Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Tibetan Protests: Beijing, Blood, and Money

The protests both in Tibet and abroad against China’s repression of Tibetan culture and the demands for greater autonomy for the region will probably not succeed but on another level the protests have served a useful and educational purpose: they have effectively re-exposed the brutal (indeed savage) policies against dissent that the Chinese government has enforced since June 1989.

The protests also have exposed what, in my opinion, has been one of the most shameful episodes in the history of American foreign policy: the policy of appeasement that the Bush-Clinton-Bush administrations have maintained with the Chinese government since the massacre in Tianamen Square in Beijing in 1989.

There is no better word to describe our tepid and ineffectual policies in reigning in the growing assertiveness of the Chinese in world affairs. That assertiveness has gone a long way in undermining our influence in the world and will pose an even greater threat to American security than Al-Qaeda or Iran poses at the present time.

Indeed if anything affirms our nation’s appeasement policies it has been the relative silence of the Bush Administration in the wake of China’s crackdown of the Tibetan protesters and the willingness of the Bush Administration to participate in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The Beijing Olympiad will, I feel, be seen as the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and the 1980 Olympics in Moscow were in the history of the Olympic games: a deliberate attempt by a brutal, sadistic regime to use the Olympic games as a means of gaining legitimacy while cloaking its repression of its citizenry amidst the pageantry and pomp of the Olympic games.

The protests in Tibet will not stop the Beijing Olympiad nor will it dissuade the U.S. from attending. The only time the U.S. boycotted an Olympiad was in 1980 in protest of the Soviet Union’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. Since then, the takeover of the U.S. Olympic program by the corporations makes the possibility of a boycott remote if not impossible. (The only way America would boycott another Olympiad would be if World War Three broke out). There is too much profit potential to be gained from participating in the Olympics. The lust for money has outweighed whatever moral integrity our government may have possessed before 1989. Since then China’s increasing role in the American economy has reduced us to a form of fiscal vassalage.

The Beijing Olympics will take place despite the Tibetan protests and the corporations will rake in their billions but remember this, ladies and gentlemen, the billions they make will be tainted with the blood of countless innocent people slain since 1989.

And that’s the real bottom line of the Beijing Olympics.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Consent of the Governed III: Bull from the Pulpit

Author Ted Morgan in his magnificent biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt writes, “In presidential politics, As FDR well knew, it isn’t what you’ve done but what you can be attacked for.”

Barack Obama is learning that lesson as this is being written. Actually, Obama is rather lucky in a way. The controversy is being aired while there is an intermission between primaries. The next primary content won’t be until April 22 which gives Obama lots of time of repair the damage the airings of his pastor’s past invective-filled sermons have caused to Obama’s presidential campaign thus far. This is his sternest test thus far and how he handles it will do much to decide whether he will win the nomination or not. His speech in Philadelphia addressing the race issue was well received by the mainstream press but whether it heals the wounds inflicted on his candidacy remains to be seen.

Obama’s pastor is not the first clergyman to inject invective into a presidential campaign. In 1840, a clergyman gave a speech that put President Martin Van Buren in a bad light in the wake of the economic crisis brought on by the Panic of 1837. There was Father Coughlin who regularly abused President Franklin Delano Roosevelt from the pulpit. I have vivid memories of the late Reverend Bob Jones, Sr. who, in the early 1980s, supported Ronald Reagan while issuing “Christian” fatwas praying for the death of those who opposed Reagan’s (and Jones’) conservative values.

The crisis also reaffirms that the biggest headache for any presidential candidate is in making sure all your supporters are on the same message. This campaign has seen a lot of aides being let go from their respective candidate’s staffs for saying the wrong things to the press. Today G.O.P. nominee John McCain had to let go an aide for untimely remarks made about Obama. Actor Chuck Norris lost prominence in the Huckabee campaign for making statements that McCain was “too old” to be a good President. (If Ronald Reagan’s win in 1980 did anything for America it was to make the age issue in presidential campaigns a non-issue—and rightly so).

The main issue is how the controversy and Obama’s response to it affects the Democratic Super delegates who will be the true arbiters of who will get the Democratic nomination. It will be their reaction which will decide the fate of Barack Obama. (Personally, I think the Democratic Party should scrap the super delegate concept altogether and if there is a controversy arising as to how the super delegates choose the nominee then the super delegates will be eliminated in the future.

Obama won’t hear the end of this and there will be more to come—if he’s nominated.