The Talking Lion

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

WashPost, Vietnam, and human rights...

The Post has a deceptively terrible lead editorial today on our recent increase in relations with Vietnam:
Vietnam and Human Rights

PRESIDENT BUSH meets Vietnam's prime minister, Phan Van Khai, today at the White House, a mark of the transformation in U.S.-Vietnamese relations since the war that ended 30 years ago. Mr. Khai is visiting the United States with a large entourage of officials and business executives; he has toured a Boeing plant and dropped in on Bill Gates of Microsoft; he is due to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange and visit Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. These symbols of warming relations are mostly welcome. But they should not obscure the fact that Vietnam remains a place where a citizen can be sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment for the crime of denigrating Communist Party officials in e-mails.


But these agendas -- economic and military -- must be balanced against the equally important agenda of democracy and human rights.

The problem with this, of course, is that the United States has no legs to stand on. Until we shut down Gitmo; until we punish those who are truly accoutnable for Abu Ghraib, any country that abuses human rights can throw these two very public examples in our face at any discussion of their human rights abuses.
Precisely because the United States has an interest in stable development in East Asia, it should be skeptical of a development model that's based on government control of the media and the imprisonment of dissidents; if a government fears its own people, how stable can it be? Equally, the United States is most likely to be influential in the region if it is seen to stand by its appealing values rather than making opportunistic alliances with dictators, as it has to its own detriment in the Middle East. For these reasons, Mr. Bush must use today's meeting to push a two-sided agenda: more economic and military cooperation on the one hand, more democracy and freedom on the other.

Hmm. Where to begin? I mean, I guess I could make a snappy remark about the government control of our press, but perhaps that would offend the delicate sensibilities of Senator Frist ("Waah, you called Gitmo comparable to Soviet gulags! Take that back, that completely accurate comparison hurts my feewings, sniffle).

Basically, this editorial is fine in its overall message, but it drops the (crucial) ball by not discussing the United States' diminshing credibilty in all things human rights.


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