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Please note: This Letters page is intended primarily for readers to comment on ATol articles or related issues. It should not be used as a forum for readers to debate with each other. The Edge is the place for that. The editors do not mind publishing one or two responses to a reader's letter, but will, at their discretion, direct debaters away from the Letters page.

As for the revealing of Spengler's identity, my prediction is he is a reincarnation of Dracula, Frankenstein or Genghis Khan.
Saqib Khan
UK (Apr 17,'09)

[Re The mother of all cockfights, April 16] There are those in the United States who are saddened by President Barack Obama's failure to change the empire-building approach to foreign affairs. It appears that this is because he hired so many of the old hands who want to follow discredited policies. This makes a parallel to what he did in the economic sphere with hiring of Wall Street greedies and their political friends. Woe is the USA. Woe to the world.
Robert Edelbert
USA (Apr 17,'09)

Assistant professor Jian Junbo, as a contributing writer to Asia Times Online, is a bellwether of China's official thinking. And China wary of US-Myanmar 'detente'[April 16] is no exception. The new Obama administration is re-orientating US foreign policy and this has possibly caught Beijing off guard. It did not take seriously US President Barack Obama's clearly stated plan to use "smart power" to forge a "new" direction in America's concerns abroad. Myanmar is a geopolitical pawn for China. It offers the advantage of an outlet to the sea and a short road for oil and mineral imports to fuel development in China's southern and western provinces. On the other hand, since China's is an export economy, it also offers an exit for exports towards the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf, and Africa. As long as the US stood firm on not strategically dealing with Myanmar's military junta, Washington posed no threat to China's "friendship" with Myanmar. Now that the US is quickly shifting its focus, Jian flashes a storm warning of yet another potential flashpoint between Beijing and Washington. If China is operating on a dusted-off assumption that states in Southeast Asia lie in its own former imperial order, and is trying ... to refit them in "vassal" clothing, we [will] see a formula for rivalry and strained relations.
Nakamura Junzo
Guam (Apr 17,'09)

[Re China wary of US-Myanmar 'detente', April 16] I believe geopolitical competition between China and the US is exactly good news for Southeast Asian countries. None of them will be required to take sides. Neither China nor the US can hope to have decisive influence or dominance over these sovereign states, which will engage the two powers to their advantage. This is a time of peace and globalism; the whole concept of power over other sovereign states is exaggerated.
Jeff Church
USA (Apr 17,'09)

In response to the letter by Wendy Cai [April 14]. Cai has correctly mentioned that those who are pinning all the blame on China for the current global economic mess (due to China's excessive financing of US debt by purchasing US Treasury bills) are flat-out lying. However, neither is China entirely innocent - after all, you can't clap with one hand. For the last 10 years (at least) China has effectively been lending money to America, even though the US is living way beyond its means, so that America can continue splurging on Chinese-made products, otherwise how else would China sell what it makes. When you have a long-term policy of lending money to someone that clearly cannot pay you back, then you have no excuse to whine and throw tantrums and demand that the world effectively bail you out for your unsustainable investment blunders. However, that is precisely what the Chinese are now doing.
Amit Sharma
Cincinnati, OH, USA (Apr 16,'09)

[Re Seoul strikes back at Pyongyang, Apr 15] Pyongyang's expulsion of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency comes on the swift wings of the United Nations Security Council's statement calling for sanctions after North Korea's launch of a long-range rocket. Pyongyang has further let its fury be known by suspending its participation in the drawn out six-party talks in Beijing. This should come as no surprise to anyone. Pyongyang had clearly stated its intentions well before sanctions were voted on. Yet, nowhere in this article does the reader get a sense of the cause and effect which led to Pyongyang's retaliatory verbal sally. Instead, it gives the reader the impression that North Korea is briskly marching off on the road to war. Which, to me, seems misleading. In this weekend's Financial Times, Dr Andrei Lankov, a frequent contributor to Asia Times Online, had an op-ed column. Now, Professor Lankov is hardly an admirer of Kim Jong-il, but he did make the obvious point that sanctions against Pyongyang won't work; engagement would succeed where sanctions fail. They will not, and we see Pyongyang's immediate reaction. Sanctions fan higher the flames of raw tensions on a divided Korean Peninsula, thus making "Seoul strikes back at Pyongyang" almost seem as though it were a self- fulfilling prophecy.
Mel Cooper
Singapore (Apr 16,'09)

The honeymoon period for President Barack Obama, the "100 days", approaches its end. Yet we are still in Iraq for the long haul, are committed deeper in Afghanistan, making noises about interfering with Pakistan's internal affairs, the Patriot Act remains on the books, we still are not signatories to the Kyoto Protocols, missile defense systems continue to be built, the wealthy still enjoy ample tax cuts while the middle class vanishes, and military recruitment continues unabated for new cannon fodder. For anyone who left Earth in October 2008 and returned today, the president of the United States is still George W Bush. I am still trying to see substantive ways Obama is distancing himself from the proto-fascism of the Bush gang.
Hardy Campbell
Houston TX (Apr 16,'09)

[Re Decouple the world from the dollar, Apr 15] Many believe that the United States president, whoever he may be, is merely a figurehead in the White House carrying out the wishes of the moneyed elites in the West. While a decoupling of the global economy from the dollar would benefit the world and ultimately the US, such an arrangement likely would not suit the moneyed interests. Hence, the Obama administration most probably will not voluntarily restructure the international monetary architecture. That said, however, if the dollar could become the dominant component in a new global basket currency, it actually would not be such an outrageous idea for the US to go in that direction now while the dollar is still strong. If not, when America is forced down that path sometime in the future, the dollar will have been greatly weakened, as will be the US's bargaining position in setting up a new global reserve currency.
John Chen
USA (Apr 16,'09)

[Re A battle won in Thailand's 'war', Apr 14] The battle is set. The outcome remains uncertain. The "red shirts" may have carried the day, but the "yellow shirts" are girding loins for what looks like good old-fashioned class warfare. All depends on the military and the palace. So far, the army has donned velvet gloves ... Thailand is in crisis, and the stakes are high. Is the country ripe for revolution?
Mel Cooper
Singapore (Apr 15,'09)

[Re Don't flash the yellow light, Apr 14] Israel has become obsessed with war with Iran. Will a catastrophe occur, with Israel blaming Iran as an excuse? Why should the US help Israel? It should not send any more money or weapons which may one day be used against itself.
Martha Eskridge (Apr 15,'09)

The article The world's most important election [Apr 14] by Martin Hutchinson contained so many misconceptions, casually asserted as the undisputed-word-of-God-truth, that I can only point out the first two: 1) The British colonial oppressors did a fairly decent job in India! Sure - if mass murdering was their main job. The British had reduced the Indian population to such a disgusting level of permanent starvation that the average life expectancy was in the low 30s. Europe never had it so bad even during the years of the Black Death! Roughly 2 million people a year were dying either directly from starvation, or else indirectly from malnourishment-induced disease - twice the rate at which the Nazis were gassing people in their death chambers. And the Nazi terror only lasted six years, the British ruled India for 150!; 2) When voters throw out someone who is screwing them over, that's not ingratitude - it's democracy. If you want actual examples of voter ingratitude then instead of British voters' rejection of Winston Churchill or Indian voters' rejection of the Bharatiya Janata Party, you should look at the US, where voters bring in the Democrats to clean things up every time there is a mega-crisis and then go back to the Republicans for some "values" once the job is done.
Amit Sharma
Cincinnati, OH, USA  (Apr 15,'09)

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar's Obama may cede Iran's nuclear rights [Apr 9], has a ring of grandiosity to it. Is the US president sovereign of all he surveys, and monarch-like deigns to grant his "vassals" with certain "rights"? Hardly ... Time has come for Barack Obama to seize reality, and face conditions for what they are. In sum, he has to "cede" pipedreams for what has really happened on the ground in Tehran, and proceed accordingly.
Nakamura Junzo
Guam (Apr 14,'09)

[Re Appeasement and decline, Apr 9] Now the media are distorting the purchase of the Treasury Bills as if they were stolen from the US. These dollars China has were made through the sweat and blood of Chinese workers. This is the simplest truth that any graduate in economics understands! When expenses exceed income, you have debts!
Wendy Cai
USA (Apr 14,'09)

[Re Pakistan ponders the price for peace, Apr 8] As Pakistan ponders the price, President Barack Obama ought to ponder the cost to the US when Pakistan implodes. Obama is very foolish to support a surge in Afghanistan and the expanded drone offensive against Pakistan. Yes, those drone attacks are seen by the people of Pakistan as attacks against their country. We could lose not only our troops in Afghanistan, but those in Iraq. The ultimate consequences of such losses might well be the implosion of the USA with Canada and Mexico picking up some of the pieces as a humanitarian gesture. Do you think this is extreme forecasting? So were the early warnings of the current economic fiasco.
Ron Mepwith
USA (Apr 9,'09)

[Re Malaysia's Najib fails his first test, Arp 8] Fair enough, Anil Netto! It comes as no surprise that the ability of the United Malays National Organization (UNMO) to stay in power continues to erode. Prime minister Najib Razak has much work to do to shore up the sagging fortunes of his party and government. Nonetheless, despite the success of Anwar Ibrahim's Barisan Nasional (BN), it is by no means certain that the time has come for the UNMO to hand over central power to him and his coalition. After all, the BN is a coalition, and like all coalitions, it is prone to internal rifts. And maintaining unity requires much tact and an acrobat's balance on a thin wire of political agreement. Najib, if he is clever enough, can maintain his grasp on UNMO's leadership. A greater threat to Najib comes from with UNMO's ranks, and most probably in the form of former prime minister Mohammed Mahathir's son.
Mel Cooper
Singapore (Apr 9,'09)

[Re And the poor get poorer, Apr 9] The author, Wu Zhong, has gathered some hard numbers to assess the "wealth" or "poverty" of the Chinese population. One would wish that he does not inject his personal bias into an otherwise professional presentation. Zhong writes, "There are business people who have become rich through collusion with corrupt officials." Doesn't corruption exist all over the world? Wouldn't these business people tend to under-report their worth given their hidden misdeeds and thus render the data unreliable? China has changed the poverty baseline so the number of the poor has doubled. How does it justify the charge of "inflating nationalistic pride in the country's growing economic muscle"? The important thing is that China is openly addressing the problem of the poor by having scrapped all taxes for farmers and providing poverty alleviation programs for the "officially poor". By the way, China has never claimed to be "well-off".
Seung Li (Apr 9,'09)

[Re The missile fizzles of April, Apr 7] The Japanese government tripped over its own feet in the panic campaign it drummed up over North Korea's launch of a Taepodong-2 rocket. In a maddening pounding of the political Taiko drums, with much fanfare and bluster, it threatened to shoot it down if any of its payload fell on Japan. Japan has boxed itself in a corner; it remains overtly hostile to any opening towards North Korea, to lessen regional tensions, and is using the Pyongyang bogey man in its drive to maintain power in the upcoming elections. Tokyo has shifted to the right; it is wrecked with scandal, so it has opened the throttle on appealing to public hysteria about a threat to the homeland. What makes this look as though it is a bad comedy of errors is that Japan's military intelligence got it wrong about the date and time of the launch, which splashed egg on the government's face. The government has shown itself again incapable of governing but through smoke and blue mirrors. As Todd Crowell writes, Japan's government did sigh deeply with relief that it did not have to match its overblown rhetoric with deeds. Saying this, nonetheless, will not stay Tokyo's hand in sailing forth into political adventurism.
Nakamura Junzo
Guam (Apr 8,'09)

Cyber-skirmish at the top of the world [Apr 7] by Peter Lee was a verbose account of things going on everywhere. Every nation with the financial resources and manpower is engaged in espionage and counter-espionage for itself or its friends and enemies. The "experts" know it already, the laymen don't have a clue, and only the "half-educated" find it interesting. It is certainly more difficult to keep information secret than to preach.
Seung Li (Apr 8,'09)

US President Barack Obama's new policy for the Muslim world, is it real? Beware! He is [former US president] George W Bush in disguise. The difference is, Obama has the gift of the gab. He cannot be a friend to the Muslim world with mere cosmetics and lip service while escalating these countries' internal disputes to the United States' advantage. America's objective is to keep fooling weaker nations to usurp their resources and land. The US also keeps changing yesterday's friends into today's enemies, for example, al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban. The US even demeans sovereign nations by abbreviating their names into terms like Af-Pak [Afghanistan and Pakistan].
JP Musa
New York (Apr 8,'09)

North Korea, as promised, launched a satellite on a Taepodong-2 payload. Its success is open to interpretation. But as Donald Kirk observes in A missile launch for dummies [April 7], whether it is a success or failure, "the launch marks a significant step forward". Like the laser, Pyongyang's advances in sophisticated rocketry can be interpreted in two ways: for peaceful or warlike purposes. North Korea has long been in the business of selling its rockets in the Middle East and certainly to Pakistan, which, albeit an American ally, supplied Pyongyang with nuclear technology. So from a strictly business perspective, this launch makes good advertisement for a hard pressed economy's need for strong currency. On the other hand, the President Barack Obama administration did take the launch seriously; in Prague, Obama did condemn the launch in strong terms; his ambassador to the UN Susan Rice did call for Pyongyang's condemnation by the UN Security Council, which won't achieve its desired goal; and the US military put up the color signals as a national security threat. From an observer's point of view, the response did betray deep concern when as Kirk suggests it might have been handled on a lower register. The American punditocracy went so far as to accuse Kim Jong-il of ruining Obama's triumphal tour in Europe. Now, that is wishful thinking if ever there was. North Korea once again was signaling that it was ready to talk. And its launch will bring the US, South Korea and Japan back to the conference table in Beijing. This is not the first time that Kim's government has forced reluctant partners to deal with greater concerns common to North Korea's neighbors and the US. You would think that they would have learned something from past experiences.
Nakamura Junzo
Guam (Apr 7,'09)

[Re Periphery rising, April 7] Doug Noland suggests that China and others on the periphery are taking part in the unfolding government finance bubble. Why shouldn't they? Should Ben Bernanke have all the fun? Picture Bernanke at his command center in Fed headquarters. He has entered the information. He takes his trillion-dollar mouse in hand, positions it over the execute command, presses it, and there goes another trillion. Another. Another. Wheeee. This is fun.
Tom Gerber
USA (Apr 7,'09)

[Re Tale of two lamas: The battle for Tibet's soul, Apr 3] I would like to ask Kent Ewing who is the aging puppet that has squatted on Indian territory for 50 years? In this 50 years, how did he support himself and his entourage and the various foreign visits he went on? How did India allow the Dalai Lama, an alien, to squat on their land for 50 years? Did the Dalai Lama pay for his rent? Did India get their rent from some donors? Both the Panchen Lama and Dalai Lama speak Tibetan and perform their religious functions. There are Tibetan monks, nuns and monasteries. Tibetan people in China do adhere to their religious beliefs. Where is the cultural and religious genocide that Westerners keep harping about? Tibet is autonomous as it is run by Tibetan Chinese. The Dalai Lama does not need to ask for autonomy in Tibet because it already has autonomy. Dalai Lama is still a puppet no matter how much the West is decorating him.
Wendy Cai
USA (Apr 6,'09)

Policymakers in Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo should take the moral of Donald Kirk's Launch? What Launch? [Apr 3] to heart. Stop shaking fists and stop letting the blood boil. There is little you can do to stop North Korea from shooting into outer space its telecommunications satellite on the much-feared Taepodong 2, short of war, which is not a viable option. Kirk joins a growing chorus of Korea watchers in South Korea who simply say, "Ignore Pyongyang's fireworks!" In yesterday's opinion page of The New York Times online, a researcher at Dongseo University suggested that there is no better means to take the wind out of North Korea's propaganda sails than by simply ignoring the launch.
Mel Cooper
Singapore (Apr 6,'09)

In response to Marta Kaye [Apr 3]. While I substantially agree with the sentiments expressed, I am doubtful the United States under President Barack Obama would tolerate a strike by Israel against Iran under the present circumstances. Obviously, it doesn't pay to be too optimistic given the attitudes expressed by the new Israeli government across a range of issues. ... Israel really needs to be pulled into line by the world as well as by Israel's closest allies. Hopefully, the world has now entered a new era of enlightenment where, among many other things, Israel's rogue state mentality will no longer tolerated. Might is not right. It is my hope that Obama will realize this, ignore those within the US who are apologists for Israel and tell Israel to get back to their 1967 borders. If not, then not one more bullet nor one cent of aid in the future. If this happens then all Arab states also have to fall into line, recognize Israel and allow it to live in peace. All Arab states also need to get their act together; the level of poverty and disadvantage is appalling and this cannot be entirely blamed upon Israel or the West. ...
Ian C Purdie
Sydney, Australia (Apr 6,'09)

Seeing red in Thailand, Apr 3] was a detailed and interesting analysis about the current situation in Thailand. I'm afraid that the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra [Thailand's former prime minister] faction could be courting trouble if they expect to challenge the Privy Council's power in the post-King Bhumibol Adulyadej era. I believe that the military right now is relatively restrained due to King Bhumibol and with the restraining influence gone, I'm afraid it could be worse, not better for the pro-Thaksin forces. While the 2006 military coup was bloodless, after Bhumibol [another coup] could well be bloody. If something like this had happened in Malaysia right now, the riot police and probably the military would very likely go in with tear gas, water cannons and batons to arrest or even kill some protestors. I've seen how Malaysia's riot police, the Federal Reserve Unit, moved in and used canes to beat reformasi marchers back in 1998. The Thai police and military have so far been gentle in comparison. Also, if the authority and prestige of the monarchy declines post-Bhumibol, Thailand could well end up like the Philippines with constant conflict between different capitalist factions while the economy goes down the tubes, despite a free press, free speech and so on, while many unfortunate Thais will have to go abroad to survive. Meanwhile, we in Malaysia have got a new prime minister who could be even less tolerant of any dissent than even [former prime ministers] Mahathir Mohamad or Abdullah Badawi. Charles Moreira
Malaysia (Apr 6,'09)

In his article Tale of two lamas: The battle for Tibet's soul, [Apr 3] I think that Kent Ewing has somewhat misrepresented Buddhism, and the reality of Buddhism in China. On this latter point, it needs to be pointed out that Tibetan Buddhism in no way represents the whole (or even a large part of) Chinese Buddhism. Both Pure Land and Chan are significantly more representative of the state of Buddhism in China and we cannot assume where "their" sympathies might lie on these matters, if anywhere. And it is on the issue of political and religious sympathy implied in the article that I believe Ewing misrepresents the place of Buddhism in the cultural and political dispute of Tibetan sovereignty. Speaking as a priest of a Chan Buddhist lineage, I can inform Ewing that many Buddhists consider the assumed synergistic relationship between Buddhism and Tibetan politics an unfortunate and misleading one. Many Buddhists query the role of a Buddhist spiritual leader intentionally promoting the idea of a symbiotic relationship of Buddhism with clearly political issues, and while Ewing may well declare the Panchen Lama a "patent illegitimacy", he should acknowledge that accusations of the Dalai Lama's involvement with the US Central Intelligence Agency and sovereign politics incline many Buddhists to similarly question his legitimacy as a true reflection of Buddhism.
Fa Gong Shakya
Melbourne, Australia (Apr 6,'09)

It is well known that the United States and Israel have long focused on finding a way to create a war with Iran. Some believe that was the main reason for the Gaza massacre. To get a reaction from Iran, to hit Israel, and then the US would step in to help poor Israel. Israel has been harassing, and stealing the Palestinians' land, for 60 years. Now the bloodthirsty General [David] Petraeus has hinted that Israel may strike Iran, and wonder what play he may have. Israel demands more land, and others demand Iranian oil. How many more will die, or suffer, because of hate, and greed?
Marta Kaye (Apr 3,'09)

[Re US strikes at Taliban nerve center, Apr 2] Old George W Bush songs are being re-orchestrated by President Barack Obama with new musical notes, for example, "We want to protect Pakistan from destabilization and the USA and Europe from terrorists attacks planned on the Pakistan-Afghanistan borders." The US doesn't realize how tremendously Pakistan is destabilized with every new drone attack. These drones are only creating bitter hatred for the USA, the UK and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The Pakistan People's Party-President Asif Zardari establishment is following in the footprints of ex-president Pervez Musharraf by allowing itself to be dictated to by the USA and the UK. Zardari allows this to prolong his power, but this is providing space for terrorist acts. The "change", the election cliche drummed by Obama, is his own persona, but the bottle and the wine is old despite the genie being new. He better learn from the blunders of [George W] Bush and change course soon.
Zohoreen Zohra
Karachi (Apr 3,'09)

[Re A lost vision for US intelligence, Apr 2] When will we be free of this slavish tie to Israel? When will US foreign and domestic policy free itself from the albatross of the Israel lobby? When will we follow George Washington's advice against foreign entanglements? Will it take a new American revolution?
Robert Adelbert
USA (Apr 3,'09)

Once again, Asia Times Online readers hear a voice which the might of Israel's supporters in Congress and on K Street have tried to still. Jim Lobe's [Re A lost vision for US intelligence, Apr 2] gives us an opportunity to hear ambassador Charles Freeman, once nominated to chair the National Intelligence Council (NIC). Freeman is not fooled by the shibboleths nor the locked-step thinking which prevails in the US national capital - a mindset which is so narrow that it allows the country to make serious missteps in critical foreign policy planning and intelligence gathering. Freeman's cardinal sin is his ability to think outside the box, which is a quality common wisdom praises but hardly practices. His views on Israel are hardly "orthodox" but they do not err in the direction of "heresy". They are based on good, old-fashioned Yankee commonsense. The Barack Obama administration may rue the day that Freeman's critical thinking is not at hand. Take the new right-wing Israeli government's announcement as it took office. It is scrapping the [George W] Bush Annapolis accord for the old, failed road map approach. Translation: the two-state solution is thrown in the dustbin, and the Likud dream of an Israel from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River has taken a giant step towards realization. In one communique, Jerusalem has scrapped the need of a [Middle East Quartet representative] Tony Blair or a [US special envoy to the Middle East] George Mitchell to calm choppy Israeli-Palestinian waters. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to fulfill a program that he has long supported. And so Washington has proven once more a prisoner of Israel and its US supporters. Where is the "voice in the wilderness" in government which Freeman would have supplied?
Nakamura Junzo
Guam (Apr 3,'09)

In response to the letter by Jason [Apr 2]: Unfortunately, in his eagerness to laugh at all inconvenient truths, Jason missed the most hilarious joke in the whole Tibet issue - the Chinese have convinced themselves that they are the victims! Not only that, they insist that the whole world must believe as they believe, and be as willingly brainwashed as them! And if anyone disagrees with them then that person must be yet another member of a vast global conspiracy against China. Can you imagine if the Nazis went around whining about how the Jews never appreciated how much Germany had invested in providing them with free housing (better protected than any upscale gated community) and free food, not mention the healthy, organized lifestyle with plenty of exercise and good discipline. As for letting China go back to Mao Zedong's communism - the more than 20 million people that were wiped out during the Great Leap Forward (and dozens of millions more in other similar schemes of progress) will surely agree whole-heartedly!
Amit Sharma
Cincinnati OH, USA (Apr 3,'09)

[Re Beyond the dollar , Mar 31] I like my thesis that China's $2 trillion hoard is less of an attempt to amass the biggest pile of money than it is to sterilize it from overwhelming China's fiscal policy of manageable growth. If this is so then it does not matter if the US dollar's absolute value drops or rises so long as it remains significant enough to back the value of the yuan and to finance unanticipated and unbudgeted development. People's Bank of China governor Zhou Xiaochuan's call can perhaps be seen more as a plea to the US not to cause violent gyrations to the US dollar than a demand to maintain its value with an underlying threat to dethrone the US dollar as the reserve currency. A devaluation of the US dollar through inflation is inevitable. China can live with a gradual devaluation. That said, a $2 trillion dollar pile and growing is a dangerous time bomb that generates envy, jealousy, fear, trepidation and any number of negative emotions that drive rival nations to inappropriate acts. This pile must be put to good use. Good use does not equate to financing unearned consumption advocated by the US and the UK. In any case, their woes are too enormous for China to even address. Good use does not recommend that open-ended loans be given to second-tier countries that have the means to work out their problems. Good use to me means loans to destitute and poor Third World countries so that they can grow enough food for themselves and build the necessary infrastructures to live in basic decency - with clean water, sewage treatment, roads, electricity. Only China has the money and the capacity to act. Its record in these areas is excellent and must continue. When modest men and women have the opportunity to live a modest existence we would have achieved a great thing.
Kelvin Mok (Apr 3,'09)

[Re A lost vision for US intelligence, Apr 2] Was sure glad to read this article - at this source. The smell has been a long time coming out of the bag, but it's sure as heck true. I have been baffled for years as to why the American people haven't cottoned onto who really winds the Washington clock. It's so darned obvious when one goes looking for answers. When I heard that this had happened to Charles Freeman, I was shocked, but thought the same thing he and others are thinking: Maybe these turkeys have finally over-stepped the races.
Keith E Leal
Canada (Apr 3,'09)

The article US sees devil in cross-strait detente[Apr 1] by Jian Junbo, started with a stale premise. The author presumed that even today US support for Taiwan is still based on practical US interests. He writes, "Washington has attempted to maintain the status quo on the Taiwan Strait, as this best serves US interests." The status quo certainly does not best serve US interests. I believe even the more ardent ideologists in Washington acknowledge Taiwan's historical liability and its cross-strait economic ties as both a catalyst and a source of ingredients, respectively, for mainland China's long-term military development. There are no practical interests in the status quo for the US; in fact, some Americans policy makers may logically regard the status quo as the worst situation for the US. Why does the US adhere to it? It has no comprehensively logical choice; none provided by mainland China specifically. The answer is the proverbial elephant in the living room in many homes in mainland China, Taiwan and the US; the US, in deference to the consequence of historical events and in acquiescence to the resurgence of an enormous China, has the responsibility to promote peace and prosperity in East Asia. If the US were to abolish the Taiwan Relations Act today, can one be sure that mainland China will still methodically practice gradualism? (The logical corollary is that the US has no choice but to accept mainland China's gradualism that culminates, after a few decades, in convenient peaceful coercion on Taiwan.) On the other hand, if the USA risked breaking diplomatic relation with China by recognizing Taiwan statehood, Taiwan will face far greater peril after a few decades, and the US would have lost most leverage on China for the promotion of democracy and would have forfeited most practical interests on all fields, economic and environmental. Of course, on this backdrop the ideology of standing by a recently democratized old ally is still significant. That not every choice by the USA is based on democratic ideal does not mean that democratic ideal is bogus; that not every choice by China is based on Confucianism does not mean that Confucianism is bogus. That the world is replete with idiosyncrasies does not mean that all ideals are bogus. The Taiwan issue is actually rather simple; the oblivion toward the elephant in the living room has its different basis. In mainland China; it is the lack of humility; in Taiwan, denial; in the USA, ideological fervor.
Jeff Church
USA (Apr 3,'09)

[Re Lunar prize sets Asian hearts racing, Apr 2] Chinese aerospace universities like the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Harbin Institute of Technology, Tsinghua and Northwestern Universities are well known centers of People's Liberation Army (PLA)-funded military aerospace research. I consider them adjuncts to the PLA's General Armaments Department and Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense. These aerospace universities contribute directly to ongoing military-science and weapons research programs and professors list their military or "863 Program" funded research on their resumes. Faculty members from these universities would have to work hard to avoid PLA-funded programs over the course of their career. The question I have is, does Google care that it is engaging the PLA even if you wish to call it indirect engagement?
Rick Fisher
Senior Fellow
International Assessment and Strategy Center
Washington, DC (Apr 3,'09)

Amidst such bleakness I am glad that plucky Asia Times Online can publish two humorous pieces to regale us. And all of these on April 1, too. I am talking about the article Beyond the dollar [Mar 31] by Martin Hutchinson and a letter on Tibet by Amit Sharma [Mar 31]. Hutchinson believes that the crux of the financial problem in the USA sprang from Chinese over saving and their manipulation of the yuan. He suggests that China should go on the Gold Standard for the sake of the Chinese people and the world. I have a better suggestion: why don't we get the Chinese to go back to Mao Zedong's communism and leave the "Free World" to the US and the US dollars? And a big hello to Sharma. I think what happens in Tibet is modernization and not "Sinicization". Or is it "sinisterization? I think the Dalai Lama would be more credible if he also advises President Barack Obama to let the Afghans keep their Taliban, their culture and religion, and not try to do a "Americanization" there. Or is it "Americancerization"?
UK (Apr 2,'09)

[Re US sees devil in cross-strait detente, Apr 1] The new United States resolution on the Taiwan Relations Act is a reminder to some people in China who have false hope that the US is their friend. The US has no friends and just pursues its own (real or imaginary) national interests. The US intends to remain the only superpower in the world and will do its utmost to maintain that by whatever means. It will instigate unrest within a nation or tensions amongst nations to achieve that end. It favors a multiparty system of government so it can pit one group or person against another. It uses media to spread lies and magnify any unfortunate event in its target nations. It uses global organizations to achieve its ends. With the US' enormous wealth by way of their use of the US dollar as a means of global transactions, it can get all the natural resources of the world by just printing money.
Wendy Cai
USA (Apr 2,'09)

[Re Aboard the imperial star ship Ameriprise, Apr 1] As a one-time fervent fan of the original Star Trek, I enjoyed William Astore's telling analogy with neo-imperial America and the evil empire. I had hoped that he would conclude with an exchange between the "bad" Spock and the "good" Captain Kirk that occurred in the episode he cited, "Mirror, Mirror". Kirk was trying to reason with the Vulcan about the illogic of the empire that he fought for using brute force to conquer and pillage. He asked Spock what he thought would be the outcome of such policies in the future. Unperturbed and with stoic alacrity, Spock said, "The empire will be destroyed, of course."
Hardy Campbell
Houston TX USA (Apr 2,'09)

[Re Controversy stalks Tokyo tribunals, Apr 1] John Feffer has pulled out an old chestnut from the embers that won't ever die. Sixty years after the International Military Tribunal for Far East Trials, the condemnation of Japan's war criminals to death by hanging or imprisonment, he has re-opened these never-healing wounds of the Japanese ... Japan's inability to fully recognize its full responsibility for its war in Asia and the Pacific has sparked protests, especially as the Japanese government has entombed the ashes of war criminals at the shrine in Yasukuni.
Melville Cooper (Apr 2,'09)

[Re US sees devil in cross-strait detente, Apr 1] Jian Junbo's views of US policy toward Taiwan, and of the purpose of US House of Representatives' commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), are incorrect. The commemoration of the TRA is a tradition, repeated every 10 years. The main intent of this year's commemoration is not to send signals to China. It is an expression of friendship and respect for Taiwan, a recognition of its tremendous political achievements over the past 30 years, and a reiteration of America's long-standing commitments to Taiwan. When it comes to the US-China-Taiwan relationship, mainland Chinese tend to believe that America wants to keep Taiwan and China apart. America's actual policy, followed consistently for at least the past 30 years, is to support a peaceful resolution to cross-strait tensions, regardless of whether the resolution is unification, independence, or something in-between. The reason so many Chinese believe in the myth that US policy is to keep China and Taiwan divided is because it is psychologically easier, and politically useful, for the Chinese government to foster a nationalistic and ethnic view that there is an unfriendly Western force subverting unification, rather than openly acknowledging that most Taiwanese do not feel a strong attachment for China and are very hesitant to give up their de facto independence. The relationship between Taiwan and China will naturally grow stronger in the years to come. The majority of Taiwanese have ancestors from Fujian. They share a common history, culture, and dialect. But there is still a political and psychological gulf between Taiwan and China. Jian claims that the US can do nothing to influence the future of cross-strait relations; he is 60 years late. The US has already had a profound, decades-long influence on cross-strait relations; it has abetted the rise and flowering of political liberalization in both Taiwan and China. Ironically, the result of that influence is that the US is needed less and less as an arbiter and defender of Taiwan. The US Congress should also commemorate our relationship with China, to recognize that the improvement in Sino-US relations over the past 30 years has been an enormous blessing. And the experiences in the six-party talks have shown that China's Foreign Ministry is far more mature, capable, and reasonable, than their American counterparts, in dealing with North Korea. There is no contradiction in the US having cordial, meaningful relations with both Taiwan and China.
Geoffrey Sherwood
New Jersey, USA (Apr 2,'09)

[Re Bond folly, Mar 31] The Great Mogambo portrays himself as an animal. So, much as animals sense thunderstorms and earthquakes, the Mogambo senses the catastrophe roaring down upon us. While most people stifle the instincts that ought to warn them of it, the Mogambo heeds and strengthens his instincts, and warns us of the nearness of hyperinflation. When you are scrabbling for a scrap of bread to stave off hunger, remember that the Mogambo tried.
Tom Gerber
USA (Apr 1,'09)

It is not often that the first anniversary of the publication of a bureaucrat's biography deserves discussion, however this is one. A year ago Carla del Ponte, the chief prosecutor of the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal published her biography. In it she confirmed having, eight years previously, investigated reports from Western journalists that the [Kosovo Liberation Army] KLA, had kidnapped and dissected, while still alive, at least 1,300 Serb teenagers and that the presumably tens of thousands of body parts had been flown out of Tirana airports to Western destinations. Her team had indeed found a building where 300 of these murders took place together with forensic evidence proving this atrocity. Then she stopped the investigation. Since then there have been further investigations proving that such dissections were more extensive than thought and still going on. The European Union even appointed a lawyer to look into the matter. Over the last year we have seen lead writers and front page articles denouncing the Chinese government for their "heavy handed" breaking up of riots in Tibet in which less than two dozen died, most of them ethnic Chinese. We have seen headlines and denunciations of Russia's action which prevented a Georgian attempt to "ethnically cleanse" the entire South Ossetian population. We have seen massive reporting of the Israeli war against Hamas in which about 800 people died, overwhelmingly Hamas combatants. How shameful that atrocities worse in numbers, infinitely worse in cruelty and forming only a part of the crimes carried out under a North Atlantic Treaty Organization authority have gone virtually entirely unreported by the British Press and broadcasters.
Neil Craig
Glasgow (Apr 1,'09)

[Re Israel muddies US-Iran momentum, Mar 31] For incoming Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran is "an existential threat". If he means that it is an unfathomable enemy, then Zvi Shtauber's assessment, as Kaveh L Afrasiabi reports, clearly shows that one, Israel "has no credible intelligence on Iran", and two, "no one in Israel can provide a credible analysis of what Iran wants". The former Israeli former diplomat's appraisal is worth noting. For, although a far right-wing Netanyahu government may cause the Barack Obama administration some discomfort, Israel's influence on a modified direction of US policy towards Iran is a case of diminishing returns. With the announcement of a new strategy in Afghanistan, an opening towards Tehran offers Washington more possibilities in quelling a re-invigorated Taliban. Israel is in a geopolitical pickle in its own neighborhood. If Netanyahu restarts indirect negotiations with Syria, it will extend a helping hand to the US. Resolution of the Golan Heights question would widen Obama's road to Tehran on one hand, and on the other, possibly weaken anti-Jerusalem feelings. So the ball is in Israel's court. Were Israel to oppose America's steps of detente, no matter how tentative, with Iran, Netanyahu will in the longer run be the loser. For America's interests are less parochial than Israel's, and success in Kabul downgrades full support to Israel. Hence, muddying US waters at this moment in making diplomatic breakthroughs will earn Israel a sharp slap on the hand from the US, but not necessarily in public.
Nakamura Junzo
Guam (Apr 1,'09)

Reluctantly, and with the heaviest heart imaginable, I must do the inconceivable; agree with [right-wing radio talk-show host] Rush Limbaugh. This loathsome creature has announced his desire to see President Barack Obama fail in his efforts to resuscitate the ailing economy. His motivation for such a transparently treasonous pronouncement is pure ideological revulsion at the very idea that a liberal, and a half-black one at that, could do something beneficial for America. I, on the other hand, as liberal an American as they come, share Limbaugh's desire for a completely different reason. Obama has chosen to keep corporate America fat and happy, allowing those erstwhile defenders of capitalism to enjoy all of that system's benefits without any of its drawbacks, while driving the taxpayer to permanent penury. How much more transparent can he be in showing everyone where his priorities lie? If Obama was to succeed in temporarily reviving the moribund patient, in no time the forces of "welfare" capitalism would mesmerize the American people in thinking that the good ol' days were just around the corner again, and maybe all that was needed was another economic bubble, or foreign war, or some other fantastic delusion like the ones we've been churning out year after year in the empire of the deaf, dumb and desperate. Money continues to corrupt everything it touches, and there is no more rotten a stinking carcass then Washington DC, which has become a WalMart for corporations to buy politicians like they would suits off the rack. We fantasize about Obama waving a wand and everything changing, with greed and manipulation and swindling becoming a thing of our past, when it is the system of US capitalism, like Soviet communism before it, that can only be reformed in the grave. An Obama success would be the ultimate delusion, and thus must be denounced for the sham it is. ...
Hardy Campbell
Houston TX USA (Apr 1,'09)

[Re Beyond the dollar, Mar 31] When Russia and China recently called for replacement of the dollar as the world reserve currency, they knew full well that immediate action would be neither practicable nor practical. What their proposal did intend to achieve, I believe, is to cultivate the nascent doubt about the long-term viability of the dollar and to use the two countries' combined global clout to give hope and a voice to other nations that may wish for a similar outcome. As Doug Noland predicts in this week's column, "Expect increasingly vocal calls for global monetary reform."
John Chen
USA (Apr 1,'09)

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