The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 28, 1998 · Page 8
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 8

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Thursday, May 28, 1998
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B2 THURSDAY. MAY 28, 1998 THE SALINA JOURNAL George B. Pyle editorial page editor i Opinions • expressed on this page are those of the identified writers. To join the .conversation, write a letter to the Journal at: P.O. Box 740 Salina, KS 67402 Fax: (785) 827-6363 E-mail: SJLetters® saljournal.com Quote of ! the day "I'm lucky to be alive, I'll say that. It's not every day that your house blows up and you're in there." Todd Linenberger recovering from the still- unexplained explosion at his • Salina home May 2. OPINION CLINTON By GEORGE B. PYLE / The Salina Journal Strange bedfellows THE ISSUE Mr. Clinton goes to China THE ARGUMENT Odd alliance may make human rights an issue P olitics, they say, makes strange bedfellows. At least, that is what they used to say, before so much of our politics became a division between those who may have slept around and those who are offended by it. Still, an odd alliance of liberal and conservative groups in opposition to President Clinton's planned trip to China's Tiananmen Square has put some life back into the old saying — and into the public debate over principles and practicality. Clinton is scheduled to visit China beginning June 25. As a visiting head of state, he is to be honored by a ceremony in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, just as heads of state are welcomed to the South Lawn of the White House when they visit America. For Clinton to pass on that routine yet important event, say his aides, would be a major diplomatic affront that would serve no purpose. But an alliance of human rights and family values groups, joined by at least one exiled Chinese dissident, has formally requested that Clinton not visit the square, as to do so would cheapen the memory of the hundreds who were killed there when the government cracked down on the student democracy movement there hi 1989. The Associated Press reports that signers of the letter range from Family Research Council President Gary L. Bauer on the right to Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, founder of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, on the left. Human Rights symbol Harry Wu, who spent 19 years in Chinese prisons, also put his name on the letter. Clinton will go to Tiananmen Square, of course. The question is whether he will use the occasion to suck up to his Chinese hosts, iri hopes of scaring up more contracts for American business, or seize the opportunity to stand with the vanquished protesters and make his own "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech. The more interesting development is how Americans of different political persuasions have joined together in the service of a principle rather than insist on fighting for the sake of it. In this letter, Democrats such as Cuomo have dared to question the leader of their party. And Republicans such as Bauer have, for the first time in memory, expressed concern about the human rights of people who are already born. One of the redeeming features of Bill Clinton throughout his political career has been that, as a cold, calculating politician, he has often shown a high opinion of the American voter by concluding that standing on principle is actually a way to win votes. The chief example has been Clinton's support for affirmative action and his insistence on addressing issues of race in America. Clearly, our chief politician has not found reason to stand on the principle of international human rights, because his uncanny internal radar tells him it won't score him any points with most voters. If Cuomo and Bauer together can convince Clinton that Americans do care — and vote — about this issue, our Waffle in Chief can make human rights around the globe an American priority as quickly as you can say flip-flop. LETTERS TO THE JOURNAL SJLetters@saljournal.com Help for needy shows our true character I agreed with you 100 percent when your May 16 editorial applauded our senators Brownback and Roberts for supporting the Agriculture Research Bill. Agricultural research, of course, is always a good investment. Food stamps, whether for born Americans or legal immigrants, show the true character of our society. Meeting the needs of the disabled, the elderly, the sick is our humane duty. Why Phil Gramm and a few others can't stomach the needs of legal immigrants is beyond my comprehension. Many farmers will be struggling again to remain afloat with the prices below cost of production. Reason for low prices? Food glut, we are told. I think we are fortunate to have senators who understand Kansas farmers' problems along with Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman. Why try to INDON6SI* WOULD UKE It) T ABROAD AT HOME Capitalism did what principle could not Indonesia's Suharto was finally overthrown by capitalism, markets and globalization I n December 1975, President Ford and his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, visited President Suharto in Indonesia. They reacted with a nod and a wink to his plans to seize East Timor. The day after they left, Indonesian forces invaded * the distant island, using American arms. In the invasion and ensuing occupation, a third of East Timor's 600,000 people died. When it was pointed out that using American arms aid for aggression violated U.S. law, Kissinger reportedly told his staff: "Can't we construe [stopping] a communist government in the middle of Indonesia as self-defense?" (East Timor was in fact remote from Indonesia, and its mostly Roman Catholic people wanted independence, not communism.) That episode tells us that an element in American foreign policy also fell when Suhar- to resigned last week. He was one more in a string of dictators who were admired by U.S. governments but rejected, in the end, by their own people. Kissinger was most closely identified with the policy: the idea that we should support authoritarian rulers because they could assure stability. Thus Kissinger smiled on the T LIBERTIES ANTHONY LEWIS The New York Times shah of Iran, Augusto Pinochet of Chile, Yahya Khan of Pakistan and the like. But it has turned out that tyranny does not assure stability. Democracy does. Suharto lasted a very long time compared with other tyrants, 32 years. But eventually resentment of his kleptocracy — the corrupt enrichment of his children and other relatives — boiled over. Suharto ruled by fear, as tyrants always do. Anyone who looked like a potential opponent was imprisoned or brutalized into silence. But that system of oppression stopped working, for reasons brilliantly described by a New York Times correspondent in Jakarta, Nicholas D. Kristof. What overthrew Suharto was not a guerrilla insurgency, Kristof wrote, "but a conspiracy of far more potent subversives: capitalism, markets and globalization.... Suharto's security forces never figured out how to handcuff them or torture them into submission. His sophisticated military equipment can detect a guerrilla in the jungle of East Timor at night, but it was unable to discern bad bank loans or prop up a tumbling currency." Under the pressures of economic crisis, ordinary Indonesians — students especially — lost their fear of the regime. Protests continued even after troops made the mistake, fatal for Suharto, of firing on an unarmed crowd. The events in Indonesia have also buried a theoretical justification of strongman rule. That is the notion — invented by Lee Kuan Yew, the longtime ruler of Singapore — that Asians prefer order to freedom, and that such "Asian values" underlie the region's decade of rapid economic growth. The economic miracle has come to an end in the Asian financial crisis. And political change, first in Thailand and South Korea, now in Indonesia, has shown that Asians do not really prefer to live under authoritarian regimes. They want a voice, and they want freedom. The Indonesian story is not over. Will an aroused public be content with an anointed Suharto successor, B.J. Habibie, as president — and content to let the Suharto family keep its monopolistic grip on the economy? It seems unlikely. Just as doubtful is Habibie's ability to meet the international conditions that would stabilize Indonesia's currency. The larger implications of Indonesian events are for China. Its communist rulers have maintained stability by rapid economic growth and tight political control. Indonesia shows the limits of that formula. Continuing stability will surely depend on the introduction of democracy in China, however gradual. There is also a lesson for the.United States. Right up to the end, the U.S. Defense Department was training Indonesian units that specialize in the torture and "disappearance" of dissidents. Congress banned American training of Indonesian forces in 1992, but it went on secretly until a victim of torture escaped and told his story this month, shaming the Pentagon into cutting off the program. In the world as it is, the United States cannot deal only with nice guys. We need good relations with some undemocratic governments. But we do not have to condone savagery, much less assist it. Ireland gets a hug from Bill and Tony P.O. Box 740, Salina, KS 67402 deny food stamps to the hungry? As your editorial stated: "Brownback and Roberts refused to play that game. And for that, Kansans should be proud of them." I agree. — Msgr. JOHN GEO. WEBER Salina Copycat killings We hear so many arguments about violence on TV and whether it effects children. I wonder, since there have been so many shootings in our schools, children killing children. How tragic! But, I ask, since these awful happenings are called copycat killings, where did these wayward children hear about the school killings? Do you think they read about them in a newspaper? They complain about children not being able to read and write today. I rest my case. — LUCILLE JONES Plainville Baby boomer leaders engineer a historic peace for Northern Ireland H OLYWOOD, Northern Ireland — There is an old Gaelic saying, "Never bolt the door with a boiled carrot." At this astonishing moment in Irish history, as centuries of grudges and dreams collide, we can only pray that this island is firmly bolting the door on the "bitter furies of complexity" conjured up by Yeats. It appears that Northern Ireland's stony heart has begun to melt, that the people here have finally broken their cycle of fatalism, trading darkness for light, past for future. Catholics and Protestants were too caught up in their bloody cat's cradle to ever untangle themselves. It required The New York Times a courageous leap of faith of * Northern Ireland pols, Gerry Adams and David Trimble and John Hume. This triumph of hope over history also required some generous meddling. The impossible never could have become possible without Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. It is funny to think of these chatty baby boomers teaching the vengeful Irish the meaning of— may the saints preserve us — closure. The yuppie leaders brashly waded in, determined to gentrify this blighted neighborhood, incongruously applying New Age methods to MAUREEN DOWD ancient tribal conflicts. Their shiny millennial plans made Ian Paisley, wearing a tie inscribed with "No, No, No" and ranting about papist plots, seem even more a relic of the Reformation. The Irish do not believe in therapy. They prefer to make confessions in a dark box. Yet, Clinton, with his psychobabble, self-revelation and New Age gurus, appointed himself the facilitator of Belfast's blood feud. He put the Irish on the couch. He felt their pain. The president took on a land that clings to superstition, to the mysteries of imagination and the unconscious, to the sops of alcohol and bitterness. He forced Northern Ireland to bring its atavistic fears and prejudices out into the open, prodding the enemies toward the negotiating table. With their youth and middle-class backgrounds, Clinton and Blair were not bound, as many American and British leaders before them, by World War II experiences or romantic notions of Empire and Pimm's Cup. They were fond of focus groups and high-tech wizardry, not fusty tradition. Clinton's triangulation and Blair's "third way" moved from black-and-whites to the blurry middle of consensus. Their politics of expediency was just what polarized Ireland needed. British prime ministers had long used "the special relationship" with America to persuade presidents — even those with Irish roots like John Kennedy — to stay away from the Irish problem. Irish Catholics muttered that the clocks at the State Department were set to London time. But Clinton, spurred by revenge — a motive DOONESBURY the Irish would appreciate — never felt kindly toward John Major after the Tories rummaged through his passport files in 1992 to help the Bush campaign. Certainly Clinton was happy to please Irish- American voters. But he also seems to have been motivated by a genuine emotional pull toward the Irish, who bathed him with love during his 1995 visit. He took a difficult issue and trusted his gut. He had to overrule severe resistance in his own government and face down the fury of the British to grant Gerry Adams a visa to come to America in 1994. Clinton looks prescient now, but if the Irish Republican Army had gone back to its old atrocities, he would have been accused of encouraging terrorism. The president's involvement provided an unspoken guarantee: Any British bad behavior or Unionist backsliding would come at some cost. When Blair, a Clinton acolyte, came into office, the two men teamed up on a revolutionary notion: Northern Ireland was not a problem without a solution. The stiff upper lip gave way to empathetic lip-biting. Blair's focus groups showed that he was the one leader voters in every group tended to trust. So he came back three times, making an earnest and passionate case for peace. "Northern Ireland is the one subject where I can wake up in the middle of the night and worry," he said. Clinton, too, stayed up all night as the Good Friday peace agreement was forged, massaging recalcitrant participants. As for closure: the Irish being the Irish, they'll take it one day at a time. By G.B. TRUDEAU HONEY, I WANT WUTOOeAK \UHOWOUU> J/MJW7HUP- JIMMYTHUP-l PUGKEKtlHe PUCKER. \SIN6BR1H05 15 THAT RIGHT? GOT A *5Mlts \7Ht$f>LACe? UONPKOS&CT PRQPPINGBW,,, mice THAT, PIPN'T you, PAP. ALL Of ASIA

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