Posted by: Ann Corcoran | November 18, 2012

NYT romanticizing Obama trip to Burma, while bits of the truth are revealed

You may or may not know that our young President is off to Southeast Asia in hopes of re-shaping their future (weary of re-shaping North Africa and the Middle East is my guess).

One of his stops is Burma (also known as Myanmar) where he plans to give those racist Buddhists a talking to about their treatment of the ‘maligned’ Muslim minority Rohingya.  By the way, there are many who contend that like Mexicans in the US, the Rohingya are decades-old illegal immigrants in the largely Buddhist country.

Recently the  orange-clad Buddhist monks had the gall to demonstrate by the thousands against the planned arrival of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to set-up shop in their country.   As a result the Burmese government officially told the OIC to bug off.   I believe that Burma may be the only country in the world brave enough to take such action.  I would love to have been in the room when Obama and Power learned of that audacity!

One other nugget of information that might be of interest—the US State Department at one time had the Rohingya mentioned as being involved in an Islamic terrorist group (HUJI-B) in that part of the world, but has since removed the link (hmmmmm!).

Now Obama, cheered on by guess who?  Samantha Power! is headed to Burma to give them a piece of his mind.  Remember it is her “responsibility to protect” thesis that got us into Libya in the first place.

And how does this affect you?  Well, for one thing, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops testified at the State Department in May (I was there!) that we need to be bringing more Rohingya to America as refugees!

That’s a bit of the back story.

Now, here is the New York Times with a little vignette about Obama’s familial connection to Burma.  At first I thought they might be going to continue the lie that Obama told in ‘Dreams from my Father’ that his grandfather had been tortured by the British.  It didn’t happen and it’s nice to see that the New York Times acknowledges that part of Obama’s mythical life story.  And, by the way, Obama’s grandfather, the Muslim with many wives, was a highly respected cook for British elite and would never have worked again if he had the prison record that Obama tells readers about in ‘Dreams…

 Onyango Obama, believed to be born in 1895, was a member of the Luo tribe who worked for years as a servant for white colonialists in Kenya. His son, the first Barack Hussein Obama, was the future president’s father. Onyango Obama was described as a strong-willed and stern man, abusive of the multiple women he would marry over his lifetime.

He took the Arabic name Hussein when he converted to Islam and married a Muslim woman while living on the island of Zanzibar. When World War II broke out, according to the stories that the younger Mr. Obama was told, Onyango Obama traveled to Burma, Ceylon and Arabia as a cook for a British captain in the King’s African Rifles. The unit played a crucial role in the Burma campaign, according to scholars.

Some 75,000 Kenyans served in Burma during the war and many of them were transformed by their exposure to the outside world, according to scholars. Many met black soldiers and airmen from the United States, who despite the lingering segregation and discrimination back home, had far more independence and responsibility than the Kenyans serving the British.

Onyango Obama returned home with a picture of a Burmese woman he claimed to have married — “She looked like my mother,” the future president wrote — and a brewing disillusionment with colonial rule. Having been part of the fight for freedom against the Japanese empire, he and other Burma veterans began to rise up for freedom for themselves in Africa. “Like many others, President Obama’s grandfather emerged from wartime service a wiser and more politicized person,” said David M. Anderson, a professor of African politics at the University of Oxford.

Like many of them, Onyango Obama was sympathetic to the Kenyan African Union movement that would later evolve into the more radical Mau Mau rebellion.  

When his grandson visited Kenya in the 1980s, he was told that the elder Mr. Obama was arrested by the British in 1949. His fifth wife, relating stories that she was told from before their marriage, later told journalists that Onyango Obama was tortured while in custody, his testicles squeezed with pincers and his nails and buttocks pierced with a sharp pin. The Mau Mau rebellion broke out in 1952 and was brutally suppressed by the British, resulting in the deaths of at least 12,000 Africans. Onyango Obama reportedly died in 1979.

The stories of abuse fueled speculation when President Obama took office in 2009 that he resented Britain and would not value the “special relationship” between Washington and London as his predecessors had. Some in the British news media even interpreted the return of a Winston Churchill bust that sat in the Oval Office under President George W. Bush as a reaction to what happened to Mr. Obama’s grandfather, never mind that another Churchill bust remains in the White House.

But a new book this year suggested that Onyango Obama was never actually arrested, much less tortured. In “Barack Obama: The Story,” his biography of the president, the Washington Post journalist David Maraniss reported that five associates of the elder Mr. Obama “said they doubted the story or were certain it did not happen.” One of his daughters said he had once been kidnapped, meaning perhaps that the story had become twisted over the years.

Either way, Burma was a place of awakening for Mr. Obama’s grandfather, a place where larger possibilities first presented themselves. But whatever ambitions he began to harbor then, he could hardly have imagined that seven decades later, his grandson would return to Burma aboard a blue-and-white 747 known as Air Force One.

This is a news report!   This is not an opinion piece, but the NYT reporter can’t resist.   We are all expected to sigh about how wonderful it is for the US to show our enlightenment having chosen such a dear leader—-never mind a few little lies along the way—it’s a good story.


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