Time to send China a mes­sage on Burma

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - JAMES LYONS

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.

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