Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Olympic Games

As some eagerly, and some of us less eagerly, await the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, we recall the hope of the naive and the hype of the economically self-serving that the "Olympic Games will have definitely a positive, lasting affect on the Chinese society."

So saith International Olymic Committee President Jacques Regge, as related by Joshua Kurlantzick in "Swifter, Higher, Crueler (subscription required)," which appeared in the 2/27/08 issue of The New Republic. Kurlantzick notes that the reality has been far crueler than predicted. Brad Adams, head of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, warns "we are seeing the gagging of dissidents, a crackdown on activists, and attempts to block independent media coverage," a conclusion consistent with that of Amnesty International. According to Kurlantzick, Financial Times has revealed that the Chinese government has assumed "greater swathes of government bureaucracy" while a new law restricts "foreign news agencies working in China and also tightened control of the domestic press by launching a crackdown on 'false' news and shutttering some 18,000 blogs and websites since April," 2007. Anxious to avoid negative publicity once the media arrives for the Games, "Chinese authorities have arrested, abducted, and simply beaten activists, writers, and lawyers."

And what about the reaction of George W. Bush, head of the party which once masqueraded as singularly anti-Communist? Mr. Bush has promised to attend the Olympics, calling to mind attendance at the Berlin games by nations which thereby signaled acceptance of the legitimacy of the Nazi regime. Human Rights Watch's Asia Advocacy director, Sophie Richardson, told the New York Times "Mr. Bush is providing "an enormous propaganda opportunity to an abusive government."

A president who toppled Saddam Hussein at the cost of nearly 4,000 American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, and an effective fight against terrorism could lead in defying the brutal dictatorship in Beijing. Of course that wold involve offending Mr. Bush's corporate benefactors, but there is always a first time.

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