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We’re hog-tied and it’s all Bill Clinton’s fault. Oh I know, he’s out of office; how can it be his fault? I can hear the critics saying “there she goes again.” Well, maybe.

Then again, if you look at the world of politics and commerce the Arkansas-wonder left us, it isn’t hard to see what’s going on and why.

Just a week ago, two military planes over the South China Sea had an encounter that neither was built for — mid-air, high-speed tag. Nyaah, nyaah. You’re it! “It” indeed!

It was a mid-air collision between a fast, maneuverable jet and a slower, more cumbersome prop plane. One went down into the sea and was lost and the other made an emergency landing. We’re told, with no proof yet, that the pilot of the downed Chinese F-8 fighter jet was killed.

The 24-member American crew of the U.S. EP-3E surveillance plane is being held on a military base on Hainan Island. After much nudging, politely of course, the Chinese finally allowed the crew to be visited by Americans but not for long. But certainly not to be returned home. There are even guarded hints that they may have to stand trial. Hmmm.

As for returning the damaged plane — that request also fell on deaf ears as reliable sources tell of the plane being examined and stripped of its latest, top-secret technology. Despite reports the crew destroyed a portion of the surveillance data gathered, it appears the job wasn’t completed before the plane landed. This left the Chinese with a mystery they’ll soon decipher and ultimately use against us. Think of it. What they weren’t able to get their hands on under the “Clinton Open Door Political Trade Policy,” they are now able to fill-in-the gaps with this haul.

As I write this, not much has happened since the “accident” except for classic posturing and blustering on both sides. Actually, it’s the Chinese who are blustering with their demands of apologies and damages being paid. The posturing seems to be coming from our side. It’s pretty low-key despite the president’s insistence on not apologizing. We do “regret,” however that isn’t what the Chinese want.

It’s all a game of words. You can call it “diplomacy” or you can call it “politics.” You can call it “playing it safe” or you can call it “being a patsy.” You can call it “wimpy” or you can call it “gutless.” Whatever it’s called, it means nothing until something is done. Not just talk, not just a political performance and platitudes for the cameras but something.

What needs to be done, as this is written, is to put an end to the hostage situation which faces the Bush administration. And it is, without question, a hostage situation. In other words, get those men and women back home and get that plane back. Now.

The U.S. plane was over international waters, taunted and teased by the Chinese jet and so damaged it had to land or crash. Rather than jeopardize the lives of the 24 people on board, the pilot skillfully landed. Reports of what happened and why, are inconsistent and quite frankly, no official will venture a public statement as to which is accurate.

Take your pick — the U.S. military ordered the plane to land on the Chinese island. The Chinese ordered the plane to land. The U.S. pilot made the decision on his own for the safety of his crew. The plane was being chased and harassed by the Chinese plane. The U.S. plane was fired upon by the Chinese. The Chinese jet intentionally rammed the slower U.S. plane. The U.S. plane veered out of its flight path to ram the jet.

The Clinton legacy rears its ugly head here because the harassment of U.S. planes by the Chinese has been going on for months. The military says they’ve come so close our pilots can see their faces and the pilot involved in this incident has, on past occasions, held up his e-mail address for our crews to read. And they could!

But was this kind of harassment reported to the public? No. If any reporters in the mainstream knew of it, did they write about it? Not so you’d notice. If there were dangerous situations as a result of Chinese provocation, were Americans aware of it? No. So with this, it’s easy for Chinese apologists to make us the scapegoat, to show how imperious we are and how we’re taking advantage of them.

The truth is the Chinese bought and owned the Clinton administration. If President Bush is cautious in dealing with this affront it’s because there’s much at stake. Not only the ultimate threat of a possible standoff and another cold or hot war, not only the threat to Taiwan and our obligations to support that democracy, not only the threat to Japan and our allies in Asia — but a massive threat to a huge base of the American economy.

We’re enduring a slide to recession and are on the edge of a demonstrably real depression — a situation which could easily come about with a disruption of our China trade. Like it or not, Bill Clinton left us highly dependent on China. Almost everything we buy in this country is made there. Cut off the source and we have even bigger problems. (Just think, the U.S. Army might not get those cursed black berets in time for the upcoming Army birthday!)

Sure there’s military pressure on Bush. There’s also patriotic pressure and political pressure. But do not discount the pressure of the thousands of businesses dependent on China for their bottom line. It’s easy for us to talk boycott. It’ll be easier for China to nationalize American businesses on their soil. Then what? Nyaah, nyaah. You’re it!

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