An appalling comparison, &c.


Max Frankel, the former executive editor of the New York Times, reviewed Henry Kissinger’s latest book for his old paper. That book is called On China. In his review, Frankel wrote this about the United States and the PRC: “Both nations were exhausted from war (Vietnam, clashes on the Soviet border) and domestic strife (antiwar protests in Nixon’s case, the Cultural Revolution in Mao’s).”

That sentence will sicken anyone who knows about the Cultural Revolution. It was not “domestic strife.” It was one of the most horrifying outbursts of dictatorial cruelty in history. Children were made to beat, torture, and kill their own parents.

The relationship between anti-war protests in the United States and the Cultural Revolution is zero.

In the Financial Times, Kofi Annan was treated to a fawning profile — the kind of profile he has long been used to. He appraised the career of Robert Mugabe, the dictator and butcher of Zimbabwe. Annan said, “He did well at the beginning. One has to give him that, and, after all, he is not a young man. However capable he is, we all get tired.”

Oh? As some of us see it, the problem is that Mugabe is not tired. In these latter years of his life, he has brutalized the nation he rules with heightened zeal. All that expropriation, all that intimidation, all that murder — takes energy, you know.

Many of us look forward to the day when Mugabe is too tired to tyrannize.

The gentle treatment accorded this monster by African “statesmen” is disgusting. (Archbishop Tutu — not my favorite person — is an honorable exception.) And Annan is not just another tin-pot dictator, a member of Mugabe’s fraternity. When he was U.N. secretary-general, he was always called “President of the World” and “the Secular Pope.”

Yeah, right, whatever.

Does it make me a rat bastard that I got a smidgeon of satisfaction out of reading that Osama bin Laden much valued the writings of Jimmy Carter on the Arab-Israeli conflict? I’m sure it does; I know it does. We are not (really) responsible for those who like what we say.

Still . . .

Back to a story that has gnawed at many of us for years. I will quote the latest bit of news:

“A group of Falun Gong followers has filed a potentially groundbreaking lawsuit accusing Cisco Systems (CSCO) of helping Chinese authorities persecute members of their religious movement by building a computer system that tracked their Internet activity and fed information to internal security databases.”

Eight years ago now, I reviewed a wonderful book by Ethan Gutmann, Losing the New China: A Story of American Commerce, Desire and Betrayal. One of the best, most honest books about China in recent times. I said,

“[Free World businesses] practice not so much capitalism as bribery and deception (especially self-deception). One wag came up with a hilarious description of such businesses: ‘American companies with Chinese characteristics.’ The roll of dishonor includes Cisco, Motorola, and Microsoft. And special shame belongs to Nortel (a Canadian firm), which presented an Internet surveillance mechanism ‘specifically designed “to catch Falun Gong.”’”

I was quoting Gutmann there. Plus ça change, plus c’est the same old rotten, stinking thing.

Cisco pleads its innocence. I hope its plea is accurate. It’s unsettling to think that Silicon Valley companies — those miracles of which we are so proud, and for which we are so grateful — are, in one aspect of their lives, junior-varsity I.G. Farbens.

Remember when the late congressman Tom Lantos, dressing down Silicon Valley reps, said, “I do not understand how your corporate leadership sleeps at night”? A stirring moment. (Lantos, of course, was a Holocaust survivor.)

This is a story that relates to Silicon Valley — and it’s a very nice story. I know a young man named Matthew Feddersen. An extraordinary kid. His parents, Troy and Denisa, are dear friends of mine. And of National Review. They will occasionally come on a cruise.

They have three perfect boys, of whom Matthew is the oldest. He’s a senior in high school. Troy is a homegrown American. Denisa grew up in Czechoslovakia. When she was 16, she made it out of that country, with her family. It was a harrowing flight. Suffice it to say, she knows a thing or two about freedom and its opposite.