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Mr. Hu and Mr. Bush–a Fable?


Eyes have they but they see not.
— Psalm No. 115, The Book of Psalms

Once again Mr. Bush is in a gazing mode. Who can forget when he first met Mr. Putin in June 2001 and following the meeting said: “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. I was able to get a sense of his soul.”

His most recent gazing took place during his super secret trip to Iraq to meet with Prime Minister Maliki. Explaining the reason for his visit Mr. Bush told Mr. Maliki he had come in order to “look you in the eye.” The man into whose eyes he should now consider gazing is China’s president Hu Jintao, whom he snubbed on a recent visit to Washington by Mr. Hu by not inviting him to dinner at the White House. (Mr. Hu stopped by for lunch.)

Had Mr. Bush invited Mr. Hu for dinner he would have been able to gaze into Mr. Hu’s eyes and seen therein a reflection of his own values. A common ground on which Mr. Bush and Mr. Hu could stroll for hours is the criminal justice system in the two countries. The first case they’d enjoy discussing is the case of Zhao Jan who worked in the Beijing bureau of the New York Times before being arrested and criminally charged.

Mr. Zhao’s offense was to write an article that appeared on September 7, 2004, in which he cited two anonymous sources that said Jiang Zemin, the former president and Communist Party chief, had offered to resign his post. Mr. Jiang retired 12 days later but the surprise was spoiled by the article. Mr. Hu would explain that spoiling the surprise constituted an unlawful disclosure of state secrets and as a result that was the crime with which Mr. Zhao was charged and it carries a potential penalty of more than 10 years in prison. Mr. Zhao was in prison for 22 months before being brought to trial on June 16, 2006. The trial court now has one month in which to hand down a verdict. No one can discuss the case outside of court since that would be disclosing a state secret. Mr. Hu would explain to Mr. Bush that his government was actively clamping down on an increasingly irresponsible press that he and others in government believe are a threat to political and social stability.

Laughing, Mr. Bush would say:

“I know exactly what you mean. I, too, am trying to clamp down on an incredibly irresponsible press. Just last December one of our major newspapers disclosed the fact that I had secretly authorized wiretapping of our citizens and had bypassed the court system and the constitution to do that. I was as outraged by the fact that this had been made public as you were to have important leadership announcements leaked. I know that those kinds of leaks can’t be tolerated in a free society and that’s why I ordered a full scale investigation into who the leakers were and I can tell you this: When I find out they’ll wish they were in Mr. Zhao’s shoes.

Delighted to discover that the man who had refused to invite him for dinner at the White House shared his values, Mr. Hu would explain that the State Secrets Bureau has the sole authority to decide what is and is not a state secret and its decision is final. A court cannot overrule the Bureau. The court trying Mr. Zhao can hold closed hearings, limit access to evidence and limit contact between Mr. Zhao and his lawyer.

Hearing that, Mr. Bush would put a friendly hand on Mr. Hu’s arm and say something like:

“Mr. President, I know just what you mean. Right now I have lot of people detained in Guantanamo and we haven’t set trial dates for them nor have we told them why they are being held. Like you, we have had to limit their access to lawyers and in many cases their lawyers have been unable to look at the evidence we have because the evidence consists of state secrets. And just a few days ago, one of my prosecutors told a federal judge in Detroit that spying on people without a warrant the way you and I do is legal and constitutional but he couldn’t tell the judge why because he would have had to disclose state secrets.”

Then leaning forward and looking intently into Mr. Hu’s eyes he would say something like: “What I’ve gotten, sitting here looking in your eyes, is a realization that you and I are both dedicated to protecting the freedom of our people, and we use the same methods to guarantee those freedoms. Next time you’re in Washington, let me know and Laura and I will have you over to the White House for dinner.”

Share  Posted by Christopher Brauchli at 1:01 PM | Permalink

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