Rarely is US hypocrisy so cynical and overt as a recent US State Department investigation into ongoing violence in Myanmar, all while the US continues its full spectrum support of Saudi Arabia’s genocidal war on Yemen.
In addition to Washington’s role in Yemen, the US also occupies Afghanistan and Syria while carrying out drone strikes and covert military interventions in territory stretching from North Africa to Central Asia.
In Myanmar specifically, the US has openly and for decades funded and supported groups and individuals involved directly on both sides of ongoing ethnic violence. Now, it is leveraging that violence to single out obstacles to US influence in Southeast Asia and in Myanmar specifically.
Reuters in their article titled, “U.S. accuses Myanmar military of ‘planned and coordinated’ Rohingya atrocities,” would claim:
A U.S. government investigation has found that Myanmar’s military waged a “well-planned and coordinated” campaign of mass killings, gang rapes and other atrocities against the Southeast Asian nation’s Rohingya Muslim minority.
Reuters admits the US State Department’s report, titled “Documentation of Atrocities in Northern Rakhine State,” was in fact merely interviews conducted with alleged witnesses in neighbouring Bangladesh.
Was it Really an Investigation?
Imagine a fight breaks out between two groups of people. The police are called in. But instead of arriving at the crime scene, the police instead interview only one group, and do so at their home before drawing their final conclusions. Would anyone honestly call this an “investigation?” The US State Department apparently would, because this is precisely what the State Department has done in regards to ongoing ethnic violence in Myanmar.
The full report, found here on the US State Department’s website, would admit:
The Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), with funding support from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL), conducted a survey in spring 2018 of the firsthand experiences of 1,024 Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar District, Bangladesh. The goal of the survey was to document atrocities committed against residents in Burma’s northern Rakhine State during the course of violence in the previous two years.
No physical evidence was collected or presented in the report, because investigators never stepped foot in Myanmar itself where the violence allegedly took place. The report also failed to interview other parties allegedly involved in the violence.
While the witness accounts in the US State Department’s investigation were shocking, had investigators gone to Rakhine state and interviewed locals there, they would have heard similar stories told of Rohingya attacks on Buddhists and Hindus.
Both accounts require further and impartial investigation, however the US State Department, by exclusively interviewing only one party amid multiparty ethnic violence all but ensures nothing resembling a real, impartial investigation ever takes place. This, of course, assumes that the United States has any authority as arbiter in Myanmar’s internal affairs in the first place.
The US State Department investigation follows a similar UN report which mirrored and admittedly used similar claims made by US and European funded fronts posing as “nongovernmental organisations” (NGOs).
Together, these efforts represent a cycle of one-sided propaganda cynically aimed at leveraging ethnic violence within and along Myanmar’s borders to pressure and coerce the government of Myanmar, particularly in regards to its growing ties with China. This is a fact that even Reuters in its article concedes to, albeit buried deep within the body of the text.
Reuters, after describing how the US could use the investigation’s alleged findings to pressure Myanmar, would admit:
Any stiffer measures against Myanmar authorities could be tempered, though, by U.S. concerns about complicating relations between civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and the powerful military which might push Myanmar closer to China.
Myanmar, which borders China, seeks like the rest of Southeast Asia, closer ties to Beijing as the region collectively rises economically and politically on the global stage. Attempts by Western capitals to reassert and expand their former colonial influence has manifested itself in political meddling, subversion, the use of ethnic tensions to divide and weaken national unity and even terrorism.
It should be noted that the US and UK’s leveraging of ethnic violence in modern day Myanmar is a continuation of ethnic divisions intentionally cultivated by the British Empire to divide and rule Myanmar when it was a British colony.
It is worth repeating that Channel 4, one of Britain’s own public service broadcasters, in an article titled, “A Brief History of Burma,” aptly described the very source of Myanmar’s current ethnic divisions:
Throughout their Empire the British used a policy called ‘divide and rule’ where they played upon ethnic differences to establish their authority. This policy was applied rigorously in Burma. More than a million Indian and Chinese migrants were brought in to run the country’s affairs and thousands of Indian troops were used to crush Burmese resistance. In addition, hill tribes which had no strong Burmese affiliation, such as the Karen in the south-east, were recruited into ethnic regiments of the colonial army.
The article also admitted:
The British ‘divide and rule’ policy left a legacy of problems for Burma when it regained independence.
Not only has the British “divide and rule” policy left a legacy of problems for Myanmar since gaining its independence, these are problems Washington is now cynically exploiting in its own interpretation of “divide and rule.”
Washington’s Own Role in the Violence Goes Unreported
Oft omitted in US-European media reports, Aung San Suu Kyi, defacto leader of Myanmar’s government, is the product of decades of US and British political and financial backing. Virtually every aspect of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government including high-level ministers, are the result of US-European training, funding and support.
The government’s minister of information, for example, received US-funded training in neighbouring Thailand before working his way up Aung San Suu Kyi’s US-backed opposition party.
Another aspect omitted by the US-European media is the fact that the most prominent so-called “pro-democracy” leaders supported by Washington, London and Brussels, have openly been involved in calling for, promoting and defending ethnic violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya minority, violence now being leveraged by Washington to place pressure on Myanmar and foil growing ties with China.
This includes NED Democracy Awardee Min Ko Naing who denied the Rohingya as an ethnic group in Myanmar, suggesting they were merely illegal immigrants. It also includes Ko Ko Gyi who openly vowed to take up arms against the Rohingya whom he called “foreign invaders.”
More telling of Washington’s lack of convictions in protecting the Rohingya and instead cynically exploiting Myanmar’s ethnic tensions is the fact that Ko Ko Gyi was invited to speak in Washington D.C. a year after pledging to take up arms against the Rohingya.
It should be pointed out that Ko Ko Gyi’s pro-genocide remarks were made in a US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) funded publication, The Irrawaddy, and it was the US NED who would invit him to speak in Washington a year later, meaning that those in Washington were well aware of exactly who and what Ko Ko Gyi really was.
Founding member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), U Win Tin, awarded “journalist of the year” by Reporters Without Borders in 2006, would suggest that the Rohingya be interned in camps.
It’s clear that at the very least, it is more than just Myanmar’s military involved in ethnic violence inside Myanmar. It is also clear that the US and its European partners and the virtual army of fronts posing as NGOs have selectively “investigated” and “reported” on Myanmar’s ethnic violence to single out and undermine the military alone, while providing impunity to others involved in the violence including extremists among the Rohingya population itself, as well as anti-Rohingya extremists backed for years by the US government.
The very fact that the US has backed those involved in ethnic violence in Myanmar, and that their role continuously goes unreported in various US government and US-funded NGO investigations illustrates an additional and major crisis of credibility regarding Washington’s self-appointed role as arbiter in Myanmar.
This US strategy of cultivating animosity on all sides, providing impunity to some while singling out others, ensures Myanmar remains divided and weak, while the US and its European partners can pick apart Myanmar’s military and any civilian politicians who refuse to tilt Myanmar away from Beijing, and back toward Anglo-American influence. It is another example of the American-dominated international human rights racket advancing Western interests merely behind pro-human rights rhetoric, often at the cost of undermining real human rights.
While supposed NGOs funded by the US, UK and European nations pose as dedicated to human rights in Myanmar, they are in fact foreign fronts meddling in Myanmar’s internal affairs, and because of the selective nature of their “investigations,” they are in fact enabling those involved in atrocities who are currently in Washington’s, London’s and Brussels’ good graces.
The final, and perhaps central reality that exposes the disingenuous and cynical nature of the US State Department’s “investigation” into Myanmar’s violence is the fact that concurrently, the United States is carrying out a war by proxy against the impoverished, war-torn Middle Eastern nation of Yemen.
There, the US has provided its partners in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with weapons, intelligence and other forms of direct material support in carrying out the brutal and systematic destruction of the nation’s infrastructure, including the blockading and takeover of ports where essential food, medicine and other necessities are just barely trickling through.
The same UN the US has enlisted to coerce Myanmar’s military, has published far more substantiated claims regarding substantially worse human tolls amid the US proxy war in Yemen. A March 2018 report posted on the UN’s website titled, “UN renews push for political solution as Yemen marks three years of all-out conflict,” would admit that up to 22 million people were in dire need of humanitarian assistance. The report would also note the deaths of thousands of children along with the closure of some 2,500 schools.
Another report, by the UN high commission for human rights, noted that the US proxy war in Yemen has caused over 17,000 civilian casualties defining it in terms dwarfing accusations made by the US State Department regarding Myanmar. The US actively enables atrocities in Yemen while “investigating” atrocities in Myanmar based purely on US geopolitical objectives, not any sort of genuine or even semi-genuine concern for human life.
For the US-UK and European-funded fronts posing as NGOs and meddling in Myanmar under the pretence of defending human rights, the fact that they claim to fight for human rights while being funded by and working for the demonstrably worst human rights abusers on the planet eliminates whatever legitimacy remains after already taking into account their one-sided, bias investigations.
Joseph Thomas is chief editor of Thailand-based geopolitical journal, The New Atlas and contributor to the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.