How Obama and Hil­lary gave hu­man rights the heave-ho

This White House has ab­di­cated its tra­di­tional role as de­fender of free­dom

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Mon­ica Crow­ley

The one pos­i­tive thing — pretty much the only pos­i­tive thing — about hav­ing a left­ist pres­i­dent is the as­sump­tion that he will cham­pion hu­man rights. How, then, to ex­plain Pres­i­dent Obama’s nonex­is­tent re­sponse to the mas­sive pro-democ­racy demon­stra­tions cur­rently un­der­way in Hong Kong? After all, more than 200,000 peo­ple are in the streets, re­fus­ing to ac­cept the re­vo­ca­tion of Chi­nese prom­ises of greater free­dom, and yet, not a word of moral support for them from the pres­i­dent of the United States? Chi­nese com­mu­nism is fac­ing a grow­ing ex­is­ten­tial threat, and the sup­posed great­est rep­re­sen­ta­tive of lib­erty — the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent — is silent. Why? Three things hap­pened in Mr. Obama’s first yearand-a-half in of­fice that sig­naled to the Chi­nese com­mu­nist lead­er­ship that he would al­low it a free hand in the way it treated its own peo­ple and the way it be­haved in the Pa­cific Rim as well as glob­ally.

Episode 1: In 2009, then-Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton turned her back on vic­tims of Chi­nese op­pres­sion when she gave a speech that sug­gested we’d look the other way on hu­man rights as long as we could deal pro­duc­tively on eco­nomic and strate­gic is­sues. The Chi­nese heard the mes­sage loud and clear, and sub­se­quently ramped up their pol­icy of jail­ing, tor­tur­ing and killing democ­racy ad­vo­cates, eth­nic mi­nori­ties and Catholics, among oth­ers. By early 2011, she had backed off from her “see no evil” po­si­tion.

Mr. Obama, how­ever, has ut­terly failed to take on the Chi­nese on the is­sue. In 1993, I was in the room in Beijing when for­mer Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon blasted the com­mu­nist lead­er­ship on hu­man rights. Their only coun­ter­ar­gu­ment was a lame point about the need to con­trol more than 1 bil­lion peo­ple. Nixon wasn’t hav­ing it, and nei­ther should Mr. Obama. Hu­man rights is the one area in which we ac­tu­ally do have some lever­age with the Chi­nese, and yet Mr. Obama has been an AWOL moral war­rior.

Episode 2: On a frigid day in mid-Fe­bru­ary 2010, a quiet, unas­sum­ing man slipped into the White House. Wear­ing sim­ple robes and slip­pers, hands clasped be­fore him, he humbly pre­pared to meet the leader of the Free World. He was sup­posed to have had this meet­ing months be­fore, but was told at the time that Mr. Obama had a sched­ul­ing con­flict. With that “diss,” Mr. Obama be­came the first pres­i­dent since 1991 to ice the Dalai Lama.

Mr. Obama sac­ri­ficed his ho­li­ness — a gen­tle, spir­i­tual man who has done noth­ing but peace­fully fight for the rights of the Ti­betan peo­ple held un­der the jack­boot of Chi­nese com­mu­nism — be­cause he wanted to schmooze the Chi­nese to keep buy­ing our debt in or­der to float his record deficit spend­ing and to per­suade them to co­op­er­ate on tougher sanc­tions on Iran (they didn’t). Mr. Obama re­fused to share a cup of tea with the Dalai Lama, at least un­til he had the chance to meet with the Chi­nese first.

This was a ma­jor re­ver­sal for Mr. Obama, who, dur­ing the 2008 cam­paign, called on then-Pres­i­dent George W. Bush to boy­cott the open­ing cer­e­monies at the Beijing Olympics over the vi­o­lent Chi­nese sup­pres­sion of peace­ful demon­stra­tions in Ti­bet. Mr. Bush, by the way, gave the Dalai Lama the Con­gres­sional Gold Medal in 2007. When Mr. Obama blew off the Dalai Lama, there wasn’t a peep of protest from hu­man rights groups, left­ists who say they fight for hu­man rights, or Richard Gere.

After the Dalai Lama fi­nally did get his meet­ing with Mr. Obama, he was es­corted out a side door of the White House, past tow­er­ing piles of smelly garbage. Episode 3: When Mr. Obama at­tended the Nu­clear Se­cu­rity Sum­mit in Wash­ing­ton in midApril 2010, he ap­proached Hu Jin­tao, then the Chi­nese pres­i­dent and the gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party. He bowed to him, think­ing he was sig­nal­ing a new hu­mil­ity that would quickly trans­late into co­op­er­a­tion. The bow to Mr. Hu came after a string of pre­vi­ous Obama bows: to the Saudi king, the Ja­panese em­peror, and (my fa­vorite) the mayor of Tampa, Fla. Mr. Hu looked com­pletely baf­fled and slightly amused at the sight of the pres­i­dent and sup­posed cham­pion of free­dom bow­ing be­fore him. Of course, he read it as Amer­i­can im­po­tence.

The Chi­nese knew that Mr. Obama would not raise any kind of se­ri­ous protest if they moved against their own peo­ple, whether on the main­land or in Hong Kong. They saw Mr. Obama’s fail­ure to of­fer even the slight­est moral cheer­lead­ing for the brave Ira­nian peo­ple who were slaugh­tered in the streets in 2009. They saw Mr. Obama’s moral and po­lit­i­cal fail­ure again when he took the side of the Mus­lim Brother­hood after tens of thou­sands of Egyp­tians poured into Tahrir Square to de­mand more free­dom. And they saw it again when the vi­o­lent prox­ies of Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin threat­ened the free peo­ple of Ukraine, and Mr. Obama said and did noth­ing.

The mes­sage the world’s dic­ta­tors and ter­ror­ists got was that this pres­i­dent could be rolled with his own naive left­ism and that some­times, he’ll even pre-emp­tively sur­ren­der.

Un­for­tu­nately for the coura­geous souls of Tehran, Cairo, Ukraine and now Hong Kong, Mr. Obama’s dis­grace­ful moral las­si­tude on hu­man rights has made their up­hill bat­tles for lib­erty more dif­fi­cult — and the re­ten­tion of power eas­ier for those who op­press them. Mon­ica Crow­ley is on­line opin­ion ed­i­tor at The Wash­ing­ton Times.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY LI­NAS GARSYS/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

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