The Clinton Legacy
Wo Hen Lee, the Los Alamos scientist, is a symbol of President Clinton's presidency. The judge in the case recognized that Lee was being made into a scapegoat, but did not figure out why. It is impossible to be certain, but the following is my reconstruction of world events that lead to Lee's persecution.
Clinton decides to intervene in the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. He presents Milosovich with an agreement no sovereign could accept, then uses the refusal to agree as an excuse to exercise power by bombing Belgrade. Knowing that any loses would be unacceptable to the American public, stealth technology is used in the bombing.
The Chinese took advantage of this conflict to learn how to deal with America's stealth and other wartime technology. They set up a control center in the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. This center coordinated information regarding, among other things, stealth flights. This information was used to shoot down a stealth plane.
Clinton bombed the Chinese embassy deliberately to end and punish this activity. Of course, intentionally bombing an embassy is an act of war, so Clinton denied the bombing was intentional. The U.S. fabricated an explanation for their "mistake".
The Chinese of course knew Clinton had a good reason to bomb their embassy. Therefore, they had good reason to believe the bombing was intentional, and that the "excuse" would probably fail scrutiny. So they pushed the issue, demanding detailed explanations.
Sensing an opportunity to make political hay, the Chinese started drumming up anti-American sentiment within their own country. Anti-American gathers were gathering steam. There was a potential that the Chinese propaganda would be effective in improving the Chinese international status vis-a-vis the U.S.
Clinton felt he had to counter the Chinese propaganda move. He needed to stir up anti-Chinese feeling in the U.S. He chose to accuse the Chinese of stealing U.S. military and nuclear secrets. This is a very appealing accusation because it makes the U.S. people feel superior and wronged. But Clinton needed something concrete for people to associate with his accusations.
So he blew a minor security violation up into a major spy scandal. Like many scientists, Wo Hen Lee, took some of his work home with him. He downloaded information that he was not supposed to. But what he did was with good intentions and not different from what many other scientists do. For Clinton, a security violation at a National Defense Lab by an ethnic Chinese was what he needed to counter the Chinese propaganda effort. Sure enough, the Wo Hen Lee case made headlines and the Chinese complaints about the bombing subsided.
Wo Hen Lee was dubbed "dangerous". A gentle 60-year old man put in shackles in solitary confinement. Decisions regarding his case were made at the White House, rather than at the Justice Department. This shows that Clinton was orchestrating the attacks on Wo Hen Lee.
The Judge on the Wo Hen Lee case, after being originally duped by the U.S. Government, finally understood that Wo Hen Lee was being used for political purposes. The judge apologized to Wo Hen Lee. He accepted a plea agreement only because Wo Hen Lee had a right to try to put this disaster behind him.
Clinton capped his deception by stating that "mistakes had been made". As though he were a bystander and the Justice Department had acted overzealously. The Justice Department tried to put a good face on the disaster by saying all they were really interested were in the whereabouts of some lost tapes. But everything the Justice Department said was disingenuous. All this was about was the sacrifice of a good man to achieve a political objective.
This is a work in progress. I think it will evolve to include other aspects of the Clinton Legacy. The U.S. actions in Yugoslavia certainly deserve more attention. The effects of Yugoslavia and Chechnya on our relations with Russia need to be explored. Clinton's handling of Waco, and his belated statement that mistakes were made echo the Wo Hen Lee case. Clinton's snub of the Panama Canal transfer call for comparison of Clinton with Carter: who would you rather have as your president? As far as the Wo Hen Lee case goes, I would like to document some of the points a little better. In particular, I think the judge's decision on the plea bargain deserves more attention.
It has occurred to me that Clinton's detractors will relish in some of my criticisms. However, more information and thought is required to really assess Clinton. For example, when framed as a moral contest between Clinton and Lee, Lee is certainly the winner. However, that is not an appropriate standard for judging Clinton. He needs to be judged according to the circumstances confronting him and the options available to him. It could be that Clinton acted appropriately and that Lee was just unlucky in being someone that had to be sacrificed for the common good.
Boris Yeltsin resigned at the close of the millennium apologizing for his mistakes. He hand picked a relatively hard liner successor. I think that one of the mistakes Yeltsin was referring to was his excessive faith in warming Russian-American relations. After all, Russia had shed Communism, allowed the Soviet Union to dissolve with little violence. Russia seemed willing to play a part in the New World Order as the U.S. defined it.
Clinton repeated dealt blows to Russian prestige. NATO would admit Russia's former allies but exclude Russia. Then NATO acted against the Serbs, Russias allies and Slavic relatives. Then the U.S. condemned Russia's military actions in Chechnya. It was pretty clear that concessions in Chechnya would have negative repercussions elsewhere in Russia. It was fair to interpret Clinton's position as advocating the fragmentation of Russia. While Russia's protests forced statements by Clinton that he desired a "strong Russia", this assertion was given only begrudgingly and was not convincing. Yeltsin could have reasonably concluded that America's policy toward Russia remained one of adversity.
It seems to me that a huge opportunity to develop Russia as an ally was missed. Russia subsequently improved its relations with China, which is a tilt against America. More recently, Russia is urging Europe to separate itself from America. Russia is siding with our adversaries and wooing away our allies. It need not and should not have been that way.
The deadly end of the Waco conflict was predictable and unnecessary. It was predictable because the U.S. government was presenting a choice of death or humiliating imprisonment to someone who thought he was God, or at least close to it. Death is the rationale choice for such a person in such a circumstance. Clinton subsequently informed us that a similar situation in Arkansas was handled by in effect quarantining the "bad guys" until they gave up. This would have been the right approach in Waco. However, the fact that some Texas Rangers had already been killed made this a difficult choice politically. In addition, the conflict could continue for a long time. Clinton is certainly mindful of the political costs Carter paid for not resolving the Iran Hostage crisis quickly. Clinton probably did the right thing politically, but the moral cost of wiping out 80 or so people, most of whom were innocents, is very high.
I also recall that a number of dogs and other animals where summarily killed by federal forces. Maybe this is small potatoes compared to the human lives that were lost. However, the loss of animal life was clearly unnecessary and shows the heartlessness that accompanied the federal action in Waco.
Sen John Danforth led a recent panel on Waco. He concluded the fault was not with the federal forces, but on David Koresh, the cult leader. This was a very disappointing outcome. Obviously, David Koresh was at fault. We did not need to know who was MORE at fault, we needed to know if the federal forces acted reasonably to protect human life. I think they acted in a manner highly likely to achieve a high death count to get an early resolution. A more patient approach could have saved many lives. However, the American people are to blame for forgetting fundamental rights and taking the position that death was an appropriate result for these misfits. On the other hand, the federal forces controlled communication and propagandized the public into these opinions. I suggest that the propaganda actions of the federal forces were inappropriate.
Clinton had to confront another Carter action when the date for transfer of the Panama Canal came up. It was clear that Clinton thinks that Carter made a monumental mistake in giving away valuable U.S. property for nothing. I have seen little debate on this topic. Carter continues to maintain that it was the "moral thing to do." But was it really in America's interest to give it away? I think a Panama Canal debate would go far in helping understand what we expect from a leader.
Clinton's Last Presidential Acts
On his last day in Office, Clinton pardoned former CIA Director John Deutch, the one-time spy chief and top Pentagon official facing criminal charges in connection with his mishandling of national secrets on a home computer. No mention was made of Wo Hen Lee in the article. It would seem much more understandable for a scientist to overlook security concerns than a CIA chief, but no pardon for Wo Hen Lee. Also, China received $28 million in compensation for damaged embassy in Belgrade.