The Myanmar Catastrophe and Why We Aren’t Doing Anything

Myanmar TyphoonThe Myanmar government refuses to let foreign aid workers into the country to help distribute aid to the roughly 1.5 million people who have been cut off from food and clean water. The government claims that they themselves can provide the logistics necessary to distribute this aid.

Most countries have either refused or deferred aid unless foreign relief teams can participate in the distribution, out of fear that the aid will not get to those who need it. At least some of what has been distributed was painted over with the names of the generals in charge.

Our government sits with $3 million in aid offered, Australia with $23.4 million, the French with 1500 metric tons of food in a vessel in Myanmar’s waters. We and other governments play the waiting game with the Myanmar government; and the generals appear to be digging in their heels.

In the meantime, 8 days have now gone by since the typhoon hit, and 1.5 million people are still cut off from food and clean water.

In eight more days, the number of deaths from political stalemate will far exceed the carnage caused by the typhoon. I don’t get this at all, and I don’t understand how seeing who blinks first is going to make the world a better place.

If the world’s intention is humanitarian aid, then why not fly in as much as possible to Yangon – inundate the airport with food and supplies – and let the Myanmar military do as much as they can with it? Even with all the suspected corruption and expected diversion of aid, at least some of those 1.5 million might live to next week. So what if the generals want to take credit? Unless, of course, further isolating a junta that’s been in control for 46 years is more important than the plight of those 1.5 million.

Senator John Kerry said, “The only goal right now should be getting help to the people of Burma, however we need to do it. I couldn’t agree more.


2 Responses to The Myanmar Catastrophe and Why We Aren’t Doing Anything

  1. Paul says:

    Unfortunately, the very poignant Nicaragua story didn’t end with the overthrow of the Somoza government. The Iran-Contra scandal quickly followed as the U.S. diverted the profits of weapons sales to Iran to fund anti-Sandinista guerrillas in an attempt to destabilize the Sandinista government.

    The Nicaraguans suffered for many years, first by a Somoza regime (mostly) friendly to the U.S. and then by a Marxist Sandinista government antithetical to the Reagan Administration.

    I bring this up because the U.S. government, through its rhetoric, convincingly positions itself as a purveyor of the overthrow of the Mayanmar government, something that historically may not work to the U.S.’s benefit (see the U.S. support, then rejection, of Batista’s Cuba as another example). So the U.S. should be careful what is wishes for, and should be careful about what it says publicly.

    The Myanmar catastrophe was a chance for the U.S. and the rest of the world to put aside that rhetoric for a few months and try to help the people under that regime. It’s not happening. We’ll probably never know the eventual death toll, but I’m sure it will be hundreds of thousands that will pay the price for ego and obstinacy.


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