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Wednesday, September 26

Hello, CNN, we're trying to prevent a massacre

Yesterday's 4:00 PM Situation Room led with a report on President Bush's speech at the United Nations. The report, written for Wolf Blitzer to recite, positioned the story as Bush backing away from discussing Iraq and Iran. (Even though Bush clearly mentioned Iran by name as a repressive state.)

I can understand CNN trying to take every opportunity to show Bush in a bad light; the shocker came when Wolf asked what Bush did focus on. Wolf answered, "Burma." The way he said Burma clearly implied, 'nothing of particular import.'

The CNN spin on Bush's speech was horrifically and embarrassingly parochial, as well as inaccurate. Here is the true import of Bush's mention of Burma at the UN. From an AFP report yesterday (emphasis is mine):
Burma Campaign UK assistant director Mark Farmaner praised Bush for showing the world the way to deal with the regime.

"It will certainly do good," he told AFP. "Once again the US is miles out in the lead in terms of supporting Burma's democracy movement, putting the rest of the world to shame."

Farmaner, citing existing US investment and imports bans, praised both Bush and his predecessor Bill Clinton for resisting intensive lobbying from US petroleum countries for them to ease the restrictions.

In contrast, Farmaner said the EU's sanctions were ineffective and had not restricted oil and gas revenue for the regime but instead targeted state-owned companies, including a pineapple juice factory and tailor's shops.

The so-called "pineapple sanctions" include a visa ban, but officials travelling to Europe on diplomatic missions are exempt, he said.
There is frankly little that Bush's speech can do to influence Burma's regime; however the speech was vital in that it put additional pressure on China and the European Union to take more action with regard to Burma.

The speech also shored Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown in his attempt to prod the EU. From the AFP report:
Bush's remarks came as European ambassadors were Tuesday to hold their first talks on Myanmar since the latest protests began, an EU spokesman said, and as Britain called for a tougher stance against the regime.
Today, Mr Brown came out even more strongly with a call to action:
Gordon Brown has warned Burma's generals: "The whole world is now watching."

Commenting after the regime launched a crackdown on protesters, the Prime Minister called for a United Nations security council meeting on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the crisis.

Mr Brown told reporters at Labour's conference in Bournemouth: "The whole world is now watching Burma."

Foreign Secretary David Miliband echoed this message, urging the Burmese authorities to exercise restraint in their handling of democracy demonstrators who faced a crackdown when they took to the streets of capital Rangoon in their thousands for the ninth day.

Mr Miliband warned the Burmese junta they will be held accountable for their behaviour.

The Foreign Secretary is flying to New York to discuss the crisis at the UN.

On Wednesday morning he spoke to the UK's Ambassador in Rangoon, who told him that the monks who have led the demonstrations turned to applaud as they passed the British Embassy.

Speaking to reporters at the Labour conference, Mr Miliband said: "It is very important that we maintain this unanimous international call for restraint ... restraint must remain the order of the day."(1)
Yes, restraint is the watchword. We're trying to prevent a massacre.

1) The Press Association
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