Saturday, 16 August 2008

What Lessons do we get from Georgia in the Burmese Context?

Prof. Kanbawza Win

(Asian Tribune) - Now that the world media is highlighted by the Beijing Olympics and the conflict in Georgia, and as a teacher of the history of Imperialism may I take this opportunity to highlight some of the facts and figures of the Georgia crisis especially to the pro ethno democratic forces and draw lessons as we can no longer afford the trial and error method. A country living under the shadow of the evil Chinese empire must be able to see things clearly and visualise all the trappings for the future of Union of Burma.

Washington is no innocent bystander in this bloody struggle, which provoked a response by Russia that now dominates the news. Long before Aug. 8, Georgia, a country in the Caucasus Mountains south of Russia, attacked a small autonomous region known as South Ossetia. Georgia’s military assaulted the city of Tskhinvali the capital of Ossetia destroying the parliament building, the university and the main hospital.

According to AP interviews with survivors, there was hardly a single building left undamaged. Eduard Kokoity, the South Ossetian leader, estimated that more than 1,400 civilians were killed in the assault (Reuters, Aug. 8). Russian military forces then struck back at Georgia’s military bases, airfields and the main Black Sea port of Poti. Most news coverage in the West, however, is slanted to give the impression that Russia initiated the conflict with Georgia.

Of course Washington does not claim credit for the invasion of South Ossetia ordered by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, especially now that his forces have been routed. But the White House made clear its political support for Saakashvili and had sent Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State. Georgia has been closely allied with the U.S. military in its war in Iraq.

Everybody knows the U.S. and NATO have heavily armed and trained the Georgian military. There are U.S. military “advisers” in Georgia today. A thousand U.S. Marines from the Third Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment just finished three weeks of joint manoeuvres there called “Operation Immediate Response.” In the period leading up to Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia, the Pentagon had supplied Georgia with hundreds of tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery weapons, rocket launchers and dozens of combat helicopters and anti-aircraft missile systems. Hundreds of other weapons systems have poured in from other NATO members and from Israel. (Interfax, Aug. 7) In exchange Georgia had provided the third-largest military force in the U.S. occupation of Iraq. But on Aug. 10 the U.S. began ferrying the 2,000 Georgian troops out of Iraq to the war zone in Georgia. Along with the “advisers” and U.S. troops sent for manoeuvres, U.S.-origin mercenaries and privatized military trainers function in Georgia. Tens of thousands of “civil society” operatives, international consultants, policy experts and technical assistants operate in Georgia, Ukraine and other former Soviet Republics.

Now in the Burmese context, Prof. Dr Khin Mg Kyi has said we are but in name, that Burma is an autonomous region of China, the Generals has secretly sell the country long ago to the Chinese in return to support the Junta to maintain in power. Hence if we were to take the covert support from the West, particularly form the US, to make a coup de grace which I have highlighted in my previous article, what will China do is food for thought? The country under the occupation of the Chinese army will be worst that the marauding Burmese Generals. Shall we jump out of the frying pan into the fire? But this does not mean that we have to accept the status quo.

The media’s war reporting on Georgia’s invasion of South Ossetia has echoed the kind of misinformation that characterized the reporting on the U.S. invasion of Iraq. One must know that Georgia is at the centre of U.S. imperialism’s moves to control the oil-rich Caspian Sea region. Georgia is the energy highway for Europe, with at least two major pipelines passing though it. These pipelines are emerging to rival the Russian oil pipelines that have been Europe’s primary source for natural gas and oil. Until 2005, the only pipeline from the Caspian oil centre of Baku in Azerbaijan was through Russia. In 2005, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline opened. Owned by British Petroleum and Unocal, this pipeline goes through Georgia to the Turkish port city of Ceyhan.

The BP consortium also owns the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum pipeline, which opened in 2007. Another pipeline, named Western Early, goes through Georgia passing the border of South Ossetia to the Georgia port city of Supsa. Hence s the oil that was once the most valuable resource of the former Soviet Union is now going to market through facilities controlled by U.S. and its allies.

With Iraq’s oil resources conquered, and Iran’s under threat of blockade or bombardment, the U.S. is determined to also control the Caspian oil fields. By removing Russian control over these oil fields, the U.S. would deliver a major blow to the possible emergence of Russia as a capitalist power. For all its flowery words of democracy and freedom, the U.S. ruling class has no intention of freeing Burma or allowing Russia to become an imperialist rival, like Europe and Japan. The U.S. has been working covertly and overtly to break up Russia and the states that were formerly part of the Soviet Union, concentrating on the states around the Caspian oil fields. The Caspian Sea has two huge oil fields. One is east of Baku. The other is the Tengiz oilfield, on the Caspian’s northwest shore in Kazakhstan.

In addition there are massive reserves of natural gas throughout the Caspian region. It is the primary supplier of natural gas to Europe. The known reserves of Caspian oil are larger than the oil fields of Nigeria or Libya, putting the Caspian oil fields in the same league as the fields of Iran or Kuwait.

A consortium of 11 major oil corporations set up outposts on the Caspian. Atlantic Richfield, Chevron, Exxon, Mobil, Pennzoil, Philips Petroleum, Texaco and BP Amoco spent billions of dollars buying up Soviet-era oil interests and drilling rights. But the Caspian Sea is landlocked. The oil must be transported out of the region by pipeline. Whoever controls the pipelines will ultimately control the oil. South Ossetia is but one of the targets.

Within the United Nations Security Council, U.S. and British representatives blocked a Russian-drafted resolution calling on Georgia and South Ossetia to immediately put down their weapons. The U.S. rejected the three-sentence statement that would have required both sides “to renounce the use of force.” It was a clear confirmation of U.S. support for Georgia’s continued “use of force” against the small Ossetian nationality. However, Russia succeeded in repelling Georgia’s invasion of South Ossetia. So as of Aug. 13, Georgia and Russia agreed to a “peace plan” brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

This is the true story, at least from my humble perspective. The point which I am driving it is that will the Chinese stand by now that the construction of the oil pipe line from Arakan to Kunming is being implemented? With the current situation in Burma, it will not be so much of a problem to deliver a coup de grace to the Burmese Junta. But after that what? Has the ethnics and the pro democracy group has come to a broad understanding? The ethnics have their own fighting force whereas the pro democracy has the masses. Have they ever made an attempt to thrash out their different perspective for a common good of the country?

The Burmese resistance (including the ethnics) have lacked the most important factor and the joke, that if two Burmese were put into the cell they will form three political parties captures a shameful truth. In other words these numerous resistance group actions are indicating that they would prefer the Burmese military Junta then come to agreement with each other. Every resistance leader knows that once they become a united political force under one umbrella then the Junta will fall and yet they would not lift a finger to help that unity.

Until and unless these two groups have an understanding of each other, I don’t see any bright future for the Union of Burma. We must present to the international community that we are the better alternative than the Junta. If the Maha Bama drives it to the position prior to 1962, surely the ethnic will not join and there is the danger of Balkanization. On the other hand the Chinese will give credence to the Maha Bama headed by the Junta and the Burmese revolution will be driven back for a couple of decades and the people will continue to suffer. I think Burmese democracy starts in our hearts and if we don’t agreed and compromise with each other after more than half a century Burma will set up a record of being a century under the heels of the military. It is far better to reach a sort of understanding an agreement than relying on the imperialistic power or the evil empires or the cutthroat neighbouring countries as the example of Georgia unfold before our eyes.

- Asian Tribune -

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