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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Remember the tenet – all governments lie

Remember the tenet – all governments lie

WE must return to WikiLeaks for it is the story of the times. It not only reveals the truth about the United States but it opens a door on the unvarnished behaviour of leaders in this region and around the world.

As the revelations unfold and the citizenry cheers, it is these leaders and their official dissemblers and falsifiers who are wringing their hands and whingeing and threatening legal action.

A pox on them. As they well know, they are on thin ice and already several esteemed reputations have crashed through the surface into a watery and well-deserved grave.

Consider the intriguing disclosures last week about Myanmar, particularly a July 2008 cable sent by Shari Villarosa, the US chargé d’affaires or de facto ambassador in Yangon.

Entitled “Continuing the Pursuit of Democracy”, it is about the Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy.

At that time, wrote Villarosa, the country’s most dynamic and talented pro-democracy leaders were in jail, had fled the country or were in hiding.

“Tellingly, the NLD remain free,” Villarosa added. That line is a gobsmacker.

It encapsulates Washington’s real view that the NLD leadership is neither dynamic nor talented, nor indeed is it regarded as much of a threat by the ruling military regime.

After Suu Kyi was released from house arrest last month, the generals let her address crowds, meet emissaries and conduct interviews. Said one ambassador: “It shows they are not afraid of her. She irritates them, but they do not fear her.”

Villarosa’s cable bolsters that view when it states that while many outsiders think Suu Kyi’s NLD is a large movement with massive support, “the reality is quite different.” That comment was made at a time when Washington was publicly saying precisely the opposite – and acting upon that lie in ways that accentuated the impoverishment of the people of Myanmar.

Recall that Villarosa’s then boss, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, had been urged to solicit China’s help to try to forge a deal between the generals and the NLD that might lead to a new government.

Rice shot the proposal down. To paraphrase one of the principals at that White House meeting, Rice said: “A deal is not what we want. We want the regime out, the NLD in power, and the generals on trial.”
The fact is, however, that both Rice and Villarosa, aside from being duplicitous, were wrong.

Suu Kyi and her party do remain immensely popular. The NLD would unquestionably win any free and fair election. Yes, they have made mistakes – a catastrophic one in not taking part in last month’s polls. But that is no reason to write them off.

Nor is the fact that Villarosa was right in chastising “the sclerotic leadership of the elderly NLD Uncles.”

These crabby old codgers instinctively reject new ideas and even expel younger members they regard as too pushy.

Regrettably, Suu Kyi said last week that she is not going to revamp the “party’s top ranks to replace elderly leaders with a younger generation of activists”.

Well, we should not despair too much. Right now, she has to say that, but in the near future a higher force will step in and a rejuvenation will take place – and the party will rise again.

For Suu Kyi is not as inflexible as her detractors claim. She has already ameliorated her support for economic sanctions and she no longer opposes tourism.

In fact, the inflexibility lies in Britain where opposition to a current European Union proposal to remove sanctions has infuriated France and Germany.

Yet as future cables are sure to confirm, most Western ambassadors privately contradict their government’s public posture and agree that sanctions are counterproductive, futile and morally wrong.

Just as Wikileaks itself has surely confirmed the age-old maxim that the famed American pamphleteer I.F. Stone kept over his desk: All Governments Lie.



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