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CJ Werleman

Genocide: US must call violence against Rohingya by its name

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled to neighbouring countries [AFP]

Date of publication: 3 October, 2018

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Comment: The United States' refusal to accurately describe the violence in Myanmar as 'ethnic cleansing' or 'genocide', is a chilling indication of its real agenda, writes CJ Werleman.
Earlier this month, the United States released its report on Myanmar's violence against its Rohingya Muslim minority, based on interviews with 1,024 Rohingya refugees who took refuge in makeshift camps on both sides of the Bangladeshi border.

Conducted by the US State Department, the report reveals that the Myanmar military's violence in northern Rakhine state was "extreme, large-scale, widespread and seemingly geared toward both terrorizing the population and driving out the Rohingya residents".

It also notes that the scope and scale of the operations were "well-planned and coordinated" and in some areas, the perpetrators "used tactics that resulted in mass casualties, for example, locking people in houses to burn them, fencing off entire villages before shooting into the crowd, or sinking boats full of hundreds of fleeing Rohingya".

The State Department said that 82 percent of the interviewed refugees personally witnessed their family members or neighbours being killed, while more than half said they had been sexually abused.

"They would then choose a smaller number of women - often four or five, but some refugees reported up to 20 - whom as many 15 soldiers would then take to fields, forests, houses, schools, mosques or latrines to gang rape," write the authors of the report. "Many victims were reportedly killed afterward," adding that in some cases Myanmar soldiers would go door-to-door to find the "'prettiest' girls" to gang rape.

Surprisingly, or rather alarmingly, the report makes no mention of the terms "ethnic cleansing" or "genocide", which has stunned those who have spent the past 12 months tracking Myanmar's recent and ongoing crackdown against the Rohingya, and flies in the face of what the United Nations described as "textbook ethnic cleansing."

Human rights groups Amnesty InternationalHuman Rights Watch, and a probe conducted by the United Nations Human Rights Council have also described Myanmar' systematic effort to drive the Rohingya out of the country as "genocide" or "ethnic cleansing".

Both Israel and Australia continued arming and training the country's military long after the extent of the violence was well known and understood

I myself have interviewed more than a dozen Rohingya refugees and aid workers during the past year and have published their testimonies on my podcast

All described unspeakable horrors, including young children survivors who had been hit with rocket-propelled-grenades, landmines and semi-automatic weapon fire; medics who described babies dying of starvation and dehydration; and accounts of mass murder and mass graves. All described what they had witnessed as a "genocide".

So what explains the United States' refusal to accurately describe the violence in those precise terms?

Myanmar's 1.1 million Rohingya have been denied citizenship since 1982 [Anadolu]

The answer to that question likely has three parts: The influence US defense contractors hold over US foreign policy; the role a rising China has in shaping the country's contemporary foreign policy; and the protection of key allies, including Israel and Australia - both of whom continued to arm and train Myanmar's military while the violence unfolded.

While the US government has already sanctioned three top Myanmar military generals for their role in the violence against Rohingya Muslims, and has suspended arms sales to the democratic masquerading military junta, it's likely the US State Department is reluctant to use the terms "ethnic cleansing" or "genocide" to avoid having their hands tied from making weapons deals with Myanmar down the road.

Earlier this month, a leaked classified memo illuminated just how much sway US defense contractors have over US foreign policy, showing how the country's top diplomat - Secretary Mike Pompeo - objected to ending support for Saudi Arabia's role in furthering the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen because doing so would jeopardize $2 billion in sales of precision guided cruise missiles produced by the US defense contractor giant, Raytheon.

It's likely the US State Department is reluctant to use the terms 'ethnic cleansing' or 'genocide' to avoid having their hands tied from making weapons deals with Myanmar down the road

In regards to China, the United States' grand strategy has very much been shaped by a desire to contain the superpower of the Asian region, starting with Obama's "pivot to Asia" strategy.

With Myanmar bordering China, the US views the Buddhist majority country as a natural buffer zone between the Chinese border and long time traditional Asian allies Thailand and Malaysia. Moreover, to cut all future military ties with Myanmar is to effectively place the country firmly in China's sphere of influence, a fate feared by both the US and Myanmar's leadership.

Finally, for the US to apply the terms "ethnic cleansing" and "genocide" to the government of Myanmar is to bring the recent actions of its allies Israel and Australia into further global scrutiny - for both countries continued arming and training the country's military long after the extent of the violence was well known and understood.

Investigations by human rights groups found that Israel sold more than 100 tanks, as well as light weapons and patrol boats, which have been an instrumental tool used by Myanmar to attack Rohingya fishermen, while Australia has provided $400,000 worth of military assistance to the Myanmar military over the past 12 months.

In other words, both Israel and Australia actively and openly armed an oppressive regime in the midst of its efforts to exterminate 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims.

Ultimately, the US has made another mockery of its claims to care about democratic values and human rights. Its investigation into what is objectively a genocide in Myanmar is yet another piece of evidence that the US foreign policy is driven only by realpolitick and the will to further its profitable weapons business.


CJ Werleman is the author of 'Crucifying America', 'God Hates You, Hate Him Back' and 'Koran Curious', and is the host of Foreign Object.

Follow him on Twitter: @cjwerleman


Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

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