Burma's Cyclone Tragedy: A Government Without Oil
(see Military.com news story following Blog comments:
"US Pilots Get Hero's Welcome in Myanmar")
Comments on this blog are from Don Levesque in Madawaska; from Marc Pembroke in Jackman, Maine; and from Caroline Hartzler in Lansdowne, Virginia.
Where's the oil?
Would the world just stand by and watch the pitifully poor Burmese people starving, while the bodies of their family members and neighbors rot in the tropical sun, if their isolated country was oil rich*? (Read note from Marc Pembroke below.)
I truly don't mean to make a political statement out of the horrible plight of the Burmese people during this time of mass disease and human suffering, caused by an inept government. Nevertheless, watching these poor people, their desperate images, without being able to help them, raises ethical questions in my mind. How can we let this happen? Let's override those stupid and evil general's who claim to be the Burmese leaders. Why not invade Burma, and take the heinous government out, like we did in Iraq?
Of course, the obvious answer is that a hostile reaction might make a horrible situation even worse for the Burmese. But, I recall the US invasion of Iraq did the same thing. We took out the dictator Saddam Hussein and let Al-Quida terrorists come into the country's side door.
I'm sympathetic beyond words for the plight of the beautiful Burmese people, who deserve much better than what they're getting from their useless government.
Moreover, the powerlessness of the US, along with Burma's neighboring countries and the United Nations, who want to help, are compounding the frustrations. We are watching an entire generation of people die for lack of decisive action.
Maybe, we can dump barrels oil out of the stomachs of airplanes, along with rice and food, in an effort to bring value to the urgency of the powerless Burmese people.
I pray for the poor and fragile Burmese people. It appears the help they urgently need won't arrive in time to save them from the evil people they are subject to.
Comment on May 10, 2008: from Don Levesque of Madawaska, Maine and the St. John Valley: What a sad world this is becoming.
Those poor victims in Burma.
Poor people are always the victims of tragedies and war.
You know, a lot of people still feel pretty much the same way about Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (I think it was called) which left people on our Gulf Coast struggling to survive unimaginable horrors while the corpses of their families, friends and neighbors were left bloating in the sun while an inept government did almost nothing right for way too long. Even today, various government agencies still haven't got it completely right there.
I guess nobody's immune from inept governments.
And, speaking of unimaginable ... hungry poor people around the world are rioting because they can no longer afford rice or cereals. I have trouble getting my mind around this. It is beyond science fiction.
It's very hard to be hopeful and optimistic when power seems to trump compassion almost everywhere.
Thank you for listening, doctor.
Comment from Marc Pembroke of Jackman ME dated May 11, 2008
"One might wonder whether the same outcome would occur if Myanmar were an oil-rich nation. However, I am not sure how much of a difference it would make. In fact, Myanmar was one of the oldest oil-producing countries. Its first exports date back to 1853. In 2004, it signed agreements with 9 foreign oil companies for exploration. It produces about the equivalent of 170,000 barrels of oil and natural gas a day (when its systems are operational, of course). That is small compared with Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, but oil companies are interested in the country. My guess is that any offshore rigs would probably have been destroyed, and the infrastructure within the country is probably in no shape for now. In this case, I don't think oil is a sufficient factor to explain the problem.
Let's continue to pray for a resolution to this crisis.
US Pilots Get Hero's Welcome in Myanmar: News Article from the Military.com
May 13, 2008
UTAPAO AIR BASE, Thailand - Flying into Yangon, U.S. Marine Cpl. Bryan Hampson looked out the windows of his C-130 cargo plane at an expanse of marshland covered with a thick, brown blanket of water.
As the plane broke through the clouds, the crew member didn't know what to expect. His flight Tuesday was only the second one that Myanmar's ruling military junta - often hostile and suspicious of outside interference - had allowed the U.S. military to fly into the cyclone-devastated country.
What awaited was virtually a hero's welcome.
"They kept telling us thank you and shaking our hands," he said of the 40 Myanmar people who unloaded by hand the 19,900 pounds (9,025 kilograms) of emergency supplies on board. "They were really friendly toward us. They were excited to see us."
After strong appeals from Washington, Myanmar allowed the second and third U.S. military flights in on Tuesday and appeared to be willing to accept more, said Marine Lt. Col. Douglas Powell.
Powell said the first flight Tuesday carried blankets, water and mosquito nets. The second took in a 24,750-pound (11,225-kilogram) load. The two flights come after Myanmar allowed an Air Force C-130 cargo plane into Yangon, its main city, on Monday.
"They were very polite, very professional," Capt. Mark Hamilton, the pilot of Tuesday's first flight, said of the Myanmar officials who met the plane. He said a Myanmar air force officer even came aboard the plane and took snapshots of the cockpit.
"But the military mostly stood off to the side," he said.
Hamilton, of Becker, Minnesota, said the Yangon airport was in good condition, although rain fell as the plane was unloaded.
"They could fit quite a few large planes in there," he said. "The only issue is the offload."
Powell said a Boeing 747 aircraft arrived at Utapao Air Base in Thailand on Monday night to replenish the supplies available to fly in to Myanmar. Though the flights are military, the aid aboard them is being provided by civilian relief authorities.
The U.S. has pushed hard for the ruling military junta in Myanmar to let U.S. troops play a big role in relief operations in the aftermath of the cyclone, which has killed tens of thousands and severely affected an estimated 2 million people.
The U.S. military, which has already brought forces to the region for its annual Cobra Gold exercise, has 11,000 troops, at least four ships and potentially dozens of cargo planes nearby that are ready to start assistance operations.
Adm. Timothy J. Keating, commander of the U.S. Pacific Forces, flew into Myanmar on the initial aid flight Monday to try to persuade the junta to relent.
Keating said the U.S. military could provide 200,000 pounds (90,720 kilograms) of supplies a day, which would be a massive boost to the lagging relief efforts. The military could also ferry aid workers to the hardest-hit regions, which remain hard to reach.
But Myanmar state television said navy commander in chief Rear Adm. Soe Thein told Keating that basic needs of the storm victims are being fulfilled and that "skillful humanitarian workers are not necessary."
The operation, named Joint Task Force Caring Relief, will not go ahead without the approval of Myanmar's military rulers, who have so far refused a broad range of help offers because they fear foreign meddling in their domestic affairs.
That stance - as bodies remain scattered around the countryside and hundreds of thousands of refugees are in need of food and shelter - has generated howls of criticism from around the world.
"I wish their government would accept our aid more than they have already," said Hampson, of Bedford, Pennsylvania. "We'll come in and give them the aid they need to help their people, then we'll leave."TinyURL.com/6gohbu
From Caroline Hartzler in Lansdowne Virginia - American who lived in Burma:
I was fortunate to meet a Burmese woman while I lived in New Haven. I maintained a friendship with her until she returned to Burma in the 80's. My two children were young then, but they have always remembered Daw Tin Tin. She taught me how to grow African violets and to this day I think of her as I see my flowering violets.
Burma was a mystery to me when I first went to (live in) Rangoon, but it was a country rich in a refined culture. The tenets of Buddhism were practiced by most of the population, except for the areas which had been more influenced by the Christianity of missionaries.
Unfortunately, the attitudes of the many military generals who have grabbed power in Burma since 1962 is not inclined toward the welfare of the population. It is uncivilized for them to deny the vigorous efforts of their neighbors and the rest of the world to come to their aid.
Caroline (from Virginia)