Saturday, May 14, 2011

1999: The Bogus Chinese Spy Scandal

This particular scandal was just one of many that the GOP noise machine has summoned up and amplified through its Faux News and hate radio conduits over the years; by now they have it down to a science.

It's not that I don't think the Chinese were/are spying on us - that's self-evident. But what's interesting is what nobody seemed to suspect at the time: far from mollycoddling the Chinese, Clinton may have actually bombed their embassy on purpose during the Kosovo War.

Okay, plenty of people suspected that, but now we have some informed speculation for the reason. The Serbs had managed to shoot down a Stealth bomber, and the Chinese embassy had parts of the wreckage on hand for analysis. Now that the Chinese have stealth technology of their own, it looks in retrospect like the unusual bombing run that took out their embassy was an unsuccessful attempt to prevent such a development.

A couple issues ago I promised I would say something about the "bogus Chinese spy scandal." It's not that I think the Clinton Administration is incapable of selling off policy to the highest bidder (just like its illustrious predecessors). It's just that our China policy has always been remarkably bipartisan: the purchasing power of 1.2 billion Chinese has always been far more important to us than their human rights.

Thus Nixon's vaunted opening to China helped its inhabitants to enjoy the worst of both worlds: a corrupt gerontocracy as repressive as any in the Communist world, and a wildly growing wealth gap to rival the worst that capitalism has to offer. And our policy ever since has been to make sure that we get the best deals we can in both their labor and consumer markets.

So kowtowing to the Chinese certainly wasn't invented by the current inhabitant of the White House. Some of us are old enough to remember when the words "China lobby" referred to foreign campaign contributions from Taiwan. And apparently there are still a few Republicans left with the sense to realize that a war with China (either hot or cold) is neither inevitable nor desirable. Which explains the little-known Prather Report, commissioned by noted conservative Jack Kemp.

The Prather Report didn't receive nearly as much attention as the Cox Report, the foam-flecked charges of espionage that emerged from the House of Representatives earlier this year. But it did review much of the same evidence - and came up with strikingly different conclusions. The author, former Energy Department scientist Dr. James Gordon Prather, asserts that the evidence presented in the Cox Report does not, repeat, does not support "the primary charge that US nuclear weapons labs were 'penetrated' by PRC [Chinese] agents... and that some of those PRC 'moles' are still there, actively spying for the PRC."

Prather found no evidence that the Chinese had "stolen" anything "classified" from us, and concluded that "the threat, past and present, of PRC espionage to our national security is almost certainly considerably less than the public no doubt believes." Of course, Rep. Cox and his colleagues were able to make considerable political hay out of leading the public to believe just that. But if you think a Republican president would be tougher on human rights violations by the Chinese, just look at the last one we had.

And it also turns out that the "theft" of the W-88 warhead, one of the "crown jewels of our nuclear arsenal"took place during the Reagan Administration, and had nothing to do with the Los Alamos Laboratory. Which means, among other things, that former lab employee Wen Ho Lee is owed a serious apology. Last month it was announced that Lee is no longer a target of investigation, but cover-age of this announce-ment was nowhere close to the volume of the charges made against him, both in the Congress and the press.

Let's get real here. The entire Chinese military budget is less than the most recently passed increase in the Pentagon budget. Which doesn't mean that that the Chinese aren't a threat to world peace - just like the rest of us nuclear-armed superpowers. But hey, when was the last time they bombed one of our embassies?

And of course, none of this means the 1996 Clinton campaign's financing wasn't a scandal - of course it was, just like Bob Dole's. Both campaign took illegal contributions by the truckload, and quietly paid off the anemic FEC fines for doing so, in 1997.

What this does mean, though, is that folks should think twice before they believe everything they hear from the Lizard Congress. Too bad that it took a couple of Republicans to point that out to us.

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