Saturday, June 03, 2006

So Long Wen Ho Lee

The final disposition of the Wen Ho Lee case--a $1.65 million dollar settlement of the suit for invasion of his privacy--draws a curtain on one of the most contemptible episodes in American politics.

In the 1990s the American conservative movement faced two dilemmas.

The first was the so-called enemy deficit, occasioned by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

The second was the election of a charismatic Democrat, Bill Clinton as President.

In an attempt to create an exploitable advantage on national security and hobble the Clinton presidency, the right wing cobbled together a dishonest narrative that China was a dire threat and that the Clinton administration was knowingly selling our country out to the Chinese.

The tainted fruit of this initiative was the infamous Cox Commission report, the brouhaha about Clinton’s fundraising from Asian sources, a cynical effort to stampede public and elite opinion through the dishonest propagation of worst-case scenarios concerning China and the Clintons…and the Wen Ho Lee case.

Wen Ho Lee became the poster child for right wing allegations of lax, panda-appeasing mismanagement-- tantamount to treason--of our national defense by the Clinton administration .

To its eternal discredit, the Clinton administration tried to create some political space for itself by Sista Souljah-ing Wen Ho Lee. It twin-tracked a politicized, intimidating FBI investigation with a whispering campaign of leaks and innuendo in the press against Wen Ho Lee in an effort to appear “tough on China”.

But then the circus left town.

President Clinton’s dalliance with Monica Lewinsky provided the anti-Clinton forces with a salacious narrative of serial sexual misconduct and cover-up that the press and public found much more compelling than murky allegations of treasonous contacts with the PRC.

Then the enemy deficit was spectacularly remedied by 9/11 and the appearance of a new, unattractive, and oil-rich Middle Eastern boogeyman that terrified the American people and re-invigorated and enriched the national security-political-industrial complex a hundred times more than remote, unthreatening China ever could.

The Wen Ho Lee case was ignored and abandoned as an early, failed experiment in the politics of personal destruction and orchestrated national security hysteria.

Wen Ho Lee seems to have merged from the wreckage with his equanimity intact and his life’s trajectory redirected onto perhaps a not unfavorable course.

Notra Trulock, the would-be Jean Valjean of the case, a professional paranoid and intemperate Clinton-hater, seems a pathetic figure, his career and reputation shredded by the right wingers who cynically encouraged and abetted him.

Ironically, the core issues of actual Chinese espionage in the United States, the problems of morale, management, and security in our weapons labs, and even the question of whether Wen Ho Lee is a saint, sinner, or simply just an ordinary, equivocating techno-careerist, have never been honestly or usefully addressed.

All that’s left is the Wen Ho Lee settlement, a sordid monument to a forgotten campaign of dishonesty and slander—and the last milestone on a mean little dead end street, just off the main highway of dishonor that leads to our national shame in Iraq.

EastSouthWestNorth has a good collection of articles providing the background of the case.

1 comment:

China Hand said...


Your point well taken. I’ll tone down the rhetoric and embargo the undocumented assertions. In return, I really would appreciate some help with gas prices. Thanks!