Letter to an American Patriot
November 18, 1999
The following is a letter to Richard, a close personal friend descended from a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Richard's credentials as a bona fide American patriot are of course based not on heredity, but on his own merits. Richard is an expert on Constitutional law and a courageous and principled defender of Original Intent.
Recently an American film called "Siege at Ruby Ridge" showed on cable TV in Taipei. At first I assumed it was yet another in the series of sickening "In the Line of Duty" docudramas, in which tinsel town totalitarians depict federal storm troopers as heroes and their hapless civilian victims as villains with a didactic heavy-handedness rivaling Stalinist and Maoist propaganda.
But "Siege at Ruby Ridge" was nothing of the sort. The director was none other other than Lionel Chetwynd, screenwriter for "The Doomsday Gun" an HBO docudrama on Gerald Bull, the genius Canadian weapons designer assassinated by Israel's Mossad for designing a nuclear cannon for Saddam Hussein at the behest of the CIA.
"Seige at Ruby Ridge" was framed from the perspective of maverick civil rights lawyer Gerry Spence. The film makers neither flinched from portraying reclusive white separatist Randy Weaver, played by veteran character actor Randy Quaid, as the bigot he was, nor did they strain to affirm their PC credentials with the Beautiful People by unfairly caricaturing him as any worse than he actually was.
"Siege at Ruby Ridge" did not set Weaver up as a straw man to smear thoughtful defenders of the Second Amendment or civilian militias with undeserved guilt by association. Millions of ordinary Americans who not share Weaver's irrational prejudices about race do share his accurate perception that federal law enforcement is grinding ordinary Americans' rights into the dust. Instead the film presented Weaver, warts and all, but not therefore any less deserving of due process under the law. Randy Weaver and David Koresh's persecution by our federal leviathan are proof of the adage, attributed to Henry Kissinger, that "even paranoids have real enemies."
One aspect of the film in particular stuck in my mind. It may not have been an issue for other Americans, but it was for me. I'm talking about the role of FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi, an Asian-American. Sure, the rest of the jackbooted thugs were WASPs, including Deputy Director Larry Potts who handed down the indefensible "shoot on sight" rules of engagement. But Asian-Americans have in recent years been investigated by the very same FBI responsible for Ruby Ridge and Waco. Asian-Americans have been scrutinized under a microscope in a way not usually done to hyphenated Americans of European descent or even European resident aliens.
Honest, hardworking, middle-class African-Americans joke bitterly that being black in America means praying when you hear a news story about a holdup that the faces which appear on TV screen aren't black. When I saw the face of the Asian-American actor who played Horiuchi on the screen I had the same kind of feeling. This makes what Horiuchi did a very relevant topic to me.
Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch was every bit as much a foreigner as Indonesian tycoon Mochtar Riady. Geographically Australia is in Asia. Australians are on those terms "Asians." Yet when Murdoch paid Newt Gingrich a three million dollar advance for his nonfiction book about the Republican Revolution no one in the US mainstream squawked about alarming, suspicious "foreign" "Asian" money. Instead the attention was focused exclusively on Gingrich's wrongdoing, not on Murdoch's race and national origin.
Now contrast this with the reaction to Riady's far smaller contribution to Clinton in exchange for similar potential future commercial advantage. A simple "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" commercial deal. Sleazy? Absolutely, but no better or worse than Murdoch's. Yet it suddenly gets blown up into a "Fumanchu" plot to overthrow western civilization.
The next thing you know Fred Thompson embarrasses himself by embarking on a protracted and futile witch hunt in which he comes up with -- zip. This being the nineties he'll have more luck finding Reds on the Berkeley campus and in the Teamster's Union than in "communist" China. He looked even more foolish than the Fibbers after they had to let poor schmuck Richard Jewel go, with a halfhearted "apology" for turning his life upside down. Maybe it's taught Jewel, allegedly an FBI wannabe, a hard lesson about who the good guys are. Maybe he'll think about joining the militia now instead.
The China Threat demagogues just don't get it. The "communist" Chinese no longer want to export revolution. They want to export anything that will make them rich. They don't want to make war. They want to make money. Even the PLA has gotten in the act, to the amusement of some strategic analysts in the Pentagon and American think tanks. Anything that will turn a profit. Barbie dolls, Nike sneakers, Norinco semiautomatics, you name it. Export 'em to anyone who'll fork out hard cash. No political motivations whatsoever, just good old-fashioned, capitalist greed.
Meanwhile the China-bashers in Congress have twisted themselves into pretzels pretending they don't know about the US $15 million bribe KMT Business Affairs Manager Liu Tai-ying offered to the DNC. Liu, on instructions from his boss KMT Party Chairman and ROC (Taiwan) President Lee Teng-hui, tried to turn the US Seventh Fleet into the Taiwan independence movement's Rent-A-Cop, at their beck and call for a price.
So how do these same intrepid investigators into the Donorgate scandal treat this outrageous attempt to misuse the Navy of the world's premier superpower? Answer: the way unregenerate hard-liners insist on treating Tiananmen. Namely, if you pretend hard enough that something never happened, then it didn't.
The China-Threat demagogues want to hold Taiwan up to the world as the virtuous, democracy-loving underdog and caricature mainland China as "The Return of the Evil Empire." They don't want Lee Teng-hui's sleazy attempts to purchase American foreign policy with NT dollars muddying up the tidy moral scheme in which Taiwanese and Tibetan separatists are portrayed as pure virtue and mainland Chinese are portrayed as pure evil.
Why this grotesque distortion of reality? Because China may one day challenge America's dominant status on the world stage.
Did you know almost every one of the top Beijing leaders' children were at one time enrolled in American universities? Would they subject their own sons and daughters to capitalist "brainwashing" by a supposed "enemy" if they really hated America as much as the China-bashers insist? China's hostility toward America essentially died with Mao.
In fact what is emerging from China is not a threatening military challenge to America, but a peaceful, albeit highly competitive commercial challenge, one which might one day challenge America's global economic dominance.
The China-bashers' desire to preemptively squash a peaceful competitor in the global marketplace militarily "before it is too late," is morally contemptible and un-American to boot. America is the philosophical home of the "win/win" capitalist ethic. The China-bashers' mercantilist world view represents a "zero-sum" perspective alien to the benevolent American view of the world as a level playing field on which everyone wins.
The China Threat demagogues long to Balkanize China, even though post-communist China has evidenced not the slightest intention of wanting to harm America. Apparently no evidence is needed. All that is needed is dehumanized stereotypes of Fumanchu bogeymen in the fevered imaginations of the editorial staffs of the Weekly Standard on the right and the New Republic on the left.
Now if China had just launched a sneak-attack on the US, the way fascist Japan did at Pearl Harbor in December 1941, this anti-China hysteria would at least be understandable. Every American, including Chinese-Americans, would rally behind it.
I say this based on the historical record, not wishful thinking. During the Cold War Chinese-Americans and Nationalist Chinese in Chiang Kai-shek's ROC fell right in line with the Cold War postures adopted in Washington, London, Bonn and Paris. For capitalism and against Mao's hard-line Marxist China. The possibility that one might choose on the basis of racial-tribal affiliation instead of a shared intellectual commitment to political liberty never crossed anyone's mind.
But the Cold War is over. In fact China and the US had a rapprochement back during the Nixon administration, even before the Cold War was over. Has China done anything aggressive toward the US since? It has not. The missile intimidation of Spring 1996 was specifically targeted at Taiwan separatist Lee Teng-hui. No one else. No one else was in harms way. Not any neighbors in SE Asia, certainly not the USA way the hell on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.
Clinton's dispatch of the Nimitz and Independence carrier task forces to the Taiwan Straits in Spring of '96 was in retrospect the last straw for me. It was excessive force cavalierly invoked simply because it could be, because those abusing their power knew no one could defy it. I felt about the two carriers in the Taiwan Straits the way we both felt about the APCs and choppers at Ruby Ridge and Waco. I've not only been feeling more angry about our federal leviathan the past couple of years, I've also found myself saying and writing things I wouldn't have before. Particularly about contemporary US foreign policy.
Much of what I say I have no doubt will strike mainstream intellectuals as unpatriotic. What may make my criticisms even more suspect is that I've probably been sounding suspiciously like an apologist for the current PRC leadership. If so, too bad. The fact remains I've denounced both federal stormtroopers and Maoist Red Guards equally the past thirty years. So except that ethnically I'm Chinese, as a former Cold Warrior my case is similar to Richard Nixon's. As Mr. Spock reminded Captain Kirk in a Star Trek sequel, "Only Nixon could go to China."
The undeniable fact is that from the standpoint of explicitly guaranteeing individual rights for its citizens in its structural, institutional arrangements, America was until very recently, the moral leader of the world. To use an analogy from our school days, America started out as an "A" student. Whereas China for much of its history got "Cs" or "Ds."
This is not to say that China wasn't free in defacto terms. It was. At the beginning of several of the more prosperous dynasties, such as the Han dynasty and the Tang dynasty, the laws were few and clear. Chinese lived under what in practical terms amounted to laissez-faire.
In 206 B.C. the first Han emperor on assuming the throne took one look at the tens of thousands of edicts, laws, rules and regulations which had proliferated before him and in one fell swoop brushed them all aside. He declared that the country would have only three laws, no more. Only three acts would be illegal. If my memory serves me they were murder, assault, robbery/theft. Everything else was by default legal. China not surprisingly prospered as it never had before. Tragically but all too predictably later emperors did exactly what Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Johnson and Carter did, and dynasty after dynasty decayed under the crushing burden of expanding government.
These United States of America are the legatees of the Framers of the American Constitution, the wisest, most far-sighted political philosophers in human history. For this reason those of us who defend Original Intent and Strict Construction have every right to expect American public officials to live up to America's unique and exceptional political heritage. When it came to conceptualizing and implementing theoretical and institutional arrangements required to preserve human rights and liberties America was once the world's intellectual and moral leader. The tragedy is that America has moved so depressingly far in the wrong direction, away from a prior condition of unprecedented respect for the individual.
Conversely, the current Chinese government started out from such a dismally low departure point, everywhere looks like up. China had little or no historical legacy of the "rule of law." Yet it is moving astonishingly rapidly in the right direction, away from a previous condition of virtually no individual liberty during Chairman Mao's nightmarish regime.
I suppose I feel the same guarded hopefulness that anti-Communist Russians felt when Gorbachev and Yeltsin started to dismantle Russian communism. Many of them were inclined to overlook some of Yeltsin's undemocratic executive actions because contrasted with what went before what he was doing was positively benevolent.
You've gotten an earful from me about "human rights" meddlers and their double-standards. I can think of only one instance in which a double-standard makes sense. I think it is laudable for a nation to apply a higher standard to itself than to others. If a nation applies a higher standard to itself, taking pride in its scrupulous respect for civilized conduct, even when others don't, it is behaving with integrity and honor. When a nation faithfully persists in doing the right thing at home, converting others only by moral example, that nation acquires a quiet dignity and nobility, which paradoxically it forfeits if it struts about loudly trumpeting its own moral rectitude and denounces its "inferiors" for failing to meet its exalted standards. Sadly, as grating weekly lectures from State Department mouthpieces remind us, that's exactly the opposite of how human rights "champions" are going about it these days.
Citizens of China will one day become as vigilant about encroachments on their political liberty as Americans. But it must happen gradually. It can't be rushed. It can't be forced. Especially by outsiders. Because foreign pressure is associated in China's historical memory with unjust, humiliating and hypocritical exploitation of the Chinese people by colonial powers during the late 19th and early 20th century, much of which was rationalized with rhetoric remarkably similar to what we are hearing today. Foreign pressure to "reform" will instead itself be perceived as an encroachment on the Chinese people as a whole, not their leadership.
The foreign settlements established by means of gunboat diplomacy in Shanghai had signs reading "No dogs or Chinese allowed." This kind of "might makes right" outrage happened inside China's own borders. Imagine how Americans would feel if America had been colonized by Europe and Japan by dint of sheer military might. Imagine if New York City had European and Japanese settlements with signs reading "No Dogs or Americans allowed." Suppose Americans finally managed to drive out the intruders, were only starting to get back on their feet again, only to be confronted with former colonial powers carping and harping about "human rights abuses." How would Americans react?
So the response, perhaps understandably, becomes, "Since you put it that way, f--k you!" "Human rights" busybodies absolutely don't understand this. They don't understand why their efforts are utterly doomed to evoking nothing but cold rage and a counterproductive backlash.
To bring the train of thought back to Ruby Ridge, traditionally most Asian-Americans bend over backwards to live up to their "model minority" image. They are law-abiding to a fault and only want to keep their noses clean and go along to get along. Asian-Americans are remarkable docile in contrast to other minorities which are constantly protesting or trying to get "one of their own" elected to public office.
For the most part this is probably a good thing. In some ways though this docile conformity can be lethal. It matters not whether it shows up in Americans of Asian or Caucasian descent. The uncritical civil servant who participates in government power abuse while oblivious to his complicity, betrays, however unwittingly, America's sacred heritage. He may sincerely believe he's the embodiment of patriotism and good citizenship, but he's not. He's the precise opposite.
I don't think I'm out of line when I say that this sort of uncritical acquiescence to mainstream assumptions about right and wrong is what permitted an Asian-American who became an FBI agent to click his heels with a brisk "Yes sir!" then turn around and blow away a mother armed with only an infant.
Our publicly funded high school social studies classes force-fed us a load of happy horses--t about how the system works, which has no relation whatsoever with the way things actually work. We were told with straight faces that the president never lies and that federal law enforcement agents were like Robert Stack's Elliot Ness in the "Untouchables."
In the movie Chetwynd showed a shot of a bumper sticker which read "Question Authority." Even though the bumper stickers were stuck onto pickup trucks sporting rebel stars and bars belonging to Neo-Nazis and Aryan Nation members. That's one of the difficult things about real life. It's not like the movies. In real life even bad guys sometimes champion good ideas. Like dismantling the federal government.
Just because one's government tells one that somebody is evil incarnate doesn't make it so. Just because one's government draws up a list of good guys and bad guys doesn't their judgment the final word. One might even be safer in assuming that they were exactly wrong and do the exact opposite. I know I would reverse our government's and Hollywood's Conventional Wisdom about the Dalai Lama being Obe Wan Kenobe and David Koresh being Darth Vader 180 degrees.
Koresh may or may not have been diddling the under aged daughters of parishioners. I have no knowledge of that. But I do know that the Branch Davidian Church was a private religious entity which anyone could leave at any time. In contrast to the Dalai Lama's Yellow Hat Sect theocracy, it did not conflate church and state. In contrast to the Dalai Lama's Yellow Hat Sect theocracy it did not, upon threat of physical torture, exact tithes from its impoverished serfs of fully 50% of their pathetic harvests, five times what the medieval Catholic church and Islam require from believers. The Yellow Hat Sect Lamaists make our own IRS look benevolent by comparison, not a easy feat.
The blind obedience which Horiuchi gave the Feds is the antithesis of the American tradition of questioning authority. Did Horiuchi question whether the official line from Janet Reno and Louis Freeh about who the good guys were and who the bad guys were held water? Would he have eagerly enlisted, in this day and age, when the FBI has far exceeded its constitutional authority, to become an FBI sniper if he had retained the ability to think for himself?
Horiuchi's uncritical obedience of FBI orders was un-American. Ironically it could be considered "Asian" in the worst sense of the word, specifically the fascistic samurai tradition of blind obedience to one's shogun, of killing without blinking on orders from higher up in one's rigidly hierarchical society. It is Rape of Nanking type behavior.
In all fairness to Asians it could also, with equal justification be considered "Western European." I'm not talking about Russians here, whom some Aryan racists consider "borderline Asians" (and thus "inferior.") I'm talking about Italians and Germans, who are squarely in the western European cultural mainstream. When Fascist and Nazi rank and file "merely followed orders" and carried out genocidal atrocities against their African and European neighbors they were behaving little differently.
Does a logical connection exist between contemporary US foreign policy (as opposed to authentically American, pre-Wilsonian "Splendid Isolationism") and current domestic crime fighting policy? The more I examine the mind set behind the former the more convinced I am that the identical mind set informs the latter.
To put it another way, Madeline Albright's "World Policeman" foreign policy is a nearly perfect foreign relations analog of Janet Reno's domestic "crime-fighting" policy. The way the US State Department relates to Burma, Chile or China is virtually identical to the way the ATF and FBI relate to Randy Weaver, David Koresh or Richard Jewel. Actually when we stop to think about it, this consistency shouldn't surprise us. We ought to be more surprised if governments behaved inconsistently.
In the former instance the State Department issues its "Human Rights Report" naming certain foreign nations to a "Ten Most Wanted" list, then Washington declares open season on them. Albright and her cohorts cite Beijing's multitude of sins (weapons sales Washington disapproves of, missile intimidation of Taiwanese separatists and abuse of Tibetan separatists) to justify forcible US intervention. The propaganda machine goes into full swing demonizing the designated international pariah. This clears every ones' conscience for what is about to happen next. The villain is so villainous it deserves what's coming. The next thing you know two carrier task forces are sailing through the Taiwan Straits. Radio Free Asia and Voice of America are blasting propaganda around the clock across the Chinese border into China, and jingoist hawks Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer are itching for an excuse to teach the subhuman gooks a lesson about American military might.
In the latter instance the Justice Department cites Weaver's or Koresh's wrong doings (weapons sales the ATF disapproves of, or weapons ownership the FBI disapproves of, sexual abuse of underaged children) to justify Federal intervention. The propaganda machine goes into full swing demonizing the designated enemy of law and order. This clears every ones' conscience for what is about to happen next. The villain is so villainous it deserves what's coming. The next thing you know Janet Reno orders in SWAT teams, and military choppers, armored personnel carriers are surrounding a flimsy plywood cabin on a remote Idaho mountain top or a flammable wooden church building in rural Texas. The Fibbers are blasting propaganda though loudspeakers 24 hours a day and shining klieg lights at the buildings, and "law and order" statists like Charles Shumer are itching for an excuse to "get tough" with the hated right wing gun nuts and lunatic fringe militias.
In both instances the targets of Washington's obsession are parties who merely wish to be left alone on their own turf. Neither Burma and China, nor Weaver and Koresh have (or had) done anything to suggest that they posed a threat to the powers that be in Washington.
Let me digress for a moment. Of course the Beijing government has blood on its hands. More precisely, some current, ousted or deceased officials do. Others do not. If any politicians' hands can be considered clean, then their hands are clean. But none of this is the issue. Burma and China are foreign countries. Human rights abuses, both real and imagined, within their own borders against their own populace are not a US foreign policy and national security issue. They are an issue for its own citizenry to deal with. If they find it intolerable they can stage a revolution. The Chinese people after all staged dozens of successful revolutions in over four thousand years of Chinese history before America even came into existence. Just how did ancient China's domestic injustices suddenly get to be young America's problem anyway?
For that matter even aggression against a third party is no reason to intervene. Unless a Burma, China, whatever, launches an attack against the United States, the US has no good reason to declare war against it. This was the Founding Fathers' sagacious policy of "Splendid Isolation." Washington, Jefferson and Adams were quite explicit and adamant about this point. As Adams put it, "America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy." Of course in those days of enlightened leadership America's Federal government did not go to the Idaho, Texas and Montana countryside in search of monsters to destroy either. Which only reinforces my theory that just maybe the two superficially unrelated behaviors are more closely linked than one might imagine.
Hence Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, one a Republican, the other a Democrat, but both "Progressive" welfare-statists and both bashers of "Big Business," were, surprise, surprise, both rabid foreign interventionists. Both turned their back on America's glorious tradition of doing the right thing at home while refraining from imposing it on others abroad.
This gets back to the brilliant radical libertarian-isolationist thesis of the "Welfare/Warfare State," which posits that an activist welfare state tends to export this activism in the form of a analogous activist warfare state abroad. Both types of intervention are motivated by the same delusion, that an omnipotent omniscient government ("the Only Remaining Superpower in the World") has the duty and the prerogative to rectify all inequities wherever they occur. What is distinctive about this allocation of power is that the means of enforcement belongs exclusively to Washington.
At home the coercion takes the form of the domestic policy of gun control, leaving us defenseless against street criminals. "Police will carry the guns and protect you. More guns on the street only endanger everybody." If someone refuses to comply, what follows is a Ruby Ridge or Waco blood bath. Abroad the coercion takes the form of international "arms control" agreements (i.e., gun control between nations) which leave whichever group the globocops have designated as the bad guys defenseless against their deadly regional rivals. "The UN and NATO will carry the guns. Weapons proliferation only destabilizes the region." If someone refuses to comply with the weapons roundup, Washington sends in Army Rangers, as in Somalia, or a NATO air strike, as in Bosnia and Kosovo.
Ironically the argument interventionists use to justify their global meddling is that "brutal dictatorships tend to treat other nations no better than they treat their own citizens, therefore they will inevitably export their brutality." This means that preemptive initiation of force by Washington, prior even to any actual aggression by the Villain of the Month, is rationalized as self-defense. So who is the "brutal dictatorship" and who is "exporting brutality?" Talk about psychological projection.
Furthermore how many human rights advocates who demand US intervention abroad on moral grounds have really considered the flip side of their own argument? If a foreign government's infringement of its own citizens' human rights constitutes legitimate grounds for US intervention in its domestic affairs, then the US government's infringement of American citizens' rights constitutes legitimate grounds for foreign intervention in America. They can intervene on the pretext that the US government is unjust in its administration of domestic criminal justice.
Canada or Mexico could, using this logic, cite domestic US police brutality such as those committed by New York's Finest (not to mention Kent State, Ruby Ridge and Waco) as justification for imposing trade sanctions or even sending troops into the United States, the way the US sent troops into Somalia, for example. Somehow I doubt this is what these sanctimonious busybodies had in mind. What they had in mind was a one way street: "I get to do it to you, but you don't get to do it to me. In fact you don't even get to squawk about it." Of course we know Canada or Mexico are not about to take such drastic actions in reality, but we are talking about ethical/moral rationales. The interventionists alone know what's good for others, and the others had better obey, or Washington will bomb.
To sum up, the current US/China confrontation has been deeply troubling to me. I was born a Chinese citizen and remained one until well into my adult years, even though I grew up in America. When I decided finally to swear allegiance to America and become a naturalized citizen, I did so only after prolonged soul-searching. I did not want to treat the matter lightly, as a matter of convenience, the way many Taiwanese and Tibetan separatists have. I decided I would only go through with it if I could do so solemnly and without reservations. I finally concluded that the Constitution and Bill of Rights represented noble enduring universal values. Swearing to defend them against all enemies, foreign and domestic, could never required me to violate my conscience. So in response to potential China Threat demagogues who may question my loyalty because I refuse to be an obedient Lon Horiuchi, my response is to quote from an uncannily prescient, neglected document now two centuries years old:
"Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence... the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation [or regime, such as Taipei]
and excessive dislike of another, [Beijing]
cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side [unproven allegations of PRC bribery]
and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other [documented, proven ROC bribery. The KMT lost a libel lawsuit against Hongkong's Asiaweek magazine which broke the $15M DNC bribery story.]
Real Patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious; [free trade advocates Henry Kissinger, Al Haig, Brent Scowcroft, all smeared as "apologists for Beijing"]
while its tools and dupes [James Lilley, Jesse Helms, Nat Bellochi, who are all on record as having accepted substantial contributions from the Taiwan Lobby]
usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests. [To drag the US into a bloody replay of the Vietnam War, with G.I.s coming home in body bags. So that Lee Teng-hui and the Taiwan separatist elite can thump their chests and declare a Republic of Taiwan?]
The Great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign Nations is in extending our commercial relations [MFN, WTO] to have with them as little political connection as possible" [Taiwan Relations Act, US Japan Security Treaty. Quagmires waiting to happen.]
-- George Washington's Farewell Address, 19th September 1796