President Bush says he’s going to the Chinese-hosted summer Olympic Games which would be tantamount to President Franklin Roosevelt having gone to Berlin’s XIth Olympiad to sit next to Adolph Hitler and join in the signing of Deutschland über Alles.
By going to Beijing’s Olympics the president is bolstering China’s prestige in the eyes of the world. That would be a mistake because China is not a benign agent in world affairs but a corrupt regime and a growing global threat.
Prior to the 1936 Berlin games, America engaged in a serious debate whether to boycott the Olympics because of Nazi behavior. Today by comparison, there is scant national discussion about China’s morality as host of the XXIX Olympiad and perhaps that’s why President Bush feels confident declaring “I’m going to the Olympics. I view the Olympics as a sporting event.”
But the Olympics are more than a sporting event and that’s why pre-World War II Americans who read about Nazi persecution of Jews, Christians, and political dissidents were alarmed that a regime with racial policies aiming to “purify” the Germanic “Aryan” population was hosting the Olympics. These facts rightly sparked a national debate about the morality of participating in the Nazi Olympics and explain why Avery Brundage who headed the American Olympic Committee at the time supported a boycott.
Brundage changed his view and officially accepted Germany’s invitation to participate in the Berlin Olympics after touring Nazi sports facilities rigged to show that Jewish athletes were treated fairly. After his tour, Brundage served Germany’s propaganda agenda when he wrote that American athletes should not become involved in “the present Jew-Nazi altercation” and alleged the existence of a “Jewish-communist conspiracy” to keep the U.S. out of the games.
Some Americans disagreed with Brundage’s decision. Jeremiah Mahoney, the president of the Amateur Athletic Union at the time, said American participation in the 1936 games would give “… moral and financial support to the Nazi regime, which is opposed to all that Americans hold dearest.”
The Nazis used the 1936 Olympics as a propaganda venue to showcase the "new Germany" and hide its real hegemonic ambitions. The regime “cleaned up” the host city Berlin by arresting 800 gypsies that were interned until after the games. It removed the omnipresent “Jews not welcome” signs normally seen throughout Germany. Security personnel were ordered to refrain from actions against Jews and Berliners were ordered to create a good impression by making tourists feel welcome.
Beijing is mimicking Nazi Olympic preparations. In 2001, the communists promised the international community to improve human rights in order to win the Olympics but once the games were awarded Chinese officials changed their tune. Deputy Prime Minister Li Langing said his country would maintain its “healthy life” by combating the Falun Gong spiritual movement and Vice President Hu Jintao promised “… to fight … the separatist forces orchestrated by the Dalai Lama [the spiritual leader of Tibet].”
Lately, the Chinese have been enforcing that “healthy life.” Reporters Without Borders indicate China has imprisoned journalists and is compiling files on journalists and human rights activists allegedly to prohibit their activities during the games. The communists are “cleaning up” Beijing by banishing dissidents — men such as 34-year-old Hi Jia, a human rights activist who is under house arrest and Yang Chunlin an Olympics critic who was sentenced to five years on charges of inciting subversion of state power by organizing a letter campaign entitled “We want human rights, not the Olympics.”
Beijing’s pre-Olympic behavior was predictable. The US State Department’s 2007 human rights report labels China’s performance as “poor.” It details how the communist party relies on Leninist police tactics to round up political opponents and detains them without trial. It severely restricts religious freedom, muzzles the press, dictates judicial outcomes, maintains 310 reeducation-through-labor camps and tortures detainees.
This report offers sufficient reason for President Bush to boycott Beijing’s games but after accepting Beijing’s invitation to attend he naively urged China to use the Olympics to expand “openness and tolerance.”
Maybe the president would change his mind if there was more political debate over our participation in the games. But it appears Americans are paying more attention to Chinese trade and investment ties than the moral and security dangers associated with the communist rival.
Predictably, talk about withdrawing support raises the issue of past boycotts. Olympic spokesman Darryl Seibel is quick to remind the world that the movement is “about sport, not politics” and the four previous boycotts — 1956, 1976, 1980 and 1984 — accomplished “… absolutely nothing other than to unfairly penalize athletes.”
But the games are about politics. Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels convinced the Führer that the Olympics could be exploited to advance the Nazi cause. Goebbles created a false image of Germany through strict censorship of the press and his pre-game “cleaning up” campaign. The same approach has been adopted by China’s Li Changchun, a veteran party leader and the regime’s propagandist, who is manipulating Beijing’s image for the games.
China doesn’t want the Olympics marred by protests about Tibet and Darfur which would make a mockery of the game’s motto, “One World One Dream.” That concern explains Beijing’s decision to deny live television coverage from Tiananmen Square, the site of the 1989 massacre of 800 protestors by the military. The communists are already restricting press coverage of the Tibet crisis and preparing to put a cap on other potentially bad news stories as a warm-up to the summer games.
Even the US State Department warns those attending the Beijing Olympics to expect Orwellian intrusion. The State’s website warns that “All hotel rooms and offices are considered to be subject to onsite or remote technical monitoring at all times” and “… may be accessed at any time without the occupant’s consent or knowledge.”
No doubt, the Chinese games will present the world choreographed pageantry, record-breaking athletic feats and wonderful hospitality. Meanwhile, the propagandists will suppress the ugly truth about the ruthless dictatorship.
President Bush shouldn’t expect anyone to believe he can abandon his presidential mantle to become only a sports fan nor should he bow to economic interests when China has created undisputed moral and security challenges. The fact is that Bush’s attendance will not expand Chinese “openness and tolerance” anymore than America’s 1936 Olympic team’s participation in the Nazi games stopped Hitler from murdering millions of Jews and starting World War II.
If President Bush won’t lead the West’s boycott at least he should follow German chancellor Angela Merkel who after reflecting on her country’s painful Olympic history courageously decided not to attend the Beijing Olympics.