Thursday, September 15, 2011

Debate with a known Rakhine Racist?

I was asked about my views about debating with a known racist. Here below are my views on this subject:

A debate in a hall or media outlet is all about counterpoints raised by each participant about his/her position on a given subject with the sole aim of winning it. The question is does such an agenda - a debate with a Rakhine racist -- help the Rohingya cause vis-a-vis their accusers, who are racists and bigots? Aye Chan is a half-educated Rakhine with a PhD degree from a third-rate university who now teaches in a 4th rate university in Japan. He uses his laughable credential to masquerade as a Rakhine intellectual. But if one studies his work, there is nothing intellectually enlightening in his work other than his 'discoveries' about how the names Arakan and Akyab had originated, how the Rohingya people are a legacy of the British Occupation period, and how the current Rohingyas are infiltrators from Chittagong who are trying to take over Arakan and introduce the Taliban-brand of Islam on everyone. These are all false propaganda made with the single objective of uprooting the Rohingya people from their ancestral home in Arakan. One has to pity such ludicrous claims from a person who likes to claim himself as an intellectual. He is a pin-head charlatan, but dangerous enough to seed hatred to divide our world.

Before the mongoloid featured Tibeto-Burman savages moved into the crescent of Arakan, the indigenous people were brown-colored people, derogatorily termed 'Kalas' by the invaders. These indigenous people had everything in common with the people living on the other side of the Naaf river, and nothing to do and common with the wild people that lived on the forests to the north-east and the savages east of the Arakan Yoma mountain range.

If we recall Yoma is the Sanskrit word for what in Bengali is called Jom (devil, death or bad spirit). That is how it was named by the indigenous people because of the savages that lived there and the regions beyond to the north and east. Fearful of those savages, these indigenous people lived along the coastal areas, and thrived on rice cultivation grown in the plane land and the abundant supply of fish found in the sea, rivers, streams and ponds that they dug. These indigenous 'Kalas' mixing with the latter Muslim settlers/travelers/Sufis (including Arab/Persian merchants, traders, soldiers who came to restore Narameikhla to the Arakan throne, and others) created the genesis of today's Rohingya. The conversion of the 'Kalas' to Islam is no different than what has happened throughout history in the last 14 centuries along the coastal regions from Mozambique to Malacca. To call these indigenous people unwanted guests is like calling the Native Indians of America as refugees who had settled after the Europeans. So much for Aye Chan's pseudo-scholarship!

An intellectual is endowed with intellect having the power of understanding; having capacity for the higher forms of knowledge or thought; characterized by intelligence or mental capacity. Does Aye Chan possess any of these traits? I have failed to find any in his. He is a provocateur to tense relationship between two major groups in Arakan. Who benefits from such trash racism? It is the forces of divide and rule. Is he an agent for the hated Myanmar government? I won't be surprised to discover the under-table deals he has made with the regime.

A true intellectual concerned about his homeland should understand what is wrong with his native country and its people so as to find ways that would provide direction for upliftment, and getting out of the current sad state. Do you see anything remotely connected with this line of actions from Aye Chan or his peers? I have not. As I have repeatedly said he is like a cancer that spreads racism and bigotry in the fabric of Arakan eventually killing/weakening the nation. It is not the future any conscientious Arakanese Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist would like to see. But the Rakhine side has no wise intellectual and only the reincarnations of convicted Nazi criminals like Julius Streicher in the likes of Aye Chan, Aye Kyaw and Khin Maung Saw, and their ilk, who sell the tablet of hatred packaged as the boogeyman of 'Islamization of Arakan by the Rohingya'. They are essentially fascists.

Sharing a dais with a fascist is not something that is either noble or wise. It would give credibility to hatred. The best one can get is: call it a draw; and nothing better. It would be a shouting match and unruly. In his so-called invitation to debate the Rohingya issue, Aye Chan is craving for publicity, and wants to get a free audience at a high cost to the Rohingya, who must organize and pay for the meeting, with no burden unto him or his group for free publicity of hatred. Such debates require a strong neutral moderator to conduct it in a civic way, none of which one can guarantee to find. If Aye Chan is serious about a debate, let him organize such an event with invitation made to the Rohingya people to debate him or his ilk in a civic forum that is moderated neutrally by a university professor of repute. I would have no problem endorsing such a move.

As I shared in an earlier note, what is needed is propagating the Rohingya view widely by all the avenues that are out there, including popularizing and sharing the correct analyses and views on the Rohingya that many of us have written, or available sources from unbiased scholars. There are quite a few good works on this subject that should be made available to policy makers in each country.

Finally again, I won't support wasting money or resources to give a voice to racism and bigotry, so typical of the likes of Aye Chan. He is a fascist intellectual for his chauvinist people, and is not an honorable person possessing integrity, analytical thinking, and wisdom that we should give publicity to. What we need is: refutation of every false propaganda that he makes so that truth prevails, and people have the ability to discern truth from his false campaigns.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Aye Chan's Selective Amnesia – a brief analysis

Aye Chan is a Rakhine racist and bigot who has made a profession out of distorting history of Muslims of Arakan. His latest article "Burma’s Western Border as Reported by the Diplomatic Correspondence (1947 – 1975)" is another such evil attempt to justify aggression and oppression against the Rohingya Muslims of Arakan (and Burma). In his twisted logic he shows his selective amnesia about the crimes of his own racist group while being all agog about the so-called secession movement of the Rohingyas in the dying days of the British rule in South Asia.

Aye Chan's latest disingenuous attempt to revise history should not surprise anyone that is well acquainted with the history of partition of British India and emergence of Burma as a free nation. During that period, many activists of the freedom movement felt that it was not what they had bargained for with the leaders of the dying British Colonial administration. Even the Arakanese people wanted a state of their own away from the control of the Burmans. Muslims of Kashmir wanted to be part of Pakistan, a matter that was left unresolved because while the territory had some 80-90% Muslims, its ruler was a Hindu. So was the case with princely state of Hyderabad, ruled by Muslim nobility over Hindu majority.

In the then East Pakistan no one knew for a short period after 14-15 August 1947, whether Sylhet and Karimganj, two places with huge Muslim population would become part of Pakistan or became part of India. The same goes for other territories all along the boundaries that we see today. Boundary demarcation was not clear. Some border towns had one day the Indian flag raised, only to be replaced by the Pakistani flag next day, or week, and vice versa. So, if the Rohingya Muslim people of Northern Arakan, where it is overwhelmingly Muslim, had desired during the independence of Pakistan and Burma to be connected with fellow Muslims in East Pakistan, because of their cultural ties, was it totally out of line? I doubt that.
Even the Rakhines did not want to be part of Burma. There were insurgencies, communist and nationalist alike, raging everywhere inside Burma. From the 1950s, there was a growing movement for secession and restoration of independence of Arakan. In part to appease this sentiment, in 1974, the socialist government under General Ne Win constituted Rakhine State from Arakan Division giving at least nominal acknowledgment of the regional majority of the Rakhine people. This was an unfortunate and ill-conceived decision, planting the seeds of racism in a divided country along ethnic lines that would complicate the relationship between the two major ethnic groups, Rakhines and Rohingyas. Islamic separatists calling themselves the Mujahid also carried out a rebellion to create an Islamic state in the regions bordering Chittagong/Cox's Bazar (of the then East Pakistan). Now to blame the Rohingyas for their piece of struggle, while hiding crimes of the Rakhine insurgency, is insincere and racist to the core. It is not analysis but paralysis of independent and unbiased thinking! As the dust settled, which by the way did take some years with all those killings of founding leaders of Burma, the disparate people of Burma have learned to live with the new reality of military autocracy. But Burma still remains a fractured country of nations where racism runs deep and wisdom a rarity, even amongst its intellectuals.

Today's Rohingya people have no desire for a separate homeland of their own, if their basic human rights can be protected. But if they continue to be treated as outsiders, infiltrators, and all the false xenophobic, or rather racist, epithets thrown at them by their hateful accusers, then it is high time for the conscience minded people of our planet to demand a change with such an attitude that forces these indigenous people of Arakan to live a life of statelessness inside Burma, or of unwanted refugees outside.

Historically, the people of Arakan and Chittagong were the same people living along the coastal shorelines of the Bay of Bengal. The River Naaf which now separates Burma from Bangladesh was not a physical barrier to these indigenous people. People of this joint landmass lived for centuries together before they became part of either the Muslim Sultanate or Buddhist Rule.

The indigenous people, the true Bhumiputras (adibashis), were these brown-colored (Indian featured) people whose descendants now live in northern Arakan (whom we know as the Rohingyas) and Chittagong/Cox's Bazar districts of today's Bangladesh (known as the Chittagonians). Their racial similarity was mostly because of that connected shoreline, away from the Arakan Yoma mountain range that had separated this crescent on the Bay of Bengal from the thrust of savages coming from the north and the east. Their dialect was also same (originating from Sanskrit, which later evolved into Bangla) until much later in history, when the Muslim ruled Chittagong absorbed lots of Farsi and Arabic terms in their vocabulary, as a result of Sultanate and Mughal rule of Bengal.

It took the late 10th century for this landmass of Arakan, then ruled by Hindu kings, to come under the possession of the Tibeto-Burman Buddhist invaders from the north. While the northern territories of Chittagong survived from the takeover, it took a few centuries, until the Mrauk-U dynasty to cement this relationship between the two sides of the Naaf River. Nurtured by the new rulers who were indebted to the Bengal Sultan who had restored Narameikhla back to power in 1430, Mrohaung (sounding Rohang or Roshang - in Bengali), the capital city, became the literary center of Bengali literature. From then on, the cultural link between the two sides was only punctuated during the Burman invasion of Arakan in 1784, when tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims and Hindus, and Rakhine Buddhists were killed and enslaved. Many fled to Chittagong and settled there. During the British occupation, dating back to 1824, some of the children and grandchildren of these exiles returned to cultivate the land that had become desolate. Many however, chose to remain in Chittagong, as is well recorded and documented to this date.

The obnoxious claim that the Rohingyas are a product of British occupation period, or of even later time, or geopolitics of the region, is absolutely false. It is ludicrous and aimed at denying basic rights of citizenship to these people. Not only is this 1982 Citizenship Law in Burma (interestingly written by Rakhine racists like Aye Kyaw, himself a naturalized American, living in NY city) at variance with all laws of our civilized world, it is downright criminal, and must be altered, thus allowing restoring rights of this unfortunate people, and many other races and ethnicities (including the Karen).

Even on another level, when we consider that it took less than a decade for many of these Rakhine exiles, now comfortably living as naturalized citizens in their adopted countries - USA, Germany, Canada, Japan and other parts of Europe, it is really bizarre to see them advocating for denial of citizenship rights to the Rohingya people. How long should they wait? Even if one were to accept the Rakhine version of false propaganda that the Rohingyas had infiltrated the territory in the mid-19th century, is not these 100 plus years sufficient?

Funny that these hostile racists and bigots of the Rakhine community claim that they are democratic minded and would love to see a federal state where democracy runs supreme! Their provocative statements, and the lies that they propagate, and the hatred that they spew, inciting violence against minority, only go on to show that they are fascists, and nothing else.

Aye Chan, who works for the Kanda University of International Studies in Japan, gives a bad name to scholarship and critical analytical thinking. His racist and bigotry-ridden writings that provoke his ethnic Rakhine group and the hated Myanmar military regime to justify their inhuman crimes against the Rohingyas of Burma show that he is also a disgrace to the Kanda University and the civilized world who has learned to move on burying their age old hatred and build a better society for our human race. Shame on Aye Chan and his peers and patrons!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Bush's Invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 - Was it Avoidable?

As I maintained in many of my posts the U.S. War against Afghanistan surely could have been avoided if the Bush Administration was serious. Instead, from the very outset, flanked by war-criminals-to-be, it wanted to embark on a different course. Just as pundits today would agree that even if 9/11 did not happen, Bush and his warmongers - Cheney and Rumsfeld - were well prepared to strike Iraq to complete the unfinished task of Bush Sr., the same is the case with Afghanistan. The Bush administration had no interest in peacefully resolving the OBL factor.

In an exclusive interview, Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, Taliban's last foreign minister, tells Al-Jazeera that the Taliban government, which then controlled Afghanistan, made several proposals to the United States to present the al-Qaeda leader for trial for his involvement in plots targeting U.S. facilities during the 1990s.

"Even before the (9/11) attacks, our Islamic emirate had tried -- through various proposals -- to resolve the Osama issue. One such proposal was to set up a three-nation court, or something under the supervision of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)," Muttawakil says.

"But the U.S. showed no interest in it. They kept demanding we hand him over, but we had not relations with the U.S., no agreement of any sort. They did not recognize our government."

Al-Jazeera says Robert Grenier, the CIA station chief in Pakistan at the time of 9/11, confirms that such proposals were made to U.S. officials. It quotes Grenier as saying Washington considered the offers a "ploy." "Another idea was that [bin Laden] would be brought to trial before a group of Ulema [religious scholars] in Afghanistan," Grenier is quoted as saying. "No one in the U.S. government took these [offers] seriously because they did not trust the Taliban and their ability to conduct a proper trial."

For a reading of the interview with the then Taliban Foreign Minister read here.

Now look what has happened. America is in debts to the tune of some 18 trillion dollars, where those uncalled for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, factor large. Bush and his criminal partners in crime saw war as a means to prosperity for their friends in oil and defense industry, while still hoping that some would even trickle down to ordinary Americans. None of those Satanic wishes has turned into reality. Two wars were launched, which surely could have been avoided, if Bush was serious.

Is it that difficult to picture how our world would have been minus those wars?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The 10th Anniversary of 9/11 – America’s Pyrrhic Experience

This Sunday is the 10th anniversary of 9/11, which, by any account, was a momentous event in American history. In the post-World War II period, never before has the USA suffered such a massive loss in human lives and properties. The total cost to the USA has been estimated by the New York Times at a whopping $3.3 trillion, including $55 billion from the loss of lives and materials. While not all of the costs have been borne by the government — and some are still to come — this total equals one-fifth of the current national debt.

Here is the breakdown of the estimates. In 2002, the New York City comptroller's office estimated the cost of replacing destroyed and damaged property at $26 billion. And another $29 billion was estimated for the value of life and injury. The estimates of the economic impact of the attacks ranged from about $40 billion to $122 billion in a group of studies led by the CREATE Homeland Security Center at the prestigious University of Southern California. John Mueller, a political scientist at Ohio State University, and Mark G. Stewart, an Australian engineer, have estimated the increase in spending of $589 billion for homeland security and non-war-related national intelligence since 2001. The estimate of total war funding by the Congressional Research Service including wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as medical care for veterans, is $1649 billion. The estimate of war funding from 2012 to 2016 and the cost of caring for veterans over the next 40 years is $867 billion (of which $55 and $223 billion are expected to be spent for Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively).

We are also told that the total cost on the al-Qaeda side to bring this massive loss to the USA was less than half a million dollars. That is, the USA has spent about $7 million for every dollar Al Qaeda spent planning and executing the attacks on 9/11. Knowing that only a tiny fraction of the $3.3 trillion cost figure to America owes it to the loss of lives and properties suffered as a result of the attack, it is high time to ask was George W. Bush’s decision to launch the two pyrrhic wars justifiable?

The wars are still raging. As a mater of fact August 2011 has been the deadliest month for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since the conflict began nearly 10 years ago with 66 US troops dead this month. This includes the deadliest attack on US forces since the beginning of the conflict, when 30 US service members, including 17 Navy SEALS, were killed when Taliban forces shot down their helicopter.

What is worse: there are unconfirmed reports that al-Qaeda is again seeking to harm Americans and in particular, target New York and Washington to avenge for the death of their martyred leader! Acutely aware of these factors, law enforcement around the country had already increased security measures at airports, nuclear plants, train stations and other important places. The latest threat has also prompted the U.S. embassies and consulates abroad to boost their vigilance in preparation for the anniversary.

In the nearly 10 years since 9/11 a lot of money has been spent in America on reducing the risk of another major terrorist attack. It is clearly time to compare the cost of security measures with the benefits as tallied in lives saved and damages averted. A security measure, as rightly noted in their study by Mueller and Stewart, is cost-effective when the benefit of the measure outweighs the costs of providing it. The benefit of a security measure = (probability of a successful attack) x (losses sustained in the successful attack) x (reduction in risk). The "probability of a successful attack" is the likelihood a successful terrorist attack will take place if no new security measures are put in place, and "reduction in risk" is the effectiveness of the new measures to foil, deter, disrupt, or protect against a terrorist attack. The same equation can be used to calculate how many attacks will have to take place to justify the expenditure.

Mueller and Stewart assumed that the total reduction in risk was 95%, and also applied the 2010 foiled attack in New York City to cost effectiveness equation. In 2010, a vigilant Muslim street vendor working in New York City largely averted a terrorism attack by a vehicle bomber in Times Square. Had the bomber been successful he might have caused a dozen fatalities with loss of life and property damage worth $100 million. The result was that for the counter terrorism spending since 9/11 to be fully justified, homeland security would have had to deter, prevent, foil or protect against 1667 Times Square style attacks a year, or more than four a day.

Mueller and Stewart, similarly, evaluated the 2005 attacks on underground trains and a bus in London that killed 52 people and injured many hundreds of commuters and passers by. The losses from such attacks would not exceed $5 billion. In their estimate, for enhanced security measures to be cost-effective for attacks of that magnitude, their rate of occurrence without those enhanced measures would have had to exceed 30 a year. If one posits that such an attack is thwarted once a year -- a conservative threat-likelihood by any measure -- the ratio of benefit to cost is a meager 0.03 meaning that spending $1 buys only 3¢ of benefits. For a terrorist of the magnitude of 9/11 costing $200 billion, the enhanced expenditures would be cost-effective only if that sort of attack would have occurred more than once a year.

Bottom line: the frequency and severity of terrorist attacks are so low that the benefits of enhanced counter terrorism expenditures of a trillion dollars since 9/11 are not justifiable by any rational and accepted standard of cost-benefit analysis. As the authors of the study noted, instead of saving lives, extravagant homeland security spending is, in a sense, costing lives. In the past month over 320 people were killed by tornadoes in the US, and yet there are studies that show $200 million spent subsidizing the purchase of tornado shelters for mobile home owners could have saved 30 lives during the life of the shelters. These are guaranteed lives saved for a modest government investment. There are other examples ranging from air bags to smoke alarms to pharmaceuticals known to save many lives. The authors opine that diverting even a small proportion of homeland security spending to such measures could save many lives at a fraction of the cost.

These findings are not much different from the conclusions reached by other studies conducted earlier. Virginia Tech public policy professor Patrick Roberts wrote in the Review of Policy Research in 2005, the creation of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was "an example of the triumph of symbolic and distributive policies over more straightforward attempts to address the real problems of homeland security."

When the DHS was formed, it absorbed 22 disparate agencies, cramming them into a single, 230,000-person mega-bureaucracy. Without a clear overall strategy, the grant money DHS was responsible for allocating went out to states regardless of their needs. Huge defense contractors took advantage of the easy funding to pitch untested products. "It opened a floodgate of money for private industry to sell scanners and other devices," said Charles Perrow, a Yale sociology professor who has called the creation of DHS "The Disaster After 9/11."

In 2006, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee identified 32 DHS contracts "collectively worth $34.3 billion that have been plagued by waste, abuse, or mismanagement" during the first five years after 9/11. In 2008, the House Committee on Homeland Security listed $15 billion in failed contracts since the department's founding.

The USA is on a high alert now. This yearly ‘al-Qaeda fear factor’ is costing the USA today billions of dollars, pushing it more and more into a debtor country. Unless corrective actions are taken, the USA cannot avoid the fate embraced by King Pyrrhus of Epirus in 279-280 BCE: ‘one more such victory would utterly undo him.’

Is the US government ready to learn from history and amend its ways to avoid a repeat of 9/11?