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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dealing With Dictators

And we do ... deal with dictators. Parade magazine is included in my regular Sunday newspaper. Each year they publish a ranking of the world's worst dictators. The top ten tend to not change very much from year to year, although their bad behavior sometimes helps them move amongst the rankings. It is an exclusive club to which few belong ... the world's worst dictators.

They are despicable fellows who do heinous things. In some cases, they are a threat to their people. In some cases, they are a threat to all people of the world.

By contrast, the U.S. is the world's most successful democracy and the greatest band of freedom fighters that history has ever known. Few would argue the positive impact the U.S. has had on freedom around the world.

Consider, for example, what the 20th century might have been like if not for U.S. intervention in Germany and the rest of Europe, Japan and South Korea. Let's face it, Hitler was hell-bent on destroying Europe. Without U.S. intervention, he likely would have succeeded. Where might we be if we hadn't found peace with an aggressive, hostile Japan? I shudder to think.

So what is this world leader doing today? Is our behavior continuing to have such a positive impact? Are we still freedom fighting with the same result today? How does one deal with the world's worst dictators? The Parade magazine update gives a good clue --- it seems we prefer nowadays to fight with capitalism, greed and money. In the words of the infamous Dr. Phil, one should ask, "How's that working for you?" Let's take a look.

Kim Jong-il – North Korea (Age 66 – In power since 1994)No there is no legitimate media other than government propaganda. The penal system includes “collective punishment” where three generations of a family can be punished for one member’s alleged crime; detainment of roughly 200,000 citizens in labor camps; and the capture, torture and jailing of those who try to flee to China. Last year, North Korea fulfilled its pledge to shut down its nuclear reactors. But it failed a December deadline to disclose its full nuclear inventory. We continue to wait.

Omar Al-Bashir – Sudan (Age 64 – In power since 1989)A violent power struggle continues between government forces and rebels and bandits in the Darfur region. In 2007, Bashir ordered bombings that killed dozens of civilians. His appointed official to investigate the human-rights situation in Darfur is himself been suspected of war crimes by the International Criminal Court. The U.S. government issued trade sanctions in 1997, but exempted gum arabic, which we use in products ranging from soft drinks and candy to shoe polish and stamps. The U.S. still imports more than 4000 tons of it from Sudan annually.

Than Shwe – Myanmar (Burma) (Age 75 – In power since 1992)Last year Buddhist monks led pro-democracy demonstrations. Than Shwe ordered troops to fire at the crowds: They killed dozens of protestors, and his forces detained several thousand more. Pro-democracy, Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi, remains under house arrest. President Bush ended imports from Burma in 2003, but the U.S. sells the country more than $7 million in exports each year.

King Abdullah – Saudi Arabia (Age 84 – In power since 1995)Saudi Arabia adheres to a punitive justice system in which even teens are sentenced to death or tortured. Women are more oppressed than in any other country—they can’t even seek medical care without a male guardian’s permission. Rape victims can be beaten. But since the 1940’s the U.S. has consistently sought good relations with Saudi Arabia. American companies have sold its government more than $15 billion in arms in the last decade. Last year, U.S. oil imports totaled more than $30 billion. And while King Abdullah promised to crack down on extremists after most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, researchers at West Point say that the largest number of al-Qaeda fighters in Iraq still come from Saudi Arabia. (Where's the crackdown?)

Hu Jintao – China (Age 65 – In power since 2002)Last year, Hu came down harder on human-rights activists and increased censorship. His government also forces abortions, controls all media and harshly limits the practice of religion. There’s little criminal justice to be found in China—99% of all trials result in a guilty verdict. But the U.S. trade deficit with China stands at almost $1 billion a day! The U.S. government currently owes Chinese lenders $388 billion. (Most of China’s largest banks are owned by its Communist government too.) Moreover, a 2007 report to Congress said that Chinese espionage activities in the United States “comprise the single greatest risk to the security of American technologies.”

Robert Mugabe – Zimbabwe (Age 83 – In power since 1980)Zimbabwe’s inflation exploded to more than 8000% last year. Unemployment reached 80%, and food supplies continued to dwindle. One-quarter of the country’s population has fled. Nevertheless, Mugabe is running for a sixth term. The opposition is trying to unite, but police arrested and beat 50 opposition leaders last March. But U.S. trade with Zimbabwe has increased in each of the last four years, led by our imports of the metals ferrochromium and nickel (both used to make stainless steel).

Sayyid Ali Khamenei – Iran (Age 68 – In power since 1989)A recent intelligence report concluded that Iran did halt its nuclear-weapons program. But last year, officials carried out public hangings, stoned a man to death for adultery, shut down music studios and caf├ęs, and persecuted dissidents. Nevertheless, U.S. trade has increased, and U.S. exports to Iran rose from $8 million a year in 2001 to over $125 million a year in 2007. Our president called them part of the “axis of evil.” (Is this how you deal with evil?)

Pervez Musharraf – Pakistan (Age 64 – In power since 1999)In recent months, Musharraf suspended Pakistan’s constitution, shut down the courts, arrested several thousand dissidents and passed a law removing challenges to his continuation as president. But Americans bought almost $3 billion worth of Pakistani cotton clothing and fabrics in 2007. Even after Musharraf suspended the constitution, Bush said Musharraf has “advanced democracy in Pakistan.” The U.S. has given more than $7 billion in military aid in the last six years --- which many believe has been largely spent on arms to fight India, not terrorists.

Islam Karimov – Uzbekistan (Age 70 – In power since 1989)The Uzbek constitution imposes a two-term limit, but Karimov was elected to a third term in December. His government engages in routine torture of citizens and dissenters to forced psychiatric treatment. After 9/11, its 85-mile border with Afghanistan made it an appealing ally for the U.S. Karimov allowed U.S. forces to use an Uzbek air base but kicked the Americans out after Bush criticized him for ordering the massacre of hundreds of people. But U.S. imports have doubled since 2002 because Uzbekistan has a rich supply of uranium, which is needed for our power plants and weapons.

Isayas Afewerki – Eritrea (Age 62 – In power since 1991)Afewerki’s ban on privately owned media makes Eritrea one of the world’s worst abusers of press freedom. During his rule, Afewerki has never allowed national elections or the implementation of a constitution. The U.S. has provided aid and food to Eritrea, but Afewerki ordered American aid workers out in 2005. The U.S. still conducts trade with Eritrea, because they buy our sorghum.

Source: Parade Magazine (http://www.parade.com/dictators/2008/)

Why are we continuing to do business with these clowns? We have practically sold our souls to the devil. And we know it's the devil we're doing business with!

Take China (please). This weekend, ABC's news magazine 20/20 had an in-depth report about how China is now exporting plasticized human bodies to the U.S. and other western countries for entertainment and education. ABC could find no evidence that these bodies were donated to science for this purpose. Rather it believes they are the bodies of murdered dissidents and other political prisoners. Most all of them are the bodies of young, vibrant, healthy individuals. Sales of tickets to see them are bringing in record profits. What does that say about our values?

Take Saudi Arabia. Wasn't it that country that just recently wanted to whip a female rape victim? Are these the values we can be comfortable with? Do you agree that women should be treated as chattels? Are women supposed to be slaves and property of men? This is what this country subscribes to --- while it builds more than 3,000 Islamic mosques in the U.S. in recent years.

You know, the Bible tells of how God told the Israelites to deal with people who don't share their values. They were plainly told to avoid them. Don't form alliances with them. Don't count on them for protection. Don't trust them. Don't marry them. Don't get in bed with them. Don't even intermingle with them. And when Israel disobeyed God on this, He punished Israel severely.

What do you suppose God is thinking today, when He sees that this supposed "one nation under God," is now doing business on a regular basis with the "axis of evil?" I shudder to think!

It is time that the average American not just read this and wander into the local Wal-Mart to buy more crap from China and haul it home with fuel from Saudi Arabia. When will you and I start actually living our values in obedience to God? These are the questions that America faces in the next election. Ms. Clinton, Mr. McCain, Mr. O'Bama --- do you have answers?

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