligence and Israel’s Mossad are busy at work stirring up trouble in Iran in preparation for an attack on that country. In early 2005, the Guardian reported that “American special forces have been on the ground inside Iran scouting for US air strike targets for suspected nuclear weapons sites, according to the renowned US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.”

Obviously, as the foiled attack on the Russian consulate demonstrates, this operation has expanded from simply targeting nuclear facilities — again, entirely legal under the term of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty — and now includes directing terrorist groups against civilian and government targets.

Earlier in the week, Iran’s intelligence minister said “those behind a bomb blast in a mosque that killed 14 people last month also planned to target a Russian consulate in the Islamic state,” according to Reuters. “President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the United States, Israel and Britain on Tuesday of being responsible for the blast in the southern city of Shiraz that also wounded 200 people.” Intelligence minister Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei said his “ministry last week said it had arrested five or six members of a terrorist group with links to Britain and the United States, who it said were involved in the explosion” at the mosque.

McInerney’s comments on Fox News were intended to dovetail with this increasing “covert” U.S. and Israeli sponsored violence in Iran. It appears the targeting of a Russian consulate is designed to ratchet up the tension. In the future, if MEK or “al-Qaeda” terrorist groups successfully kill Russians, this may very well start a Third World War, or as the neocons fondly call it, World War Four.
Those lunatics won't be satisfied until they bring it all down. Russia? China? BRING IT ON!

Alan said...

Alan, do not mistake a down web site for extinction of the feces-species.

I asked or postulated if the abandoned web site was an omen?
Of course they didn't all perish alla sudden. But their ideas have failed and so maybe Americans will know better next time. I like to think they didn't go deep undercover, but were BURIED instead. haha

David B. Benson said...

Might just be down for repairs?

DEN said...

Looks to me like they did not pay their bill.

Hajji said...

Home in Ashland, KY...took almost 3 hours to remember why I left it as soon as I could...

...Did you know that Barack Obama is gonna bring on "Ezeekyul's War"...where the blood will flow in the ME as high as a horses bridle?"

I couldn't find anything about that in the campaign literature...

-go figgur

ยบ¿carol said...

That O'Reilly video, the second one with the producer was hilarious! I had to watch it twice and STILL laughed.

This one is funny, but not as much as the producer one. But to each his own, eh?

Number one issue for voters in '08

David B. Benson said...

Another inequality in Israel:

Israel's Values Sacrificed on the Altar of Growth