Gone Kurtz on the Burma border

A piece on foreign mercenaries in Burma. I don’t even know what to say about this, except – read it, it’s important. Everyone who thinks they are doing good in a foreign country should read it.


He is caught up in the fact that he was taken to the top echelons of the local KNLA unit. But, all foreign visitors are received by the highest ranking people. This is normal. He was allegedly awarded a political position. Once again, these are handed out like candy. He believes he was asked to be the US representative. The rebels are nice people and it is against their culture to disagree with anyone. If you asked, “Can I represent you in American?” they would definitely say “yes.” This would either be because they desperately need representation or because they don’t want to refuse a friend. But again, this great “honor” is bestowed on everyone.


One aid worker, who requested that he remain anonymous, said: “Oh man, that Bleming guy is a real piece of work. He’s walking around, giving out his business cards which he autographs for you, talking loudly in all the wrong places about going to Burma, blah blah. The Karen have issued all sorts of statements saying this guy is his own work, denying almost everything he says, etc. The KNLA and KNU have worked for years at cultivating a good public relations, this guy goes and sets that back decades. America just took ex KNLA combatants off the Homeland Security terrorist risk list for refugee resettlement, and this guy goes and makes them look like a bunch of well armed terrorists again.”

It is easy to point a finger at Thomas Bleming, or any of the foreigners showing up on the border to fight, and label them thrill seekers or, at the very least, slightly disturbed. But in the modern world of confused sides, things are never that simple.

Sympathetic article about Bleming in a Wyoming newspaper here.

Black Flag Cafe discussion of Bleming, including the great term “professional war tourist.”

Lesson: Question what you think you know, and then question it some more.