Obama Dances the Burma Shuffle

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Listen to President Obama’s praise for a former political prisoner:

“I am very pleased that one of my first stops is to visit with an icon of democracy who has inspired so many people not just in this country but all around the world…Here [under house arrest] through so many difficult years, is where she displayed such unbreakable courage and determination. It’s here where she showed that human freedom and dignity cannot be denied.”

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Aung San Suu Ky and Obama

Since he says “she,” you know he’s not at Chile’s embassy in London where Australian website publisher Julian Assange remains secluded from the threat of arrest and extradition to the U.S. and trial under the now ominous Espionage Act. He’s still a political prisoner.

No. On Nov. 19, Obama was in Burma, and he was speaking of Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Ky, former political prisoner and now parliament member. Yes, he praised her. But he still has trouble contradicting himself. He speaks of freedom and democracy while continuing to wage endless war (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia), limit human rights (the NDAA, punishing whistleblowers, continuing Guantanamo, and now even challenged by the Afghan leader over prisoners in Bagram), and striving to control the Internet and American communications. These to name a few.

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So why was he visiting and waxing often of freedom and democracy and human rights in little ol’ Burma, where no other president has traveled before, and where Aung San Suu Ky was limited to only three minutes to speak?

Probably this is why:

The top half of Burma lies between the borders of China and India. And America has this habit of setting up military bases in foreign countries for what it calls “cooperative efforts” at security. Obama didn’t refer to setting up the American military in Burma. In a speech, he only used the clause that the U.S. would be “engaging your military to promote professionalism and human rights.”

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But remember what Obama said about China in his debate with Mitt Romney on foreign policy:

We believe China can be a partner, but we’re also sending a very clear signal that America is a Pacific power, that we are going to have a presence there. We are working with countries in the region to make sure, for example, that ships can pass through, that commerce continues, and we’re organizing trade relations with countries other than China so that China feels more pressure about meeting basic international standards.

Meanwhile, last Friday, U.S. defense secretary Leon Panetta was quoted at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit as saying:

We are deepening our military engagement with our allies and partners in this region in order to ensure that we are able to promote security and prosperity in this region for many years to come.

For many years to come. Hmmm.

Obama didn’t get into this in his Burma speeches. He concentrated on democracy, human rights, and economic development. But that propaganda couldn’t camouflage his real purpose in coming to Burma for a president’s first visit. It’s a part of the U.S. plan to deepen a military foothold close to China.

And you’d better believe China’s been paying attention to Obama’s and Panetta’s remarks, and understands U.S. intentions.

As for Burma’s other northern neighbor India, Obama was also general in his brief remarks to India’s prime minister Manmohan Singh earlier at the ASEAN summit. He said, “India is a big part of my plans.”

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What could he mean?

Perhaps he’s thinking what the American think tank Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is thinking in a recently released study. It states that a strong U.S. relationship with India could alter the power balance both in Asia and the world.

The report notes that such a relationship “can have a range of strategic benefits, including the enhancement of military capabilities, building long‚àíterm professional relationships, as well as strategic signalling to allies, partners, and potential adversaries.”

Also noted in the report: India now conducts more military exercises with the United States than with any other country in the world. And India has had its border disputes with China.

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So, now we see the U.S. attempting with Burma to burrow a deeper continental foothold, and perhaps provide insurance if relationships with India sour.

And a U.S. effort at economic development in Burma would mean affecting the country’s imports and exports. That also will interest China, who provides nearly 40% of Burma’s imports. The volume may only be a small portion of China’s exports, but China is having its own economic struggles now. It can only see American economic involvement in Burma as an added irritation to U.S. threatened military incursion.

As you watch tensions grow over American maneuvering in Asia, don’t overlook Burma, where the U.S. also based military in World War II. Obama isn’t overlooking it.

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