Who Cares?

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

Yes, we are thrilled that our long and increasingly ugly primary process is drawing to a close, and that the prospect of a unified and strong Democratic party is increasingly possible and likely. We are thrilled to be on the verge of a major electoral victory in November.

But isn’t part of what defines us as Democrats and progressives, lefties of various stripes that we exit a narrow American exceptionalist view of world, that we understand all of our strengths and weaknesses in a global context?

There has been a major, major catastrophe in Burma. The blog of record of the so-called progressosphere has nary a mention of this on the Obama rec list. In addition to the need to help through donations, there are major human rights and internationalist issues to address: the question of humanitarian intervention.  

80,000 and more may have lost their lives. Millions are homeless. The repressive regime was given 48 hours warning of the devastating cyclone by the Indian government and seemingly did nothing to prepare or help the imminent victims. Even if junta wanted to help the people in advance, the infrastructure was likely not there. Now the repressive regime is hindering aid from coming in. From helping in this devastating situation:

Burma survivors emerge from disaster zone

May 7, 2008 (AFP)-Tens of thousands of shocked survivors of Burma’s cyclone are flocking to Labutta, trekking through floodwaters littered with bloated bodies, an AFP reporter said Wednesday.

The town of Labutta, the centre of a community of 90,000 people before Saturday’s disaster, is itself devastated, with virtually no food or fresh water, and residents are sharing meagre supplies of wild rice with the new arrivals.

Labutta, at the mouth of the Irrawaddy river delta which bore the brunt of Cyclone Nargis’s fury, was completely submerged as waters soared more than six metres (20 feet) high, covering even the tops of trees, residents told AFP.

“The people have no emotion left on their faces. They have never seen anything like this before,” one witness told AFP of the desperate survivors arriving here from surrounding villages that were totally wiped out.

“They have lost their families, they have nowhere to stay, and they have nothing to eat. They don’t know what the future will bring,” he said.

Around the town, blackened bodies of people and animals, already rotting in the intense tropical heat, washed up to roadsides as floodwaters receded.

The situation is dire.  The French are urging the U.N. to invoke the little-used 2005 rationale for imposing humanitarian aid: the responsibility to protect.

“We are seeing at the United Nations if we can’t implement the responsibility to protect, given that food, boats and relief teams are there, and obtain a United Nations’ resolution which authorizes the delivery and imposes this on the Burmese government,” Mr. Kouchner, who founded the aid group Doctors Without Borders, told reporters in Paris.

In 2005, the United Nations recognized the concept of “responsibility to protect” civilians when their governments could or would not do it, even if this meant intervention that violated national sovereignty. But it has been rarely applied.


The concept of humanitarian intervention is complex. How do you “impose” aid–invade for relief? It is particularly upsetting that BushCo perverted the concept to justify the Iraq War–as if the war were a massive human rights intervention. Of course, the rightwing ideologues are against the responsibility to protect as it would represent an impingement on U.S. sovereignty, .

BushCo is promising aid to Myanmar, but asking that the junta grant permission to enter:

WASHINGTON (AP) – The White House said Tuesday the U.S. will send more than $3 million to help victims of the devastating cyclone in Myanmar, up from an initial emergency contribution of $250,000.

Earlier Tuesday, President Bush called on Myanmar’s military junta to allow the team in.

“The United States has made an initial aid contribution but we want to do a lot more,” Bush said in the Oval Office. “We’re prepared to move U.S. Navy assets to help find those who have lost their lives, to help find the missing, to help stabilize the situation. But in order to do so, the military junta must allow our disaster assessment teams into the country.”

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said the U.S. military is ready to move Navy ships to Myanmar but will not do that until assistance is authorized. The Navy said it would take the ships about four days to make the trip.

The people of Burma need help now. The situation is dire. The dead are floating in rivers. There is a lack of clean water, food, shelter. Our hearts ached for the victims of the tsunami, and Katrina. We all helped. We need to help the Burmese people now. They have endured so much suffering.

We all feel helpless. How can we help?

  • Keep the issue front and center. Call your congresscritters to urge help and call for focus on this catastrophe.
  • Educate ourselves and spread the word about this disaster. Check out the Burma news ladder.
  • Pressure the media to keep this disaster front and center? Why is it not one of the top news stories? Because there isn’t enough “good” footage?
  • Here are excellent groups devoted to the liberation of Myanmar that have as up to date information as possible, and links to places to donate:
  • Read the metta suta, the heart sutra, which the monks of Burma, the brave souls of the Saffron revolution, intoned:

    As a mother would risk her life

    to protect her child, her only child,

    even so should one cultivate a limitless heart

    with regard to all beings.

    With good will for the entire cosmos,

    cultivate a limitless heart:

    Above, below, & all around,

    unobstructed, without enmity or hate.

    Whether standing, walking,

    sitting, or lying down,

    as long as one is alert,

    one should be resolved on this mindfulness.

    This is called a sublime abiding

    here & now.


Skip to comment form

    • srkp23 on May 7, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    Also posted at the great orange house of oblivion.

  1. … if you look at the blogad on the upper righthand corner of the screen, there are some links to how we can help.

    And grannyhelen has been writing excellent essays here on this for the past two days.

    Thanks for posting the meta suta, srkp.

    • srkp23 on May 8, 2008 at 12:27 am

    So what do y’all think about humanitarian intervention–even if it requires military force? Very tricky and pressing issue.  

  2. I’ve been impressed by the number of Burma diaries written about the cyclone and the aftermath here, that I have not felt the desperate need to cover the humanitarian disaster with Four at Four to plug the hole. I think this says something good about the DocuD community. Thank you everyone.

    • brobin on May 8, 2008 at 1:33 am

    however as usual, our crack team of international foreign policy fuck-up’s have been hard at work on regime change.  They decided that they needed to discuss how much HELP we were ready to give if they would just let OUR team of HELPERS in to administrate the HELP.

    Oh, and McCain says the government there needs to go.  Go rhymes with regime change, right?

    OOPS.  I meant McSame day, McSame message, McSame help yourself but no one else.

    • geomoo on May 8, 2008 at 3:36 am

    the orange Obama obsessives (oOo) have had diaries on the rec list on and off, even through the craziness of last night.  It has been about as usual, one decent Obama diary, four mediocre Obama diaries, two embarrassing Obama diaries, and one issue diary.  This has been the most common issue diary over the last half day.

    Just sayin’.  It’s a quibble.  Thanks for this diary.

    • Edger on May 8, 2008 at 6:18 am

    “We’re prepared to move U.S. Navy assets to help find those who have lost their lives, to help find the missing, to help stabilize the situation. But in order to do so, the military junta must allow our disaster assessment teams into the country.”

    Mr. Bush? Remember Iraq? If you are surprised now that there are no countries or governments, including another repressive authoritarian regime, that want anything to do with allowing you, Mr. Bush, to send US military into their country, then you are more of an idiot than even I though you were, you idiot.

    As ye sow, and so on….

    • DWG on May 8, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    Leaders that thrive on control and obedience to authority cannot handle disasters. Effective disaster response requires extensive preparation, diversion of resources to serve the needs of people affected, local suspension of traditional lines of authority, and acceptance of outside help when the scope of the disaster is large. Disasters also damage the fragile egos of authoritarians because it is exposes the limits to their power.  Just ask Bush.

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