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Jay Nordlinger: "How does it look to the boys in the camps?" + Castro, China, Jackie Chan, etc.
NRO ^ | April 20, 2009 | Jay Nordlinger

Posted on 04/20/2009 8:58:03 AM PDT by Tolik

Like you, I’m sure, I’m all for “realism” in foreign policy. Sometimes you have to hold your nose: as when you deal with the rulers in Beijing, for example. But now and then you might ask, “How does it look to the boys in the camps?” That is the line attributed to Vladimir Bukovsky, the great Soviet dissident. When making policy or holding meetings, Westerners should pause to consider, “How will it look to the boys in the camps?”

Well, our new president, Obama, has been pretty depressing on that score. It started, really, when he gave an interview to al-Arabiya, the Middle Eastern television network, in the first days of his presidency. The Obama people were very, very proud of that interview — they kept bragging about it. I heard such bragging at the Davos forum, held shortly after the inauguration. But what was the content of that interview?

Obama told Middle Eastern dictators, basically, “Relax. You don’t have Bush down your neck anymore — pressuring about freedom, democracy, human rights, and all that stuff. We want to get along with you.” Fouad Ajami published a column on this interview in the Wall Street Journal. The title of the column: “Obama Tells Arabia’s Despots They’re Safe: America’s diplomacy of freedom is officially over.”

And then there was Obama’s “Nowruz” greeting — New Year’s greeting — to Iran. Or to “the people and leaders of Iran,” as he put it. President Bush sent Nowruz greetings, of course: but to the Iranian people, expressing American solidarity with them. Not to the regime that subjugates them. Obama went out of his way to refer to the country as “the Islamic Republic of Iran” — twice. What that did was concede the theocrats’ view of the country: which is not the majority view of Iranians. Obama also called for a relationship with Iran based on “mutual respect.”

Mutual respect? What is there about the Iranian regime to respect? Forget what Iran does in its foreign policy: its pledge to wipe Israel from the face of the earth, for example. (Just a small example, huh?) What about what the regime does to the Iranian people?

They stone girls to death for the crime of having been gang-raped. Think about that, if you can bear it. And, just a day before Obama sent his New Year’s message, we learned that a young Iranian blogger, Omid Mir Sayafi, had died in an Iranian prison: Evin, that torture chamber and graveyard for so many good people. Moreover, an American journalist, Roxana Saberi, is being held in that self-same prison. What will happen to her, we can only guess.

And now we get to Obama and Hugo Chávez — that soul-brother handshake that the American president laid on the Venezuelan strongman. Chávez is plenty belligerent in his foreign policy. But what about his treatment of Venezuelans — of Venezuelan oppositionists? You will find chapter and verse at the Human Rights Foundation, here. And chapter and verse is not at all pretty.

Reagan and Bush did the necessary in foreign policy: They dealt with despots and other unsavory elements when they had to (and even when they didn’t have to, really). But they were conscious of a question: “How will it look to the boys in the camps?” They seldom forgot them. They understood that American foreign policy had to have a moral component, in order to be American.

A lot of people didn’t like Bush’s second inaugural address — and that included many of my fellow conservatives. Bush said, for example, 

All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.

Democratic reformers facing repression, prison, or exile can know: America sees you for who you are: the future leaders of your free country.

The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it.”

The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to know: To serve your people, you must learn to trust them. Start on this journey of progress and justice, and America will walk at your side. 

That wasn’t for everyone. They said, “Pie in the sky,” “Wilsonian tripe.” But to a lot of us, that was a fair enunciation of American ideals. And President Obama, of course, is manifesting a different view.

He has reached out to tyrants — in the case of Chávez, literally. And he has won the applause and approval of the world’s elites: the governments, democratic and not; the U.N.; the editorialists at Le Monde, Der Spiegel, the Guardian, etc.; the academics; and so on. But how does it look to the boys in the camps?

I imagine that, if they know, they are demoralized. What’s next? Necking with Kim Jong Il? Reagan and Bush rocked the boat, to a degree. And that was extremely heartening to political prisoners. Natan Sharansky (then Anatoly Sharansky) writes about this in his book Fear No Evil. Many others have testified to it as well.

Funny how the parties have flipped. Time was — not so long ago — the Republicans were the party of a crude, cold “stability,” in which dictatorships were propped up or schmoozed; it was the Democrats who intruded principle and that jazz. My, my.

Whoever is in charge, this much is true, I think we can say: In order to be effective, and safeguard the national interest, American foreign policy does not have to be morally sickening.

An idle question: Would Obama greet Álvaro Uribe, a great democrat, with half the warmth and enthusiasm with which he greeted Hugo Chávez? For one thing, Obama and the Democrats refuse to trade freely with him (with Uribe and the Colombians, I mean).

Some readers have asked me to comment on the recent visit of several black congressmen to the Castros — but I’m a little reluctant. For one reason, I have written a lot about this subject, or I once did. In 2000, I had a piece called “In Castro’s Corner: A story of black and red.” You may find it here. For another reason — and a closely related reason — I can’t think of what else to say. I mean, this is an old, old story: It just repeats itself — as do opinion journalists, so I think I’ll just go ahead, again.

Black American political figures have had a long, long romance with Castro. It started right in 1959, when Castro seized power. The dictator he overthrew, Batista, was in fact partly black. Commentators in Spain referred to Castro as “the Great White Hope.” But Castro saw that the United States was very vulnerable where race was concerned. And, once he himself became dictator, he exploited this vulnerability to the hilt.

In 1960, when visiting the U.N. in New York, Castro dramatically decamped from a fancy midtown hotel. He went to the Hotel Theresa, up in Harlem. And he has always talked a slick game about race. While in the U.S., he encourages affirmative action (while practicing none of it at home). And when black Americans travel to Havana, he takes care to show them his Martin Luther King Center.

In the old days, self-styled black revolutionaries would flee to him — they would commit murder, then run down to Castro. Most famously, Huey Newton did this. There was also Joanne Chesimard, who later wanted to be known as Assata Shakur.

Congressmen have always trooped down to Castro, to sit at his knee and glorify him. These include Ron Dellums, Maxine Waters, and, of course — most notoriously — Charles Rangel. Rangel is probably Castro’s best friend in the American political class (tied with another New York City congressman, José Serrano). When Castro came to New York in 1995, Rangel greeted him with a bear hug. And Castro, at a Harlem church, said, “As a revolutionary, I knew I would be welcome in this neighborhood.”

Oh, yeah.

Not just politicians have made the pilgrimage to Castro: You have Alice Walker, Danny Glover, and many others. They all sing the dictator’s praises. And some do so literally — for example, Carole King, who crooned to Castro, “You’ve Got a Friend.” Yes, he does: many, many of them. Rarely in history has an absolute dictator been so beloved by people in free societies.

Do you remember what Lincoln Diaz-Balart, the Cuban-American congressman, said? I have quoted it in this column several times: “
For the life of me, I just don’t know how Castro can seem cute after 40 years of torturing people.” That was ten years ago. He still seems cute to people.

The other week, three congressmen had one of those visits with Castro. Afterward, Rep. Laura Richardson (D., Calif.) said, “He looked right into my eyes, and he said, ‘How can we help you? How can we help President Obama?’” Rep. Bobby Rush (D., Ill.) reported, “In my household I told Castro he is known as the ultimate survivor.”

The ultimate survivor. Isn’t that sweet? How many of Castro’s prisoners survive? How many of them survive the hell that is inflicted on them day in, day out?

Speaking of “survival,” Castro has never had to face reelection — or any election at all. Would Bobby Rush and his friends call Stalin a survivor, ultimate or not? He died in bed. How about Mao? He died in bed, too. How about the Kims in North Korea? Castro has even lived long enough to pass power on to his brother!

The American Left in general has had a long romance with Castro. And the black Left is a subset of this general Left. One of the most upsetting things about the black romance, specifically, is that so many of Cuba’s leading dissidents and political prisoners are, in fact, black: “Afro-Cuban.” People such as “Antúnez,” as he is known. And people such as Oscar Biscet, who has long been a prisoner.

Biscet is a physician and a democracy activist. He takes as his models Gandhi and MLK. In 2007, George W. Bush gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom (in absentia, of course). The likes of Bobby Rush couldn't give a rip about Biscet. They would never, ever visit him, in his cell. But then, they would not be permitted. But then, they would never seek permission.

There is a lot about America not to be proud of, ladies and gentlemen. I think particularly of our political, academic, journalistic, and entertainment classes. That’s a lot of classes, isn’t it?

One more thing: Jesse Jackson once went down to Cuba to chant, “Viva Castro! Viva Che Guevara!” Bill Buckley, debating Jackson on television, said, “By wishing Castro and Guevara long lives, were you wishing short lives to their prisoners?”

Here is a sad, infuriating, illustrative story of our America. I have a friend who escaped Communist Czechoslovakia with her family: with her parents and sister. She now lives in California and has a family of her own: a husband and three sons. The eldest of these sons is a sophomore in high school, and he takes Spanish. One day, the teacher arranged for a “cultural enrichment” session on Cuba, with a guest speaker.

My friend arrived for the last ten minutes of it. The speaker was extolling the dictatorship, of course, blaming the U.S. for any problems Cuba might have and saying Cubans lived under “a stable, secure government” (which is true, in a sick way). My friend wrote me, “I got so upset, I was shaking, and I asked my son to leave with me immediately. I was choking back tears on the drive home. Those incredible lies, the propaganda, was physically too much for me to listen to.”

My friend wrote the Spanish teacher to complain, and the teacher’s response — very polite, sympathetic, and mollifying — featured two points: She will endeavor to give “both sides.” And “this is obviously a personal topic for you, which is, of course, great — very important. Very important to get the personal perspective!” (I have paraphrased here.)

As to the first point: Ah, yes, our old friend “both sides.” Longtime readers have heard this story before, and I apologize for repeating it (but maybe some new-time readers have not heard it): In the mid-1980s, I heard Armando Valladares, the Cuban dissident and memoirist, speak at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Valladares is sometimes called “the Cuban Solzhenitsyn,” and he spent about 20 years in the Cuban gulag, eventually writing Against All Hope. The school did not let him speak — give his testimony — alone. They paired him with a professor of government, to give the Castro side: the side of Valladares’s torturers.

Would they have done the same in the case of Nazism? Apartheid South Africa? Etc., etc.

And then my Czech-born friend’s “personal perspective”: Sure, she has a personal perspective. But I, to take one example, have never lived a day under a Communist dictatorship. Or Nazism. Or Baathism, and so on. What is so important about the personal? Where is simple human sympathy? Do you have to have experienced, for example, throat cancer, to know that it is painful and bad?

What is wrong with people?

Anyway: The excusing and celebrating of the Cuban dictatorship by free Americans is one of the most vexing and damning phenomena of our times.

Do you remember our old friend “Asian values”? For years, Asian dictators and their apologists would trot out this phrase in explaining the region’s lack of democracy. “You in the West may have your elections, parliaments, free press, freedom of religion, right of association, and so on. But we are different: We have Asian values.” Well, Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines, and some others put the lie to that — a lie that had been very useful to Asian anti-democrats.

Have you read the latest from Jackie Chan? The headline over the AP story was “Jackie Chan: Chinese people need to be controlled.” And the article:

Action star Jackie Chan said Saturday he’s not sure if a free society is a good thing for China and that he’s starting to think “we Chinese need to be controlled.”

Chan’s comments drew applause from a predominantly Chinese audience of business leaders in China’s southern island province of Hainan.

The 55-year-old Hong Kong actor was participating in a panel at the annual Boao Forum when he was asked to discuss censorship and restrictions on filmmakers in China. He expanded his comments to include society.

“I’m not sure if it’s good to have freedom or not,” Chan said. “I’m really confused now. If you’re too free, you’re like the way Hong Kong is now. It’s very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic.”

Chan added: “I’m gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we’re not being controlled, we’ll just do what we want.”

For the complete article, go here. And I’ll tell you what’s holding swaths of Asia back: people like Jackie Chan. Who has done pretty well for himself in the free West, doing what he “wants.” Right? Of course, he would not give his fellows the same opportunities . . .

Let’s end on a nicer note. There is a website called Serenity Through Haiku: Surviving the Obama Years. Go here. And may you indeed find serenity! I will give you a sample, a haiku penned by a friend of mine. It’s called “Universal”:

Free health care for all!
Then rations, bad docs, no meds.
Waiting . . . dying . . . dead.

I should add that my friend is a pathologist. Anyway, I consider this website a contribution to the mental health of the nation. Bless you!

TOPICS: Editorial
KEYWORDS: castro; china; cuba; hugochavez; hugochvez; impromptus; jaynordlinger; obama

1 posted on 04/20/2009 8:58:05 AM PDT by Tolik
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To: Lando Lincoln; neverdem; SJackson; dennisw; NonValueAdded; Alouette; .cnI redruM; Valin; ...

Nailed It!
Moral Clarity BUMP !

This ping list is not author-specific for articles I'd like to share. Some for the perfect moral clarity, some for provocative thoughts; or simply interesting articles I'd hate to miss myself. (I don't have to agree with the author all 100% to feel the need to share an article.)

I will try not to abuse the ping list and not to annoy you too much, but on some days there is more of the good stuff that is worthy of attention.

You are welcome to browse the list of truly exceptional articles I pinged to lately. Updated on April 1, 2009.  on  my page.
You are welcome in or out, just freepmail me (and note which PING list you are talking about).

Besides this one, I keep 2 separate PING lists for my favorite authors Victor Davis Hanson and Orson Scott Card.  

2 posted on 04/20/2009 8:59:02 AM PDT by Tolik
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To: All

What’s in a Handshake, Etc.   [Jay Nordlinger]

Earlier this morning, we had some technical problems with my column, but those seem to be banished now. Wanted to mention something further — something about one of the themes of this column. I talk about Obama’s foreign-policy gestures, and what they mean to various people. For example, his clasps and grins with Chávez. His New Year’s greeting to “the people and leaders of Iran” — not just the people, but those lovely “leaders,” too. His calling of Iran “the Islamic Republic of Iran” — twice. And so on.

People notice. Dictators and their supporters notice; democrats, would-be reformers, and political prisoners notice. Vladimir Bukovsky is said to have had some advice for Western policymakers, which is to say, Free World policymakers. (I learned this from John Derb.) As you go about your business, you may want to ask, “How will it look to the boys in the camps?” And some of Obama’s moves must look awfully bad to the boys in the camps.

I might mention, too, his decision to reenter the United States in the U.N. Human Rights Council — that sham and farce. (There is also that sick-making bow to the Saudi king.)

Anyway, in my column, I mention Sharansky, and I want to quote him a bit. When he was in the Gulag, he met a fellow prisoner, a Christian named Volodya. And they decided to study the Bible together. (This was in a period when the Gulag authorities permitted it.) In his great and classic memoir, Fear No Evil, Sharansky writes,

We called our sessions Reaganite readings, first, because President Reagan had declared either this year or the preceding one (it wasn’t exactly clear from the Soviet press) the Year of the Bible, and second, because we realized that even the slightest improvement in our situation could be related only to a firm position on human rights by the West, especially by America, and we mentally urged Reagan to demonstrate such resolve.

Yep. What American presidents do matters — even small, seemingly innocuous things, such as declaring a particular year the “Year of the Bible.” You can encourage dictators or you can encourage political prisoners. It is very hard to do both. Sometimes — no, often — you have to deal with dictators, to advance some national interest. But it is not very American — not very decent — to forget the boys in the camps entirely.

04/20 11:29 AM

3 posted on 04/20/2009 9:16:18 AM PDT by Tolik
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To: Tolik

Defectors from NORTH KOREA in the early 2000s, who got out of the concentration camps on the Chinese border somehow, said their moments of extreme faith and hope were buttressed when they heard about some new American President, Bush, calling in an unprecedent manner, the leader of North Korea Kim Jong-il a tyrant and they heard also about this "Axis of Evil" (which offended the State Department, Foreign Policy establishment, and most Democrat lawmakers). In short, they could not believe their eyes nor ears, but nevertheless they were reportedly in tears of happiness and in a sense of envigorated hope. It was an incredible morale booster for these enslaved people.

What happened was the North Korean Communist daily newspaper, Rodong Shimbun (Workers Daily) got all hot and bothered with Bush's moral clarity-steeped AXIS OF EVIL pronouncement about North Korea, and wrote a top editorial completely scorching Bush with great vitriol about it. Unwittingly, they called attention to the fact he made the speech in the first place, something that would have never filtered into the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. This newspaper with the Party editorial, or scraps of it at least, ended up in a North Korean concentration camp, and read by some incredulous inmates. Of course they would have had absolutely no outside radio nor TV, but whomever saw this scrap of paper in the latrine or camp commander's office, or wherever, reported with GLEE to his fellow inmates that "somebody out there knows of our plight". It is said from the defector that news of this Bush speech gave great strength and light to an otherwise beaten down North Korean camp mere word of mouth.

Everything to-date in these first 100 days, that this appeasing Obama character is doing on the world stage with little shame and in full view with the most terrible leaders known to man, if leaked (and they WILL leak it, and spin it as the victory of their regimes' strength) will cause nothing but dejection and sadness within the depths of the camps of these most oppressive regimes on the fact of God's Earth. It may even bring about the loss of hope and SUICIDES. Their captors will say, "look. You have no allies. You have no rescuers. The State is Forever; you are nothing but insignificant grains of sand."

Sad. Shame on America, the so-called beacon of the world, for allowing this foreign policy travesty and general nonsense to continue even one more day under The President.

4 posted on 04/20/2009 9:24:43 AM PDT by AmericanInTokyo (If we say "YES. By your definition I guess I'm a rightwing extremist" en-mass, we can shut them down)
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To: AmericanInTokyo

great example

5 posted on 04/20/2009 9:39:14 AM PDT by tarawa
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To: Tolik

Thanks for the ping.

6 posted on 04/20/2009 1:48:37 PM PDT by GOPJ (If Obama had been king of England, the Globe wouldn't have covered the American Revolution-Graham)
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To: Tolik; AmericanInTokyo
Thanks for the ping and the posts. These are very important points, which I (for one) am prone to forget.

I'm reminded of how Ronald Reagan took his and America's responsibility seriously:

"We cannot buy our security, our freedom from the threat of the nuclear bomb by committing an immorality so great as saying to a billion now in slavery behind the Iron Curtain, 'Give up your dreams of freedom because to save our own skin, we are willing to make a deal with your slave masters.'"

There is no imminent foreign threat to America today like there was when Reagan said that. Back then, the temptation to make deals to save our own skin was very real. So at least LBJ, Carter, etc, had some excuse to offer us in our disgrace.

What's Obama's excuse for making deals with slavemasters?
7 posted on 04/20/2009 2:22:41 PM PDT by LearsFool ("Thou shouldst not have been old, till thou hadst been wise.")
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To: Tolik
I commented on the "brother" handshake with Chavez on another thread.

That, along with the "Bow" makes me seethe.

0bama thinks he is representing himself, not the American people when he does that.

It shows no dignity, no class.

He acts like a punk or his own fantasy of being a "brother" to despots like the Saudi King or Chavez.

These four years can't go by fast enough for me.

8 posted on 04/20/2009 9:57:30 PM PDT by happygrl (It's time to Party like it's 1773.)
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To: happygrl
He will be lucky if he lasts even two years, so your wait might not be that long.

By this I mean, I specifically mean impeachment or resignation-wise. Or perhaps, our US military leadership won't even stand for it anymore, if our troops are in direct danger. They would probably resign first en-masse or not re-up. We are heading into some rough waters indeed.

9 posted on 04/20/2009 9:59:29 PM PDT by AmericanInTokyo (If we say "YES. By your definition I guess I'm a rightwing extremist" en-mass, we can shut them down)
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To: AmericanInTokyo

Amen to what you’ve written.

10 posted on 04/20/2009 10:15:08 PM PDT by happygrl (It's time to Party like it's 1773.)
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To: AmericanInTokyo

Many of us have had a sense of that.

I sense that he may not want the job, it will be too stressful for him (he has to stage manage his appearances with US military and CIA) and will have "medical" problem that allows him to resign.

When his approbal ratings start to plummet, and they will as he is tested more and more and found wanting, his ego will not be able to manage the discomfort.

I have a picture in my mind of thousands of people standing outside the White House fence chanting "Get out of the People's House 0bama. Hey Hey Ho Ho 0bama the imposter has got to Go!

11 posted on 04/20/2009 10:22:00 PM PDT by happygrl (It's time to Party like it's 1773.)
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To: AmericanInTokyo
Or perhaps, our US military leadership won't even stand for it anymore,

When in my lifetime have we ever even hinted at the "C" word?

12 posted on 04/20/2009 10:24:08 PM PDT by happygrl (It's time to Party like it's 1773.)
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To: happygrl

When we are attacked by foreign Islamist terrorists, and I mean HARD, or North Korea pops off a test ICBM with a dummy payload that comes down off the coast of Santa Barbara in international waters at the same time they improve their underground nuclear tests, it will finally be clear to the American People what appeasement brings. There are historic examples everywhere of what weakness yields, and not just in our own history; so it should not come as any surprise. This is the worst case of a President I can think of. Is it any wonder?

13 posted on 04/20/2009 10:42:40 PM PDT by AmericanInTokyo (If we say "YES. By your definition I guess I'm a rightwing extremist" en-mass, we can shut them down)
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To: happygrl

Biden is an idiot and a motor mouth, but I do think he has more common sense and maybe even a better handle on dangerous international issues than the President himself. Sad. I will take a President Biden (after a resigned President Obama) any day to fill out the remainder of the term, prior to the Democrats getting whopped by an electoral college landslide in 2012 by a Conservative GOP standard bearer.

14 posted on 04/20/2009 10:45:36 PM PDT by AmericanInTokyo (If we say "YES. By your definition I guess I'm a rightwing extremist" en-mass, we can shut them down)
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To: AmericanInTokyo
I have come to the same conclusion with regard to Biden.

There is an acknowledgement of reality; he can be reasoned with.

0bama believes in his brainwashed view of the world.

15 posted on 04/21/2009 12:27:46 AM PDT by happygrl (It's time to Party like it's 1773.)
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