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Obama's Little Canossa

US President Embarrassing Visit to Myanmar



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Imagine the US inviting the Queen of England to a formal state visit. Yet, the monarch wouldn't be allowed to see Washington; she would be received at the fanciest McDonald’s branch in New York City. This is exactly what happened to President Obama, the first American ruler to visit Myanmar. Between November 17 and 20, 2012, he visited Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar. In the latter, he was received at Yangon, the old capital, and not at Naypyidaw, the current one. This wasn't the only oddity of the visit. American media made a fuzz of President Obama using for the first time the official name of the country, Myanmar. Until now, the US Government preferred the British imperial name, Burma, which is an awful transliteration of Bamar, the main ethnic group in the country. American media wrongly reported that Myanmar was the name given to the country by the military dictatorship. In fact, they reverted to the literary form of the country's name in Burmese, renouncing the doubtful British heritage. Calling Myanmar "Burma," is like calling the USA "WASP" (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant). The USA performed the parallel of the Queen of England referring to the USA as "New England." Embarrassingly amateurish.

President Obama in Yangon

President Obama in Yangon
Embarrassingly Amateurish

President Obama in Yangon

President Obama in Yangon

Thwarted War

For many years now, Western media and governments portrayed Myanmar as pure evil. Western Democracies—especially the USA—have based their economies on military industries. Without an eternal war, Western economies would collapse. This explains the incredible chain of wars—that the USA has been involved in since WWII. The main ones were lost by America. Korea remained divided. Vietnam was unified under communism after a heroic victory over the Western Empire. Afghanistan defeated the Soviet attack, and probably will survive the American one as well. Iraq seems on the verge of being split between Shi’as and Kurds. I concede to the critics that the USA won in Grenada. Yet, when you read Western sources, everything is upside down. “Heroic Western soldiers won again,” are the eternal headlines. Control the headlines, and you control the population. After all, no government could be ratified over a politic of war and violence.

Reality contradicts the political wishes of the Western elites. A Western government can’t censor a book like Nineteen Eighty-Four and survive the event unscathed. Orwell described a society oppressed by The Party. It is a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, and public mind control. The book definitely takes place in England. The political system is called English Socialism (Ingsoc) and is under control of the privileged Inner Party elite, which persecutes all individualism and independent thinking as thoughtcrimes. The Ministry of Truth (Minitrue) is responsible for propaganda and historical revisionism; in other words, it constantly rewrites history so that it will fit current reality. What can evil do? One technique is aiming the problematic content at someone else. Nineteen Eighty-Four was clearly written about England and takes place mainly in London. This is not an assumption. Orwell was explicit about this. It resembles the modern reality of Western surveillance-states. Yet, in 2006, a small book was published in the USA. It was named Finding George Orwell in Burma, and was written by Emma Larkin.

The author made an outrageous claim. She said that three of Orwell’s books, namely Nineteen Eighty-Four, Animal Farm, and Burmese Days, were a trilogy describing Myanmar, a gentle country constantly vilified by the West. I commented above on the first book; the second is an imaginary tale taking place in a farm and describing the evils of Communism. It obviously cannot describe Myanmar—which was never Communist—and one of the animals in the book is a quite obvious and humorous description of Joseph Stalin. Only the third book is related to Myanmar and portrays a wonderful place. Ms. Larkin tied together all the undesirable material—undesirable to the ruling elites—and threw it at Myanmar, a country these elites despise. This was long-term propaganda; eventually Obama recognized defeat.

My first two years in exile were spent in Southeast Asia, where I visited Myanmar in several opportunities and locations. Invariably, the people there looked happier than anybody I met later in the USA, where I visited ten states from Florida to California. It was pretty obvious that despite Western media claims there wasn't an oppressive government there. Simply, it was difficult to spot any signs of a central government. The few officials I met were kind, moved without weapons, and were invariably worried about finding a proper cup of chai. Reality fits the idyllic descriptions of Orwell.

Yet, an American invasion of Myanmar was constantly in the news. Surprisingly, even the nationalistic, pro-American Bangkok Post opposed it, despite Thailand probably having profited from such a war. The superb network of Thai highways is the result of the Vietnam War; the main highways in the country run along the roads that connected seven American airbases. ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations which includes Myanmar, opposed the war during all this time, acting as a buffer between the USA and Myanmar. At the peak of the tensions, Myanmar moved its capital to Naypyidaw, where Americans cannot make a ground attack. However, this wasn't the decisive factor that stopped the war. Despite the differences in the government types, Myanmar and China are close allies. Few remember now that Myanmar was the first country to recognize the independence of China, and that it helped the Communists with the transfer of goods and weapons through the Burma Road. Moreover, a country rich in minerals, Myanmar is an important supplier of China. While traveling in Southern China it is impossible to ignore the innumerable jade shops, selling this attractive stone brought from Myanmar. With the impressive rise in China's international influence, its allies became safe; the USA can no longer attack Myanmar.

Burma Road

Burma Road

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar


Obama Walks to Canossa

What we saw here was not a normal visit. Before it took place, President Obama eased sanctions against Myanmar. Once there, he uttered the forbidden word "Myanmar," despite not having visited the country's capital. Moreover, he praised Myanmar's policies, which had only slightly changed in recent years, and asked to make a future visit. In fact, it was a recognition of America's evils towards Myanmar during the last generation. In 1076, Pope Gregory VII attempted to enact reforms to the kings’ investiture process, but was met by much resistance from the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV. Henry renounced Gregory as pope; in return, Gregory excommunicated and deposed Henry, in the Lenten synod of 1076, at Rome. He stated that one year from that day the excommunication would become permanent and irrevocable. In fear of an attack by the threatened emperor, the pope hid in Canossa. Henry reached Canossa in the guise of a penitent, and begged for forgiveness and reinstatement in the church. After three days of waiting at the castle gates, while wearing only his penitent hair shirt and fasting, he was admitted and forgiven. This unconditional surrender is known as the Way to Canossa. Obama performed his first Little Canossa towards China.

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