Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 20, 2007

Hello, Dalai!

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the new face of Western resolve, will meet with the Dalai Lama this Sunday. In a move obviously intended to further rile Beijing, Germany’s leader will receive His Holiness in the German chancellery.

China immediately summoned Berlin’s ambassador to complain. Chinese diplomats are busy these days because this week they also objected to the Tibetan’s upcoming visit with Canada’s Stephen Harper, scheduled for next month. The Canadian prime minister also went out of his way to poke the Chinese in the eye by announcing that he too would receive the Nobel laureate in a government facility (the Dalai Lama’s last meeting with a Canadian leader, which took place in 2004, was a five-minute affair in the residence of the Roman Catholic archbishop in Ottawa).

China’s dominant Han ethnic group has struggled to control the Tibetans for centuries, but the Chinese Communist Party has opened an especially ugly chapter in this history by trying to suppress—and even eliminate—Tibetan folklore and customs. Many call Beijing’s “modernization” efforts “cultural genocide.” China’s current supremo, Hu Jintao, should be able to shed some light on this. After all, as Party secretary for Tibet he presided over a crackdown that led to the deaths of dozens and perhaps hundreds of citizens in 1989. Many believe he was chosen to be China’s leader precisely because of his brutal repression of the Tibetans.

President Bush, to his credit, has hosted the Dalai Lama. That, however, was the old Dubya. The exhausted president we see today has been reduced to throwing South Lawn events for Chinese authoritarians, denigrating Taiwanese democrats, and helping Beijing repress its Muslims. We know that something must be terribly wrong when a Canadian leader appears more inspiring than ours.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the new face of Western resolve, will meet with the Dalai Lama this Sunday. In a move obviously intended to further rile Beijing, Germany’s leader will receive His Holiness in the German chancellery.

China immediately summoned Berlin’s ambassador to complain. Chinese diplomats are busy these days because this week they also objected to the Tibetan’s upcoming visit with Canada’s Stephen Harper, scheduled for next month. The Canadian prime minister also went out of his way to poke the Chinese in the eye by announcing that he too would receive the Nobel laureate in a government facility (the Dalai Lama’s last meeting with a Canadian leader, which took place in 2004, was a five-minute affair in the residence of the Roman Catholic archbishop in Ottawa).

China’s dominant Han ethnic group has struggled to control the Tibetans for centuries, but the Chinese Communist Party has opened an especially ugly chapter in this history by trying to suppress—and even eliminate—Tibetan folklore and customs. Many call Beijing’s “modernization” efforts “cultural genocide.” China’s current supremo, Hu Jintao, should be able to shed some light on this. After all, as Party secretary for Tibet he presided over a crackdown that led to the deaths of dozens and perhaps hundreds of citizens in 1989. Many believe he was chosen to be China’s leader precisely because of his brutal repression of the Tibetans.

President Bush, to his credit, has hosted the Dalai Lama. That, however, was the old Dubya. The exhausted president we see today has been reduced to throwing South Lawn events for Chinese authoritarians, denigrating Taiwanese democrats, and helping Beijing repress its Muslims. We know that something must be terribly wrong when a Canadian leader appears more inspiring than ours.

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Really, Mr. Carter?

At a book promo event yesterday at Emory University, a student asked our worst ex-president if he thinks Iran is a threat to Israel. “Iran is quite distant from Israel,” said Carter. “I think it would be almost inconceivable that Iran would commit suicide by launching one or two missiles of any kind against the nation of Israel.” Carter appears to be operating under the delusion that Hizballah, which receives over $100 million per year in Iranian funding, is some kind of independent operator.

On this score, Carter disagrees with Hassan Nasrallah himself, the leader of Hizballah, who only a month ago told Iranian TV:

We are ready to become dismembered limbs to keep Iran strong and dignified, for we are strong if Iran is strong. I am but a small soldier for Imam Khamenei. . . . The youth of Hizballah acted in the name of Imam Khomeini and invoked Imam Hussein, and saluted the Iranian people.

Carter also offered up what is perhaps the most lamely-formulated statement of opposition to the Iranian nuclear program I’ve ever seen: “Obviously, we all hope we can do whatever we can to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear power.” Almost Churchillian.

At a book promo event yesterday at Emory University, a student asked our worst ex-president if he thinks Iran is a threat to Israel. “Iran is quite distant from Israel,” said Carter. “I think it would be almost inconceivable that Iran would commit suicide by launching one or two missiles of any kind against the nation of Israel.” Carter appears to be operating under the delusion that Hizballah, which receives over $100 million per year in Iranian funding, is some kind of independent operator.

On this score, Carter disagrees with Hassan Nasrallah himself, the leader of Hizballah, who only a month ago told Iranian TV:

We are ready to become dismembered limbs to keep Iran strong and dignified, for we are strong if Iran is strong. I am but a small soldier for Imam Khamenei. . . . The youth of Hizballah acted in the name of Imam Khomeini and invoked Imam Hussein, and saluted the Iranian people.

Carter also offered up what is perhaps the most lamely-formulated statement of opposition to the Iranian nuclear program I’ve ever seen: “Obviously, we all hope we can do whatever we can to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear power.” Almost Churchillian.

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Crying Wolf

The case of Andrew Meyer, the University of Florida student tasered by campus police while resisting arrest for disrupting a speaking engagement by Senator John Kerry on Tuesday, has provided excellent fodder for the Left’s paranoid nightmares about the cryptofascist United States. Finally, they tell us, the ugly, brutal face of Amerika has been revealed to all.

At the Huffington Post (which collectively reads as if it were written by the ensemble from Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), the feminist writer Naomi Wolf declares that this “shocking moment for society” is the “iconic turning point and it will be remembered as the moment at which America either fought back or yielded.”

No, it was not September 11—when 3,000 Americans were killed in spectacular terrorist attacks and the nation girded itself for war—that marked the decisive moment in America’s recent history, but rather the tasering and subsequent arrest of a deranged and self-promoting college student in Gainesville, Florida. And in the dreams of Naomi Wolf—where she, Andrew Meyer, and the rest of the crew at the Huffington Post represent some sort of Leninist vanguard—it is not Islamic terrorists whom America must “fight back” against, but rather our very own government. “It is time to rebel in the name of the flag and the founders,” Wolf, our latter-day Abigail Adams, pronounces.

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The case of Andrew Meyer, the University of Florida student tasered by campus police while resisting arrest for disrupting a speaking engagement by Senator John Kerry on Tuesday, has provided excellent fodder for the Left’s paranoid nightmares about the cryptofascist United States. Finally, they tell us, the ugly, brutal face of Amerika has been revealed to all.

At the Huffington Post (which collectively reads as if it were written by the ensemble from Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), the feminist writer Naomi Wolf declares that this “shocking moment for society” is the “iconic turning point and it will be remembered as the moment at which America either fought back or yielded.”

No, it was not September 11—when 3,000 Americans were killed in spectacular terrorist attacks and the nation girded itself for war—that marked the decisive moment in America’s recent history, but rather the tasering and subsequent arrest of a deranged and self-promoting college student in Gainesville, Florida. And in the dreams of Naomi Wolf—where she, Andrew Meyer, and the rest of the crew at the Huffington Post represent some sort of Leninist vanguard—it is not Islamic terrorists whom America must “fight back” against, but rather our very own government. “It is time to rebel in the name of the flag and the founders,” Wolf, our latter-day Abigail Adams, pronounces.

Having recently graduated from Yale University, where such self-obsessed, imaginary political martyrdom is de riguer, I have very little sympathy for Meyer. He wanted this to happen, giving a digital camera to a woman before he rose to the microphone, asking her, “Are you taping this? Do you have this? You ready?” Meyer wanted a show, with, naturally, himself as the star. In a matter of months, I predict, he will be touring the country speaking at antiwar rallies and campaigning for Dennis Kucinich.

For much of the Left today, protest has become a form of therapeutic self-aggrandizement. Publicly demonstrating one’s most sincerely felt political commitments (to as many people as possible) has long been an underlying, motivational aspect of leftist movements.

This incident reminds me of the 2004 arrest of then-Yale junior Thomas Frampton, a classmate, who cunningly feigned his way into a volunteer usher position at the Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden. The first night of the convention, Thomas chose an opportune moment to start screaming antiwar slogans and, according to the criminal complaint, “did forcibly assault, resist, oppose, impede, intimidate, and interfere with Special Agents of the United States Secret Service, in the performance of their official duties” by charging the VIP box in which Vice President Cheney sat with his wife and grandchildren. As befitting a liberal activist believing in equality before the law, Frampton posted the $50,000 bond and his father, a wealthy, high-powered Washington attorney, hired excellent legal counsel. Frampton got a slap on the wrist.

Neither Meyer nor Frampton rationally could have believed that his antics furthered a “progressive” political cause. On the contrary, these two young men must understand that most people—especially political moderates whom, presumably, Meyer and Frampton hope to persuade—will look at them as mere fanatics. But both Frampton and Meyer clearly think of themselves as modern incarnations of John Brown. And what they think of themselves is, in the end, all that seems to matter.

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More on Moran

In yesterday’s The Hill, we read this:

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) went after fellow Democrat Jim Moran of Virginia Tuesday, calling on him to retract his comments about the Israel lobby. “His remarks were factually inaccurate and recall an old canard that is not true, that the Jewish community controls the media and the Congress,” Hoyer said at a news conference in the Capitol. In an interview published in the September-October issue of Tikkun magazine, Moran said the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, “has pushed this war from the beginning. . . . They are so well-organized, and their members are extraordinarily powerful—most of them are quite wealthy—they have been able to exert power.” Asked if he considered Moran’s remarks anti-Semitic and if he should apologize, Hoyer reiterated that he found them “factually inaccurate” and said Moran should “retract” them. In a statement issued by Moran’s office, the congressman admitted that the tone of his remarks was “unnecessarily harsh,” but that he stood by his statements that AIPAC does not represent “mainstream American Jewish opinion.”

In today’s Politico, we learn that

Sixteen of Democratic Rep. Jim Moran’s House colleagues rebuked him in a withering letter Wednesday for saying last week that the pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, “pushed [the Iraq] war from the beginning.” It was the Virginia congressman’s latest dust-up over Israel—and one that brought a demand for a retraction by the House Democratic leader, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland. Moran’s colleagues . . . called the remarks of the Virginia congressman in the progressive Jewish magazine Tikkun inaccurate and “deeply offensive.”

First, all praise to Representative Hoyer and his colleagues for condemning Representative Moran’s comments. As for Moran: this isn’t the first time he’s waded into this cesspool. In 2001, he said then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was coming to Washington “probably seeking a warrant from President Bush to kill at will with weapons we have paid for.” And in 2003, at an antiwar forum in Reston, Virginia, Moran said: “If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should.”

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In yesterday’s The Hill, we read this:

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) went after fellow Democrat Jim Moran of Virginia Tuesday, calling on him to retract his comments about the Israel lobby. “His remarks were factually inaccurate and recall an old canard that is not true, that the Jewish community controls the media and the Congress,” Hoyer said at a news conference in the Capitol. In an interview published in the September-October issue of Tikkun magazine, Moran said the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, “has pushed this war from the beginning. . . . They are so well-organized, and their members are extraordinarily powerful—most of them are quite wealthy—they have been able to exert power.” Asked if he considered Moran’s remarks anti-Semitic and if he should apologize, Hoyer reiterated that he found them “factually inaccurate” and said Moran should “retract” them. In a statement issued by Moran’s office, the congressman admitted that the tone of his remarks was “unnecessarily harsh,” but that he stood by his statements that AIPAC does not represent “mainstream American Jewish opinion.”

In today’s Politico, we learn that

Sixteen of Democratic Rep. Jim Moran’s House colleagues rebuked him in a withering letter Wednesday for saying last week that the pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, “pushed [the Iraq] war from the beginning.” It was the Virginia congressman’s latest dust-up over Israel—and one that brought a demand for a retraction by the House Democratic leader, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland. Moran’s colleagues . . . called the remarks of the Virginia congressman in the progressive Jewish magazine Tikkun inaccurate and “deeply offensive.”

First, all praise to Representative Hoyer and his colleagues for condemning Representative Moran’s comments. As for Moran: this isn’t the first time he’s waded into this cesspool. In 2001, he said then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was coming to Washington “probably seeking a warrant from President Bush to kill at will with weapons we have paid for.” And in 2003, at an antiwar forum in Reston, Virginia, Moran said: “If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should.”

AIPAC, Moran said in his Tikkun interview, supports “domination, not healing. They feel that you acquire security through military force, through intimidation, even through occupation, when necessary, and that if you have people who are hostile toward you, it’s OK to kill them, rather than talk with them, negotiate with them, try to understand them, and ultimately try to love them.”

Where to begin? Perhaps with this point: the chief architects of the war to liberate Iraq— President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, and Condoleezza Rice—are not Jewish. They are not neoconservatives. And they are not and never have been under the power and sway of the “Jewish lobby.”

The reasons to go to war with Iraq were made clear publicly and repeatedly by the President and members of his administration. We believed, as did the rest of the world and every leading member of the Democratic Party, that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of WMD (it turns out he retained the capacity to build them once the sanctions regime fell apart). In addition, Saddam was the most destabilizing figure in the Middle East, having invaded two nations (Iran and Kuwait), incursions that were responsible for the deaths of more than a million people. He was among the most malevolent figures in modern times, having committed genocide against his own people. He defied sixteen U.N. resolutions over a dozen years. He was a supporter of terrorism. And he was a sworn enemy of America. Beyond all that, President Bush wanted to begin the difficult process of turning the Arab Middle East away from tyranny and toward liberty. If AIPAC never existed, the Iraq war would have commenced. Yet Mr. Moran insists that the role of a Jewish lobby played a decisive role in the United States’s going to war.

This assertion is not only risible, as anyone who worked in the Bush administration can tell you; it is also malicious. It perpetrates the anti-Semitic canard that “The Jews” and their lackeys are all-powerful, manipulative, and in the process of hijacking American foreign policy. Think dual loyalties and all that. (This calumny is now at a bookstore near you, in the form of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.)

I don’t know what lurks in the heart of James Moran. What I do know is that he seems quite eager to fan smoldering embers, with the purpose of igniting fires of division and hatred. It’s all very ugly stuff, and it ought to be condemned in the strongest terms.

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Three Cheers for Olmert

A round of applause, please, for Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, who, a couple of days ago, very deftly rubbed Bashar Assad’s face in the humiliation of Israel’s recent air strike. Olmert displayed an uncharacteristic sense of insouciance and panache in announcing to a group of journalists (Russian ones, no less) that “we are willing to make peace with Syria unconditionally and without demands. I have a lot of respect for the Syrian leader and the Syrian policy.” Magnificent! Assad, of course, is as far away from being able to hold peace talks with Israel as he has ever been—he and his feckless military, and Syria’s much-touted mutual defense pact with Iran, are the laughingstock of the region. And now Olmert is publicly offering him “unconditional” peace talks! Absolutely perfect! Three cheers for Olmert and whoever convinced him of the idea.

A round of applause, please, for Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, who, a couple of days ago, very deftly rubbed Bashar Assad’s face in the humiliation of Israel’s recent air strike. Olmert displayed an uncharacteristic sense of insouciance and panache in announcing to a group of journalists (Russian ones, no less) that “we are willing to make peace with Syria unconditionally and without demands. I have a lot of respect for the Syrian leader and the Syrian policy.” Magnificent! Assad, of course, is as far away from being able to hold peace talks with Israel as he has ever been—he and his feckless military, and Syria’s much-touted mutual defense pact with Iran, are the laughingstock of the region. And now Olmert is publicly offering him “unconditional” peace talks! Absolutely perfect! Three cheers for Olmert and whoever convinced him of the idea.

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Dream A Little DREAM

I’ve blogged before about an excellent bill called the DREAM Act (the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act). As I noted previously:

This legislation would create a fast-track toward citizenship for a select group of undocumented immigrants—those who entered the U.S. before age 16, have no criminal record, graduate from high school, and then complete two years either in the military or in college.

This would not only offer a welcome path toward citizenship for many promising young people but also might ease some of the recruitment problems that Army has been facing of late.

This win-win idea, which has broad bipartisan support, was a casualty of the implosion of the immigration bill in June, but it is being revived. This week, as noted in this article, it may be attached to the defense authorization bill. This prospect has the xenophobic Right in a predictable lather. See, for instance, this post on the anti-immigrant web site Vdare, started, ironically enough, by an immigrant (Peter Brimelow, who came to the U.S. by way of Britain and Canada). In typically overwrought language, a Vdare blogger writes (underneath the headline “Treason Lobby’s DREAM Act”) that the DREAM Act “fits with the ideals of many neoconservatives like Max Boot who have called for an illegal alien legion.

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I’ve blogged before about an excellent bill called the DREAM Act (the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act). As I noted previously:

This legislation would create a fast-track toward citizenship for a select group of undocumented immigrants—those who entered the U.S. before age 16, have no criminal record, graduate from high school, and then complete two years either in the military or in college.

This would not only offer a welcome path toward citizenship for many promising young people but also might ease some of the recruitment problems that Army has been facing of late.

This win-win idea, which has broad bipartisan support, was a casualty of the implosion of the immigration bill in June, but it is being revived. This week, as noted in this article, it may be attached to the defense authorization bill. This prospect has the xenophobic Right in a predictable lather. See, for instance, this post on the anti-immigrant web site Vdare, started, ironically enough, by an immigrant (Peter Brimelow, who came to the U.S. by way of Britain and Canada). In typically overwrought language, a Vdare blogger writes (underneath the headline “Treason Lobby’s DREAM Act”) that the DREAM Act “fits with the ideals of many neoconservatives like Max Boot who have called for an illegal alien legion.

To set the record straight: what I’ve called for is for the U.S. military to recruit non-citizens who would earn citizenship by a term of service. The easiest way to do this is to integrate them into existing units. (We already have lots of non-citizens serving but they have to have a Green Card before they can enlist—a pointless restriction that closes the door to many high-quality potential recruits.) The DREAM Act is merely a small step in this direction since it would only allow service for a limited number of men and women who are already here. I would open up recruitment to those who are not yet here but want to come here.

I have also suggested that we might want to have a Freedom Legion modeled on the French Foreign Legion, whose enlisted ranks would be composed entirely of foreigners but which would be led by American officers and NCOs. Such a Freedom Legion could be very useful for integrating the sort of language and linguistic skills lacking in our military, and it could be used for longterm garrison duty in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Needless to say it would not be composed of “illegal aliens”, since, by definition, those who serve for this country would receive citizenship.

I have yet to hear a persuasive argument against this idea. Most of the negative reactions are little more than emotional responses along the lines of “we don’t want to entrust our defense to mercenaries.” And yet that’s what we’re doing today in places like Iraq where, due to a lack of uniformed manpower, we rely so heavily on security contractors like Blackwater and Triple Canopy. The Freedom Legion would be much more accountable and more useful because it would be part of the regular military chain of command. And its soldiers wouldn’t be any more “mercenary” than countless foreigners—such as the Marquis de Lafayette in the Revolutionary War or the Union Army’s German Division in the Civil War—who have fought for America in the past.

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No Investment in Repression

The Washington Post has picked up the shocking story (broken by the New York Times and mentioned in contentions last week) of China Security and Surveillance Technology. This is a company that supplies high technology tools of repression to Beijing’s secret police and whose stock is hot right now; it has also received the lion’s share of its capital from U.S. hedge funds, and is about to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Columnist Harold Meyerson tells the story in today’s edition. He estimates that “high-end surveillance equipment” which was a $500 million industry in 2003 may be worth “$43 billion . . . by 2010.”

“To be sure, leading American companies have a long and sordid record of investing in totalitarian states, including Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, and axis-of-evil Iran,” Meyerson notes. “But distinguish as we must among the various levels of hell, at least those American companies did not invest in the Gestapo, the Stasi, the KGB, or the Revolutionary Guard. Maybe that was only because it was hard to turn a buck on the Stasi. Once China turned repression into an investment opportunity, however, capitalism responded as capitalism is supposed to respond: it wanted in. There are mega-bucks to be made, the hedge funds concluded, in hedging against democracy.”

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The Washington Post has picked up the shocking story (broken by the New York Times and mentioned in contentions last week) of China Security and Surveillance Technology. This is a company that supplies high technology tools of repression to Beijing’s secret police and whose stock is hot right now; it has also received the lion’s share of its capital from U.S. hedge funds, and is about to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Columnist Harold Meyerson tells the story in today’s edition. He estimates that “high-end surveillance equipment” which was a $500 million industry in 2003 may be worth “$43 billion . . . by 2010.”

“To be sure, leading American companies have a long and sordid record of investing in totalitarian states, including Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, and axis-of-evil Iran,” Meyerson notes. “But distinguish as we must among the various levels of hell, at least those American companies did not invest in the Gestapo, the Stasi, the KGB, or the Revolutionary Guard. Maybe that was only because it was hard to turn a buck on the Stasi. Once China turned repression into an investment opportunity, however, capitalism responded as capitalism is supposed to respond: it wanted in. There are mega-bucks to be made, the hedge funds concluded, in hedging against democracy.”

When we set up today’s special economic relationship with China, our plan, ostensibly, was to encourage China’s embrace of freedom and democracy; unfortunately, our current relationship with China entails turning our backs on our most fundamental values. Meyerson reports that when “[a]sked about the hedge funds’ activities, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said, ‘It’s not appropriate to interfere in the private decisions of Americans to invest in legally incorporated firms.'”

Not appropriate? The United States government forbids any economic relations with Cuba and other designated states—and once forbade them totally with a Communist China that has changed less, when it comes to human freedom, than some imagine. And under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act we ban bribery, kickbacks, and so forth by American firms doing business overseas—even when other, competing countries are using such tools to win contracts.

What we need now is a “Foreign Oppressive Practices Act” that would outlaw American investment in, technology transfer to, or any other cooperation or collusion with the secret police and militaries of states that are not free. Drafting such a law will not be difficult. All we need is will and leadership. Some investors and traders will squeal, yes. And China and other dictatorships will still get much of what they need from countries that do not have such rules. But equipping foreign secret police organizations is no business for the United States of America (or any other country claiming to possess democratic values). The White House should speak out clearly. The Congress should take immediate action.

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