The Greatest Dumbness

14 May

beauty of sunset in Rangoon (Zytu)

Alvaro Vargas Llosa runs down .

Myanmar has given us one of the most admirable women alive, Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, and the world’s most repugnant regime. Until May 2, the military government led by army chief Than Shwe was competing for that title with Zimbabwe’s racist tyrant, North Korea’s lunatic autocrat and Cuba’s bumbling Castro brothers. But then Cyclone Nargis happened–and the junta seized the opportunity to edge ahead of its rivals.

It is hard to say what was worse: concealing the magnitude of the cyclone that was about to hit the Irrawaddy Delta region from the population and making no preparations, even though the meteorological system had given the government 48 hours advance notice; grossly lying about the number of victims once the tidal rise swept a vast swath of the southern part of the country; denying foreign relief agencies access to the country and shunning help from other governments for days; forbidding civilians to distribute what little aid was available because that responsibility was solely in the hands of the soldiers. Or going ahead with the referendum designed to ratify a constitution that took 14 years to write, all of whose articles can be summed up in four words: We will rule forever.

Many people, including Myanmar’s generals, have alluded to the incompetence of the U.S. government in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 by way of comparison. But there is no real comparison. The Katrina disaster was the unintentional product of bureaucratic government. The Myanmar catastrophe is the result of a political mind-set–that is, of cold-blooded decisions aimed at protecting the military government from the threat of instability. The same thinking drove decisions in 1988 and in 2007 that resulted in the massacre of unarmed civilians, including Buddhist monks, because they wanted free elections.

And, Reason’s Kerry Howley lets us see how (don’t fall asleep watching the Burmese news reports!). premium rice and distributing rotten and poorer-quality grain. Myanmar-not even as competent as the North Koreans!

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