Friday, April 11, 2008

Beijing Olympics & The Moral Low Ground

While it is unlikely that Newton noticed it the day he famously observed that apple falling to the ground, like gravity there is another immutable law of nature that goes something like this:

What goes around comes around.

And so it is with George Bush, who finds himself in the awkward if familiar position of having no moral gravitas, in this instance when it comes to condemning the People's Republic of China for its latest violent crackdown on dissent in Tibet.

There was a time somewhere in the mists of my memory when the U.S., for all of its big-stick imperialist tendencies, did hold an approximation of the moral high ground, so that when a member of that international community of nations acted out against a minority or a neighbor the condemnation of the White House or State Department carried some weight.

No more.

While it should be noted in passing that no one would compare the U.S. to China when it comes to human rights abuses, the abuses sanctioned and committed by the Bush administration -- up to and most prominently including the official endorsement of Nazi-like torture techniques and willful disregard for international treaties that protect the dignity and sanctity of life -- make whatever protests the White House and State Department lodge against China to be hollow and, in the eyes of the world, downright laughable.

This brings us to the Beijing Olympics.

As I noted here, my bottom line is that the whole thing sucks to high heaven: The Chinese government sucks. The U.S. government sucks. The Olympics suck. And while I hugely admire the Dalai Lama and can forgive his militaristic roots, I would be remiss to not note that our gauzy, Hollywood-esque view of Tibet also sucks and is a few mantras short of a full prayer wheel.

Having gotten that out of the way, the fan dance that President Bush, presidential candidates and other bigs are doing over what the response to the crackdown in Tibet should be also is laughable.

At this writing, The Decider has decided to attend the opening ceremony, while Hillary Clinton and John McCain want him to boycott the ceremony but not the Olympics, as if that sends a signal. (Barack Obama was trying out for the Olympic bowling team and was unavailable for comment.)

The bottom line is that General Tso will come back from the dead before there will be a general boycott of the Olympics, and not even those holier-than-thou Europeans are talking about skipping the Samsung Coca-Cola Lenovo General Electric Summer Games, while even the Dalai Lama is distancing himself from an opening ceremony boycott.

To add a log to two to this bonfire, recall that neocon guru Richard Perle advocated preempting China's bid for the 2008 Olympics after a U.S. spy plane and a Chinese jet fighter collided in what almost certainly was Chinese air space a few weeks after President Bush took office in 2001.

Perle, of course, turned out to be much better at helping start an unprovoked war in Iraq, which triggered the Bush administration's determined march to the moral low ground, than punishing the Chinese. But then this post is about the laws of nature and cynicism, not irony.

Photograph by Robert Durrell/The Los Angeles Times

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