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viernes, julio 04, 2008

Let The Games Begin!

Lost in the July 3 rush to start July 4th partying is the Commander Athlete in Chief's announcement that he will support the athletes by attending the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. This direct, single digit salute to people who care about human rights in China and who are concerned about the continuing genocide in Darfur, was delivered to avoid outcry. Put another way, it reeks of cowardice.

The New York Times reports:
The White House said Thursday that President Bush would attend the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics next month, a decision fraught with international political symbolism that quickly drew criticism from advocates for human rights.

The advocates have been pressing world leaders to boycott the Olympics or at least skip the opening ceremonies to protest China’s violent crackdown after riots in Tibet and its support for the government of Sudan, whose Darfur region remains enmeshed in violence.

The leaders of Britain and Germany have said they will skip the opening ceremonies. For some time, the White House has said that Mr. Bush will attend the Games, but has refused to provide further details.

That changed late on Thursday afternoon. With most of official Washington already gone for the Fourth of July holiday, the White House press secretary, Dana Perino, issued a simple statement outlining Mr. Bush’s August travel schedule, including the notation that he would go to the opening ceremonies.

The president's press secretary mouthpiece, who gives frequent evidence of being both utterly tone deaf and unable to distinguish facts from opinions, explained in an interview:
“This is a decision by the president that he really wanted to go in support of our athletes,” Ms. Perino said in an interview. Asked if Mr. Bush was making a political statement, she said, “He does not look at it that way, but we recognize that others may.”
Support? At the opening ceremony? The opening ceremony is just a parade dressed up like a Super Bowl Halftime.

And he doesn't look at it as a political statement? I know the administration considers bike riding and brush cutting more important than foreign policy and genocide, but come on. This isn't an athletic event; it's a propaganda display. Someone more talented than I in inventing fiction should have a go at explaining this. Personally, I think it heralds a proliferation of magnetic ribbons in red, white and blue saying, "Support Our Troops Athletes." Were there huge, unsold surpluses? But I digress.

Other world leaders, of course, aren't attending. Gordon Brown of the UK will attend the closing ceremony to pick up the torch, which is headed next for London. Germany's Angela Merkel will not attend. France's Nicolas Sarkozy was thinking about it, until China told him not to bother. It goes without saying that the Dalai Lama isn't attending.

The reaction to the announcement, to no one's surprise, was negative:
The White House announcement drew a rebuke from officials at Save Darfur, a nonprofit organization that accuses China, Sudan’s biggest trading partner, of failing to use its influence to stop fighting between rebels and militias in Darfur, where at least 200,000 people have been killed, according to published mortality surveys, and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes in what the White House terms a genocide.

“We are deeply disappointed,” the coalition’s president, Jerry Fowler, said.

On Capitol Hill, some lawmakers, led by two representatives — Neil Abercrombie, Democrat of Hawaii, and Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California — have urged a boycott of the Games. In a telephone interview from California, Mr. Rohrabacher accused the president of timing the announcement so that reaction from members of Congress would be muted.

“I think that a president who has said we are conducting warfare in different parts of the world in order to promote democracy and human rights loses credibility when he announces that he is going to attend the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in a country that is the world’s worst human rights abuser,” Mr. Rohrabacher said.

And what, you might want to ask, is attendance by the Athlete in Chief designed to tell the world? That the US is a wholly owned, corporate subsidiary of Wal-mart Beijing? That Disney-ification is more important than human suffering? That Human Rights is a meme the US will claim to invade and kill for, but only when there's oil or some other economic reason? That the Athlete in Chief remains a petulant fratboy who wants to go to the party, and that's all there is to it?

Personally, I'm ever so slightly outraged. I don't have to stand for this. Nor do you. The Fourth of July isn't about hiding and being sneeky. It's about independence and, dare I say it, human rights. Let's celebrate. Let's get out those credit cards and make lots and lots of small donations to organizations who really need our help to respond to this embarrassing set back:

Save Darfur

International Campaign For Tibet

Human Rights Watch

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Anonymous Andrew said...

I am part of a campaign to not watch the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics if the Olympic Sponsors do not condemn China's support of Sudan and Sudanese Oil. While there is no way to organize enough people in this last month before the Olympics (at the time of writing) to force the sponsors hand, we can at least hope to send a clear message. The sponsors of the games are not sponsors to support China or the Olympics as much as they are simply trying to get their name out. That is why I am part of this campaign, if this interests you check it out here: if you would like to join With 2008 people we can at least mar that image and send the message that blindly supporting a country that funds a genocidal regime is not okay, and is not good for your corporate image.

1:19 p.m.  

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