Today marks the first anniversary of the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight 17 over Ukrainian by Pro- Russian rebels. While Malaysian Airlines can be faulted for flying over an area of known conflict even though the airspace was open, today there is no doubt that this was a deliberate act of mass murder committed by Pro-Russian rebels fighting the Ukrainian government. There is equally little doubt that the BUK Missile launcher used by those rebels was provided by the Russian Government of Vladimir Putin. Indeed many speculate that given the difficulty and considerable training needed to operate there may well have been Russian military advisors and or operators at the controls of the BUK launcher. These questions do nothing to change the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin bears personal responsibility for constructing the environment that lead to these deaths, a criminal accessory before the fact to 298 counts of murder.
Wreckage of MH17 in Days After Being Shot Down by Pro-Russian Rebels
Video which has aired today shows gruesome images of the Pro-Russian thugs rummaging through the personal effects of the dead and treating their remains without respect in the moments after the attack. International investigators were kept away from the crash site for several days and once they arrived it was clear the wreckage had been tampered with in such a way that there will always be unanswered questions. Very much like KAL007 in 1983, the Russian military showed they have no moral hesitation shooting down civilian airlines without regard to cost.
While the west was quick to express outrage at the shooting down of a civilian airliner by irregular Russian forces, they have been long on words and short on action. The European nations are reluctant to too deeply offend their commercial partner Russian and the Obama administration continued its policy of spineless appeasement. But let there be no doubt, Vladimir Putin is a cold blooded murder whose hands will be forever blood stained. Never has appeasement deterred international criminals from further bloodshed. As the families mourn the anniversary of their loved ones deaths, we must wonder who will Putin kill next?
This week, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) celebrates its 90th anniversary, a milestone their Soviet counterpart never achieved. There will be parades with smiling children and banners exalting the virtues of Chinese Communism. Their success at building the world’s second largest economy will be trumpeted and their pride in one of the largest economic growth rates will be proudly hailed. Indeed the Chinese Communists will be celebrating what appears to be not only a successful past, but a bright future. This will be the narrative of the main stream media, yet as is often the case it will be disingenuously selective in its perspective.
Poster Celebrating the 90th Anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party
Buried deep in the coverage will be mention of how the Chinese Communist Party has held on to power when its older siblings in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe are now on the ash pile of history. The true nature of the Chinese Communists was demonstrated in June 1989, the same time when European Communism was falling. The Soviets under Mikhail Gorbachev when faced with massive popular unrest reacted by implementing democratic reform and learned a truism of history, when people are given freedom they will seek more. In two years the Soviet Union was a failed chapter in the history books. The CCP did not emulate their European comrade’s mistake and reacted to the prodemocracy protests with the traditional tools of totalitarian dictatorships, they sent in the tanks.
Pro-Democracy Protesters in Tiananmen Square Surround the Goddess of Democracy in May 1989
Few of us who are old enough to have lived through that day will forget the images of the tanks arriving in Tiananmen Square where hundreds of thousands of protestors had gathered since April of that year to peacefully demand democratic reforms for the Chinese People. Today’s celebrations in that very Square are certain not to contain the 10 meter tall Goddess of Democracy created from wire, foam and paper mache by student which came to symbolize their desire for freedom. It is unlikely we will ever know how many people died that day, official government numbers were 241 and said to be mostly soldiers supposedly killed by those dangerous unarmed student protesters. The Red Cross initially reported 2,600 dead and countless wounded. Graphic video surfaced showing the effects tank tracks can have on unarmed protesters. While the Chinese Communist Party will flood the streets with protesters chanting of the greatness of modern China; the real symbol of the strength of the Chinese people is a single solitary man, who had been walking home with a bag in one hand and a packsack in the other who stepped out onto the streets alone and simply stood before the advancing tanks, moving when they move, and stopped them. He was later identified as 19 year old Wang Weilin whose fate has never been determined with certainty, however it has been reported he was executed 14 days later.
Lone Chinese Man Faces Down Advancing Communist Tank Column in Tiananmen Square June 1989
Twenty years later we are bombarded by the media’s message of a Chinese economic miracle and the inevitability of China emerging as the largest economy in the world. Indeed the west has been a willing participant in china’s development with massive technology transfers by companies like General Electric who just this January contributed its global avionics business into a joint venture with a Chinese state controlled firm (GE’s Chairman Jeffrey Immelt is also Chairman of President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board). In doing so GE is working to build the Chinese aerospace industry in the naive hope of securing short term sales in china, a goal western firms are finding increasingly difficult. One can only imagine how much of the avionics technical knowhow being given to the Chinese Communists will ultimately find its way to the new Chengdu J-20 Fifth Generation Tactical Fighter which according to reports from the CIA rivals the performance of our own F22 Raptor. Yet much of the credit for China’s economic miracle has to go to the everyday westerner who enjoys the $600 iPad without consideration to the Chinese workers who live in near prison conditions in factory towns to produce cheap export goods fueling China’s economy. Maybe it is time for individual western citizens and corporations to take a look at how their own actions are impacting others in the world.
It is far from clear what the future holds for Chinese Communism and the impact it will ultimately have not only on the Chinese people but on the world. Those maps of China on the parade floats today show the island of Taiwan as part of China, something the people of that free island reject out of hand and should China attempt to impose communist rule on Taiwan by force the free world would be obliged to stop any communist aggression. At that point western technology transfers will seem even less well considered than they do today. Yet perhaps the biggest challenge to the rule of the Chinese Communist Party comes from the aspirations of the Chinese people themselves. Once a nation tastes the fruits of economic freedom, the aspirations for political freedom are hard to contain. What the Communists do not understand is that free markets go hand in hand with individual and political freedoms and are over time inseparable. History has shown us that once a people taste freedom, no totalitarian regime can deny them for long.
This afternoon I found myself in our yard with my wife cleaning up, trimming some rose bushes, watering plants, all those things one does as spring turns into summer and we prepare for the first long weekend of the year. We are focused on the pleasures and challenges of our lives and the good fortune we have to live in America. Earlier this morning I wrote a posting on poles for the upcoming primary season as well as reading a number of others thoughts. Many I agreed with, some a few infuriated me but we all can freely express ourselves without fear or thought of reprisal. When I came inside I found my wife watching the movie Taking Chance, the 2009 film portraying the real life story of a Marine Lt. Colonel escorting a fallen Marine, Pfc. Chance Phelps home for the last time in 2004. We set aside plans for the day and found ourselves watching this film, one we had seen before, drawn again in a way to its story.
Arlington National Cemetery
As I watched this movie I found myself thinking of all those who have been brought home for the last time after service to our country as well as those who have never returned. We often talk about their sacrifice for the country, but I think we often fail to appreciate the magnitude of a life lost. For almost 10 years, since that dark Tuesday in September 2001 we have been a country at war. Yet for those of us fortunate enough to live in America, there has been little sign of that war. We see the occasional returning Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine in an airport as they come and go. If we are thoughtful we approach them and thank them for their service. Yet for us life goes on almost without sign of the conflicts which they are keeping from our shores. We hear from time to time of the loss of Americans and allied forces in an ambush or by an IED attack but life goes on for most of us. This has not been Vietnam, Korea or World War 2 with tens of thousands dies, often in a matter of days. Yet the loss of a single member of our armed forces is such a profound loss.
Today as I watch the movie I found myself thinking about the meaning and impact of each and every loss. Thinking about the life cut short far before its time. The lives that were touched by each and every one of these fallen patriots. The families that would not be, the loves that would not be, the children that would never be born. The experiences along the voyage of life the way that would never be seen or felt. No hair turning gray or expanding waistlines. No sunsets shared with spouses and partners. What adventures that would now never be had. The contributions to science, arts, their communities and yes, politics that would never be. The loss of each and every member of our armed services leaves a gaping hole in our country that will never be filled.
As we sit here today enjoying the first days of the summer of 2011 we do so due to the sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of lives cut short in order that we can live free. From the opening shots of the War of Independence to the battlefields of Afghanistan today. The magnitude of their sacrifice is almost beyond comprehension. Yet our lives go on and in a way we do honor to their lost lives by the quality of ours lived in freedom. Next time I see a young man or women in uniform I hope I stop and thank them as they have volunteered to put their lives in harm’s way. Someone once said rule number one of war was young men and women die, and rule number two is you can’t change rule number one. I hope as we cook the hot dogs and burgers this weekend we remember this. I hope our leaders and political talking heads remember the absolute sacrifice that will be made by those young men and women in uniform, as well as the many lives which were never finished over the last 235 years.
God bless each and every one who has fallen, who has or currently wears the uniform, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.
As one whose political coming of age was during the 1980’s, a cornerstone to the foreign policy of the west as personified by Ronald Reagan and Margret Thatcher was the right of people to self determination. During the Cold war our focus was on those in Eastern Europe and Soviet regions such as the Baltic States. While the fall of the Soviet Empire brought freedom to much of Europe it was but a dream to a many people. In recent weeks we have seen the people of Egypt express their desire to live in a more open and representative state. While the role of the internet is wildly exaggerated by the media, there is no doubt that the ability of ideas to transcend boarders is a dramatic change in international politics. Additionally we are reminded that tyranny has not faded from the earth and regimes such as those in Mainland China continue to rule by the total suppression of free expression by their people.
With this in mind, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could receive no better compliment than the condemnations coming from the Chinese government over proposals outlined in her speech on Tuesday. In that speech Secretary Clinton proposed a $25 million program aimed at developing technology which would allow internet users around the world to circumvent attempts by government to block their citizens ability to access content on the internet. This is particularly disturbing to the Chinese as it potentially would circumvent their “Great Firewall”. Chinese foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu is quoted in the New York Times (2/17/2011) as saying “we are against any other countries using Internet freedom as a pretext for interfering in others’ internal affairs”. This has the same song we heard from Moscow over our Voice of America broadcasts in the 1980’s.
It would be naive to think internet freedom would lead to real political change and freedom in China. Any country willing to drive tanks over hundreds of their own citizens as the Communist rulers in China did in Tiananmen Square in 1989. As we have seen words and ideas have real power and people’s quest for freedom can over time prove unstoppable. There once was a time when American Foreign Policy was truly bipartisan and this is one proposal both parties should strongly support. There is no more challenging relationship facing the United States than China and we need to realize the long term threat they pose not only to the America but to freedom around the world. While this program is a small first step, it is a step in the right direction. With luck freedom just may break through the Great Firewall.