TOC Ready Room 23 Oct 2021: A ‘domestic terrorism’ retraction, and an emerging plan in Burma

What’s wrong and right with the world.

Tonight: a walk-back from the school board association on its claim of “terror” threats from concerned parents; and a military campaign being prepared in Myanmar/Burma.

Parents as “domestic terrorists”; or, Not So Much.  Possibly the most striking thing about this is that it was only yesterday (Thursday, 21 October) that I was in a rather extended exchange on Twitter on this topic.  (This Ready Room edition is actually going up on 23 October, but was started Friday evening.)

I was looking for details about the “threats” allegedly being made by parents to school board members across America, which the media assure us prompted the Department of Justice to issue the 4 October memo vowing DOJ attention to this growing problem of violence and domestic terrorism.

(Note:  there’s no need to key on the “who” of the interlocutor.  Numerous media figures have been dedicated to insisting that American school parents are engaging in, or are likely to engage in, “domestic terrorism.”)

One reason for this quest was that Merrick Garland, being questioned in Congress, disavowed the “domestic terrorism” characterization and said that’s not how DOJ was treating the problem.

And, if you read the actual DOJ memo, it doesn’t reference domestic terrorism, or in fact use wording that would justify making that expression the centerpiece of the media coverage.

But another reason I was looking for details is that you can’t find any.  You can never find any.  Allegations fly at the drop of a hat about alleged “threats” made by the media’s disfavored demographic groups, but when you try to find out what these threats consisted of, what the situation was, who made the threats, which law enforcement agency is following up, etc., there’s rarely anything there.

That doesn’t compute.  If threats were made by phone, text, social media, or email, law enforcement could follow up and trace the threats.  Graffiti on homes, things thrown at them, drive-bys with shouting – etc., etc.; think of all the scenarios, and law enforcement knows how to follow the leads, and very often identifies the source.

If threats are made at a board meeting, they’d be reported by the local news with wording and who made the threats, and what the police are doing about it.  They’d probably be captured on video as well.

But instead of these details:  a void.  It’s a pattern I’ve been seeing for the last few years, in fact.  The National Association of School Boards letter, which drew the memo response from DOJ, had a slew of footnotes referencing incidents of several kinds as its body of evidence – but only four of them mentioned “threats,” and one of those was a threat made to a pharmacist rather than to a school board or board official.  The three remaining references were typically vague about the threats alluded to.  There was nothing verifiable to follow up on.

Even a Google search turned up only one actual threat to a school official in the first ten pages of results.  It was in Nevada.

Meanwhile, not one of the references in the NASB letter mentioned violence.  Most of the references were about school board meetings at which the board didn’t want to hear from parents, tried to silence them, and then ended meetings and/or had law enforcement deal with the parents as “unruly” or “disorderly” if the parents persisted in their attempts to be heard.

All of that is prelude to the climax of this story, which is that the NASB sent a letter this week basically retracting its earlier letter, and apologizing for having gotten the DOJ spun up.

Oops, their bad.  They didn’t mean to imply that America’s school parents are violent threat-makers and potential domestic terrorists.

We don’t know yet if DOJ will stand down from its commitment to view concerned parents who show up at school board meetings with grave suspicion, and throw the full weight of the FBI’s investigative power at them.  I assume the retraction letter won’t stop the media from depicting parents as a national security threat.

But it was interesting to be engaged in the Twitter exchange on Thursday, and on Friday see the NASB retract its letter, which had been full of the unsupported allegations I was concerned about.

The ruling junta prepares a campaign in northern Myanmar/Burma.  I won’t be developing this in-depth right now, but found it arresting today (Friday).

AFP posted Twitter updates on the military campaign being organized to repress anti-junta fighters in northern Burma.  (See here for background on the military coup immediately after Biden took office.)

The campaign is likely to kick off when the monsoon season ends in the coming weeks.  Asia Times had a good summary on the background and the nature of the forthcoming campaign, describing a force of some 30,000 junta-loyal troops being deployed, along with infantry vehicles and artillery, and preparations to give them significant air support.  I would agree with the Asia Times assessment that this is not to be a holding action, but rather a decisive blow against the anti-regime fighters.

The timing is interesting to me.  It’s driven in part by the predictable weather factor, of course.  But where the campaign is being prepared is also interesting.  It appears it will focus on parts of Chin State and the Sagaing and Magway Divisions of Burma, in the northwest part of the country. 

Naturally, the internal dynamics of Burma drive this in large part, significant among them being the history of ethnic groups and their relations to the modern arrangement of central government.  It’s not to shortchange them that I suspect it’s worthwhile to consider two additional factors.

One is that these regions of Burma lie across the frontier from India, where Burmese anti-junta fighters are suspected of having cross-border support for obtaining arms and other supplies.

A related consideration, and quite possibly one just as important, is that “pacifying” these areas hardens Burma as a whole against a porous, unstable border with India.

I’m sure that matters to the ruling junta, independent of any other consideration.  But it would also matter to China, in any effort to make use of Burma as frontage on the Indian Ocean.

Such an effort may well be envisioned in the relatively near future.  China has a back door to Burma that can’t be decisively affected by low-level sabotage.  The China-Burma border is quite a long one.

Google map; author annotation. Click to enlarge for legibility.

But it can be flanked from India, as things stand now, if the junta is not in firm control of the northern regions on the Burmese side of it.

The level of activity and the force being marshaled for a campaign in northern Burma are noteworthy at a time when China is rattling the saber all over Southeast Asia.  It’s unlikely that the developments are unrelated.

The military junta in Burma would of course repudiate this.  Don’t expect them to acknowledge any such connection.

But it would be uncharacteristic of China to prepare for all the contingencies that would attend an effort to transform the maritime precincts of Southeast Asia – from the southern islands of Japan to at least the Strait of Malacca – and ignore the correlation of forces on the Andaman side of the SOM.

China is already trying to gain advantage elsewhere along India’s border, and has been for some time.  There would be nothing surprising about plugging up a vulnerability on the flank of China’s gateway complex – both maritime and land – to the Indian Ocean.

The scope of what the Burmese junta is preparing for is potentially destabilizing for the military rulers if they can’t bring it off.  As an attempted knock-out blow, it’s higher risk:  a greater gamble than “mowing the grass” to keep an insurgency in check.  It also has NGOs and UN agencies warning about the potential for atrocities.  The fact that there’s no apparent stealth to it suggests the military rulers known they’ll have top-cover for it at the political level (and possibly backup for some military elements of the campaign).  The one great power that would readily provide it for them is China.

In general, it’s past time to listen to observers like Gordon Chang and recognize that, as Iran has sought to militarize the entire environment of Southwest Asia in Iran’s favor, Xi Jinping is now seeking to militarize the entire environment of Southeast Asia in China’s.  This effort has been underway for some time already.

The stable Pax Americana ended under Obama; developments now are no longer about the parlor games of abstraction and posturing (e.g., exploiting evanescent illusions like politicized “climate change”) in a stable situation.  They’re about maps, brute power, and the oldest expressions of aggression.  We needn’t let them sneak up on us; all we have to do is pay attention.

Feature image: U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Felix Garza Jr. (Via Wikimedia Commons)

5 thoughts on “TOC Ready Room 23 Oct 2021: A ‘domestic terrorism’ retraction, and an emerging plan in Burma”

  1. 1. FBI agents will be posted in all Walgreens and CVS locations. Except San Francisco, of course. I volunteer to write a letter to AG Garland posing as a Pharmacist. 2. Has anyone noticed China has been perfectly set up as the next Cold War punching bag? 3. Concerning the depth and logical nature of your reporting: If you were grading my light weight papers, I would still be proudly in High School.

  2. Do not sleep on the NSBA. This was merely a tactical retreat. They will try and keep pushing CRT. McAuliffe is in real trouble in VA, so the marxists are trying to take primary education of the board. For now.

  3. NSBA letter, which was NOT addressed to DoJ, followed revelation that the first letter was a collaboration with WH staff before being sent to DoJ. This “cartoon”, still available to be seen without any warning, was also unhelpful: 11:50 AM · Oct 21, 2021 CT Senate Democrats @CTSenateDems

    icymi: US Military Academy, West Point, is willing to flip Biden & Milley’s false narratives. Fascinating long read, with detailed chronology:
    Lessons from the Collapse of Afghanistan’s Security Forces. October 2021, Volume 14, Issue 8 Authors: Jonathan Schroden […] three thematic narratives have emerged that are specific to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). The first is that Afghanistan’s army—and therefore, the country—collapsed in less than two weeks. […] The second is that the United States and its international partners gave the ANDSF everything they needed to be independently successful. And the third is that these forces simply did not fight. […] In this article, the author will argue that these themes are incorrect—or at least, significantly incomplete. […]

    1. These complaints were also a factor in NSBA letter #2:
      7:03 PM · Oct 23, 2021·@DeAngelisCorey
      21 state school boards associations have now distanced themselves from the National School Boards Association: [map]
      21 states:
      Alabama Arkansas Delaware Florida Georgia
      Idaho Indiana Iowa Kentucky Louisiana
      Mississippi Missouri Montana New Hampshire North Carolina North Dakota
      Pennsylvania Tennessee Texas Virginia Wyoming

      JeD: you can find mention of incidents in some of the State letters, e.g. NC and MT, but they still do not want Federal involvement:
      Dated Oct. 11, 2021:
      Good luck with that!

      I’m intrigued by the fact that AFG does not have flour mill capacity, so:
      2:14 PM · Oct 23, 2021· @natiqmalikzada
      The Taliban starts wheat distribution.
      Taliban says the program ‘work for wheat’ will start from tomorrow. The Taliban says on an statement that their plan is to distribute 66k metric tons of wheat in Kabul & the provinces.
      But the people say “we don’t know what to do with wheat”.

      I wonder if that’s winter wheat seed already donated by FAO?
      KAZ and UZB were selling mostly flour, some wheat to WFP.

      Was electricity transmission to Kabul restored?

      1. Astonishing that a 3-day blackout of a city of 4.5 million plus adjacent provinces is not news in the USA!!
        24th October, 2021 12:27 IST Local media suggests that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has claimed responsibility for blowing up a power pylon, which has left Kabul in utter darkness since Thursday. […]

        My Oct 24 report on AFG wheat and flour is in the comments at: Turns out UN’s WFP has an Air Force: United Nations Humanitarian Air Service! TB started “Work for Wheat” on Oct 24, in Kabul, during daylight, without instructions on how to mill wheat into flour…

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: