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For the week of Jan. 5 through Jan. 11, 2000

Go figure our China trade policy

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

Listen to Idaho’s ultra-conservative Sen. Larry Craig on the subject of mainland communist China and he sounds like liberal President Bill Clinton.

"We can’t tell them (China) how to run their politics," Craig mused last week for members of the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce, "but we can gradually influence them through trade."

And Idaho’s man in Washington is gung-ho, too, for Beijing’s Red rulers to be inducted into the World Trade Organization (WTO), which is outright anathema to some of his brethren on the rigid right.

It’s not that Craig has undergone a millennial epiphany.

The explanation is strictly bu$ine$$.

"About one-third of everything Idaho’s workforce produces has to be sold in a world market to sustain our economy," Craig added.

So, Craig acknowledges that a vital export market for Idaho is the world’s largest, most brutal tyranny. Huge business deals have a way of uniting liberals and conservatives with a tyranny.

Visions of profits have a lot more appeal than old saber-rattling East-West Cold War slogans.

But American politicians are an inconsistent lot.

The same Larry Craig who champions trade with a country responsible for the organized extermination of tens of millions of its citizens and the brutal seizure of Tibet is mute on the topic of trade with communist Cuba.

Again, simple explanations.

Cuba’s 11 million citizens aren’t much of an export market now, compared to China’s nearly 2 billion people.

So, without a big trade loss by isolating Cuba, Washington politicians can pose as being incensed with Fidel Castro’s pipsqueak dictatorship, and thus appease the Florida-based Cuban American National Foundation, second only in foreign policy influence to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which lobbies Congress in behalf of Israel.

Founded in 1981, the CANF’s late leader, Cuban exile Jorge Mas Canosa, paralyzed Congress with blather that more tough policies will topple Castro.

So, the Republican Senate—of which Sen. Craig is a staunch member—mindlessly ratified the silly Helms-Burton Act that prohibits trade with Cuba, even as U.S. companies rush to sell farm produce, high-tech equipment, airliners and satellite components to the more brutal Red Chinese.

The logic for the U.S. embargo of Cuba is balderdash—that Castro’s human rights abuses are unspeakable, his lack of free elections unconscionable, his military menacing.

Castro’s human rights violations are almost undetectable next to the brutal reign of China, which has never held free elections and whose military is one of the world’s most threatening.

So, to make themselves sound tough and to mollify Cuban exiles, Washington politicians provide political life support for misbegotten policies that have failed to oust Castro after 40 years and reveal the hypocrisy of their trade policies with the world’s bloodiest dictatorship in China.

Pat Murphy is the retired publisher of the Arizona Republic and a former radio commentator.


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