Time to send China a message on Burma
Burma’s rogue ruling military junta’s actions in preventing international humanitarian assistance in the wake of Cyclone Nargis is criminal. There are at least 100,000 dead in the Irrawaddy Delta. More than 1.5 million people are in desperate need of aid. With each day passing, denying international aid and rescue to their own people is nothing short of self-inflicted genocide.
There is only a short window to provide aid, else there are sure to be thousands of more deaths due to the break out of diseases such as cholera. The lack of food will cause many more deaths by starvation. With more than 2,000 square miles of the Delta under water, the only way to provide immediate assistance is by helicopter.
The U.S. Navy and other countries are standing by to provide the necessary assistance. Burma has only six operational helicopters. Food, water, medicine, field hospitals, rescue and assistance teams will have to be delivered by helicopters.
Along with the distribution of urgently needed supplies, search and rescue operations must be started immediately for those stranded civilians and collection of the corpses. Two weeks ago Qatar tried to send in a searchand-rescue team but was turned away. I have not seen any aid coming forth from other Arab countries, or for that matter, China.
On May 8, France attempted to bring the Burma situation before the United Nations Security Council but was opposed by none other than those great pillars of human rights and dignity, China and Russia. They were joined by South Africa and several other developing countries whose “principled” position on nonintervention, which is laughable, outweighs the need to save hundreds of thousands of helpless Burmese.
China exercises more influence over the Burmese military junta than any other country. If China continues to be unhelpful by blocking U.N. actions and fails to force the junta to accept international aid from the world community, a bold message needs to be sent to Beijing. The leaders of the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and other like-minded countries should send notification to Chairman Hu Jintao of their intention to boycott their attendance at the opening ceremonies, if not the entire Olympics.
Of course, there will be great resistance to such a message that we are politicizing the games and could upset the six-nation nuclear talks with Korea. Perhaps that is so. But if China wants to be crowned after these Olympics as a leader on the world stage, it must start acting the part now. Burma would be a good place to start. They missed the opportunity in Tibet.
With regard to the Olympic challenge, the Olympic event has lost its sense of direction long ago. Professionalizing the Olympics has turned it into a “commercial endorsement and propaganda” event. We don’t need professional athletes who make $20 million to $30 million a year to take part in what should be an event that brings out the best amateur athletes to compete adhering to the original concept of what Olympics should be about. The U.S. hockey team’s victory in 1980 is a case in point.
Further, the modern Olympics have been subverted in many cases by the propaganda objectives of the host country. With whole villages moved, we will witness a true “Potemkin Village Olympic” in Beijing.
If China has any conscience, it needs to move now to force Burma to remove all barriers and accept the international humanitarian assistance including aid workers for the survival of their beleaguered and desperate people. If China continues to be unhelpful, it‘s more than time to throw down the gauntlet.
James Lyons, U.S. Navy retired admiral, was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations, and deputy chief of naval operations, where he was principal adviser on all Joint Chiefs of Staff matters.