September 27, 2007


The Burmese people have always protested against its military govt. but the world has always stayed out.

The latest protest has been happening for over a month and the world looks on as the protests get larger. What is worrying is the murder of the monks and civilians by the Burmese military junta yesterday and today. If the people of the world keep quiet and watch on, this will only get worse and might result in a slaughter.

Click herefor continuous news coverage on happenings in Burma

Have we learnt nothing from history? The world looked the other way when Hitler began his hate campaign and this resulted in the second World War.
The Burmese have been protesting non-violently against the military junta but the rest of the world failed them when they were massacred 19 years ago.
Can we afford to do the same now? The governments of our various countries may not care or term it an internal matter but can the people of the world do the same?
Are we willing to watch an Asian Rwanda unfold in Burma?

The Burmese people who sought freedom of speech have been banned, arrested or killed for decades. Others escape to neighbouring countrieslike Thailand and India. Aung San Suu Kyi continues to remain in house arrest.
What does the world do? Give her a Nobel Peace Prize in an attempt to wash its guilty hands off Burma. But the governments of the world are currently like Lady Macbeth. Every Burmese killed --- the blood will be on your hands because you failed to act before and now.

Why are governments that claim to represent democracy and encourage pro-democracy invade or threaten to invade countries when people there don't complain about their governments but choose to ignore Burma or Myanmar? True, Burma has no uranium, nuclear power plants, diamonds or WMDs which might be an incentive to intervene in the name of democracy or freedom by the United Nations Security Council. So Burma doesn't pose any imminent threat to global security as it doesn't have all of the above and also there is no Bin laden or dangerous "terrorists" in Burma. The UN, NATO, ASEAN, SAARC, Arab League, APEC, and various organisations have continuously failed to protect the Burmese people.
However if you care, please sign the petition to get our governments and the UN to act/support the Burmese people instead of imposing more stringent sanctions -- which is stupid as it will not affect the govt. but only the people.

The Burmese people are a bigger asset than WMDs, diamonds or uranium.

Click here to Sign the Petition to support the Burmese people..

Last year, when Thailand, a neighbour of Burma was in political trouble, ASEAN rushed in to its aid. However, not even step motherly but alien treatment meted out to the Burmese people by ASEAN is puzzling. Burma is in South East Asia.

The US, UN and Europe have condemned the attacks on the people and have called for "more" stringent sanctions but this will have no effect on the military junta in Burma. It will only affect the already impoverished people.

Thailand which is a neighbour of Burma is too small and has internal problems of its own. It can only afford to accept refugees.

So the two countries that can use its leverage with the Burmese military junta to stop the slaughter are China and India, both of whom are neighbours.

It is understandable that China doesn't want any change in Burma and is happy to support the military govt. in Burma. After all it has its business interests to protect like the over 500 Chinese companies that operates out of Burma. It also provides weapons to the military junta in Burma.Therefore the Chinese govt. calls the Burmese people's non-violent movement for democracy as "internal affair" of Burma. Moreover, supporting the Burmese people by Chinese govt. would re-direct the spotlight on the Tianamen Square massacre and also the fact China is not a democracy. It might also bring the swing the focus on Tibet where people have been fighting non-violently for 50 years and Tibetan refugees in India, including the Dalai Lama. So for political reasons too, China cannot been seen as supporting Burma though it might be extremely afraid of a flood of refugees through its borders especially next year during the Beijing Olympics.

Chinese are very proud of their long memories and gratitude. I don't know how they can forget that it was from Burma, the Japanese invasion of China during WW2 was thwarted. Despite everything, it was a combination of the Burmese, British and Indians who helped stop the Japanese massacre and occupation of China.

True, people of Indian origin were evicted from Burma in 1952 but can it hold the grudge for 55 years? India has Burmese refugees and journalists but like the Tibet question,it has never protested against Burmese plight either. While it broke off relations with the military junta in Burma, a few years back it has renewed relations as it is finding the Chinese are either annexing or befriending all its neighbours encircling India from Pakistan in the West to Burma in the East and Sri Lanka in the South.

Some say it is because the Indian govt. is currently negotiating a gas line deal with the Burmese military junta as the Iran pipeline via Pakistan may not materialise. However, it seems more like it doesn't want to harm its chances at stalemating China in South East Asia. Maybe the upcoming visits of the Vietnamese and Filipino leaders will make a change in the Indian stance.

However, if the Indian govt. doesn't use its leverage with the military junta now, it can say goodbye to its dreams of becoming a superpower ever.

Irrespective of what the governments say in all our countries -- we, the people of the world can change their minds and stop a repeat of the 1988 massacre.

So, here is a doable list.

1)Sign the petition above.
2)Click on the link "Email the politician in your country" found on the left side of this page for US and UK readers.
3)Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper or TV channel and ask your friends and family to do the same.
4)Post comments on all media websites and forums on the Internet.
5)Spread the word in all the e-groups you belong to.
6)Wherever you are in the world, write a letter, email to any media organisation or call your local radio station and ask them what they plan to.
7)Mail the Burmese media to show you support the Burmese people.
Click here for the Burmese Media directory

When the world media makes it a big issue, our governments will be forced to act.
Right now, global leaders are gathering in New York for the annual United Nations summit.

Keep doing it until the Burmese military junta stops its slaughter and the Burmese people become free.

We can do it together for we live a short life and it will take only 5- 10 minutes of your time to do this daily.

Nothing is impossible if we believe it is possible.

© 2007 by Deepa Kandaswamy

September 11, 2007

9/11 and the War on Terror

Today marks the sixth anniversary of the WTC attacks.The war on terror has failed horribly. The Taliban is on the rise in Afghanistan and Osama still eludes capture while Al-Qaeda appears to be growing.

9/11 happened. Unlike other attacks with the exception of wars, it was spectacularly executed like a scene from a Hollywood action thriller.

It had horrific results and watching it on a TV screen, as a non-American one could condemn it and feel sorry for the people who perished in it -- over 3000 people from 80 nations around the world.

What I fail to understand even today is the way the USA, especially the government reacted to it.

This is the same USA which during the Cold War which spanned for over 50 years was calm though there USSR nuclear missiles targetted on it and which could be set off at the press of a button.

The Americans were not afraid. Instead, they went about their work and America reached heights like never before. Americans were not driven by fear. They didn't fear the Russians or attack USSR immigrants. They challenged government control over their lives even when the US govt. used terms like "patriotism" and "national interest" to justify their wars.

Knowing atom bombs could rain down on their cities and later nuclear missiles, American citizens didn't espouse a philosophy of hate driven by fear. Instead, Americans concentrated on the issues and challenges they thought were important. They put a man on the moon, got rid of homegrown apartheid, valued civil liberties and freedom of their fellow citizens. They were happy even though the Russians and the other "Commie" sympathisers cum groups could have killed them. Fear was not an option.

The bravery shown by the Americans won over even hard core Communists, made America the destination of choice and captured the imagination of the world. It also led to the collapse of the USSR ending the Cold War.

After 9/11, Americans are afraid of an organisation called "Al-Qaeda". Their elected representatives including the Senators, Congressmen and their govt. are saying Americans should be afraid. They are ruining their economy and lives of young people by sending them off to wars because some "Al Qaeda" members got hold of a few planes and crashed them into the Pentagon and the World Trade center. The govt. issues "color" alerts that sends Americans into a frenzy. Both Republicans and Democrats are responsible for this climate of fear.

Americans are now driven by fear -- an irrational fear that they will be attacked anywhere and anytime because of their citizenship. Some are scared of their neighbours because they look different. Most are okay with their government violating their privacy in the name of "security".They think anything is valid including violating the civil liberties of their fellow citizens and tourists to their country because 9/11 happened.

If Americans continue to be driven by fear, then Osama doesn't need to do anything to win. Six years and he has done nothing except go into hiding as he sees the Americans do it to themselves. Fear leads to grief which leads to hate which leads to mindless violence and it becomes a vicious circle.

The USA that most people in the rest of the world loved, admired and aspired to be will be no more if Americans continue to live in fear because their elected representatives say the boogie man will jump on them tommorow.

Bin Laden said in his tape released on November 1, 2004.
"It is easy for us to provoke and bait this administration. All we have to do is send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written Al Qaeda, in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their pivate companies.

So we are continuing this policy of bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. That being said ... when one scrutinises the results , one cannot say that Al-Qaeda is the sole factor in achieving these spectacular gains. Rather the the policy of the White House that demands the opening of war fronts to keep busy their various corporations, has helped Al-Qaeda achieve enormous results.

For example, al-Qaeda spent 500,000 dollars on the events while America in the incident and its aftermath has lost more than 500 billion dollars."

Simply put Osama says the aim of the attacks on 9/11 ( the events he refers to in the tape) were to create chaos and fear, so America will spend and continue to spend money until it becomes economically bankrupt. As long as Americans elect a govt. that is scared and gets into other wars, Osama will achieve what he set out to do. Same goes for private companies, American and other countries which see only $ signs on this so called War On Terror
And as long as the US govt. keeps invading countries in the name of protecting Americans, anti-Americanism will spread and young Americans will continue to die.

In Cuppola's movie "Apocalypse Now (1979), Col. Kurtz played by Marlon Brando says,"I've seen horrors... horrors that you've seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that... but you have no right to judge me. It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror. Horror has a face... and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies. I remember when I was with Special Forces. Seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to innoculate the children. We left the camp after we had innoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember... I... I... I cried. I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out. I didn't know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget. And then I realized... like I was shot... like I was shot with a diamond... a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought: My God... the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we. Because they could stand that these were not monsters. These were men... trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love... but they had the strength... the strength... to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral... and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling... without passion... without judgment... without judgment. Because it's judgment that defeats us."

The above passage describes not some enemy but the terrorist today. Cuppola was wrong in glorifying it. You cannot make a friend of fear and horror but need to overcome it. Other countries face terrorist attacks too.

We need to rebuild our world free from fear and the media generated hysteria. Americans need to value the civil liberties of all citizens guaranteed by the US constitution more than their fear. The threat will remain but Americans need to reclaim their country.
Osama maybe Darth Vader but you are the Luke Skywalkers. The force will be with you as long as you refuse to be afraid. You have to consciously choose not be afraid. You've faced nuclear missiles in the past. Osama says you should be afraid of planes and your own neighbours!

Like the Cold War generation, while Americans should take precautions and not ignore terrorist threats, today let Americans pledge to live like they did before 9/11 --a country of individuals without fear -- the land of the brave.

Copyright © 2007 by Deepa Kandaswamy, All rights reserved

September 3, 2007


An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. Mahatma Gandhi

Non-Violence is one of the most misunderstood concepts of today’s world and look at the consequences. Countries are fighting wars to achieve peace and violence is justified as the only means through which peace could be achieved! When military leaders say they are planning to bring peace to a nation, one can safely assume that they mean that a war is being planned. The result of this form of peace is death, anger and more people who want revenge. They end up starting a war of their own. Therefore, we end up with a vicious cycle of grief-anger-violence that wreaks havoc on innocent millions. It appears our so-called knowledge–based civilized societies are stepping back to the Bronze Age where this kind of wars was the norm.

According to William James, American philosopher and psychologist, “Pacifism is the moral equivalent of War.” Simply, pacifism is an active form of protest against wars, injustice, and violence in an organised manner using non-violent means. It is the alternative to war, where people express their opposition as a conscientious objector but do not kill or resort to violence.
Refusing to participate and demanding the end of an unjust practice is what pacifism is all about. It is an effective tool but it takes time, work, and patience. The results are always better than a quick war with many casualties and long, bitter memories that continue the cycle of hate.
However to practice pacifism successfully and effectively, the pacifists need to achieve four objectives first.

An environment favorable to peace must be established.
The potential causes of conflict, which include factors as the quest for power, fear, foreign occupation, and economic competition, must be greatly decreased or eliminated.
Means for the resolution of clashes must be provided, as in negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and trial procedures.
Ways must be found to ensure adherence of the agreements that are made.

Pacifism has taken many forms in modern history. Refusal to work and wear foreign clothes made by the colonizers and demanding freedom as Gandhi and his fellow Indians did was pacifism in practice. When Rosa Parks refused to move from her seat, this was another form of pacifist protest. It takes more courage to confront an armed person or an angry mob non-violently. This act by Rosa Parks set off the boycott of buses by African Americans in Montgomery, Alabama led by Martin Luther King in the 1960s demanding de-segregation of buses was another act of pacifism. A boycott of goods and services of a particular country like the one almost all peoples of the world did when South Africa practiced Apartheid is a pacifist act. The anti-war demonstrations around the world along with the candle light vigils before the US and UK invasion of Iraq were all pacifist acts. The reason the anti-war on Iraq protests failed were primarily due to the non-elimination of the fear factor and the reason Iraq will continue to be a problem is because the “foreign occupation” and means of resolution are lacking in today’s Iraq.

While many assume that, the origins of Pacifism lie in the Holy Bible and “Turn the other cheek” as the way pacifism works, the real origin of pacifism lies in the teachings of Buddha in ancient India. Buddha says, “I have never yet met with anything that was dearer to anyone than his own self. Since to others, to each one for himself, the self is dear, therefore let him who desires his own advantage not harm another.” Buddha and his disciples used silence and non-cooperation as forms of protest when they were confronted with threats or bodily harm. Later on, Confucius and other eastern philosophers advocated this form of protest. All religions advocate pacifism with varying degrees.

Pacifism can be divided into two main streams namely absolute pacifism and relative pacifism.

Absolute pacifism: People who follow absolute pacifism are against all wars and violence irrespective of who, where or when it takes place. Absolute pacifists totally bar the use of force and rely on moral persuasion. Absolute Pacifism expects that the people who practice it will have the moral courage to face the aggression of their opponents and uphold their creed of non-violence despite provocation. It also assumes that this kind of non-violent defiance will end with the aggressors being affected by divine intervention and will be forced to change or face hell when they die. Absolute Pacifism has a more religious connotation, is advocated by several religions, and followed by members of religious groups like the Quakers.

Relative pacifism: Relative pacifism as the name implies doesn’t totally rule out the use of force. In this type, force is permitted in self-defense when attacked by another nation but not providing help to nations being attacked! This is because relative pacifists believe this will only end in formation of rival alliances making the world a more dangerous place. Relative pacifists encourage passive resistance instead of expecting divine intervention or urging moral persuasion of the aggressor. Resist but non-violently. This usually takes the form of civil disobedience movements like the independence movement in India against the British, American Civil Liberties Movement, Vietnam War protest and the movement to abolish Apartheid in South Africa. Relative pacifism is usually devoid of religious context as it is a people movement.

We are in the Age of Weapons. Many countries seem to take pride in the destructive force of the weapons they can build – nuclear, thermal, biological, antimatter, etc. Every day, the military-industrial complex is spewing out some new weapon or an upgrade of an older one. We have more military bases than shelters for homeless. However, more people die from hunger everyday, our governments are concentrating on building or acquiring the latest military technologies!
Religious zealots worldwide seem to ignore the very tenets of pacifism in their own religion – be it the Buddhist fundamentalists in Sri Lanka, the Hindu zealots in India, Islamic fundamentalists in Asia, Christian zealots in North America and Europe, Jewish fundamentalists in Israel, etc. It is astonishing they are doing this in the name of the very religion, which forbids them to commit violence! That this is happening all at once is not surprising as pacifism is misunderstood and scorned today. However, many great people of the past took great pride in being pacifists. Some famous pacifists include Buddha, Jesus, Hajar, Mahavir, Khadijah, Guru Nanak, Gandhi, Tolstoy, Abdul Gaffar Khan (also known as Frontier Gandhi), Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, Albert Einstein, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Vida Goldstein, Dalai Lama and Aung Sang Sui Kyi.
The Tibetans are the only ones who reject violence and have been waging a peaceful struggle against China for over 50 years. Unfortunately, they are not getting the respect or coverage that is due to them. When the media does choose to cover their plight like in the movie,“Seven Years in Tibet” the lead actor Brad Pitt was banned from entering the country! Other media like print and TV has failed world wide to create awareness about the Tibetan struggle. However, China, which is a nuclear weapon state and a superpower, is afraid of them. So much so, that Chinese who have annexed Tibet has a law which makes it punishable to carry a picture of His Holiness, The Dalai Lama in Tibet even though he lives in exile in India. In the end, Tibetans will win without having resorted to violence and terrorism.

Mahatma Gandhi in a speech advocating pacifism and non-violence said, “Non-violence is the law of our species as violence is the law of the brute. The spirit lies dormant in the brute and he knows no law but that of physical might. The dignity of man requires obedience to another law—to the strength of the spirit.” Looking at our world today, one will easily realise that pacifism is more necessary today than ever as this age of weapons is proving destructive.

For those who say they are not a violent people, re-examine your premise for all of us are practicing double standards in violence. If a teacher or a fellow student hits your child, all of us take objection to it and make the other child apologize. If a female was attacked, we scream harassment and object to the violence. However, we continue to cheer on our governments or militant organizations to commit acts of violence and war in the name of freedom and justice! We cannot have double standards on violence. Let us hope we all find the strength within to maintain an era of peace and destroy the scourge of war for otherwise we will be stuck in the vortex of violence and death, which is the insane alternative.

Copyright © 2007 by Deepa Kandaswamy