Sunday, December 10, 2006

Dictatorships and Double Standards, Indeed

Here is the WSJ's Opinion Journal on Jeane Kirkpatrick, who died on Friday:

No one ever doubted Jeane Kirkpatrick's will or courage. Among those who most appreciated her determination to speak truth to totalitarian power was the celebrated Russian dissident Andrei Sakharov. Exiled by the Soviet government to Gorky, Sakharov said later how important it was to have a person of Jeane Kirkpatrick's stature publicly identify jailed Soviet dissidents by name. For the past 10 years she served on the board of the Center for a Free Cuba, which she helped found.

Jeane Kirkpatrick was born in Duncan, Oklahoma, in 1926. She was an ideologue, and her ideas would have come from Duncan. Their tenet was freedom for the human spirit. She dedicated a public life to protecting that freedom.

Funny thing: The WSJ editorialists did not mention Kirkpatrick's famous infamous response when interviewed by the Truth Commission appointed to investigate the 1980 rape and murder of four American women -- three of whom were Catholic Maryknoll nuns -- by El Salvador armed forces. The Jeane Kirkpatrick who was so committed to the "freedom of the human spirit" and so willing to "speak truth to totalitarian power" said, essentially, that the four women deserved what they got:

On 16 December 1980, United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick said: "I don't think the government (of El Salvador) was responsible. The nuns were not just nuns; the nuns were political activists. We ought to be a little more clear-cut about this than we usually are. They were political activists on behalf of the Frente and somebody who is using violence to oppose the Frente killed them." Tampa Tribune, 25 December 1980, pp. 23A and 24A, col. 1.

This, of course, was all part of the distinction Kirkpatrick made between "totalitarian" (Communist and socialist) regimes, and right-wing (fascistic) "authoritarian" regimes [bolds mine]:
Traditional autocrats leave in place existing allocations of wealth, power, status, and other resources which in most traditional societies favor an affluent few and maintain masses in poverty. But they worship traditional gods and observe traditional taboos. They do not disturb the habitual rhythms of work and leisure, habitual places of residence, habitual patterns of family and personal relations. Because the miseries of traditional life are familiar, they are bearable to ordinary people who, growing up in the society, learn to cope, as children born to untouchables in India acquire the skills and attitudes necessary for survival in the miserable roles they are destined to fill. Such societies create no refugees.

Precisely the opposite is true of revolutionary Communist regimes. They create refugees by the million because they claim jurisdiction over the whole life of the society and make demands for change that so violate internalized values and habits that inhabitants flee by the tens of thousands in the remarkable expectation that their attitudes, values, and goals will "fit" better in a foreign country than in their native land.

Yes, and slaves in the American South found their suffering "bearable" because they had "grown up with it" and "learned to cope"; and had "acquired the skills and attitudes necessary for survival in the miserable roles they were destined to fill." And Southern antebellum society did not create any refugees, either. But the Fugitive Slave Law was not written and passed because slaves found their lot in life bearable. And the "authoritarian" regimes Kirkpatrick supported did not torture, disappear, and murder their own people by the thousands and the tens of thousands because those people had learned to accept their fate in life. It's not necessary to persecute and terrorize people who don't question or rebel against their miserable condition.

That kind of thing only happens when governments or ruling authorities regard their own people as subversives and enemies.

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