The U.S. government has flipped its lid on this China spy plane mess. So have many commentators who are refusing to come to terms with some very obvious facts. Once you blow away the fog, you can see that if anyone should be protesting right now, it is American citizens against their own government.
No. 1: The collision between the U.S. spy plane and the Chinese jet occurred along China’s border. Think about that and you can understand why China is so unhappy.
Now, the U.S. claims it was in “international airspace,” but backs up this claim with a rule arrived at unilaterally by the U.S. government and accepted by no one else. The U.S. makes up rules to justify its behavior, rules that the U.S. does not accept if applied against U.S. territory.
The space where the collision occurred is normally used to facilitate commerce, not hostile military activities. But in U.S. foreign policy, there is a presumption that the whole world is a playground for the U.S. government to do what it wants.
No. 2: The U.S. plane was a spy plane. Say it three times: It was a spy plane. It was not a commercial airliner. Hence it is preposterous for the U.S. to say that a spy plane landing in China territory is somehow sovereign property. The international law on this subject applies to civil aviation.
The U.S. spy plane was seeking to intercept communications and rip off information for U.S. military advantage, probably at the behest of China’s unfriendly neighbors. This makes it an aggressor against China, just as the U.S. considers any attempt to spy on us to be aggression and evidence of hostility.
No. 3: The U.S. spy plane landed at a Chinese military airport. The U.S. crew never asked permission to do so. Imagine what the U.S. would do if a Chinese spy plane were zipping around outside Virginia, became entangled with U.S. jets, and then landed at a U.S. base. The U.S. would not say, “Sorry, guys, about interrupting your spy mission. Thanks for visiting our military base and come back soon.”
No. 4: The Chinese pilot is dead. The U.S. crew is not. Also still dead are the three Chinese journalists who died when the U.S. bombed the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia in 1999. No U.S. soldiers died in that incident either. The carnage is beginning to mount, and, no surprise, that at some point the Chinese are going to decide they won’t take it anymore. How long can one country be subjected to murderous attacks from the U.S. before it begins to complain? But if they do complain, this is decried in the U.S. as “nationalism.”
No. 5: There is no mystery about how the U.S. treats such cases. In 1976, a Soviet MIG carrying a defector landed in Japan. The Soviets demanded the plane back. The U.S. complied after taking the entire thing apart. It was sent back to Moscow in packing crates.
On another occasion in the 1970s, the U.S. secretly tried to raise a Soviet submarine from the ocean. We use any means possible to obtain military equipment from potentially hostile nations. So turnabout is fair play.
No. 6: The U.S. spy plane was not an innocent victim. No one can say for sure how the collision occurred, but it seems obvious that the U.S. version of events — a spy plane minding its own business gets bumped by a Chinese jet — isn’t true. This was a case of the kind of cat-and-mouse that cars play on highways all the time.
If it turns out that the U.S. is wholly to blame, it wouldn’t be the first time. A couple of years ago, American fighter pilots cut ski cables in Italy, killing 20 civilians with their recklessness. And just recently, show-offs and goof-offs cruising the world in a submarine sank a Japanese school boat, killing nine, four of whom were 17-year-old kids.
No. 7: The U.S. has fulminated for years about supposed spying by China against the U.S. Remember the Cox Report? For all of its bluster, it never went so far as to accuse China of flying spy planes around our borders. But it turns out that the U.S. regards such activity as routine and justifiable, if directed against other countries.
The message is obvious: The U.S. can do whatever it wants with its military, but believes itself exempt from the very laws it wants to apply to others. This attitude engenders hatred around the world.
Though no one in the U.S. cares to remember, the Chinese have not forgotten the U.S. role in the so-called Opium Wars. In this 19th-century drug war, military force was used to addict the Chinese to drugs so as to create customers for opium. Nor have they forgotten the Boxer Rebellion, when U.S. troops — in pursuit of continuing economic control — burned and looted the ancient imperial compound. Nor, to take more recent examples, have they forgotten the U.S. threatening them twice in the 1950s with nuclear annihilation for responding to huge Taiwanese troop movements to the islands of Quemoy and Matsu near the mainland.
To say there are double standards at work here is a wild understatement. Despite all the mistreatment, Beijing doesn’t want war. It wants the U.S. to behave like a responsible trading partner, not the world hegemon it has become. But there is only so much humiliation and bloodshed that a nation can be subjected to before its citizens demand reprisal.
Washington probably doesn’t want war either. What it wants is a license to spy on and otherwise invade the world, killing and maiming whenever the time seems right, and never having to be held responsible. Washington wants what every bully wants — the freedom to beat people up and never pay the price.
American citizens should join their friends across the ocean and protest U.S. imperial adventures. Our heritage is one of peace. Our founders tried to create a system that would prevent the establishment of a world military empire. It is our moral duty to criticize such an establishment when it threatens to upset peaceful commercial ties, which in the Chinese case are extensive and magnificent.
At minimum, we must demand that U.S. commentators cut out the absurd Cold War language of belligerency, lies, and reprisal. China has never done anything to us. We must demand that our own government stop the spying, bombing and killing. No American citizen benefits from the U.S. Empire. But we each have much to gain from having it dismantled.
There is only one evil empire alive in the world today, and it is not China.