Thursday, October 21, 1999

A Republic, not an Empire

A Republic, not an Empire
The Conventional Wisdom is Wrong
Bevin Chu
October 21, 1999

Hyperbole, Parody, and Sarcasm

"A good rule of thumb in political debate is that you can judge the seriousness of an adversary's argument by the seriousness with which he treats yours. If he takes you seriously, it means he's pretty certain he's got you beat on the merits. But if he resorts to hyperbole, parody, and sarcasm, then he clearly fears an honest debate."
-- Eric Alterman
columnist for The Nation, regular contributor to MSNBC

Alterman, an orthodox liberal and gun control fanatic (or is that redundant?) has yet to express an opinion on the central thesis of conservative commentator Pat Buchanan's new book "A Republic, Not an Empire." No matter. Alterman's Rule of Thumb is dead on the money. A person who indulges in ad hominem attacks instead of addressing another's ideas, has in effect conceded intellectual defeat.

I have yet to read Pat Buchanan's book, but I sure like the sound of the title. I have read Buchanan's past comments on foreign intervention however, and I have read the barrage of negative critiques of his new book. I refer to them as critiques and not reviews, because the writers didn't bother to read his book before "reviewing" it. Some of the most scathing critiques, interestingly enough, come not from liberals, but neo-conservatives.

Judging by all the hyperbole, parody, and sarcasm levelled against Buchanan's eminently sensible suggestion that America should return to being "A Republic, Not an Empire," [Imagine that!] the intellectual sheep who dominate America's interventionist orthodoxy appear to fear an honest debate.

Has anyone noticed the Conventional Wisdom is always wrong? I can't be the only one who's noticed the Conventional Wisdom on almost any issue one cares to name is almost always wrong?

Consider these examples from economics:

"Minimum wage laws benefit the poor by ensuring a living wage."
"Trade deficits mean foreigners are taking advantage of Americans."

or public safety:

"Getting guns off the street reduces crime."
"Speed kills. Driving 55 saves lives."

or foreign policy:

"The Serbians are Nazis. The Kosovo Albanians are their Jewish victims."
"The Dalai Lama is a saint. Traditional Tibet was Shangri-La."

including the nomenklatura's key Article of Faith:

"American military intervention abroad ensures peace and stability in the world."

Every one of these articles of faith turns out upon closer examination turns to be wrong. Not just off the mark, but dead wrong, the exact opposite of the truth. In fact the Conventional Wisdom on just about any topic under the sun is so consistently wrong, thoughtful individuals could hardly be faulted for assuming that the truth is whatever Politically Correct opinion makers say it isn't.

World War II, The Last Good War? Not!

"The essence of Buchananism is not anti-Semitism, or protectionism, or isolationism. The core belief that animates these derivative elements of Buchananism is that American government throughout the twentieth century has been a disgrace and a fraud. Buchanan is as much a Blame America First radical as the leftists of the late 1960s. His claim that the United States had no business getting into World Wars I and II follows from his belief that for the past hundred years, and right up till today, the American government has been hijacked by elite and ethnic interests that do America harm. He believes the American government stupidly and malevolently sent hundreds of thousands of men to their deaths. Today, he doesn't want America to lead the world because he doesn't think America is worthy of leading the world. He doesn't want to export our ideals because he doesn't believe in American ideals. For all of his reactionary nostalgia for an America that allegedly once was, he objects to the core principles of the American experiment. That's why, like the New Left, he objects to the American Century."
-- William Kristol,
"A Party of Appeasment"
The Weekly Standard, October 11, 1999

Let me see if I got Kristol right:

"[Pat] Buchanan is as much a Blame America First radical as the leftists of the late 1960s."

"[Pat Buchanan] doesn't want to export our ideals because he doesn't believe in American ideals."

and finally:

"[Pat Buchanan's] claim that the United States had no business getting into World Wars I and II follows from his objections to the core principles of the American experiment."

There you have it. Straight from the pen of William Kristol, self-appointed arbiter of who does or does not qualify as an American patriot. All this hyperbole. All this hysteria. All leveled at a fellow Republican no less, by William Kristol, a smug neocon laptop bombardier who wouldn't recognize a "core principle of the American experiment" if it bit him on the ass.

As a hardline defender of laissez-faire capitalism I take exception to Buchanan's protectionism. As a Chinese-American I take exception to Buchanan's Eurocentric nativism. But I am not about to deliberately misrepresent what Buchanan stands for in order to avoid dealing with his unorthodox (but correct) premise about what constitutes a moral and practical American foreign policy.

The Treaty of Versailles and the Rise of Nazi Germany

"America should have minded her own business and stayed out of the World War. If you hadn't entered the war the Allies would have made peace with Germany in the Spring of 1917. Had we made peace then there would have been no collapse in Russia followed by Communism, no breakdown in Italy followed by Fascism, and Germany would not have signed the Versailles Treaty, which has enthroned Nazism in Germany. If America had stayed out of the war, all these 'isms' wouldn't today be sweeping the continent of Europe and breaking down parliamentary government - and if England had made peace early in 1917, it would have saved over one million British, French, American, and other lives."
-- Winston Churchill
Interview with Editor William Griffen
New York Enquirer, August 1936

Churchill reminded Griffen that by spring of 1917 the warring nations were ready to sue for peace. Pyrhhric "victories" at Jutland, Verdun and the Somme had taken the fight out of Germany, Britain and France. Numerous peace overtures had already been put forth by Germany and Austria, and neutral Swedish, Danish and American negotiators were offering to act as mediatiors.

But Woodrow Wilson wanted to "make the world safe for democracy." Woodrow Wilson was Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the World's Newest Superpower. Therefore Woodrow Wilson would get his "War to End All Wars." The rest, as they say, is history.

Victories Over Your Own Memory

Winston Churchill's history lesson grated on the Wilsonian Globocops' ears, so it was dropped down the Memory Hole, as if it never happened at all. Today we are monotonously subjected to simplistic and ignorant "history lessons" comparing nonintervention to Chamberlainesque "appeasement" and intervention to Churchillian "firmness." As a different Winston, this one fictional, put it:

"The Party said that Oceania had never been in alliance with Eurasia. He, Winston Smith, knew that Oceania had been in alliance with Eurasia as short a time as four years ago. But where did that knowledge exist? Only in his own consciousness, which in any case must soon be annihilated. And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed -- if all records told the same tale -- then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past,' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.' And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. 'Reality control', they called it: in Newspeak, 'doublethink.'
-- Winston Smith, Ministry of Truth
from the dystopian political novel "I984," by George Orwell

Commodore Perry's Treaty of Kanagawa and the Rise of Japanese Fascism

"But what about fascist Japan during the Thirties?," a Humanitarian Interventionist huffily demanded of me in an email. "Of course you oppose American intervention today, now that China is unfairly being set up by American Triumphalists as the New Evil Empire. But I'll bet you would have sung a different tune if this were 1937 and Japan was in the middle of the Rape of Nanking."

Well, what about fascist Japan during the Thirties? Again, as with Nazi Germany, the answer is not hysteria, but history. Not "the lie passed into history [which] became truth," but "the past [which] though of its nature alterable, never had been altered." Selectively plucking historical events out of their larger historical context hardly qualifies as genuine respect for history.

Consider this American account of Admiral Perry's "Opening" of Japan:

'An avowed American expansionist, Perry believed that "our people must naturally be drawn into the contest for empire." Perry prepared diligently for the formidable task of inducing Japan to negotiate a document advantageous to the United States. In 1846, Japan... expelled an American emissary, leading Perry to conclude that a resolute show of force would prove essential to the "opening" of Japan. On July 8, 1853, Perry stormed boldly into Edo (Tokyo) Bay. The Japanese resisted Perry's proposals, and he temporarily withdrew...

Perry returned with seven warships, three of them steam driven... To impress the Japanese with American technological and military might, he exhibited a quarter-scale steam locomotive, a telegraph apparatus by Samuel Morse, a daguerreotype camera, and an illustrated history of the Mexican War, featuring the American naval bombardment of Veracruz. The Japanese yielded, and on March 31, 1854, they signed the Treaty of Kanagawa, [which] established American consular privileges... and granted most-favored-nation trading status to the United States. [ So that's how one gets MFN. Somebody memo Bill Kristol.]
-- Great Events: Commodore Perry's Expedition to Japan 1853
Bell and Howell Information and Learning

Now consider this Japanese account:

"In 1638, [Tokugawa Iemistu, the third shogun] ordered the country closed to all foreign countries but China and Holland. This policy of isolation was called sakoku, and lasted until... Admiral Perry arrived... to open Japan's doors. This two century period greatly influenced the culture and the mentality of Japanese. Two centuries of peace made the Japanese military weak. There were very few naval forces to stop the four steamships. So the shogunate had no choice other than to abandon the policy of sakoku. Japan was suddenly dragged onto the stage of world-wide imperialist politics. [Emphasis added.] The shogunate had almost no diplomatic experience with foreign countries. So the commerce treaty concluded with the United States was very unfavorable to Japan... Today, most historians consider the arrival of Perry the trigger that caused the fall of Edo Shogunate" [and the rise of Japanese fascism.]
-- History of Japan, Major Events in Japanese History

And the following American account:

"The Japanese were impressed with the sophisticated American military technology which forced them to give up their isolation in 1854. The shogunate system was abolished -- the Shogun being the military leader of Japan, who could not successfully cope with the American fleet. Emperor Meiji responded to this situation by changing his policy toward the west... reflected in the Charter Oath which... represented a major shift in government policy from the previous "seclusion" period."
-- East Asia Global Studies: China, Japan and Korea Interactive Study Guide

Japanese militarists were quick studies. They would rapidly adopt not only the technology, but the ideology of this "avowed American expansionist" who forced unwelcome change on their society at gunpoint. Japanese militarists soon came to believe that "our people must naturally be drawn into the contest for empire." China and Korea, Japan's peaceful and oblivious neighbors, would soon pay a heavy price for Perry's imperialistic arrogance.

Japanese History: Overview

1639 Almost complete isolation of Japan to the rest of the world
1792 Russians unsuccessfully try to establish trade relations with Japan
1854 Commodore Matthew Perry forces the Japanese government to open a limited number of ports for trade
1868-1912 Meiji Restoration [Japan develops into a modern fascist power]
1894-1895 Sino-Japanese War [Japan attacks China and extorts province of Taiwan]
1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War
1910 Annexation of Korea [Japan attacks and annexes Korea]
1931 Manchurian Incident [Japan attacks Mudken, China]
1937 Second Sino-Japanese War [Japan attacks China a second time]
1941 Pacific War [Japan attacks America]
-- Schauwecker's Guide to Japan

The Law of Unintended Consequences

Concerned Americans with the intellectual integrity to consult the historical record without indulging in selective recall can confirm for themselves that the Conventional Wisdom about "pro-active" global intervention, like the Conventional Wisdom about just about everything else, is dead wrong.

American intervention in Europe during the final stages of WWI led to the unjustly punitive Treaty of Versailles, and contributed to the rise of Nazi Germany. American intervention in Japan during the mid-nineteeth century led to the Unequal Treaty of Kanagawa, and contributed to the rise of fascist Japan. American intervention in Kosovo during the late 1990's resulted in the outrageous Rambouillet Accord and the rise of KLA fascism.

Medical students are inculcated with an important precept in medical school: "First, do no harm." They are sternly admonished to refrain from impetuous medical "intervention" which might do more harm than good, to resist the powerful temptation to "do something."

Economics majors enrolled in free market oriented departments of economics are taught countless variations of the Law of Unintended Consequences. They learn how minimum wage laws leave minority youths unemployed and price controls result in either gluts or shortages.

It is high time our federal Leviathan stopped hurtling into the future with our cruise control set on "Intervene." It is high time American policymakers spent five minutes thinking about the Law of Unintended Consequences before succumbing to the impulse to play World Policeman just one more time. It is high time modern Americans began entertaining the notion that our Founding Fathers might have been right about the hazards of global intervention, and the Benevolent Global Hegemonists' Conventional Wisdom just might be wrong. Dead wrong.

Sunday, October 17, 1999

Backtalk! The Dalai Lama's Politics of Race

Backtalk! The Dalai Lama's Politics of Race
October 17, 1999

From Steven Small, regarding Bevin Chu's reply to Radomex
January 31, 2003

Bevin Chu writes: "Reject any political movement grounded in ethnic identity." Does this include the "independence movement" of the Chechens, as well?

Bevin Chu replies:

Libertarian political philosophy is a rigorously consistent philosophy based on individual free will. Any American who wishes to side with either Chechen separatists or Russian nationalists may do so on an individual, voluntary basis, the way many Americans did during the Spanish Civil War.

What libertarian political philosophy rejects is the notion that some Americans may compel others to bear the burden of wars they favor. If Mr. Small is morally outraged by some foreign political circumstance, he is entirely free to volunteer to fight for the side he favors. Either side.

This is true for any other foreign conflicts as well. Taiwan or Tibetan independence advocates who are US citizens are free to return to China and fight wars of secession if they choose. They have no right however to compel other Americans to support their causes with either their blood or their money.

From "Radomex", regarding The Dalai Lama's Politics of Race
January 27, 2003

I cannot help but be appalled at publishing such naked self-serving propaganda as Bevin Chu's number on the Dalai Lama.

Bevin (his name but an Anglophile affectation among the Western-veneered but in reality Imperial Beijing-worshipping Hong Kongers) has definitely not pulled any punches in blaming the victim. Trying to portray the Dalai Lama as a racist because he has issues with the alien Han hordes overrunning his erstwhile independent nation (Tibet) is typical of the vicious self-serving amorality at the core of Chinese character.

There were hardly 20,000 Han scattered all over Tibet before Mao (yet another Han imperialist masquerading as a Communist) invaded in 1950. China's claims on Tibet have always been questionable, but reinforced by typically duplicitous British diplomacy against Russia during the Great Game and later by the US letting its lapdog Chiang Kai Shek getting away with phony claims during World War II.

In the last 50 years since the Chinese occupation of Tibet, the demographics of Tibet has been forcibly changed by the Han scum intruders (there are now 4 million Han settlers in Tibet) who claim to be developing their backward Tibetan brothers!

Han Scum like Bevin Tcchu should first learn to wipe their own dirty bottoms before aspiring to teach the far more civilized Tibetans! Get the F__K out of Tibet and stick to your "high" culture of sucking Tiger Pen_s.

And please get an education to develop some rudimentary historical perspective.

Bevin Chu replies:

Anyone who has ever entertained any doubts whether Tibetan independence was "for real" owes it to himself or herself to read this letter from a real live Tibetan independence advocate. It speaks volumes about the heart and soul of the Tibetan independence movement, about the level of spiritual evolution actually attained by these humorless fanatics. Pay attention to the nuances of his words, but even more to to the energy behind them, to the seething ethnic hatred.

This is exactly what I have been struggling to expose all these years. One can almost feel the spittle from this sad individual splashing one in the face. This is the true face of Tibetan independence, not the benevolent smiles of "His Holiness" on Larry King Live.

Reject any political movement grounded in ethnic identity. Nation states do have a place in our world, but only as alternative social/economic/political systems based on individual values, not as macro versions of primitive tribes, with membership rooted in racial identity.

From Marissa Kessler, regarding The Dalai Lama's Politics of Race
January 23, 2003

I am not a Buddhist nor a stanch supporter of the Dalai Lama. I am just trying to gather unbiased information about the Tibet Question. You stated the the Dalai Lama was a racist. What factual basis do you have to make this assumption? I would enjoy being directed to actual statements or actions that would lead one to this assumption. I have read the Dalai Lama's web site and have found no mention of racism.

Would you also state that China was racist by trying to weed out Tibetan culture, religion and language form Tibet itself?

Also, in your article you mention military action taken by Tibet in 1951. Could you please direct my to the source you used to gather that information. All the sources that I have read indicate that the only action taken was in 1950. On October 7, 1950 the People's Liberation Army (PLA) marched to the border of Tibet. A short skirmish ensued in which the entire ten thousand person Tibetan Chamdo army was captured and dismantled by China. This allowed China to call on Tibet to sign the "Seventeen-Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet" without allowing Tibet the strength to object. This show of force by China officially ended the Tibet Question until 1987. In this version on history, Tibet was trying to defend its borders from China with the goal of remaining sovereign.

In your opinion what is the answer to the Tibetan Question?

Thank you for you time.

Bevin Chu replies:

Let me answer Ms. Kessler indirectly by suggesting that she visit

Journey East

as well as

Pamela Logan's "Politically Incorrect"

The background information provided there addresses some if not all of Ms. Kessler's concerns.

Saturday, October 16, 1999

The Dalai Lama's Politics of Race

The Dalai Lama's Politics of Race
Bevin Chu
October 16, 1999

Racism is the practice of categorizing human beings by their ethnic origin rather than their traits as individuals, or as the late Reverend Martin Luther King put it, by "the color of their skin" instead of "the content of their character." People who categorize other human beings by their race, particularly those who demand their segregation on the criterion of race, are racists.

What does this have to do with one Tenzing Gyatso, better known to the world as "the Dalai Lama?"

Everything. Because as we shall see, the Dalai Lama is a racist.

Let's not allow ourselves to be confused. The Dalai Lama is not a New Age guru. The Dalai Lama is not the facilitator of a Southern California encounter group. The Dalai Lama is, in the words of his admirers, and not his detractors, a "God-King." No one with "God" as part of his title can honestly pretend to be merely "a simple monk." No one with "King" as part of his job description can honestly pretend to be a disinterested "spiritual" personage, far above the fray of realpolitik power struggles.

The Dalai Lama is no different from Prince Norodim Sihanouk of Cambodia. The Dalai Lama is an unelected monarch. The Dalai Lama is a politician. The only question is, what kind of politician is he? What are his politics? The unsavory fact is that the Dalai Lama's politics are the politics of race.

When the Dalai Lama raises his periodic alarms about how "the Hans are over-running Tibet" he sounds uncannily like Australia's resident bigot Pauline Hanson, raising a hue and cry about White Australia being "swamped by Asians." Let's face it. This modern-day saint, a Nobel laureate no less, purportedly the most enlightened man on the planet, is a petty tribalist preoccupied with ethnic identity.

A quick visit to the Dalai Lama's official internet website will confirm that the Dalai Lama demands that a specific geographical region of China be declared off-limits to other ethnic groups on the basis of race. The world harshly condemned P.W. Botha and bigoted white Afrikaners when they demanded such an arrangement for South Africa. A principled moral consistency demands that the world condemn Tibetan tribalists when they demand an identical arrangement in China. This unflattering reality may be hard for the Dalai Lama's acolytes to stomach, but it is inescapable. The Dalai Lama is a racist.

Enlightened individualists must reject the notion that human beings in our modern world ought to be legally classified and physically segregated on the basis of race. Racial segregation in America, known as "Jim Crow," was wrong and contemptible when Lester Maddox and George Wallace defended it in the deep South. Racial segregation, known as "apartheid" was wrong and contemptible when P.W. Botha defended it in South Africa. Racial segregation is wrong and contemptible when the Dalai Lama defends in southwestern China. Racism is racism, no matter who advocates it, no matter where it is advocated, and no matter how it is disguised as something less repugnant.

Would fellow Americans who champion a racially segregated, politically separate Tibetan region of China, tolerate for one minute a racially segregated, politically separate "Whites Only" or "Blacks Only" Georgia or Alabama? No? Then please don't wish this kind of reactionary apartheid state of affairs on China. America is hardly the only multiethnic nation in the world, nor should it be.

Many Americans who are admirers of Martin Luther King erroneously compare the Dalai Lama to King, Nelson Mandela, or even the great Mahatma Gandhi. This flatters the Dalai Lama and insults King, Mandela and Gandhi. Gandhi, King, and Mandela were integrationists, not segregationists. Gandhi opposed Hindu-Indian and Muslim-Indian segregation and did his utmost to preserve Indian national unity. King opposed African-American and European-American segregation, and dreamed of a day when black and white children would walk beside each other hand in hand. Mandela opposed black, Cape-Colored, and white Afrikaner segregation.

Pro-unity Chinese oppose Han-Chinese and Tibetan-Chinese racial segregation. The racial integration of Tibetan and Han is hardly a pie-in-the-sky proposition. It has already happened. It keeps happening year after year, even as the Dalai Lama struggles to keep Tibetans and Hans racially segregated. One need only look at China's astonishingly complete integration of her Mongolian, Manchurian and Han subcultures to see how thorough racial assimilation can be. No modern Chinese, including those of us who matter of factly assume we are "Han" knows for sure whether we have Manchurian, Mongolian, Uyghur or Tibetan blood in us. Nor should it matter.

Whatever feet of clay Gandhi, King and Mandela might have had in real life, these three icons were or are genuine integrationists. In this respect, the Dalai Lama has hardly anything in common with any of them. The Dalai Lama is, if anything, closer to militant separatist oriented religious/political figures such as the Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan, or the Jewish Defense League's Rabbi Meir Kahane. The omnipresent Al Sharpton is the epitome of this kind of opportunistic agent provocateur. He is what African-American libertarians refer to as an "ethnic grievance pimp." The omnipresent Dalai Lama, always in the right place for a photo op, is a Tibetan Al Sharpton. He merely affects a "kinder, gentler" persona and boasts slicker PR. After all, he has Hollywood's glitterati doing his image-making for him, gratis.

World opinion meanwhile, suffers from selective amnesia. It has conveniently forgotten "His Holiness" was the plotter and instigator of a violent armed revolution in 1959. It has blanked out the fact that this politician forfeited any claim he might have had to being a pacifist decades ago.

The way to move beyond race hatred, and festering grievances about "who done who wrong" is actually quite simple. Hardly easy, but simple. The solution is: first integration, then intermarriage. The solution is exactly what neo-Nazi skinheads and Ku-kluxers fear and dread: the "mongrelization of the races," the "dilution" of "racial purity." The solution is what racial bigots' refer to perjoratively as "miscegenation." Intermarriage makes it more difficult, albeit not impossible, for anyone of mixed parentage to hate one side of his family for wronging the other.

This process has an important prerequisite -- racial integration. In order for it to take place people must not be deliberately segregated from each other. It requires that people of goodwill of all backgrounds refuse to tolerate the establishment of artificial barriers to individuals mixing with each other economically, socially and ultimately, genetically.

Interestingly enough, this is also what militant Tibetan and Uyghur separatists fear -- the "dilution" of their racial distinctiveness. The term they apply to this dreaded phenomenon is "cultural genocide." Their identities are so invested in their biologically-inherited racial characteristics as "Tibetans," "Uyghurs," or in the case of neo-Nazis as "white Aryans," that they cannot see their common identity as members of the human race. As the talented African-American singer Pearl Bailey put it "there is only one race, the human race." It is worth noting in this connection that recent DNA evidence has confirmed that Chinese, as well as other Asians, are all of African descent.

Speaking for myself, I stand squarely behind this uncompromising statement of principle even when it involves the Japanese nation, which I personally deeply resent for the Nazi-style atrocities its government perpetrated on China dating back to 1895, but especially during WWII. Extensive intermarriage between Chinese and Japanese, were it to happen, would eventually resolve past grievances, just as spontaneous intermarriage between Mongolian, Manchurian and Han Chinese resolved past grievances among the three once distinct ethnic groups within China.

The chief obstacle to this benevolent process of "creeping integration" is ambitious political "leaders" whose power is built on racially-defined constituencies. These "leaders'" ability to lead their followers around by the nose is threatened by any dilution of "ethnic purity" and any blurring of racial lines. This means they have a vested interest in keeping apart individual human beings who otherwise would have traded, formed friendships and intermarried.

Sad to say, the Dalai Lama ranks not among the Gandhis, the Kings or the Mandelas of the world, but among those charismatic "leaders" who abuse their stature and authority to keep these racial lines sharply drawn by fanning the flames of primitive ethnic resentment. The Dalai Lama indisputably does it with tremendous flair and finesse, so he doesn't come across like a Louis Farrakhan, in other words, as a raving lunatic, but make no mistake, he does it. This misuse of his personal charisma arguably makes him worse, not better than his peers.

Given the state of the world today it is clearly unrealistic to expect existing sovereign nations to completely lower their guard against once hostile foreign nations. I am not urging that existing nation states adopt naively Pollyannaish foreign policies. But is it too much to demand that anyone with humanitarian pretensions at least refrain from aggravating internal racial tensions within currently existing nations? For China as well as for America?

Meanwhile, individuals of goodwill the world over can gradually increase the porousness of international political boundaries via free trade. Stable, mutually beneficial trade relations increase human to human contact across existing national boundaries, and contributes to the eventual diminution of irrational xenophobia.

Genuine spiritual leaders of global stature do not speak only for their tribe. They are not nearly so petty and narrow-minded. They have hearts which encompass the world. They speak for all of humanity. Whom does the Dalai Lama speak for? Does he speak for global racial integration and the universal brotherhood of man, or only for his narrow tribal constituency? The question is rhetorical, and the answer should be obvious.

Thursday, October 14, 1999

All Politicians are essentially Actors

All Politicians are essentially Actors
Al Pacino, Ronald Reagan and Lee Teng-hui
Bevin Chu
October 14, 1999

City Hall

Al Pacino plays New York City Mayor John Pappas

Film critic Leslie Rigoulot, in a review of the occasionally brilliant but ultimately disappointing 1996 political drama "City Hall," writes:

"[Al] Pacino is the mayor of New York trying to deal with a cop and drug dealer who not only shoot it out on the streets, but also involve an innocent child. John Cusack is his deputy mayor and he manages to portray a man who understands the gritty reality of "politics as usual" while still honestly believing that he and the mayor can make a difference. It isn't an easy position to take when 99.9 % of the American population is distrustful of politicians, but he is so earnest that we believe. But I'm too much of a cynic to believe completely. When Pacino's mayor cries indignation over the deaths in the city, I felt that all politicians are essentially actors. And that may be the point."

All politicians are essentially actors. But let's be clear on exactly what that means. Anyone who has ever studied acting knows that to convincingly communicate an emotion to any but the most unsophisticated audiences, an actor must first get in touch with the emotion within himself. An actor who understands his craft knows he must build his performance on a solid foundation of emotional reality drawn from deep within his "instrument." If you've ever wondered just exactly what it is that separates a "real" performance by an experienced actress with genuine talent, and a "false" or "hammy" performance by the Bimbo of the Month on Baywatch, that is it.

As film critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, writes:

"New York Mayor John Pappas... moves smoothly into action, accompanied by his idealistic young deputy mayor, Kevin Calhoun. He visits the cop's widow. He visits the boy's father. He holds a press conference ("Be sure the Post gets the first question"). He promises an investigation. And he delivers -- up to a point. [Beyond that point however] one hand washes the other, even in the administration of a relatively ethical mayor like Pappas, who is considered a presidential possibility. One scene... involves the mayor's decision to speak at the funeral of the slain child, in a Harlem church. His advisers tell him he won't be welcome there. But he goes anyway, and cranks himself up for an oration of unashamed rhetoric."

As Pappas enters the church the congregation is seething with hostility. Physical violence is a distinct possibility. Pappas knows the risk he is running simply by showing up. One photo op gone awry could sink his bid for the White House. But Pappas is accustomed to playing for high stakes and supremely confident of his skill at damage control.

Pappas performs his magic act before our very eyes. He defuses the crowd's anger by frankly acknowledging the legitimacy of their grievances and his own administration's culpability. By siding with the community against his own administration, Pappas deftly turns the crowd around. Before they or we realize what has happened, he has transformed himself from the target of their anger into a conduit for its expression and catharsis. Invoking the ghosts of famous mayors, from Pericles of Athens to Fiorello LaGuardia, the Greek-American Pappas thunders,

"I will not go down that way [defeatism and despair]. I choose to fight back. I choose to live and not die. I know that what's in me is in you. I ask you to join me, join me, rise up with me, rise up on the wings of this fallen angel [laying his hands on the child's coffin.] I am with you, little James. I am you."

"It gets a good response from the congregation" Ebert writes, "but the mayor knows, and his deputy knows, that it was phony, and the way they carefully avoid discussing it, in the limousine taking them away, is a delicate use of silence and evasion."

The usually articulate Ebert fails to do justice to the talents of screenwriters Ken Lipper, Nicholas Pileggi, Paul Schrader, Bo Goldman, and leading man Al Pacino. Pappa's spin control is masterly. By the time he is finished, the congregation is eating out of his hand. As Pappas strides back down the aisle they strain to touch him, as if he were Christ come down from the cross. All in a day's work for a master manipulator of populist sentiment.

In "City Hall" John Pappas, the fictional Mayor of "Noo Yawk Ciddy," set out on his political odyssey motivated by genuine idealism, but somewhere along the way lost sight of his original destination. To get things done, he had to get elected. To stay elected he did what it took to stay elected. Once the means to a higher end, the power of the office became an end in itself.

Actor Ronald Reagan plays President Ronald Reagan

Notwithstanding his all too human failings, Ronald Reagan, the only professional actor ever to occupy the White House, was one of America's better modern leaders. Unfairly dismissed as "merely a B-actor," the Gipper was a talented actor in the best sense of the word. Reagan was a political leader who could act, meaning not only could he "perform in front of the public," but also that he could "take action" when the need arose.

Reagan's detractors liked to snicker that when ol' Ron nudged Jimmy Carter out of the White House, he landed the role of a lifetime in an otherwise undistinguished acting career. The joke would be on them. Reagan's detractors would soon be scratching their heads straining to to explain Reagan's "Teflon" presidency, to which scandal simply refused to stick.

In fact Reagan's Teflon was no mystery at all. Reagan's Teflon was his sincerity, which was not, and could not be faked, not on nightly television, not to American audiences. The American public, as critics of Reagan's most widely viewed public performances, gave him two thumbs up. "Let Reagan be Reagan," his "handlers" exclaimed, and we agreed. We forgave the Great Communicator a multitude of sins, including Iran Contra, which would have rung the curtains down on any other administration.

Lee Teng-hui does his impression of Jimmy Swaggert

This brings us to ROC President Lee Teng-hui. Lee, like the fictional John Pappas was once the mayor of a large metropolis, Taipei. Lee, like Pappas, finds his administration threatened by political fallout from the tragic death of an innocent child. It is at this point however that the similarities end. To paraphrase the now famous putdown from Dan Quayle's (previous) abortive presidential campaign, "Mr. Lee, you're no Al Pacino."

On Monday October 11, during a memorial service organized by the Ministry of the Interior, seven thousand people gathered inside Linkou National Sports College Stadium in suburban Taipei to mourn the victims of Taiwan's 921 Great Earthquake. After laying a wreath of carnations before a 12 M tall monument situated on a stage bathed in pale blue light, Lee Teng-hui bowed three times.

"My heart is filled with profound sadness" Lee intoned, "[but] As long as there is life, there is hope. I hope that during our suffering we don't lose confidence, and that when we face obstacles we become more courageous... I hope the prayers and introspection can help the victims rest in peace and that those who lost their loved ones can transform their sadness to strength and love for their homeland... I encourage all fellow citizens to work together and join hands to build an even brighter tomorrow for future generations."

Lee sat down, covered his eyes with his hands, pulled out his hanky, and blotted away tears. Vice-president Lien Chan, who spoke after him, did likewise.

"Have you ever heard such a crock of shit from someone who isn't even the president?"
-- Chevy Chase, in an uncredited cameo as a cynical New York media mogul in the 1992 political comedy "Hero"

Lee and Lien's Amateur Hour: Two Thumbs Down

I am not speaking metaphorically when I assure you I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Now it is a cliche in Taiwan that "ren min shi jen wang di" or "the public has amnesia," and that sleazy politicians guilty of wrongdoing need only lay low for the storm to blow over before resuming business as usual.

But did Lee really imagine the public had forgotten that just seventeen days ago Lee's personal helicopter demolished a cluster of quake victims' tents? That Mr. Democracy, rather than apologize, chose to get into a shouting match with an old woman made homeless for the second time in three days, this time by her "public servant?"

Did Lee really imagine the public had forgotten that just fifteen days ago, having learned nothing from his first mistake, Lee's four helicopter entourage ripped a heavy limb from a tree and bashed in the skull of a five year old homeless quake victim? That Mr. Democracy, rather than apologize, simply bugged out, leaving his flakcatcher behind to mollify the dead girl's grief-stricken mother and father with a piddling US$10,000 compensation?

Forget Al Pacino's "City Hall." Forget Ronald Reagan's "City on a Hill." Acting standards on Taiwan may be abysmally low, and local audiences are lamentably undemanding, as any American expatriate who has ever lived in Taiwan and watched a local soap opera can testify, but I've seen more believable tears from Jimmy Swaggert.

The megalomaniacal Lee Teng-hui may just be sufficiently out of touch with reality to believe that his patently phony performance -- an insult to the intelligence of millions of ROC television veiwers -- actually merited a John Pappas Lifetime Achievement Award for Best Spin Control. But the John Pappas' of the world have only been able to work their magic because once upon a time they actually believed in something, and could draw on the fading memories of their forsaken ideals.

But what does this have to do with Lee Teng-hui? Apart from believing that he was or is Japanese, what exactly has the opportunistic chameleon Lee Teng-hui ever really believed in?

The ROC presidential election is scheduled for March, 2000. Mr. Democracy's "da shou" or "flunkies" have been floating trial balloons attempting to gauge public reaction to a one year "postponement" using the 921 earthquake as the flimsiest of pretexts. Lee has already "served" twelve years. Another year of "public service" would make his term as president of the ROC thirteen. Lee Teng-hui wants to be Mr. Democracy. Lee Teng-hui wants to be "President for Life." Lee Teng-hui wants to have his cake and eat it too. Decisions, decisions.

Like Fox Mulder in the X-Files, "I want to believe." I want to believe "The president never lies." I want to believe in "Truth, Justice and the American Way." But like film critic Leslie Rigoulot, I'm too much of a cynic to believe completely. When Lee Teng-hui weeps ostentatiously, on cue, over Taiwan's quake victims, I too feel that all politicians are essentially actors. The only difference is that some are a hell of a lot better than others.

Thursday, October 07, 1999

Playing Politics with Taiwan's Quake Victims

Playing Politics with Taiwan's Quake Victims
Bevin Chu
October 07, 1999

The Will of the People

Lee Teng-hui and the Taiwan separatist elite would have the outside world believe that their obsession with separatism reflects the "will of the people" on Taiwan, because they were "democratically elected." This is true for Americans in particular, as we are expected to underwrite their bid for "independence" with both our sweat and our blood.

But as we Americans ought to know better than anyone, that is an laughably simplistic non sequiteur. Even in "advanced" western nations, elected governments can and do impose policies which ride roughshod over not only the desires but the best interests of the people they were elected to serve.

How many conservatives for example, would actually agree the Clinton administration's priorities genuinely reflect "the will of the American people?" How many conservative hawks who demand US intervention on behalf of Taiwan independence would agree that Britain, China, France and Russia have the "right" to intervene militarily in America to help Bill and Hillary impose their statist policies on Americans? After all, wasn't the Clinton administration "democratically elected?" Doesn't it reflect "the will of the American people?"

This divergence between the priorities of political elites and the genuine long term interests of a citizenry is still more pronounced in less sophisticated, developing "democracies." Because normal people are, quite reasonably, busy living their lives instead of neurotically plotting to accumulate ever more power, a focused (read, obsessed) political elite can with relatively little resistance hijack the apparatus of state before an inattentive public catches on, much too late.

Lee Teng-hui's separatist elite, which holds the reins of government in the ROC today is a textbook case of just such an obsessed minority abusing their positions of public trust. They are deliberately doing everything in their power to worsen relations with the Chinese mainland to ensure that reunification never happens.

Lee's "jieh ji, yung ren" or "avoid haste, use patience" policy is essentially an illegal ban on direct commercial telecommunication, shipping, and air passenger links with the Chinese mainland. By means of a petty tyrant's personal diktat, Lee has squelched spontaneous private sector activity -- economic, cultural, familial -- which in the absence of calculated and heavy-handed efforts to keep the two sides apart, would cause them to slowly drift back towards each other like two magnets.

With the People always in my Heart

Lee Teng-hui is renowned in Taiwan for two slogans. The first is "Ming zhi sou yu, chang zai wo xing" which translates as "The hopes of the people are always in my heart." The title of Lee 's latest ghostwritten book is "With the People Always in My Heart." The other is "Lao bai xing shi tou jia" which translates as "The common folk are the bosses."

But Lee Teng-hui and the Taiwan independence elite, like members of the nomenklatura everywhere, do not really believe "the common folk are the bosses," and have anything but the hopes of the people always in their hearts. Rather they see themselves as Chess Grand Masters in a wondrous, Kiplingesque "Great Game," in which ordinary citizens are merely expendable pawns, to be sacrificed, perhaps with mild regret, as the need arises.

Shortly after the abominable incident in which President Lee Teng-hui's helicopter entourage killed a five year old homeless earthquake victim, "Mr. Democracy," incensed with the public's reaction to his string of deadly blunders, vented his spleen at the Fourth Estate. Chairman Lee of the KMT turned on TV news crews, many of whom worked for KMT owned and operated networks and testily admonished them "Just make sure you do a good job of reporting! Do a little less criticizing!"

Trusting ROC citizens who foolishly voted for Lee Teng-hui in 1996 because they believed "he's one of us" have learned a bitter lesson. They now know Lee and his Taiwan separatist elite will not hesitate to sacrifice ordinary ROC citizens' lives, let alone their economic futures, as long they are convinced that by doing so they can realize their private agenda.

The Flattered Host

During Taiwan's recent crisis, Lee Teng-hui flatly refused assistance from the mainland Chinese rescue team. He also deliberately insulted the Hongkong rescue team. Why the animosity toward Hongkong? Simple: One Country, Two Systems. Anathema to the Taiwan separatist elite. Lee made certain the mainland team stayed locked out, even as he welcomed rescue teams from dozens of other nations with open arms.

On the other hand, Lee really milked the presence of Japanese rescue teams allowed into Taiwan, staging "heartwarming" photo ops of Japanese medical teams tending to the injuries of Taiwan quake victims. Surprise, surprise, surprise.

Consider this "news" article from CNA. CNA stands for China News Agency. The China News Agency is Taiwan's counterpart to our own propaganda organs, Radio Free Asia and The Voice of America, or mainland China's Xinhua news agency.

President Lee Says Taiwan Relief Action Three Times Faster than Japan's - CNA (10-05-99)

A visiting Japanese politician politely flatters his attentive host, suggesting that Taiwan's rescue team was "three times as fast" as Japan's. A very flattered Lee Teng-hui takes it rather too literally.

Now imagine dramatic live CNN footage of mainland Chinese rescue teams risking life and limb to save their fellow Chinese on Taiwan.

"This is Andrea Koppel, reporting to you live from Taipei, where heroic mainland Chinese rescue workers, without regard to their personal safety, have just succeeded in freeing two teen-aged brothers trapped for 130 hours beneath the wreckage of a twelve story building. The Taiwan public has been deeply moved by their selfless courage. Is this the beginning of a warming in cross-Straits relations? A positive sign for eventual reunification"

Lee Teng-hui would sooner let every last earthquake victim on the island die an agonizing, protracted death trapped under tons of twisted steel and shattered concrete, before permitting a scenario like that unfold and be seen around the world, let alone by the ROC public.

The People vs. Lee Teng-hui

Each time Lee Teng-hui has been presented with the opportunity to demonstrate good faith regarding reunification, Lee has exploited the occasion to deliberately provoke hatred among Chinese on Taiwan against their compatriots on the mainland. He then insists disingenuously that he is merely playing hardball with Beijing to uphold the "dignity" of the people of Taiwan.

One might be more inclined to take Lee at his word, if only he showed a little more respect for the dignity of the people of Taiwan himself.

How much respect, for example, did Lee show for the dignity of the elderly Taiwanese woman whose tent he demolished? How much respect did Lee show for the dignity of the five year old Taiwanese girl whose skull he caved in? If Mr. Democracy wants a good look at the "evildoer" who is disrespecting the dignity of the people of Taiwan, he need only stare in the mirror.

Man's Plans pale next to Heaven's Plans

The Chinese expression for self-demeaning sycophancy is "pai ma pi." Literally translated means "patting the horse's ass." This expression has roughly the meaning as the more picturesque, but less tactful, term from American slang: "a**-kissing."

This brings us to October 3, 1999, when patting the horse's ass backfired and the Lee Teng-hui regime's Japanophile sycophancy backfired.

"Taiwan's Sentiments" a regularly scheduled "human interest" radio show on the China Broadcasting Company, a KMT owned and operated radio network, conducted a live on air telephone interview with a senior official from NHK, Japan's equivalent of Britain's BBC.

The radio show's host introduced him as a senior official from Japan's NHK, who along with his colleagues at NHK, were donating a generous sum of money to the local Red Cross for earthquake relief, and that Taiwan was honored to have such a high-ranking journalist from Japan visit.

The NHK official explained that he was here for several reasons. To bring the relief funds of course as the host mentioned, but also to report on the earthquake for audiences back in Japan.

"Your Chinese is extremely good for a Japanese," the show's host noted. "You have no trace of a Japanese accent. Where did you learn Chinese?"

Laughing, the NHK official explained to the surprised radio show host,

"I'm not Japanese, I'm Chinese. I'm from the mainland, Beijing. I went to high school in Beijing, and went abroad to Japan for university. My wife is Taiwan Chinese, from Nantou, the region hardest hit by the earthquake. That's another reason I came. I wanted to see what my wife's hometown was like."

An old expression in Chinese comes to mind, "Ren suan bu ru tien suan" or "Man's plans pale next to Heaven's plans."

Appendix: Reading between the Headlines

Taiwan's "Jiu Er Yi Da Di Zeng" or "921 Great Earthquake" as it is known in Chinese, has received considerable international media attention. But many readers may have missed the real story, namely how Mr. Democracy Lee Teng-hui's propaganda machine played separatist politics with the lives of Taiwan's earthquake victims. To read this story one needs to read not the headlines but between the headlines.

Let's begin at the Beginning

-- Massive earthquake jolts Taiwan; at least 1,100 killed - CNN (09/21/99)

Disaster strikes. Within hours of the moment the initial shock waves struck central Taiwan province, mainland China's expert earthquake rescue team, honored by the United Nations, is primed and ready to go.

-- Arch-foe China leads world offers of help for quake-hit Taiwan - AFP (09/21/99)
-- China offers immediate assistance to quake hit Taiwan -AFP (09/21/99)
-- China Offers Aid To Taiwan Quake Victims - Reuters (09/21/99)
-- China responds with aid - BBC (09/21/99)
-- Jiang offers helping hand to stricken Taiwan - AFP (09/21/99)
-- Jiang offers Taiwan help as China's coastal areas feel tremors - AFP (09/21/99)

How does Diehard Separatist Lee Teng-hui respond?

-- ROC Appreciates Mainland China's Concern for Quake Victims - CNA (09-21-99)

Lee instructs his staff to craft an pro forma response while Lee tries to figure out how to turn down the mainland's offer of desperately needed rescue expertise, without looking as if he's playing politics with the lives of ROC earthquake victims, which of course he is.

-- Foreign Rescuers Go To Taiwan As U.N. Seeks OK - Reuters (09/21/99)

Mainland China, a Permanent Member of the Security Council and the sole legal government for all of China including the province of Taiwan to all but two dozen well greased banana republics, approves the immediate entry of foreign rescue teams.

-- Japan plans to send rescue team to quake-hit Taiwan - AFP (09/21/99)
-- More Foreign Rescue Teams Arriving in Taiwan - CNA (09/21/99)

Lee welcomes Anybody and Everybody, except his own Countrymen

-- Massive aftershocks strike with 3,000 still buried - AFP (09/22/99)
-- Rescuers Working Round the Clock to Reach Survivors of Taiwan Quake - NY Times (09/22/99)
-- Remote Parts Of Taiwan Wait for Aid - Washington Post (09/22/99)

Thousands of buried victims. Rescuers overworked because they are shorthanded. Remote regions without aid. The victims clearly need everyone they can get. This is hardly the time for politics at their expense.

-- Immigrants From Taiwan and the Mainland Unite to Show Concern - NY Times (09/22/99)

Chinese-Americans on opposite sides of the Taiwan separatist political divide put aside their differences for this life or death emergency. The question is, can Lee Teng-hui?

-- L.A. Groups Mobilize Aid Efforts - Los Angeles Times (09/22/99)
-- USAID Sending Rescue Team to Taiwan - CNA (09-22-99)

Lee lets in US Teams

-- China leads aid offers to Taiwan - Irish Times (09/22/99)
-- Taiwan Blames Beijing for Milking Int'l Aid Offers for Political Ends - CNA (09-22-99)

Now it begins. Lee Teng-hui pulls an hoary old trick known as 'A thief crying "Thief!"' preemptively accusing others of what one intends to do oneself.

-- Rescuers race against clock to find Taiwan quake survivors - CNN (09/23/99)
-- Taiwan: Fading Cries for Help - CBS News (09/23/99)
-- Russian team leads daring search for Taiwan quake survivors - AFP (09/23/99)

Time is running out. Victims are dying of dehydration under tons of rubble. What is Lee Teng-hui waiting for?

-- Taiwan On China Aid: Thanks, But No Thanks - Reuters (09/23/99)
-- Taiwan Tells China Its Quake Team Unneeded For Now - Reuters (09/23/99)

Unneeded for now? Maybe we should ask those trapped under the rubble?

-- China continues to mobilize aid despite Taiwan's rejection of help - AFP (09/24/99)
-- Six-year-old rescued after 87 hours in Taiwan quake rubble - AFP (09/24/99)

Miraculously, more victims have survived, but every able-bodied rescue worker is desperately needed. Despite repeated slaps in the face, mainland China keeps its rescue team on alert, even as it allows foreign rescue teams in and Lee Teng-hui keeps mainland China's team out. How does Lee Teng-hui in Taipei respond?

-- Rebuff by Taiwan - Straits Times (09/24/99)
-- Taiwan Accuses China Of Slowing Quake Relief - Reuters (09/24/99)
-- Taiwan Declines Offer Of Quake Aid From China - Washington Post (09/24/99)
-- Taiwan denounces Beijing for hampering aid for quake victims - AFP (09/24/99)
-- Taiwan says China is exploiting its misery - Reuters (09/24/99)

Lee Teng-hui continues to turn away assistance from the mainland, instead escalates his irresponsibly inflammatory political propaganda to the next level.

-- Taiwan's mountain aborigines still cut off by quake - AFP (09/25/99)

The ROC's real Taiwanese still lack disaster relief. Lee Teng-hui has always boasted of his love of the Taiwanese people. How about letting the mainland rescue team in to help some real Taiwanese -- the Aborigines?

-- Beijing impeding aid, says Taipei - Straits Times (09/25/99)
-- Taipei Assails China Over Aid - IHT (09/25/99)
-- Taiwan media says China rubs salt into quake wound - Reuters (09/25/99)
-- HK joins rescue efforts despite snub - Straits Times (09/25/99)

Guess not. The Lee Teng-hui regime reiterates its obdurate refusal of mainland disaster assistance, offered on the very same day as the initial shock waves, even as it grumbles about the Hongkong team showing up "a day late and a dollar short."

-- Aftershock rattles Taiwan, but survivors still emerging - CNN (09/26/99)
-- Brothers Freed After 5 Days In Taiwan Rubble - Reuters (09/26/99)

Still more survivors emerge, proving rescue personnel are still desperately needed, even at this late date.

-- Taiwan Says China Exploits Quake - Chicago Tribune (09/26/99)

Lee keeps at it.

-- Backlash badly shakes KMT - Hong Kong Standard (09/27/99)
-- Earthquake shakes ruling Kuomintang's 50-year grip on power - AFP (09/27/99)
-- Kuomintang's hold on power shaken to its foundations - AFP (09/28/99)
-- Taiwan quake rescue criticised - BBC (09/28/99)
-- Taiwan officials acknowledge quake rescue problems - CNN (09/28/99)

Lee can't conceal his administration's ineptitude in the heat of a crisis from the Taiwan public, the common folk who are the bosses.

-- Beijing says aid remains on offer - Reuters (09/29/99)

The mainland Chinese rescue team keeps its offer open.

-- KMT's hold on Taiwan shaken - Straits Times (09/29/99)
-- Lee attacks media coverage - South China Morning Post (09/30/99)

If all else fails, blame the messenger.

-- Taiwan govt did not heed warning - Straits Times (10/01/99)

A 1997 government committee investigated emergency earthquake measures and submitted a report. Lee Teng-hui left it to gather dust in his in box!

-- Beijing exploiting tragedy, says Taipei - Straits Times (10/01/99)

Is this getting monotonous, or what?

-- Canadian Medical Team Arrives in Taiwan to Help Quake Victims - CNA (10/03/99)

Wait a minute! The Lee Teng-hui regime complains the Hongkong team is "a day late and a dollar short" for showing up on September 25, but a Canadian team shows up eight days later on October 3 and no problem?

The evidence is clear for anyone willing to see. Taiwan independence Quisling Lee Teng-hui, not Chinese reunificationist Jiang Zemin, knowingly sacrificed the precious lives of Taiwan's earthquake victims in a cynical bid for political advantage.

Saturday, October 02, 1999

Rape of Nanking, Once was Quite Enough

Rape of Nanking
Once was Quite Enough
Bevin Chu
October 02, 1999

Letters Editor
Straits Times

Dear Sir/Madam,

I would like to commend Mirko Stoll for his unflinchingly honest letter about how Germany has faced up to the Holocaust, confronting it boldly without turning away. By doing so Germans have earned the trust of their former victims.

This is in sharp contrast to the way Japan has dealt with the Rape of Nanking, bobbing and weaving for the past fifty years, evading responsibility.

The Japanese need to realize that until Japan comes clean, and I mean from the bottom of the heart, without playing disingenuous semantic games with weasel words like "regret" instead of "apologize," they will never fully be trusted by their neighbors, no matter how many quality high tech consumer products they might purchase from Japan, Inc.

Whether 300,000 Chinese died in Nanking at the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army, or "only" 140,000 is hardly the point.

The reason should be no mystery. It is not about a pound of flesh. It is not about payback. It is about peace of mind.

As the American historian George Santayana once observed "Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them." Anyone who has ever been in psychotherapy, Alcholics Anonymous, or any twelve step program, knows that only after one has acknowledged what one is, can one change into something different.

Fritz Perl's "paradoxical law of change" applies to collectives as well as to individuals. This is why former victims of Germany feel safer than former victims of Japan. Japan's neighbors understand this in their guts, even though they may not always express it in these terms.

It is high time Japan understood it too. No nation in east and southeast Asia wants to be victimized a second time by a resurgent, fascist Japan which did not learn its lesson the first time around.

Once was quite enough, thank you.

Japan, stop dragging it out. Admit your responsibility once and for all, and get it over with. Then the rest of us can all relax, confident Japan won't be a repeat offender.


Bevin Chu
Taipei, Taiwan, ROC

Friday, October 01, 1999

Taiwan's Great Earthquake and the Mandate of Heaven

Taiwan's Great Earthquake and the Mandate of Heaven
Bevin Chu
October 01, 1999

Crisis and Character

The Chinese word for crisis is comprised of two characters: wei and ji, meaning danger and opportunity. In other words the Chinese concept of crisis is "an opportunity fraught with danger" or a "dangerous opportunity." This intriguing bit of etymology has been cited so often and so indiscriminately it is now a cliche.

Crises bring out both the best and the worst in human beings. During life and death crises, peoples' "personas," the masks they wear during everyday life, fall away and their true faces are exposed for all the world to see.

Hollywood screenwriters understand this. Extraordinary crises which force character revelation are the basis for countless paint by the numbers disaster movies, from "Airport" to "Earthquake," all debased variants of the only classic of the genre, "The High and the Mighty," a 1950's John Wayne star vehicle.

Taiwan's "9-21 Great Earthquake," the worst the island has experienced in a century (2100 dead, 9000 injured) has turned out to be a real life Irwin Allen disaster movie, in which countless "common" people displayed uncommon grace under pressure.

The Good

Taiwan's crisis brought out the best in millions of compassionate strangers from all over the world, who provided expert rescue teams and generous disaster relief. Taiwan's crisis brought out the best in millions of Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, who out of concern for relatives and loved ones jammed phone lines between the island and the mainland.

Mainland Chinese rescue teams, seasoned experts with valuable experience earned at enormous human cost during the 8.3 magnitude Tangshan quake of 1976, were made available to the ROC within hours of the initial shockwaves, and kept available for the duration of the crisis.

On Taiwan, the three million strong "Buddhist Compassion Relief" Tzu Chi Association, without any prompting or media fanfare, swiftly mobilized, dispatching well-organized and highly disciplined teams of Buddhist nuns with emergency supplies of drinking water and rations to hard hit disaster sites. TV news crews eager to capture human interest footage of them in action were asked politely to refrain, as their presence impeded their rescue efforts to the detriment of the victims.

Buddhist nuns weren't the only organization to operate with military precision. The ROC Army Corp of Engineers also earned the respect and gratitude of countless quake victims.

New Party Chairman Lee Ching-hua and concerned New Party officials chartered a helicopter on their own initiative, loaded it up with emergency medical supplies and flew them to a remote fogged-in mountain disaster site. They distributed the supplies and evacuated a full load of injured quake victims. New Party Legislator Fung Ting-kuo, whose district surrounds the epicenter, went days without sleep, working around the clock addressing one emergency after another.

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou confirmed Taipei voters' wisdom by exercising considerable wisdom of his own. The father of two sons saved after being buried under 12 stories of rubble for 130 hours thanked Ma for his solid judgement. Ma ordered the site sprayed with water so that anyone trapped beneath could drink and not die from dehydration before they could be reached by rescue crews.

The Bad

Sadly, like an Irwin Allen disaster movie, Taiwan's crisis also revealed the ineptitude of the political hacks who comprise Lee Teng-hui's separatist KMT mainstream faction. We will probably never learn how many unnecessary deaths their lethal combination of incompetence and indifference inflicted on the people of Taiwan.

Rescue experts inform us that the first 72 hours following a disaster, either natural or man-made, are the most critical. Victims not reached during this window of opportunity usually don't survive.

Rescue experts who rushed to Taiwan from halfway around the world, anxious to swing into action saving lives, were left cooling their heels by clueless KMT bureaucrats, even as quake victims remained trapped under mountains of rubble. Rescue teams from Britain, Spain and Mexico confided their frustration with the Lee Teng-hui administration's mind-boggling incompetence. A United Daily News article entitled "Who's in Charge?" quoted incredulous international rescue workers who swore "never in their lives had they witnessed such a chaotic command system."

New Party Legislator Hsieh Chi-Ta, cited for outstanding public service by Taiwan's Press Association, invoked the picturesque metaphor of dinosaurs. One could smack these lumbering giants on the tail yet run away before their tiny brains reacted to the pain. Whether this is paleontologically accurate is beside the point. It was an apt metaphor for the ruling KMT's torpor in Taiwan's hour of need.

What was President Lee Teng-hui doing during this critical 72 hours? Lee, Vice-president Lien Chan, and Premier Vincent Siew spent the first 48 hours "visually inspecting" disaster sites by helicopter. Lee requisitioned one Sikorsky Seahawk for himself plus three more for his retinue of personal bodyguards and presidential office staffers. This four helo squadron arrived at each disaster site empty-handed. No food. No medicine. No rescue equipment.

When asked by quake victims at successive disaster sites what Lee intended to do to help, Lee informed them he would "first complete his 'visual inspections,' then study the matter in greater detail, and finally set up an emergency rescue center." Seventy-two hours later, having completed his checklist, Lee Teng-hui was ready to deal with the emergency.

What were KMT party hacks doing about the earthquake?

Restoring downed telecommunications links in order to determine which areas suffered what sort of damage and what type of assistance they would need? Clearing blocked roadways so rescue personnel and equipment could get through? Coordinating domestic and foreign rescue efforts to avoid wasteful duplication of manpower and materiel?

The answer is none of the above.

KMT party hacks were holding marathon debates about compensation for quake victims. How much for each person killed, how much for each person injured, how much for each person maimed. Rather than trying to save the living, they were busy figuring out how to mollify surviving family members by buying them off with public monies.

Alarmed by a rising tide of public anger, KMT party hacks started showing up at disaster sites accompanied by TV news crews. Not only did these callous opportunists fail to provide timely and appropriate disaster assistance, their "celebrity" appearances at quake sites for transparently self-serving motives got in the way of private efforts initiated once the public realized the government was out to lunch.

One quake victim summed up public cynicism when he told reporters, "We want nothing, except food, water, and coffins. Big Shots showing up here we can do without."

and the Ugly

One Big Shot in particular, Lee Teng-hui, ROC President and KMT Party Chairman, was not about to pay the slightest attention to what ignorant quake victims wanted. He would decide what they wanted. His arrogance would claim a five year old quake victim's life.

Mr. Democracy flattens Quake Victims' Tents

By September 24, President Lee Teng-hui, stung by mounting public criticism his administration was sitting on its collective rear end, decided to demonstrate his concern for his constituents by "visually inspecting" a tent city for quake victims in Nantou, a hard hit community only a few kilometers from the quake's epicenter.

While Lee Teng-hui's personal helicopter hovered before setting down, its rotor wash blew blinding clouds of dust into the air, sending earthquake victims scrambling for safety, and demolishing their improvised tents,

One elderly woman's frustration turned into fury. Her permanent home had been reduced to rubble. Her temporary home, a jerry-rigged tent cobbled together from cheap plastic tarpaulins, now lay in tatters as well, courtesy the Big Shot's helicopter.

The elderly woman marched up to Lee and angrily demanded, "You've just destroyed our tents! Now what are we going to do when it rains?"

TV news crew Betacams whirred, capturing the escalating confrontation.

Lee Teng-hui, his face contorted with rage, bellowed at the elderly woman, "You have an attitude problem! I'm here to serve all of the public! Understand? Not just you!"

Lee turned his back to the elderly woman, made homeless a second time, this time by her "public servant," and strode away from her. Lee's Praetorian Guard, smartly attired in intimidating black-on-black uniforms, held indignant quake victims at arm's length while Lee reboarded his personal helicopter.

Mr. Democracy caves in a five year Quake Victim's Skull

The American historian George Santayana once quipped that "Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them." Having learned nothing from his fiasco in Nantou, Lee Teng-hui would repeat his mistake, only this time with fatal consequences.

On September 26, Lee Teng-hui's four helicopter entourage arrived in Puli, another hard hit community very close to the epicenter. Two of President Lee's four helicopters set down inside Puli Middle School's tree-lined exercise yard, not far from a tent city erected for homeless quake victims.

As the third helicopter circled, searching for a landing spot, its rotor wash tore a heavy branch off a spreading deciduous tree and sent it crashing down on five quake victims sitting beneath its shade. Four of them were injured. The fifth, a five year old girl named Lai Yi-chun, the only daughter of a couple whose home lay in ruins and who were huddled in nearby tents, was rushed to Taichung Veteran's Hospital. She showed no life signs upon arrival, and was declared legally dead three hours later.

"By some miracle we survived a natural disaster. Yet somehow we couldn't survive a man-made disaster," the mother of the dead girl told reporters, "We weren't safe inside our home. We weren't safe outside in a tent. We don't know where we can go now to feel safe."

What did this man, whom Newsweek magazine anointed "Mr. Democracy," do next? Did he transport the twice-victimized five year old girl to the hospital in his personal helicopter? Did he stay by the side of the grief-stricken parents and offer his heartfelt sympathies for their tragic loss?

Mr. Democracy did none of these things. Mr. Democracy reboarded his helicopter and flew away, leaving his military attache to clean up his mess.

An indignant crowd of local quake victims jeered and hooted at him as he lifted off.

Mr. Democracy sets the Value of a Human Life

Lee's military attache called an impromptu press conference. First he explained that "The event was a tragedy, but the tree had already been weakened by the earthquake and aftershocks, therefore the tragedy couldn't be blamed entirely on the helicopter." Then he added "besides, the ground had been softened by the quake, contributing to the branch breaking off." Finally he claimed that "the helicopter which killed the girl wasn't even the president's, but an Army chopper carrying relief supplies."

He announced that the parents of the five year old girl killed by the helicopter would receive NT $300,000 in compensation (US $10,000) and that the president had instructed the military to "handle the matter." Later TV news reports informed the public Lee had upped the compensation to NT $2 million (US$60,000).

In medieval Europe if an aristocrat's carriage hurtling toward its destination happened to run over a grimy little urchin from a peasant family, the aristocrat was under "noblesse oblige" to compensate the victim's family. He would toss a few coins in the dust and drive on, having fulfilled his duty to the bereaved. We live in inflationary times, so the amount has changed. The attitude apparently hasn't.

On September 29, at a KMT Central Standing Committee meeting, Lee proclaimed "Our top concern is to soothe the broken hearts of those who managed to survive the deadly temblor and to rekindle their confidence in their futures."

The Mandate of Heaven

When Lee Teng-hui won the presidency of the ROC in 1996, eminent western news organizations published a string of astoundingly naive puff pieces hyping Lee Teng-hui's "stunning 54% electoral mandate" at the polls.

But KMT candidates during the Two Chiangs' administrations achieved 80 to 90% majorities, regular as clockwork. And why shouldn't they have? The KMT is a Leninist political machine, the wealthiest political party in the world, wealthier by far than our own Demopublican party. One would hardly expect anything less.

Now fast forward to 1996. Lee inherits this well-oiled party apparatus intact, including its Hearst-like media empire, and all he can manage is a crummy 54%?

Western observers who applied their own political context to the ROC's 1996 elections misled themselves about its significance. Lee's "stunning landslide" actually indicated an alarming decline in public approval.

On July 28, 1976, a record 8.3 magnitude earthquake devastated the Hebei city of Tangshan on the Chinese mainland. This earth-shaking event was widely interpreted as evidence that the mandate of heaven had been withdrawn from Mao Zedong's regime and that the Great Helmsman's days were numbered. Mao died two months later.

On September 21, 1999, a record 7.6 magnitude earthquake devasted the offshore Chinese island of Taiwan. Is this earth-shaking event, whose negative impact has been exacerbated by gross human dereliction, evidence that the mandate of heaven has been withdrawn from Lee Teng-hui's regime and that Mr. Democracy's days are numbered? We live in interesting times. We shall soon see.