The International Campaign for Tibet is reporting some outside journalists have made it into Sichuan region of Tibet to ascertain situation and learn more about self-immolations. Read more about what they learned, here.
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Dissent in Tibet is growing worse as another Tibetan self-immolated on February 13. This brings to 21 the total number of Tibetans who’ve self-immolated since February 2009 in order to bring attention to Tibetan grievances with Chinese rule.
Meanwhile Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping is in Washington DC for meetings with the Obama Administration today. Mr. Xi is slated to become general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party later this year and China’s president in early 2013. His visit represents a perfect opportunity to address the humanitarian crisis in Tibet.
The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) is seeking modest steps to diffuse the crisis and address grievances. Here are their recommendations to the Obama Administration:
“[The] ICT Board specifically recommends that the Obama Administration urge, through Vice President Xi, that the Chinese government:
- restart dialogue with the Dalai Lama’s envoys, which would be viewed by the U.S. and the international community as a constructive response to the ongoing crisis, and would send a critical message to Tibetans inside Tibet, who would be encouraged to know that His Holiness the Dalai Lama remains in the picture; and
- open Tibet to diplomats, journalists and other observers, and publicly call into question Chinese representations of Tibet until and unless international observers are allowed into Tibet to assess the veracity of Chinese claims.
Read the full statement here.
The call to allow journalists and independent observers into Tibet is critical. The international community needs confirmation and a better understanding of actual events in Tibet and the reasons for them. That information is vital to ending this developing humanitarian crisis. Visit Save Tibet and help the ICT’s efforts to preserve basic human rights for Tibetans.
The Marine Corps Commandant, Gen. James Amos, has issued a statement regarding the photograph of U.S. Marines posing with a Nazi-like SS flag apologizing “to all offended by this regrettable incident.” You can find the Politico article here. Here is General Amos’ full statement:
A STATEMENT ON THE SS FLAG FROM THE COMMANDANT OF THE MARINE CORPS GEN. JAMES F. AMOS
Headquarters Marine Corps
On February 9, I was made aware of an internet photo depicting Marines posing with a flag containing a Nazi symbol. I want to be clear that the Marine Corps unequivocally does not condone the use of any such symbols to represent our units or Marines.
The local command to which the Marines in the photo were assigned investigated this issue last November. They determined that the Marines in the photo were ignorant of the connection of this symbol to the Holocaust and monumental atrocities associated with Nazi Germany. To ensure the Marines involved fully understood the historical use of the SS symbology, a formal instructional class was prepared and delivered by unit leadership.
In order to ensure that all Marines are aware of the Marine Corps’ position on this issue, I have directed that:
- My commanders investigate the prevalence of the use of SS or other unauthorized symbols within the reconnaissance and sniper communities.
- The Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps immediately detach from his current duties in Washington, DC and personally meet with every senior Staff Non-commissioned Officer and Marine from our sniper and reconnaissance communities to reinforce my message and expectations.
- The commanding general of our training and education command review the current sniper school curriculum to ensure it contains prohibitions on the use of the SS symbol and other inappropriate symbols.
On behalf of the Marine Corps and all Marines, I apologize to all offended by this regrettable incident.
CNN is reporting that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is calling for an investigation into the use of the flag and related symbols.
All these steps are commendable. At the same time, they seem like the very least that can be done. Where are the apologies from the Marines in the photo or from their unit commander on their behalf? Where is the apology from the photographer? Or the flag-maker?
To reiterate the point of an earlier post, what discipline have these Marines faced for adopting this Nazi symbol and associating the Marine Corps and the United State with the horrors and atrocities it represents. Sure they had to go back to school to learn a history they should have already known, and probably did. Is that sufficient? Something more seems necessary. Perhaps in the coming days the Marine Commandant will decide to take further steps.
CNN and a variety of other news outlets and blogs are reporting on a photo showing U.S. Marines in Afghanistan posing with a Nazi-like flag. [WARNING: graphic photos below]
These are Marine Corps Scout Snipers from the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force. The flag incorporates the SS runes of a Waffen SS Hausfahne flag.
In Hitler’s Germany, SS stood for “Schutzstaffel,” the elite paramilitary force of the Nazi party responsible for some of the worst crimes against humanity perpetrated during World War II (WWII). A force that killed thousands of Marines, by the way, but more on that in a moment.
In any case, reports indicate that the Marines involved have not been disciplined because the Marine Corps concluded they were acting out of ignorance rather than bigotry and decided not to punish them. Furthermore, apparently the insignia has been unofficially used by Scout Snipers in the past even though the Marine Corps states that it is absolutely prohibited.
A few statements from the linked articles:
- “We feel these guys have no historical appreciation for what this symbol means.”
- “We think they took the symbol, thought it was cool, and didn’t have an appreciation for what it meant.”
- “They didn’t realize that they were associating themselves with something that was racist, fascist.”
- “This was a chance to educate our young Marines about the history of the Nazis and the power of symbols.”
Let’s begin with some remedial WWII history to help the Marines out since this is a ‘teachable moment.’
For comparison, here is a photo of the Waffen SS flag being raised at the dedication of an SS hospital at Auschwitz:
Yes, he’s shooting a woman in the head as she tries to shield a young child.
Yes, those are women and children.
So, with that background in mind, here are a few observations….
First, if they knew and used it anyway, it’s simply vile and despicable. They need to be disciplined. It must a violation of some Marine Corps order or “conduct unbecoming.”
Second, if they didn’t know…. But entertaining that thought strains credulity. Not one of these men had an idea what the SS runes meant? Where did the flag come from? Presumably they had it specially made, which begs the question, the flag-maker didn’t know either? And why blue? Because the black version used by the Waffen SS would be too reminiscent of, well, the black version used by the Waffen SS? Because changing the background color makes everything okay? “They thought is was cool” Marine Corps officials stated – so where did they find the image. A Google search for “SS” returns five listings for the Nazi SS in the top ten results, more when one clicks ‘images.’
If we accept that they didn’t know, then according to the Marine Corps, we are to accept that witlessness and negligence relieve these men of their responsibility for linking U.S. armed forces, and by extension the United States and its citizens, with the atrocities of the Nazi SS in support of their fascist regime. Our military and patriots nation-wide clamor for us to ‘never forget,’ never forget Pearl Harbor, never forget 9/11, never forget. But it’s okay that these men ‘forgot,’ ‘didn’t realize,’ ‘didn’t appreciate’ the history and horror they were conjuring by adopting this Nazi symbol.
The entire incident is a useful reminder of George Santayana’s quote that “[t]hose who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Negligence, ignorance, or a failing grade in high school history is no excuse. Again, they should be disciplined.
Third, if these unofficial flags are prohibited by the Marine Corps in the first place why aren’t these soldiers being punished for violating a standing order? Again, they need to be disciplined.
Fourth, thousands of Marines died fighting the Nazi’s and liberating SS death camps. By adopting this symbol, these ten Marines have dishonored and besmirched the efforts of an entire generation of U.S. Marines. It’s shocking that the Marine Corps as an institution would condone such action by a few of its members. That it does only heightens the insult. The Marine Corps shouldn’t validate the actions of these few soldiers by foregoing punishment. The Marine Corps should discipline these men and inject real meaning and real justice into its prohibition on the use of such incendiary images and symbols.
Finally, to the ten Scout Snipers from the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion – oorah, Marines, oorah! If this is how you defend America and its citizens, frankly, you can stop. Oh, and read a book.
The New York Times is reporting that three more Tibetans self-immolated in Tibet late last week:
BEIJING — In a fresh illustration of growing turmoil among ethnic Tibetans in Sichuan Province, three livestock herders set themselves on fire to protest what they saw as political and religious repression at the hands of the Chinese authorities, according to a Tibetan rights group and an ethnic Tibetan living in Beijing.
If confirmed, the latest cases would bring the total self-immolations over the past year to 19, an unprecedented wave of self-inflicted violence among the tiny ethnic minority in China, according to scholars. They were also apparently the first by lay people, rather than current or former members of the clergy, suggesting that self-immolation may be gaining popularity as a form of dissent.
Read the full article here.
And just when one hopes for real news on the situation (and some independent confirmation of events), CNN reporters are turned back before they can enter Tibet.
This situation gets worse before it gets better.
U.S. Senate resolution urges China reverse Tibet policies in wake of self-immolations and shooting of Tibetans
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has introduced legislation calling on the Government of China to suspend religious control regulations, reassess religious and security policies in Tibet, and resume a dialogue with the Dalai Lama, in response to the recent self-immolations and intensifying security crackdown. The resolution, S.Res. 356, is cosponsored by a bipartisan group including Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Richard Durbin (D-IL) Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Mark Udall (D-CO) and James Webb (D-VA).
Read the full report here.