[Marxism] Myanmar: Washington's geopolitics and the Straits of Malacca

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Oct 29 06:20:46 MDT 2007

Since Bush's shrill appeals for democracy in and sanctions
against the government of Myanmar, there's been a drop in the
enthusiasm among some on the left who'd quickly rallied to 
back the protests in Myanmar/Burma. This drop-off hopefully
reflects a need to reflect a bit before reacting once we start
to see what may be behind Washington's calls for "democracy"
more or less anywhere in the world. There's an excellent item
posted elsewhere today about how Washington imposed "democracy"
on Cuba after it intervened to block Cuban independence in 1898.

What happened in Cuba a century ago is but a cruder example of
such practices than we're now seeing unfolding in Iraq where
Washington directly overthrew Saddam's dictatorship and quickly
installed a more modern-styled regime. Yes, the regime in Burma
is a military dictatorship, but has Bush called for sanctions in
Saudi Arabia or other repressive places whose regimes he backs?

Of course not. That's why it's a good idea to stop for a moment
for, uh, "station identification", before we, however positive
our intentions are, we add our voices to the chorus which Bush
and Washington were so busily trying to generate. I'm looking
forward to the second article in this series.

Walter Lippmann
Havana, Cuba

What Happened When We Stayed the Course in Cuba
By Joseph J. Gonzalez, October 29, 2007

Myanmar: Washington's geopolitics and the Straits of Malacca
By Sara Flounders
Published Oct 28, 2007 9:22 PM


Attempting to understand George W. Bush's concern for the people of
Myanmar means looking beyond his statements at the U.N. General
Assembly that "Americans are outraged by the situation in Burma" and
that attempting to impose a new round of economic sanctions is
because he "only desires peaceful change in Burma."

How is it possible for the Bush administration to be on the same side
as a popular or progressive struggle, while threatening the planet
with World War III and conducting criminal wars of occupation that
has cost more than a million Iraqi and Afghan lives?

What has received little attention in the U.S. corporate media is
Myanmar's geopolitical position and its rich resources. A U.S. base
in Myanmar is considered vital for control of the most strategically
important sea lanes in the Pacific.

Remember that the U.S. government actively supports, arms and defends
dictatorships like those in nearby Thailand and Pakistan. U.S.
imperialism's record overthrowing popular and democratic governments
in Iran, Congo, Chile, Guyana and many other countries shows that
Washington has never promoted democratic change except as a cover for
direct intervention.

Straits of Malacca- chokepoint of Asia

Eighty percent of the oil shipped to China's booming economy passes
through the Straits of Malacca, the shortest sea route for oil coming
from West Africa and the Persian Gulf to the South China Seas. The
oil is also essential for economies and industries of Japan,
Malaysia, South Korea and the other East Asian countries.

The southern tip of Myanmar is strategically situated on the western
entrance to the Straits of Malacca. This funnel shaped waterway,
which narrows to 1.5 miles between Indonesia and Malaysia, links the
Indian and Pacific Ocean. More than half of the oil tankers in the
world ply this route.

According to F. William Engdahl, author of "A Century of War:
Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order" and the Web site
www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net, more than 12 million barrels in oil
supertankers pass through this narrow passage daily.

Engdahl explains that the Pentagon has been trying to militarize this
region since Sept. 11, 2001. The Pentagon claims this is essential
for defense against terrorist attacks and pirates. It would also give
the Pentagon unilateral control of the main route for China's energy

In November 2003, Xinhua News Agency quoted President Hu Jintao
warning that China needed to develop a strategy because some big
countries were attempting "to control the transportation channel at

The Wall Street Journal of Oct. 7, 2005, explained China's growing
apprehension. "The U.S. is the only power with sufficient naval
forces to enforce a blockade of the 900-kilometer waterway that
borders Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia."

According to Energy Bulletin, Oct. 3, the Chinese government is so
concerned about China's vulnerability to U.S. control or blockade of
the straits that it is now building a strategic China-Myanmar oil and
gas pipeline 2,300 kilometers (1,460 miles) across Myanmar, from
Myanmar's deep water port at Sittwe in the Bay of Bengal to Kunming
in China's Yunnan Province, where an oil refinery will be built. This
would allow China to bypass the Malacca Straits entirely.

It is noteworthy that the sanctions against Myanmar that the U.S.
tried to push through the U.N. Security Council would block "new"
construction of a transit pipeline. The vast Chevron and Total S.A.
oil corporation's investments, however, would be free of all U.N. and
EU sanctions or restrictions because their agreements with Myanmar
are "grandfathered" in.

Adm. Muller on surrounding China

On Oct. 18, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm.
Michael Mullen, described the Pentagon's plans to look beyond their
deteriorating position in Iraq and Afghanistan to "refocus the
military's attention beyond the current wars to prepare for other
challenges, especially along the Pacific rim and in Africa."

Mullen, speaking at a news conference with Defense Secretary Robert
Gates at the Pentagon, also described the need to be prepared for
high-intensity wars against "larger adversaries." Mullen said, "I
recognize that the military budget is higher now than it has ever
been" but "I would see that in the future as an absolute floor."

The Pentagon's new strategy of "forward positioning" calls for
establishing sites where U.S. forces can store equipment and from
which they can come and go as needed. Fearful of their own angry
populations and the anti-U.S. climate, all the countries of the
region initially denied the Pentagon basing rights.

Hiding behind 'humanitarian relief'

The U.S. Pacific Fleet moved back into South Asia by providing
emergency relief during the Dec. 26, 2004 tsunami near Indonesia.

Using the cover of tsunami relief, the U.S. Navy also moved back into
the giant U-Tapao base on the Gulf of Siam in Thailand. This had been
a major front-line U.S. base during the Vietnam War, from which the
Pentagon launched 80 percent of its air strikes against North

After the tsunami emergency passed, the elected government in
Thailand wanted the U.S. Navy to leave. A U.S.-supported military
coup in September 2006 overthrew the elected government, abolished
the parliament, revoked the constitution and established a military
dictatorship. This was considered a major setback for democracy in
the region.

Unlike the response of the corporate media to the current military
crackdown and censorship in Myanmar, there was barely a mention of
the coup or the total news shutdown in Thailand. Armed soldiers stood
guard in TV newsrooms, and more than 400 community radio stations in
the north and northeast of Thailand were closed. The dictatorship
even blocked BBC, CNN and other Western news broadcasts.

There were no complaints from the Bush administration then and no
calls for international sanctions. The U.S. State Department merely
expressed the hope that elections would again be organized in the
near future.

One of the dictatorship's first acts was to allow the U.S. Navy use
of the U-Tapao Base.

At the same time, the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group NINE
(CSG-9) moved into Banda Aceh, Indonesia's Sultan Iskandar Muda Air
Force Base at the entrance of the Straits of Malacca, across from
Myanmar. Navy ships arrived to provide tsunami relief. The U.S.
military said that they were unable to predict when they will be able
to withdraw their "resources" from the region.

The U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet's USS Gary made the first U.S. visit to
impoverished and underdeveloped Cambodia in more than 30 years,
landing at the Ream Naval Base near Sihanoukville. The U.S. Navy is
expanding the base so Ream can receive more warships and navy
personnel. A U.S. intelligence base is being built on the Cambodian
island of Koh Tang in the Gulf of Thailand.

Although the military dictatorship in Myanmar has complied with many
imperialist demands for greater access to its once nationalized
resources, it is an unstable repressive regime that understands that
there is a 150-year history of opposition to colonialism, and
especially to British imperialism, among Myanmar's population.
Fearful for its own survival, the regime has been unwilling to grant
U.S. military bases. This has frustrated the Pentagon's plans for the

Even though Chevron and French oil corporation Total S.A. have reaped
enormous profits from the Yadana gas concessions in Myanmar, they are
interested in helping to overturn the regime if they could secure
even greater access and more lucrative terms.

Next: The people of Mynamar and the history of the popular struggle.

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