Nuclear weapons, terrorists and Saddam Hussein. These were just a few of the reasons President Bush used to propel America into a war that had motives other than simply freeing the Iraqi people (regardless of the operation’s name). Attacking a country like Iraq, which was neither in the throes of a rebellion by its people nor in any way a true threat to the region, is especially suspicious given the many more volatile states that America either ignores or makes excuses for.

In late September a protest occurred half a world away in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. The Saffron Revolution – which gets its name from the color of the robes of Buddhist monks – seemed to be in full swing. It looked like Burmese demonstrators finally had the muster to fell a military junta that had brutally oppressed the country’s people since the early 1960s. The Burmese had staged a large protest in the late 1980s, but that was quashed by the same junta that continues to rule today.

With the country facing continuing hardship and the government’s recent decision to increase fuel prices, it seemed that the tide had finally turned against the military dictators that head the government. The fact that the protests were organized by Buddhist monks – Myanmar’s most respected and peaceful members of society – seemed to guarantee a degree of success. Sadly, it did not. The junta slaughtered protesters in the streets. Hundreds remain in jail. The monks have been ordered to return to their village homes, and many have been forced into hiding.

Although Burmese protesters chanted “we want democracy” in the streets, no one came to their aid. Monks and ordinary citizens were beaten, arrested and in some cases shot and killed. Where was the American purveyor of democracy and defender of human rights during all of this? A quote in The New York Times from a protester captures the feeling of most Burmese, “(Who will help us?) The U.N.? The U.S.? China? They all said they would help us. But all they did was blah, blah, blah.”

In fact, America did do something; it imposed more sanctions on the country. This will do nothing to stymie the junta’s crackdown though. Myanmar is comprised of some of the poorest people in the region, while the military elite live in a parallel universe with all the comforts the people cannot imagine. Sanctions will only worsen the situation for the Burmese people, but apparently President Bush cannot find any other way to help a country actually calling for democracy and whose government is killing its citizens in broad daylight.

Pakistan is yet another example of the hypocrisy practiced by America and its supposed desire to spread democracy. The recent elections in Pakistan were dubiously won by Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who has been ruling the country since he took over in a coup in 1999. His 98 percent margin of victory came after several opposition runners dropped out for a variety of reasons. While Musharraf has brought his country relative stability, America’s continued support of a man who took control in a coup and has silenced dissent is intolerable.

There can be no gray areas about when it’s OK for a foreign country to be oppressive and still retain American support and aid. Yet according to the BBC, the “military regime of Gen. Musharraf, that ousted the last civilian government in 1999, remains a ‘well supplied’ ally in the U.S.’ ‘war on terror.’ “

With the injustice that inevitably accompanies nondemocratic forms of government, our nation needs to draw the line. Becoming involved in countries like Iraq – where there was little reason to get involved other than money – and not doing more in a country such as Myanmar or Pakistan where there is little to gain but the people’s thanks is the wrong way to spread democracy. Nations like Myanmar and Pakistan deserve all the help they can get moving away from military rulers. It’s the duty of this nation to help them along, especially when their people are chanting for democracy in the streets.

Matt Trecha is an RC freshman and a member of the Daily’s editorial board.

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