More From Alder's Ledge

January 31, 2013

The Factory System And Burma

History Stuck In Replay Mode
(part of The Darkness Visible series)

(Rohingya In Aung Mingalar Ghetto)

From the very beginning of the implementation of the factory system in what would become known as the United States the intention was well established. Both the British and American forces used the system of slanted trade and dishonest treaties to grab land and decrease the native populations' numbers. Through the spread of disease, both intentional and indirect, the white settlers were able to increase the dependency of their "allied" Native American tribes and decrease the strength of their native foes. Economics, disease, and forced famine all became tools used to complement the system set in place by the English and perfected by the Americans.

In Burma a less prevalent system of forced dependency and rampant lies has been established when dealing with the native Rohingya peoples of the Arakan state. For well over 40 years now the government of Myanmar has been employing drastically slanted economic standards upon the Rohingya within its borders. To achieve this the Burmese have denied citizenship to the Rohingya to limit what economic opportunities the Rohingya have available to them. Burma has also used punitive taxes to keep the Rohingya permanently impoverished. And to add to what already appeared as an unfair playing field, Myanmar's government allows for the state to utilize Rohingya people as slave labor.

This method of applying an economic slant when dealing with the Rohingya follows the same patterns laid out by the Americans when conquering the old Indian Territory of Indiana. The only major difference in this situation is the fact that Burma does not recognize the Rohingya as an independent nation as did the Americans when dealing with native tribes. But with that distinction made, it is still hard to miss the abuses of basic economic principles by both the American government in the late 18th century - early 19th and the same abuses carried out by Burma.

Today in Burma actual trade of goods and food items is banned by the Arakan authorities when dealing with Rakhine and Rohingya groups. The only access to food, water, and basic living supplies (such as medicine and house hold items) is dictated by the local authorities at the advisement of the Burmese government. The intention behind this policy is to both assure that starvation and disease increase amongst the Rohingya and that economic liberties of the Rohingya are stifled.

As for the Native Americans, the same economic policies were carried out by baiting the tribes into first establishing trade and then skewing the rates at which trade was carried out. To further increase dependency the American government encouraged citizens to avoid trade with the natives and instead focusing trade at the forts (factories) and trade post. This meant that if Native American tribes wanted to trade they would have to come to the American government to do so. And by doing so the natives were trapped in unfair and often unjust trade agreements.

When the area in which the tribes of the old Indian Territory were decreased by simply redrawing the maps the Native Americans within the territory found themselves not only locked into trade deals they could not understand, but also competing with settlers to whom the deals did not apply. This meant that competition for food supplies and land became more desperate than ever before. Access to food was intentionally decreased as American officials "purchased" hunting grounds and redistributed them to white settlers. In essence, the food they needed was handed over to people who hated them.

For the Rohingya of the Arakan the access to food is often achieved through the good will of the few human rights groups (exp: Partners Relief and Development) willing to operate under Myanmar's miserable conditions. Food that is just sent into the country by outside sources on the other hand it more often than not unfairly distributed by the government. Most of this food is given to the Rakhine communities while some is sent to camps ahead of human rights groups to give the illusion of some effort being made by the Burmese.

In both cases the forced famine is the worst killer the two governments could produce. It is meant to win the war over the long haul while the enemy at the time starves slowly. For the Native Americans in Indiana this led to the rise of great leaders like Tecumseh and Blue Jacket (Weyapiersenwah). These brave warriors led their people in a seemingly apocalyptic battle to save what little they had left. For the Rohingya there have not been these such figures thus far. Instead the Rohingya have been expected to accept extinction while the world watches them march off to the grave.

In the aspect of battles the Native Americans in Indiana had Tippecanoe and Fallen Timbers. The Rohingya of Burma on the other hand have forty years of struggle pot marked with cases of ethnic cleansing and genocidal efforts to wipe them out. In June of 2012 the latest inferno of ethnic violence broke out as the Rakhine were whipped into a fury by Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) propaganda. There has been little opportunity for the Rohingya to fight back. For the most part the Rohingya can only take to the sea as a form of fighting back... in other words... fight or flight.

(Native American Women in Canoe in Indiana)

When Illinois became a state the Native peoples of Indiana had nowhere left to run. The Indiana Indian Territory was their grave or prison given the disposition of the American government toward their tribe. Many would flee westward or be marched there forcibly. Others would take to the great white north.

Rohingya who flee to Thailand face an ironic twist in the fact that they are forced back out to sea.

The system used to drive the natives of coveted territory is often the same regardless of the era in which it is used.The government that uses these tactics does so knowing that the outcome will be the devastation of the community which stands in the way. With the Native Americans the trade off was the destruction of the natives for more land than America knew what to do with. With the Rohingya the trade off is an ethnically pure state with land and resources to exploit for the over development of Burma's coast. It also means that the Buddhist Rakhine no longer would have to tolerate the Muslim Rohingya.

The comparison between the Native American tribes in Indiana and the Rohingya of Burma ends with the fact that the Native Americans of Indiana are all but gone today. The Rohingya still exist in numbers that still resemble their original populations. The Rohingya are dieing in numbers that they have not seen in almost a generation. The Rohingya that are not accepting starvation are taking to the sea to escape. Either way they are almost guaranteed death.

As of now however, the Rohingya still live. No matter how miserable life may be, they are still alive. This will only remain so however if the outside world intervenes and puts and end to the heartless massacre of the Rohingya by the Burmese Arakan state and the government. It must be made clear that we as a world community will not tolerate this crime against humanity.

January 30, 2013

More Mass Executions

Less Hope For An End To The War
(part of The Darkness Visible series)

(Bodies Dragged Out Of Kuwait River In Aleppo)

Syria was the original source for The Darkness Visible series. The horrific massacres that marked the outbreak of "civil war" in Syria inspired a seemingly endless focus on the tragedy. At times I have been unable to think of anything else but Syria and how easily it could be ended. Knowing what was happening due to Assad's insanity was making me question my own. Today Syria calls out to the world once more.

When Houla broke last May the world couldn't help but stare with their mouths hung open. Among the 108 dead were 49 children and babies. Many of the children had had their throats slit and or shot at point-blank range. This was the worse atrocity in the civil war up to that point. 

The UN has finally accepted the fact that the Shabiha (an Alawite death squad) had been the murderers in Houla. This was a claim that human rights organizations had backed from the start. It was obvious that Assad was paying this minority sect of Islam, Assad's own sect, to commit bouts of ethnic cleansing across Syria. The Houla massacre was just one of the many atrocities that became the hallmarks of Assad's genocidal campaign. 

This latest massacre is just one more grotesque display of Assad's dedication to the destruction of Syria. It is obvious by the trademarks of this massacre that the Shabiha were most likely responsible for the slaughter. Key points, such as hands being bound and signs of torture, point to the brutal mob and the support of the Syrian army. 

"With every day, with every week, with every month, the chances of him surviving are becoming less and less," Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev.

As for the Russians and Chinese, their support for Syrian president Bashar Assad remains in tact. Instead of focusing on the innocent civilians the Russians continue to focus on their desire to keep Assad in power. This dedication is born out of a desire to keep rather lucrative arms sales up and running and their control of the region alongside Iran. For the Chinese their allegiance is born out of both arms sales and the promise of cheap oil and the backing of their exploitation of Africa. 

(Civilians Shot Execution Style And Dumped In The River)

"... the tragedy does not have an end." Lakhdar Brahimi while speaking to the UN.

Around 70 young men were pulled from the Kuwait River near Aleppo. The people in the area who had missing relatives came to identify the dead as best as they could. However with the victims having been bound and shot in the head or face, identification was difficult. The fact that all of the victims were male was impossible to miss. And the fact that the youngest victim was 12 years of age was even more difficult to overlook. 

This was a war crime at best. And given that the victims will most likely all be Sunni and not Shia (or Alawite) this is possibly a case of genocide. After all, Assad's goal and the goal of his family since they took power has been to sustain control over the majority of Syria's Sunni Muslims. This goal has required countless infringements upon even the most basic of human rights in the past. It now requires that Assad kill any and all those who oppose his heartless rule. 

The question that arises from this struggle between the two basic sects of Islam is that of whether the outside world can label this as genocide. Is it possible for two competing views of the same faith to engage in genocide against one another? Or will we now need to rewrite the definition of genocide to better fit the internal struggle Islam faces today and has faced for hundreds of years? 

It is the humble opinion of Alder's Ledge that genocide occurs when any group (especially a modern state) engages in acts that are meant to destroy or diminish a given targeted community. The targeted community is most often defined by a given faith, ethnicity, creed, or distinguishable social class such as those given in the caste system of India. The term genocide thus becomes imperative when the attacks are shown to be targeted at either driving the targeted community out of an area, decrease their presence in the area, or ultimately annihilate the community all together.

Assad's actions show that he is operating off a "burnt earth" policy. Reprisals committed against the civilian population, though common in war, in the case of Assad are blatantly targeted at his religious competitors. More importantly there remains the fact that Assad has gone out of his way to raise his own religious group up in social standings while deliberately crushing outsiders and targeting those from directly opposing religious groups. 

For these reasons Alder's Ledge believes that this latest massacre is just one more display of a brutal genocide being carried out by a dictator we have often referred to as the "Nero of Damascus". And as we have stated time and time again it is the duty of the civilized world to step in and put an end to this crisis immediately. We can not wait till the tragedy plays itself out while we talk about polite policy as it relates to "national sovereignty". The wanton murder of one's own citizens must not be treated any differently than it would be if Assad's actions crossed the border over into Turkey or Israel. It is time that Assad be stopped and the cease fire be enforced with more than blue hat smurfs that run away the moment they are shot at. 

How many more need to die?

Source Documents Used  (note not all sources are listed) 

The Australian

The Guardian

The Telegraph

The Independent

France 24

French Government Website

Al Jazeera English (video)

The Blackened Flag Of Our Fathers

Screams From Willow Valley
(part of The Darkness Visible series)

(Shoshone Camp Prior to Massacre at Bear River)

The Shoshone people had lived along the Bear River for as long as they could recall. The land was considered a traditional hunting grounds for the Northwestern Shoshone peoples. It was here that they had hunted for elk and buffalo in the open grasslands and fished for trout along the length of the river itself. It was here that young Shoshone boys had learned to become men amongst their people. It was here that young Shoshone girls had learned from their mothers and grandmothers how to be women in their own right. This was their home. 

As the United States pressed westward the Shoshone people found themselves trapped by the white settlers that quickly became attracted to the Shoshone tribal land. With the California and Oregon trails established the Shoshone tribe became locked between wagon trains filled with new faces. Their land was now under siege. Religion, politics, and racism were all being harnessed in this endless flow of aggressive settlers.

From the moment the Mormons established Salt Lake City the Shoshone realized that their days of freedom were officially limited. The leaders of the Shoshone had watched as other tribes had begun to push westward ahead of the white tidal wave. They had seen the suffering of tribes that had resisted the push. And they could already feel the pain that preceded the wagons. 

Starvation was often used by the United States to weaken tribes ahead of the migration of white settlers. For the Shoshone the United States cavalry had much the same objective. Soldiers openly shot and killed large herds of buffalo and elk to cull the numbers so as to reduce the food supply of the Native peoples. Grains left unguarded were ordered torched as the US cavalry patrolled the official wagon trails. And if settlers were caught stealing food and confronted the US military routinely sided with the white trespassers. 

As the Mormons settled their claimed territory the Shoshone found themselves in direct competition for the shrinking food supplies. Brigham Young had officially came out with a policy of "feed them instead of fighting them" when dealing with the Shoshone. However in reality the Mormons were far from willing to give up any food or to give back food they stole. Instead the Mormons readily turned their backs on the Shoshone as hunger continued to spread throughout the tribe. 

"The Indians have been in great numbers, in a starving and destitute condition. No provisions having been made for them, either as to clothing or provisions by my predecessors...The Indians condition was such-with the prospect that they would rob mail stations to sustain life." Utah Territorial Superintendent of Indian Affairs, James Duane Doty. Spring of 1862.

The United States was well aware of the starvation that was spreading across the Shoshone tribe. From Utah and Idaho all the way down to southern California, the Shoshone people were unable to compete with the United States for resources. This had resulted into the legendary "Indian raiding parties" that Hollywood romanticized in countless films. Yet every attack by Shoshone tribal members can directly be linked to the basic need for food. 

President Lincoln was far from honest when dealing with the Shoshone as the United States split and civil war broke out. Instead of waiting for the war with the Confederates to work itself out, Lincoln used the war to cloud his war with the "Western Tribes". The fog of war was thus used to justify genocide. 

Ordering the Union cavalry to secure routes to California and keep trade and mail up and running, Lincoln specifically ordered the push into Shoshone lands. With this order to push the Shoshone onto smaller and smaller tracts of land the stage was set for outright slaughter. 

In the tradition of dealing with tribes in the old Indian Territory back east the United States first allowed disease and starvation to weaken their target. When disease was not readily available the United States introduced it intentionally by selling tainted clothing and blankets to their targeted community. And if this opportunity was not available the introduction of cheap or free alcohol was then used to afflict the men of the tribe. 

The Shoshone people were not spared even the worse intentions of the United States.

The son of a local Shoshone chief near Summit Creek was found fishing when he was accused of stealing a horse. Instead of bringing in an interpreter to figure out what the young man was saying the locals formed a lynch mob. The "court" registered their victim as Pugweenee... the Shoshoni word for "fish".

This incident led to retaliation. Justified retaliation in the fact that the Shoshone had no access to legal reprisals since white courts did not believe that an "Indian's" testimony was equal to that of a white man's. Thus the Christian idea of an "eye for an eye" was put to the test. 

And thus the Shoshone world was made blind with just a couple dead white men. 

"It is said that Col. Connor is determined to exterminate the Indians who have been killing the Emigrants on the route to the Gold Mines in Washington Territory. Small detachments have been leaving for the North for several days. If the present expedition copies the doings of the other that preceded it, it will result in catching some friendly Indians, murdering them, and letting the guilty scamps remain undisturbed in their mountain haunts." Official Journal of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, as recorded by George A. Smith. 

The Shoshone tribal leaders watched as several other incidents played out both prior and after the hanging of a chief's son. They could see the storm clouds gathering as they called their people to the edge of the Bear River. With the approach of the coming storm the chiefs ordered defensive measures be taken. Yet it was obvious to many that the fight was already slanted against them. 

Deseret News "...with ordinary good luck, the volunteers will 'wipe them out.' We wish this community rid of all such parties, and if Col. Connor be successful in reaching that bastard class of humans who play with the lives of the peaceable and law abiding citizens in this way, we shall be pleased to acknowledge our obligations."

Col. Conner began moving his forces onto the battlefield on January 22nd of 1863. With the first volunteers of 80 men and heavy artillery pieces in tow the United States was committed to ethnic cleansing. Conner himself left on January 25th with 220 US cavalry at his side. In all the United States dedicated 16,000 bullets and 200 artillery shells to the killing of an enemy force of less than 300 able bodied adults (410 Shoshone in total). 

As Col. Conner's forces moved toward Bear River the United States attempted to hide its fighting force by having the infantry move by day and the cavalry moving by night. This allowed the United States to stagger its approach and thus keep any Shoshone scout from being able to accurately gauge the total fighting force Conner put forth. It also allowed the United States to make it appear as though the US would strike sooner than it had planned, thus keeping the Shoshone encamped and unable to find food. 

What occurred on the morning of January 29th of 1863 has been officially recorded as a "battle". This classification is given since the Shoshone had not simply laid down and died like the United States would have liked them to do. Instead of starving to death or allowing disease to claim their numbers the Shoshone had stood up and fought back. And it is this fact that hinders the United States from teaching this part of its history as what it was... ethnic cleansing. Genocide. 

Looking down from the high ground Col. Conner was able to take his time sighting in the Shoshone positions. He knew that his soldiers could fire from greater distances than the Shoshone could. And even though his artillery had been delayed, Conner wanted blood far too badly to wait. After all, he knew that his forces out gunned the Shoshone. He knew that his forces were more maneuverable than the Shoshone. And most of all, Conner knew that the Shoshone had women and children to worry about while his forces were all young men. 

Just after 6 am in the morning, while the sun was just peaking down over the mountains, Conner ordered his troops to open fire. Soon gun smoke wafted over the snowy filled hilltop. The −20 °F air and deep snow would soon be filled with blood and the stench of death. 

Foolishly closing the gap between his lines and the Shoshone encampment, Conner's volunteers suffered the majority of their losses as the Shoshone desperately defended their camp. Yet Conner refused to wait till he could direct artillery onto the rear of the camp. Instead Conner quickly regrouped his forces and made the final push into the Shoshone camp. 

What appeared to be an overkill of ammunition on the part of the United States quickly showed just how cruel Conner had been in his planning. It was clear by the middle of the short battle that the Shoshone were unable to muster the same firepower as the United States. Soldiers reported watching Shoshone men and women attempting to cast iron into musket balls as the cavalry swept the flanks. Conner had planned to out shoot the Shoshone and thus be the last ones firing as the Native Americans resorted to tomahawks and bows and arrows to defend themselves. 

From the moment the last shot was fired in the defense of the Shoshone camp the battle was over. The massacre had begun. 

Order amongst the lines of United States soldiers rapidly descended into vitriolic hatred for the Shoshone. Cavalry used their horses to run down fleeing Shoshone women and children. Infantry were reported to have engaged in rape right on the battle field as the Shoshone women attempted to fend off their attackers. Yet even with the initial displays of barbarism the surviving Shoshone would never have been prepared for what occurred throughout the rest of the day. 

Conner himself was seen standing at the edge of the battlefield while he watched his soldiers savage the survivors. United States infantry were seen grabbing children by their legs while a comrade used their rifle or any hard object to "beat their brains out". Dismounted cavalry soldiers swept the battlefield with pistols drawn as they shot survivors at point blank range. Other soldiers readily tore down the Shoshone dwellings setting fire to the materials and killing anyone found hiding within. 

By the end of the day Conner's forces appeared to leave the battlefield only once they had tired themselves out. The few Shoshone who survived had either fled in the start of the battle or hid in the willows along the river while pretending to be dead. In all the end the death toll was staggering given the shooting portion of the battle had been so incredibly short.

Of the estimated 410 Shoshone at the encampment and estimated 246 were killed on the day of the massacre. Of the survivors (note this means they survived the day of the massacre) 164 were wounded or taken prisoner by Conner and his soldiers. Of the "braves" that Conner estimated were present (300) it also appears that only half of those were even at the "battle". 

Conner on the other hand lost only 21 soldiers during the short period of time that the Shoshone were able to fire back. Of these 21 there are no numbers given to account for friendly fire or soldiers killed after the gunfire became pronouncedly one sided. Even more importantly it is unclear whether or not the numbers given can even be trusted since a tradition of exaggerating battles existed amongst US soldiers at the time. 

No matter how we look at this day in United States history however the fact remains that Col. Patrick Conner embarked upon a campaign to "exterminate" the Shoshone at Bear River. His actions, and those ordered by the United States government, were clearly intended to ethnically cleanse Willow Valley (Seuhubeogoi). The campaign of genocide embarked upon by this particular commander sadly is not unique when talking about the history of the Shoshone or other Native Americans. The Massacre of Bear River was just another tragedy in the even going genocide of the Native American peoples. 

Today the Shoshone people still face racial discrimination and ethnic persecution. With each passing Congress the policy of the United States continues to push a slow bleed of the Shoshone people and their heritage. The whitewashing of the history books is just another step in erasing the memory of the Shoshone from the American consciousness. When talking about the Shoshone nation we often overlook that these are the people who gave the United States that common face we see on the gold dollar... Sacajawea.

More importantly, we also fail to learn from the tragic history our two nations share and how we can right the wrongs committed by our fathers. Until this occurs there will forever be a division between the the Shoshone people and the country that continues to try to erase them from their homeland.

January 29, 2013

Platitudes For The Dead

How Civility Fails Humanity 

(Massacre of Wounded Knee, 1890)

In the United States it is considered impolite to bring up the subject of genocide when discussing the expansion of the country from the 13 colonies to the 50 states. There are certain aspects of our history that we deem taboo when talking about or discussing in school. The mere mention of the Native American Genocide can end a conversation at a moments notice. In this aspect it is considered civil to overlook the suffering of an entire race of man. In this light it is impossible to recognize the deaths of millions of human beings that at the time the United States deemed "undesirables". 

Over the years the Native American has been cast as the "Noble Savage" that just happened to be here when the Europeans arrived. History books are ready and willing to discuss the brutal battles as along as the white man is portrayed as the underdog rising up to the challenge. We aren't meant to look at how disease, firearms, and religion were used to subjugate and ethnically cleanse entire states. That would be uncivil. 

This desire to whitewash history has plagued us for far too long. It has infected our society when it comes to dealing with anything unpleasant. Especially when the issue of genocide comes up. Genocide, after all, is the most uncivil issue history has to offer. 

For over 120 years the massacre that occurred at Wounded Knee has been described by historians as an epic battle. This tragic result of American genocidal policy has been portrayed as the last real battle against the uncivilized West. And it is in this caricature of history that we loose the reality of what actually happened at Wounded Knee. It is in this sterilized view, this polite and civil view, that we fail to issue blame to whom it is rightfully deserved and to recognize the dead and their plight. 

There was no battle at Wounded Knee. There was no struggle between militants. And the underdog in this fight had absolutely no chance to rise up and meet its opposition face to face. What happened at Wounded Knee was genocide. 

Civility dictates that we don't call it that however. Civility dictates that we remain polite and look at this tragedy "objectively". 

And that is where humanity fails. This is where the world fails to recognize just how far from reality we are when it comes to genocide. 

The same policies that led to Wounded Knee exist today in several countries across the globe. Burma has been engaged in this horrific crime against humanity for decades when dealing with the Rohingya people. Sudan has been embroiled in these same policies in Darfur for almost as long as I have been alive. And when looking at Syria one can draw the same parallels and show just how Assad's regime is embarking on the same path as the United States did when dealing with the Native Americans. 

In Indiana the Native Americans were effectively surrounded as the "Indian Territory" was engulfed by newly formed states... white only states. Starvation and the implementation of the factory system helped to diminish the numbers of Native Americans within the Indiana Territory. When native peoples refused to engage the white settlers the militia and United States military were called into to goad the Native Americans into conflict. Nearly every battle fought in Indiana against Native Americans was a direct result of United States policy of antagonizing the Native Americans and then attempting to annihilate the tribes that responded.

(The Only Things That Eat Well In The Sudan Are The Vultures)

For the Sudanese of Darfur this part of America's history has been playing out all around them. The government that the colonialist left them was flawed in regards to the peoples and the customs the new state embodied. When the Bashir decided to cease antagonizing the people of the Darfur region the slaughter began. Much like the Indiana Rangers, the Janjaweed carry out the genocidal ambitions of their ruler.

For those trapped in Darfur the reality of their situation is far from civil. Yet to talk about it back here in the United States is either at times impolite discussion or chic depending on who you are talking too. Ironically, no matter who you are talking with, the comparison of Darfur to the genocide of the Native Americans here in Indiana is always considered uncivil. 

The most direct comparison to genocide carried out by direct orders of the United States government to a genocide carried out by a foreign government would be the Armenian Genocide. 

(Deportations During the Armenian Genocide, 1915)

The United States had a direct link to the Armenian Genocide in the fact that our ambassador the the Ottoman Empire recorded the genocide as it took place and reported back to the United States as it occurred. Now at the time we had no word for the genocide. That term would be invented only after the Holocaust. But we did know that the Armenians were being killed off in a campaign to exterminate them as a whole. And yet our government at the time viewed this horrific tragedy as though it was not of concern to them or the United States and its people.

The irony of the situation was however unclear at the time when talking about the American public as a whole. Even though Americans in general were well educated about the Trail of Tears that followed the Indian Removal Act of 1830 they were ill informed when dealing with the Young Turks. The failure to make this link then could have come from many things. However the more relevant reason for the given period in American history would have obviously been that it was impolite to make such distinctions. 

One can only imagine how the public would have reacted if the New York Times had run a story comparing the declarations given by the Young Turks to the legal decree issued by the United States in 1830. Sure a decent amount of time had passed between 1830 and 1915. And sure the people alive for one genocidal deportation might not have been alive to see the Armenians' plight. But that wouldn't have made the effort to link the two any more less civil then than it is considered to be today. 

The facts behind the Trail of Tears and the forced death marches of the Armenians are the same. The goal of each government was the same. Both were genocidal efforts to destroy and or deport an entire ethnic group. And both were supported by government leaders and carried out by military thugs. 

Perhaps it is the perceived impoliteness of the subject that has hindered us from recognizing the Armenian Genocide for so long.

(Rohingya Dead After Arakan Pogroms, Burma 2012)

In many genocides the dead are often justified by the fact that they decided to fight back. In Armenia the Turks to this day make that assertion that the Armenian Genocide was simply a product of war. To the Serbs the Bosnian Genocide was not actually a genocide against the Bosnians but rather a direct result of the Bosnians committing genocide against the Serbs. Yet in both cases those who try to justify the deaths of their victims we as a world community know who is lying. 

When looking back at battles such as "Custer's Last Stand"... aka Little Big Horn... Americans often view the fight in much the same way as Serbians look at Srebrenica. The perversion of history through a slanted view of it helps the the victor rationalize the deaths of their vanquished. It allows the conscience of a nation to come to terms with a war in which the ends somehow were meant to justify the means.

For the Rakhine people in Burma this perversion of history is well under way. Leaders that the West looks up to, such as Suu Kyi and Thein Sein, are allowed to twist the facts of what they are doing in the Arakan to make history lineup in their own shadows. It is only when outsiders call them out on their policies of ethnic cleansing that this perversion of history becomes "impolite". 

As for the Rohingya, the West along with the United States is already viewing them in much the same way as we view the Native Americans today. "Nobel Savages" somehow translates into "the world's most persecuted people" in this modern age. We don't allow ourselves to call someone the "vanguards of the old world" and yet we allow them to be killed off by the new world. After all, it would be uncivil for us to view the Rohingya in any other light. 

And it is this exact flaw in our society that hinders us from taking action. It is the paralyzing fear that if we address genocide as it occurs today we might have to face the sins of our own past. We don't allow ourselves to be honest when talking about genocide because guilt still lingers where it should have been wiped away. 

We will never be able to attack genocide in the way it deserves until we are able as a society to accept our own dabblings in it. We must first come to terms with the sins of our fathers and those who came before us. We must accept history for what it is. For if we can not we will never learn from what it has been trying so desperately to teach us.

January 27, 2013

From Warsaw To Aung Mingalar

Welcome To The Ghetto
(part of The Darkness Visible series)

(Hitler Used The Ghetto As A Steppingstone To Auschwitz)

From day one the residents of Warsaw's ghetto were told that they were being housed here because they were no longer equals to their once neighbors and countrymen. The ghetto was never meant to be a permanent solution to the "Jewish Question" in Poland and Europe. It was only meant to segregate the "unclean" from the "pure Aryan" race. For many in Warsaw the ghetto was just the beginning of the end. 

In Aung Mingalar, a modern ghetto in its own right, the segregation they now face is obviously not meant to be a permanent solution to the situation that Myanmar has manufactured. This crises, or series there of, is not being wasted upon the government of Burma. The creation of ghettos and camps across the Arakan is just one step in the long game that the old Junta set in motion. For many in Aung Mingalar this ghetto will simply be the beginning of the end. 

It has long been a model of history to repeat itself. In doing so it has shown us that by ignoring the lessons it has attempted to teach us we are assuring ourselves the opportunity to repeat them. In the case of genocide the lessons have not been learned. With every repetition of this lesson we watch without fail as the world misses the opportunity to learn... the chance to set old wrongs right and to save more victims from history's darkest fate. 

(Burma's Open Air Prison. Aung Mingalar Ghetto)

"I have lost everything," Mohammed Rafi, a Rohingya man who's house was burnt on the same day that his father-in-law was hacked apart with machetes. 

During the June outbreak of ethnic cleansing the Rohingya of Sittwe were targeted for segregation and annihilation. Entire Rohingya neighborhoods were razed as the Rakhine mobs were pointed toward their intended targets. The military offered resistance only for villages and neighborhoods where they would turn around and barricade the Rohingya within. Almost over night the ghettos of Burma were erected and the crisis had begun. 

Violence and the perception of anarchy gave the Burmese military a smoke screen that can not be overlooked. It was with this crisis that Burma acted out its darkest desires and sickest fantasy. By exploiting the racial tensions that already existed the Burmese government was able to fan the flames into and inferno. And with the help of the Buddhists monks they were able to guide the fire across the map just as they desired. All the Burmese government had to do was set back and wait till they could step in and "restore order" to the burning Arakan. 

The tragedy that occurred in June of 2012 was orchestrated. The chaos was planned in as much a manner as how Hitler's SA had planned the pogrom of Kristallnacht. With the use of religious fervor and racial hatred, Burma was able to go forward with their plan to ethnically cleanse the Arakan once and for all. 

In previous post Alder's Ledge has laid out the eight stages of genocide and just how Burma has been checking off the stages. Much like the Nazis of Germany, Burma is using these stages a blueprint to their final goal of solving their Rohingya question. The ghetto is simply a tool used to achieve the construction of a "pure" society. 

“If they gave us the security and allowed us to go the market, then I think that could easily solve the problem,” says Rafi. “The Rakhine [Arakanese] can go to the market and they can go to the hospital, but we cannot.”

Through segregation and isolation the Burmese government has been able to increase the rate of death at a higher rate in the ghettos than in the refugee camps. With overcrowding and poor sanitation common diseases are able to spread easily. To further the spread of these diseases the Burmese have taken the ghetto a step further by denying medical aid and blockading any form of medical assistance or supplies. In doing so the government of Myanmar has created the perfect conditions for higher mortality rates and the rise of what would otherwise have been easily preventable diseases. 

To increase the rate of death even further than disease alone could afford, the Burmese also have taken the measure of preventing food and water from entering the ghettos. Without predictable and reliable access to food and water the people of these ghettos resort to scavenging what few resources they can come across. Food items that would have been overlooked in better days are now utilized regardless of their cleanliness. Water that would have been thrown out is now a source of drinking water regardless of the risk it presents. 

The Jews of Warsaw saw the same steps taken by the German SS. As the Warsaw ghetto became more and more crowded the German SS made fewer and fewer patrols through its streets. This was mainly due to the amount of human waste, the smell of death, and lice and other petulance that plagued the ghetto. For the most part the German SS only entered the ghetto when they believed that food or weapons had been smuggled into the ghetto by children who routinely risked their lives by slipping in and out of the ghetto to scavenge for their families.

“Segregation affects both communities economically, but its impact on the Muslim communities is absolutely disastrous,” says Chris Lewa, head of the Arakan Project. “It curtails their livelihoods, confines them to squalid camps or ghettos making them dependent on humanitarian aid whose delivery is hampered by security threats on aid workers.  [Seven] months on – this is outrageous, unsustainable and inhumane.”

History has shown us that once a government engages in this behavior it is highly unlikely to stop utilizing these criminal tactics on its own. Had it not been for the actions of Polish Resistance fighters the attempts to wipe out Poland's Jewish population would have been successful. It was only through the actions of outsiders that the German regime was halted in its attempts to fulfill their genocidal aims. Burma's case is no different. 

If the government of Burma is allowed to continue forward with its use of ghettos the world will undoubtedly see death camps in Myanmar's future. After all, this is a regime that is facing countless rebellions by ethnic groups it does not believe are "purely Burmese". In the Kachin the Burmese have been using weapons considered illegal by the conventions adhered to by the UN. In the Arakan they have been openly utilizing methods that recreate the crimes of the Nazis and other genocidal regimes. Yet as a world community we treat Burma as though it is special. 

When Cambodia fell into the hands of Pol Pott and the Khmer Rouge the crimes that followed were leaked out to the world almost routinely. We as a world community knew of the "killing fields" and did nothing to stop it. It was only with the invasion of the Vietnamese that the brutal genocide in Cambodia came to an end. 

Burma is no exception to the lessons history has taught us. Just because it has put on the charade of pretending to be in midst of "democratic reform" does not mean it is not committing genocide. Aung San Suu Kyi may very well be the world's sweetheart for her role in this "democratic movement", but that doesn't wash her hands when it comes to ethnic cleansing. 

In the end we will have to look back on Burma in the future and admit to ourselves that we were there when the ghettos went up. We will have to look back on this day and tell ourselves honestly that we did nothing to end the suffering of the Rohingya people. And when that day comes the world will undoubtedly tell itself in the most vain way it can manage... never again.

January 24, 2013

Be Happy, Sad Mother...

The Holocaust in Croatia

 Like heroes, like Croats,
They poured blood for homeland!

~ Lijepa nasa domovino ~
Croatian National Anthem

In September of 1939 Yugoslavia declared itself neutral in the new war that was sweeping across Europe. However the dogs of war had already been howling for sometime in Yugoslavia. After the last "Great War" the Powers of Europe had carved up the territories once held by the Ottomans and Austrians. The failure to take note of the ethnic and religious differences that officially demarcated the region of the now Yugoslav kingdom was coming back to haunt the region. Croatia was just the first dog to bite.

In March of 1941 the Yugoslavia signed the Tripartite Pact sealing its desire to be left out of the war. Yet no matter how often Yugoslavia assured the Axis, Germany especially, that they would adhere to the treaty the Axis didn't seem to believe them. This suspicion was fueled in part by Yugoslavia's leadership at the time. It was also fueled by Croatia's flirtation with the Nazis.

Upon Germany's invasion of Yugoslavia on April 6th of 1941 the Croatian political class began to maneuver for an independent state within the Third Reich. Only four days later, on April 10th, the Croatian politicians got exactly what they wanted as Germany allowed Croatia to declare itself independent of Yugoslavia. However Croatia would be expected to fall in line with Hitler's Europe. A catch in the agreement that Croatia's Ustase party was far too willing to take part in.

The Ustaše were Croatia's ultra fascist political party that had come to power by taking advantage of the economic depression which hit small economies like Croatia's disproportionately. They had realized that without implementing extreme policies like those of Hitler's Croatia would not be able to recover. Thus Croatians across Yugoslavia began to flock to the party. After all, this was the party that was promising the moon (for Croats only) and linking the Croatians to Aryans.

For the Jews, Roma, Homosexuals, Handicapped, or Mentally Handicapped this call to arms was the sound of the clock striking midnight. The darkness of the Holocaust was now spreading across Croatia and over all the rest of Yugoslavia. There was nowhere left for Yugoslavian Jews to run. Europe had been devoured by Hitler's army. Croatia was simply driving the final nail into the coffin.

(Ustaše Murders Resorting to Axes At Jasenovac Death Camp)

In Croatia the Holocaust came in a unique manner. The German SS weren't the main presence at death camps like Jasenovac. Instead the Croatians, almost as a whole, were the leaders of the operations to slaughter the Croatian Jews and Romani. With their ruthless Ustaše, the Croatians employed massacres using axes, hammers, and at times their own hands. Many Ustaše leaders were known to grab children up by their legs and bash their heads against walls as a means of instilling fear among new inmates. In Croatia the Holocaust was almost more personal than it was ever meant to be. 

All across Europe Jewish businesses were confiscated and handed out to loyal Nazi party members. The Legal Decree on the Nationalization of Jewish Properties and Jewish Companies of October 10th, 1941 made it far to easy for any Croatian to claim ownership of their neighbors home or their competitor's business. The government of Croatia also stated that it would not prevent or prosecute the blatant murder of Jews and Roma within Croatia. Thus allowing even noncombatants to engage in the Holocaust in as much a role as the Gestapo of Germany. 

Across the border in Bosnia the Croatians lend Ustaše commanders to the "Grand Mufti's" Bosnian SS units. These Croats were eager to work toward the goal of cleansing not only Croatia of Serbs, Jews, and Roma but also wanted their borders cleared of any future resistance. The compromise here was simple, work with Muslims and Arabs or allow Bosnia to fall to the Yugoslav partisans. 

In further support of Hitler's goals the Ustaše and Croat politicians ordered the construction of Koprivnica, Pag Island, Jadovno, and Kruščica death camps. These camps were raised in the spring of 1941 and each would continue their industry of death and murder till October of 1942 when Jasenovac is fully operational. However unlike in Germany and Poland, the local politicians did not wait for the German Nazis to order the construction of the said camps. In Croatia it seemed to be a status symbol for the politicians in the new regime to have a concentration camp operating in their region of the state.

From August of 1941through February of 1942 the Ustaše established the Jasenovac camps: Krapje, Bročica, Ciglana, Kozara, and Stara Gradiška. This group of satellite camps would rival the horrors of Auschwitz and Dachau. And at its heart was the aim of killing all of Croatia's Romani community as well as importing Serbian and Bosnian Roma. The Jews of this area were often sent off to Auschwitz as the war came to a close so as to make room for Roma and Serbian prisoners. 

(Emaciated Child at Jasenovac Death Camp)

The Ustaše camp guards however did not readily send off their prisoners. Instead the Croatian SS were notorious for working for days on end as they carried out massive executions of prisoners to decrease the number of victims needed to be sent out to German concentration camps. Guards in Croatia were renowned for their lack of concern for the health of the inmates kept in their camps. Thus extraordinary cruelty, even by Nazi standards, was often overlooked by Ustaše SS units. 

It wasn't till September of 1941 that the Ustaše even began to admit that they could not kill all the Jews in Croatia without some form of help from Germany. Thus from September of 1941 through March of 1942 the Ustaše establishes the Ðakovo, Tenje, and Loborgrad camps. All three served as transit sites for Croat Jews whom Croatian authorities turned over to the Germans for deportation to Auschwitz. 

In many cases the Holocaust in Croatia was not stopped until Yugoslavian partisans under Tito were able to overrun the camps. In select cases the local Croatian authorities would dismantle the death camps and attempt to hide their crimes as the partisans approached. These cases were often induced by the sheer fear of reprisals that often marked the liberation of camps by Tito's militias. In most cases however the Croatian SS and Ustaše combatants would fight tooth and nail to keep hold of their villages and the camps they supported. 

(Tito's Army - Yugoslav Partisans)

The Yugoslav liberators were amongst the few groups of liberators that seemed to not be surprised by what they found upon entering Croat death camps. Tito's Army had been told what awaited them when pushing back the Mufti's SS and the Ustaše forces. In every village they entered the Croatian fascist had turned the basements and cellars into miniature death camps. Through the entire liberation of Croatia the Ustaše forces carried out a scorched earth campaign as they withdrew. And just as the Germans would do as the Russians approached Berlin, Croat forces would leave stragglers to "nip at the heels" of the "barbarians". 

Of the nearly 40,000 Jews that lived in Croatia at the outbreak of the Holocaust only around 9,000 would survive its rapid spread across the new state. For the Roma the Porajmos (the devouring) in Croatia was just as horrific. The land that many Croat Jews had loved and been loyal to had nearly erased three quarters of their community. And to make things worse, the Catholic Church (which remains a major part in Croatian politics) had played a major role in this horrific act of genocide. 

On May 5th, 1945 the Legal Decree of the Equalization of Members of the Independent State of Croatia Based on Racial Origin was passed and repealed the race laws imposed by the Ustaše. For many this was the sign that signified the end of the Holocaust in their homeland. It would, in a legal sense, insure at least some safety for the Jews still living in Yugoslavia. Yet the wounds inflicted upon the Yugoslavian community by the Ustaše would never truly heal. 

For forty years the Balkans remained the "powder keg" of Europe. The sins of the Ustaše remained like scars upon Croatia and its neighbors. And in 1995 the horrors carried out by the Mufti SS and Ustaše would come back to surface once more. Proving to the world once again that if we never learn from history we will always find a way to reenact our mistakes. Without addressing the sins of our fathers we will surely repeat their misdeeds.

January 21, 2013

The Path From Starvation To Slavery

Ethnic Cleansing Powered By Thai Corruption
(part of The Darkness Visible series)

(What Thai "Sympathy" Looks Like)

Around one million Rohingya are currently left starving and helpless as a campaign of ethnic cleansing is being pushed by the Rakhine politicians and Burmese Military. Many are left homeless either by the torches of Rakhine mobs or forced out by the tip of military guns. These homeless Rohingya have been pushed off their land and forced into massive concentration camps where the Myanmar government exploits them for foreign aid that is not delivered. At the same time the Rohingya who are left in their homes are stuck behind blockades of barbwire and military checkpoints. And yet all of this is just the beginning for many of the Rohingya who become known as simply "boat people" to the rest of the world.

Every year thousands of Rohingya die at sea as their boats take to the Andaman sea in search of a new life. Many die of dehydration as that old saying "water, water everywhere..." becomes all to real to them. Others are often drowned as their boats sink or the captain dumps them and heads back for the next batch of victims. But for a portion of others these boats are something else entirely. 

During the days of the slave trade and the triangle of merchant death ships the African communities along the "Ivory Coast' became human cargo. Their tale has been repeated time and time again over the decades. Today the trade in human flesh however has little to do with tobacco, clothing, or spices and sugar. Today the trade is more focused on slave labor and sexual exploitation. There is rarely anyone willing to defend it these days. Yet there is an entire market willing to partake in it. 

For the Thai government this illegal trade has been far to great a temptation for it's officials to resist. Those who do not directly buy and sell Burmese minorities are often these days willing to look the other way as other government and military officials take part. In recent "sting" style busts the Thai government has uncovered countless of their own military commanders and prime ministers who have been directly involved in transporting, buying, and selling Rohingya refugees. Their involvement in this human trafficking has been linked to the sex trade that plagues Southeast Asia and the slave labor that fuels tourists resorts. 

These "stings", which many speculate were face saving PR stunts, have many asking why so many more Rohingya are leaving Burma this season? It also has left many asking why women and children are amongst the "boat people" in ever increasing numbers this season? And more importantly, why has the slave trade in the region changed from mainly slave labor to sex trafficking? 

Back in Burma the women that the Rohingya "boat people", mainly boys and men, once left behind are no longer safe. Rape of young Rohingya women has often turned into the rape of little girls and old women as the Burmese military's presence increased in the Arakan. Gang rapes have left just as many Rohingya women dead as starvation now that the corrupt Burmese military shows little intention of leaving the area.

The threat of rape is a powerful weapon amongst the Rohingya. It is a method of breaking their communities apart and cracking the only defense they have left... their unity. And it is this point that the Burmese military has focused on. Just as with all genocides, the Myanmar government has focused upon crushing the spirits of the entire Rohingya community as they make the Rohingya desperate. 

Once desperate groups like the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party swoop into the scene and being the process of "offering help" to the broken communities. RNDP "brokers" will often seek out individuals who have no paperwork or confiscate any papers the victims can provide. By making their intentions seem pure the human traffickers are able to lure thousands of victims to sea every year. 

Often many Rohingya are given the illusion of an escape by transporting them across the Rakhine State to places such as Sittwe where they are put onto boats. These boats are then organized into convoys that suffer losses due to attacks, sinking, and being blown back ashore. But for those who are set to sea the boats become less than "escape" vessels.

The path that is chosen for "guided" boats is often arranged with human traffickers in Thailand and Malaysia. These boats either break away or set out with convoys of their own. Once out to sea though their destiny is already sealed as the "brokers" on the ships aim for hand-off points. These boats will be more than likely ignored by the Thai military giving them a greater chance of arriving with the maximum amount of human cargo on board.

For the boats that are simply trying to flee the violence and genocide, the actual refugees, the Thai officials have another trap for them. 

If an unescorted Rohingya boat comes in contact with Thai military vessel they are in danger of still becoming human cargo. This is in spite of the official "help along" policy the Thai government put in place to appear humane when dealing with their "Rohingya question". And for the Rohingya aboard the trap is almost impossible to escape from. 

When the Thai military approaches the ship they are purposefully unable to speak or understand the Rohingyas' language. Instead the Thai military officer will get on a phone and force the boat to talk to an "interpreter" who is often operating in nearby waters. This friendly "interpreter" is nothing more than a human trafficker who the military will pass the boats off on. And in many cases the boats that are supposed to be heading for Malaysia end up on the Thai side of the border on plantations that sponsor the human trafficking rings. 

In every case where the Thai officials and government are supposedly showing "sympathy" for the plight of the Rohingya there seems to be an ugly side to the story. While the UN was attempting to get in touch with the hundreds of Rohingya "rescued" by the Thai officials last week the trafficking rings still operated in neighboring camps. Rohingya children, often watched by sex traffickers, were put back over the border into Myanmar where the traffickers work best. And yet the ever compassionate "West" continues to ignore the violations of Thailand when dealing with modern day slavery. 

This is not a crime that goes away simply because we talk about it. It isn't a black market that needs to just be addressed so that it shrinks back into the shadows. This is an organized market willing to break every law on the books to keep itself in action. It is a criminal enterprise that must be attacked and attacked relentlessly. 

To make things worse in this case is the fact that genocide is being used by criminals in Thailand and the surrounding countries to fill their wallets. As nearly a million people suffer under an organized campaign of ethnic cleansing they are also being preyed upon by another criminal regime to support a slave trade. 

It is time that governments around the world start taking action and stop muttering their apologies after the crimes have already been committed. Have we not said "Never Again" one too many times already?

Source Documents 
(note not all documents are listed)

Phuket Wan
(January 20th, 2013)
(January 16th, 2013)

January 19, 2013

Hunted Down Like Dogs

RNDP Puts Up A "Bounty" For Every Dead Rohingya
(part of The Darkness Visible series)

(This Boy Is Now A Commodity, Sold As A Slave Or Killed For A Bounty)

Rakhine Prime Minister, U Hla Maung Tin, arrived at Pauktaw this morning and made a beeline for the Rohingya refugee camp. Once there the PM fell in line with his party (the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party) by demanding that the Rohingya in the internally displaced peoples' camp sign documents that state that they are illegal immigrants. The documents state that the Rohingya are illegal Bangladeshi immigrants that have no claim to Burmese citizenship. These documents would be used therefore to deport the Rohingya to a country that has shown no interest whatsoever in accepting them. And without actual legal documents to show that they are either Burmese or Bengali, the Rohingya would officially in Burmese courts be "stateless". 

When the Rohingya in the camp refused to sign the documents Maung Tin threatened the refugees and left. Maung Tin told the Rohingya refugees that if they did not sign that he would see to it that no aid ever made it through the blockades again (including rice from the foreign aid organizations). The RNDP went further by going to Rakhine villages and camps to pass around word of just what these threats entailed. The RNDP then went on to tell the Rakhine that they would pay one lakh kyats for every Rohingya, or kalar (a slur for the Rohingya), they kill. Together, Maung Tin and the RNDP, are making threats that could lead to a return to the June and October riots that launched their genocidal campaign. 

This tactic of "sign or die" has been getting used more and more as the campaign of ethnic cleansing has been amped up. In addition to calling on renewed butchery by the RNDP, the Rakhine extremist have maintained their blockades of Rohingya villages and camps. The RNDP has also begun encouraging Rakhine from Bangladesh and impoverished areas of the Arakan to move into Rohingya villages. By calling the Rakhine "settlers" the RNDP shows that they are intent upon wiping out the memory of these Rohingya villages that were burnt or bulldozed. 

With all the actions taken recently by a major Burmese political party to kill and deport an entire minority one might wonder how the outside world is ignoring this? Time and time again Alder's Ledge has brought proof of genocide taking place right now in Burma and yet these same articles fail to show up in mainstream media. So once again I'm sure there are those wondering just how something like that which has been shown above can take place without their media source covering it. I'm sure there are still far to many people with their eyes closed to this subject to understand that genocide is taking place as they sleep. 

So imagine for a moment that you are a Rohingya trapped behind barbed wire and military checkpoints. Imagine that your family and friends are starving to death as you pick through the grass for any source of food you can find. Imagine that your government, your homeland, is treating you as though you aren't even human. Now imagine that you aren't allowed to leave... you aren't even allowed to travel to neighboring villages or camps. 

All you know is hunger. All you know is pain. All you know is desperation. 

Now imagine that the only way out is to flee by boat. Yet to do this you have to sell everything you have and scavenge for something to bribe the boat's owner. Imagine that you have no way to know if this boat will make it to the presumed safety of Malaysia or not. All you can do is hope that the Nasaka don't catch you as you drift off into the night. 

Imagine that while you starve to death you are approached by Rakhine who promise they can get you out of Myanmar. Imagine that you are asked to sign a paper in exchange for a promise of a better life. Imagine that you don't realize that this paper will make you a slave and that you will be sold in Thailand or Bangladesh. 

But imagine that you stay...

Now try to imagine that the RNDP just visited your village. Imagine that you just heard them proclaim that your Rakhine neighbor can earn cash money just for killing you. You know that your local police don't stop these attacks. You know that the military sides with the RNDP. You know that there is nowhere you can run. Now imagine that you are being hunted... but instead of running, you can only wait for your hunter to strike. You know that you are like a caged animal. You know that there is nowhere in you homeland that you can hide. 

This is the life of nearly a million Rohingya trapped in Burma. This is how the government of Myanmar has allowed ethnic cleansing to occur in the Arakan. The Burmese have committed a forced famine, constructed death camps, blockaded entire villages, and permitted the wholesale slaughter of the Rohingya people. 

It is a story that would enrage the common citizens of the West. It is a narrative that would sell papers across America and Europe. And it is a tragedy that the West could exploit at a moment's notice. Yet the prospects of Myanmar's untapped wealth have curtailed the actions these crimes demand. Once again the numbers were run and the prospect of economic gain topped the cost of saving lives.

January 18, 2013

Generational Scars

The Lion And His Pride
(A return to Syria)

April 14th, 2012. Students At Aleppo University gather to make the universal S.O.S.

January 16th, 2013. Students gather for exams just before Assad's jets bomb the University.

The Medz Yeghern, the Great Crime, was a holocaust the world has never officially recognized. When dealing with their own "question" of what to do with a large population of "undesirables" the Turks came to a ghastly conclusion. On April 24th, 1915 the Young Turks launched what would become known as the Armenian Genocide. This massive crime would lead to the deaths of somewhere around 1.5 million Armenian victims. And by the time of its completion the Armenian community would be left struggling to survive. 

Upon the launch of their massacres the Young Turks realized that one of the first targets of their attacks had to be the intellectuals and community leaders of the Armenian society. Attacking these individuals would leave the community at large helpless and make it difficult for Armenians to organize any form of resistance. So on April 14th of 1915 the Young Turks set out across the Ottoman Empire to round up and deport and kill all Armenian intellectuals. 

The Syrian regime under Assad has overlooked the usual step of targeting intellectuals up until yesterday. Though there have been round ups of protesters and attempts to kill off those who organize the "opposition forces", Assad had in the past exercised restraint when dealing with the countries academia. So in comparison to the two years of conflict prior yesterdays attack stands out only due to its intended target.

It is said far to often in the developed world that the children are our future. It is said that we should view our children as our greatest resource as a nation or society. More poignantly it is remarked that the youth of our nation is our treasure.

In this war to maintain power Assad has spent an untold amount of treasure to secure his own future. His barbarism has stripped Syria of most if not all of its resources as the Syrian people go hungry, grow cold in the winter, and die as disease can no longer be prevented. In this war to crush the hearts of his own people, Assad now targets his nation's youth alongside Syria's children.

It wasn't long ago that the world watched as the Shabiha (ghosts) slaughtered the children of Homs. It wasn't long ago that we watched as Assad bombed bakeries as the starving waited for a little bread. Now we watch as Assad attempts to stifle discontent amongst those seeking a better life through education. Now we watch as Assad squanders the only resource Syria has left... the only hope of a brighter tomorrow.

Obama and the West told Assad recently that there was only one weapon he could not use. They told Assad that there was just one line in the sand that they would not allow him to cross. Without the use of chemical or biological weapons Assad is free to kill the students of Syria. Without the use of tactical nuclear strikes Assad is free to slay the children of his nation. And as long as we don't have to watch it, Assad is allowed to continue to feed upon Syria's innocents like a lion trying to regain control of his pride.

Syria will one day be free. Syria will one day be able to hold its head up high without the yolk of Assad's regime around its neck. The only question now is who will lead it? Who will take the Nero of Damascus's place if the educated minds are simply killed off? Who will lead the masses if the youth, a portion of the population driven by more than religion and politics, are driven out of the country? Has Syria not had enough of old world dreams and selfish mens' desires for personal gain?

The free world has turned their backs on yet another opportunity to liberate and instead are now helping the extremist gain ground upon fertile soil. Just as they did with Egypt, the world has turned their backs and allowed Syria to descend into darkness. And in the end the neglect of the West will not be forgot when the next regime gains power. The sin of silence has already been committed and if history is any indication the reward is far from sweet.

When the Turks finished their genocide the world turned away almost immediately. Armenia, the Assyrians, and the Pontic Greeks were all left to fend for themselves as the Great Powers cut up the maps of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Three distinct cultures were left to struggle as the new century seemed to pass them by. The sin of silence has left each culture scarred to this day. Armenians around the world still fight for recognition of their ancestor's suffering. And yet the reward for their struggle remains out of reach.

Just as the Young Turks' handiwork lives on almost a hundred years after they have gone, Assad's sins will live for generations to come. Even if the educated, the intellectuals, and community leaders are marched off to firing squads; Assad's sins will never vanish. No matter how many children Assad's regime devours, the next generation will bear these scars. No matter how many mothers and fathers vanish into Assad's black prisons and torture chambers, the Syrians yet to be born will carry on their legacy. Just as the Armenians, Syrians will have to reconcile this travesty for what seems like an eternity.

January 16, 2013

Has Burma Crossed Obama's "Red Line"?

Chemical Weapon Claims In Kachin
(part of The Darkness Visible series)

(Myanmar Military Firing Mortars)

“Our military never uses chemical weapons and we have no intention to use them at all. I think the KIA (Kachin Independence Army) is accusing us wrongly,” presidential spokesman Ye Htut. 

When talking about Syrian President,  Bashar al-Assad, Obama said that the use of chemical weapons would have "consequences and you will be held accountable". This was the "red line" that Obama had laid out in his warning to Assad. It appeared by the end of Obama's speech that killing people with bullets and bombs was perfectly acceptable as long as more unconventional weapons did not enter the conflict. This speech also laid out a clear line in the sand for all tyrants that might be interested in slaughtering their own citizens. 

Burma is no exception to that long list of tyrannical regimes interested in committing genocide and ethnic cleansing. The one difference is that the Junta in Burma has no desire to exercise restraint. Unlike Iran or China, Burma is starting off with a virtually clean slate when dealing with the West. They are free from the sanctions that bind Iran and lack the economic leverage that currently binds China's hands. 

When dealing with what the West affectionately calls "ethnic clashes", Burma has used every weapon in their arsenal thus far. The "reform" party has engaged in mass starvation of the Rohingya, carpet bombing of the Kachin, and illegal deportations and mass executions of the Rohingya in the Arakan. Now the Kachin rebels claim that the Burmese military is and has for some time been using chemical weapons to push the Kachin people over the border and into China. 

As with most "ethnic clashes" the UN and Western governments has once again hopped into the conflict on the side of the ruling power... in this case Burma. 

(Laiza Citizens Build Bomb Shelters)
In 2011 the KIA made claims that the Burmese military had used chemical weapons. Back then the world seemed a little more interested since at the time Burma was still closed off to the outside world. However today with Burma ready to allow foreign economic investment the rest of the world seems painfully unwilling to admit that there might be chemical weapons being used. Once again money overrides human suffering. 

According to the KIA rebels the Burmese military has been using chemical weapons to push their soldiers off key outpost along the front line of the conflict. The soldiers that have claimed to survive the attacks say that the blast occur with a large wave of heat and then people loose consciousness. However the one flaw in their claims is the fact that nobody seems able to provide physical evidence of the bombs or the their affects. 

While dead bodies are easy to come by along the battle front the evidence of gassed soldiers or civilians seems impossible to find. For the most part chemical shell fragments and what appear to be cluster bombs are the only pieces of evidence provided. And while cluster ammunitions are illegal for use in any form of conflict their use has not been punished by the UN or ICC in either Syria or during the Iraq-Iran war. So there is no reason to believe that the UN will even enforce the law when dealing with Myanmar. 

As with most cases of war crimes the UN proves itself incompetent when facing the crimes as they occur. Even if Myanmar is found innocent and has not used chemical weapons it has committed several war crimes during this conflict. Evidence of mass executions, arbitrary arrests, and intentional targeting of civilians have all been documented in the conflict with the KIA. Myanmar has also committed several crimes against humanity when dealing with the Rohingya and other minority groups across Burma. And yet the UN refuses to act. 

So the question remains, has Burma crossed Obama's "Red Line"? And if so, what will the UN or US do to enforce these said "consequences"? Or will the West simply look the other way as yet another genocidal regime perpetrates horrific crimes against humanity?

Source Documents
(Note not all sources are listed)


The Express Tribune

The Democratic Voice of Burma


The Guardian