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Caveat lector

27 May 1998

A Howler follow-up report: It looks to us like Paul Craig Roberts signed a waiver on good old common sense!

Synopsis: Three days before Mona Charen did China, Paul Craig Roberts also strangely arranged to reverse the direction of time.

Fallout tracings...futile arms twisting
Paul Craig Roberts, The Washington Times, 5/18/98

Yesterday, we couldn’t help chuckling and rolling our eyes over Mona Charen’s strange report on the China missile story. In her report, Charen blamed events that occurred in 1993 on financial dealings by Johnny Chung that didn’t happen until 1996.

It’s the sort of thing this celebrity press corps will do to make stories turn out the way that they want. And guess what? Three days before Charen’s creative report--on the very same Washington Times op-ed page--Paul Craig Roberts had also reversed the direction of time, so he could heap blame on President Clinton.

Here’s how Roberts got started:

ROBERTS (paragraph 4): India rushed into nuclear testing, because Mr. Clinton in one senseless act has greatly increased India’s vulnerability to China...In what concerned Americans regard as an act of high treason, Mr. Clinton permitted the transfer to China of our top-secret nuclear missile technology. Because of this technology, China now has for the first time the ability to target U.S. cities with nuclear weapons.

Let’s rush through the undemonstrated claims in this paragraph. Roberts makes no effort to support his initial claim that India tested the bomb because of Clinton’s China policy. He then says that people are accusing the president of “an act of high treason,” without mentioning who these people are. In the course of his article, he nowhere defines what technology it is that China has allegedly received from Clinton; and he makes no effort to defend his debatable claim that China was unable to target U.S. cities before this alleged technology transfer.

But enough of the petty nit-picking. Roberts’ claim in this paragraph is fairly clear: President Clinton “permitted” the transfer of nuclear technology to China. This put India--and the U.S.--in peril.

After bravely calling Clinton “the boy president” in paragraph 5, Roberts heightens our outrage at what Clinton has done:

ROBERTS (paragraph 6): The transfer of such sensitive technology was, of course, prohibited. But President Clinton signed a waiver. The question is: why? Part of the answer seems to be to protect the largest individual contributor to the Democratic Party in 1996, Bernard Schwartz, CEO of the U.S. defense contractor, Loral.

It’s still unclear what precise transaction Roberts is describing. But we find out in the next paragraph, and Roberts’ groaning problem becomes clear:

ROBERTS (paragraph 7): According to news reports, Loral and Hughes, another defense contractor, had already given the technology to China. The waiver signed by Mr. Clinton after the fact undermined the case against them (our emphasis).

In other words, the technology to which Roberts refers is the technology allegedly transferred by Loral in 1996 in the aftermath of a Chinese rocket failure. (Loral denies there was a technology transfer). But, as Roberts mentions in paragraph 7, this communication from Loral to the Chinese was done without any knowledge by the U.S. government.President Clinton signed a waiver in 1998,allowing Loral to launch another satellite in China. But there is no allegation that Clinton had any prior knowledge when Loral consulted the Chinese back in 1996.

How then, to return to paragraph 4, did President Clinton, back in 1996, “permit the transfer to China of our top-secret technology” if he wasn’t even aware that the alleged transfer was occurring? The answer, of course, is that he didn’tdo so--didn’t “permit” this alleged transfer of technology at all. The alleged transferoccurred in 1996. Roberts’ waiverwas signed in 1998! Yet this is the “action,” according to Roberts, which has “concerned Americans” accusing Clinton of treason! Hmmm--seems to us that maybe people who make accusations on a basis like this have more to be concerned about than President Clinton!

Is the Washington Times now committed, as a matter of policy, to attempts to reverse the direction of time? On May 18, Paul Craig Roberts said Clinton “permitted” an alleged technology transfer that he didn’t learn about until some time later. (Again--the waiver he signed in 1998 permitted a second, unrelated missile launch.) On May 21, Mona Charen said financial transactions in 1996 caused events that had happened in 1993! Here at THE DAILY HOWLER, we always applaud creative efforts to find new ways to critique major issues. But the notion that future events can cause events in the past--well, it just stretches the notion of cause-and-effect in a way we just can’t seem to buy.

We know exactly what our readers are thinking. They’re thinking: Hey! It’s just a couple of op-eds in the Washington Times! Why in the world would THE DAILY HOWLER worry its overwrought head about that? Why not look the other way, and accept a few odd presentations?

But in fact, the articles by Charen and Roberts in the Times aren’t really all that unusual. In fact, they typify a good deal of the commentary on the China issue--commentary in which pundits simply assumeundemonstrated matters of fact, and then gimmick them up to create a claim that outrageous conduct has occurred. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at that Hardballgang, to see some examples of what we mean. And as a former journalist turned-TV-tabloid-talker amuses us with his counterfactual rants, guess what else we’re going to see? We’ll see representatives of major mainstream journals sitting mutely by.

For the record, THE DAILY HOWLER does not know if significant technology was transferred by Loral to the Chinese. That is, fairly clearly, a factual issue that has not yet been resolved. We do know that President Clinton did not “permit” any transfer in 1996. And guess what? Paul Craig Roberts knows it too. He just doesn’t want you to know that he knows it.