POLITICS
03/28/2008 02:45 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Burma Gets Shaved From Presidential Debate

2007-10-06-burma2.gifMaybe those monks in Burma would be better served by trading in their red robes for some sort of Darfurian green t-shirts. Maybe they ought to abandon their old-fashioned street protests and instead invite over a rock star or two to adopt a baby and hiccup a few times about human rights.

Don't know if that will work but if they want to break through as an issue in the American presidential debate, they better starting doing something different other than just getting mowed down. Just about every candidate on both sides of the American political divide mouth the proper bromides when pressed about the horrendous situation in Burma. After all, it's hard to say anything very nice about a regime that has been dominated by the military for nearly a half-century, that engages in wide-scale repression, that is notorious for using sexual violence as a tool of coercion and that has recently taken to shooting down the monks while cutting the entire population off from the Internet and other global communications networks.

And yet, to resurrect that old standby of an unfortunately appropriate cliche: Where's the outrage? More specifically, where's the outrage from the myriad American presidential candidates who otherwise are falling over each other in the competition to be the single greatest defender of democracy and freedom?

As Hanna Ingber reports for our Off The Bus section:

Burma has 70,000 child soldiers, more than any other country. Its health care system is the second worst in the world, ranking just above Sierra Leone. The junta commits forced labor, burns down thousands of villages in Eastern Burma and uses rape as a systematic weapon of war and oppression against its ethnic minorities.

And now, it has killed about 150 people and detained between 3,000 and 6,000 for peacefully protesting, depending on the account.. And yet, if this is such a black and white issue, one has to wonder why more of the presidential candidates aren't denouncing the junta and its atrocious record of human rights every chance they can. With the exception of McCain, it is difficult finding any articles quoting them on the issue.

And I see no mention of the current crisis in Burma on campaign websites of any of the candidates. I searched the sites of McCain, Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Sam Brownback, Duncan Hunter, Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee.

Maybe if some of those news cameras zoomed in a little closer so we could see that the monks weren't wearing little flag buttons on their lapels, we could get some sort of a real debate going. That it was left to none other than George W. -- for his own expedient reasons to deflect attention away from Iraq-- to bring up Burma publicly and forcefully at the UN last week is a poor reflection on any all candidates who wish to succeed him.

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