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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
Subscribe now, or browse Back Issues.

Volume 6, Issue 11: March 15, 2004

  1. Mayhem in Madrid
  2. HIV Experiment Shows Child Welfare System Running Amok
  3. China Adopts Rights Amendments

1) Mayhem in Madrid

More than 200 people were killed and 1,500 were injured in last week's bombings in Spain -- ostensibly the work of terrorists retaliating against the Spanish government's support of the U.S. war and occupation in Iraq. This wasn't supposed to happen. After the war in Iraq began, leaders in the Bush administration said that putting U.S. troops in Iraq would draw terrorists toward U.S. targets in the Middle East, away from American and European civilian populations.

Instead, since 9/11 Islamist militants have widened their targets, attacking Spain, Indonesia, Morocco, Turkey and Saudi Arabia and indicating that they "are attempting to attack cooperative U.S. friends and allies to drive a wedge between them and the superpower," writes Ivan Eland, director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at the Independent Institute, in his latest op-ed.

The Bush administration had been looking for reasons to celebrate the upcoming (March 19) first anniversary of the start of the war. But the mayhem in Madrid is the worst of several recent mishaps to befall the Administration (and, more tragically, the people of Spain).

"First, last week at a congressional hearing, George Tenet, the CIA’s director, admitted that he had corrected misstatements by Vice President Cheney on Iraq and would have to do so again," writes Eland. "Second, recently an Iraqi interim constitution was signed but is probably not worth the paper it’s written on because intense disagreements were papered over and many major issues were left unaddressed. Third, the most powerful Iraqi, Shiite cleric Ayatollah al Sistani, continues to insist on democracy while the Bush administration figures out how to 'democratize' Iraq without getting an outcome it may not like. Fourth, American casualties continue unabated as six U.S. soldiers were killed last weekend with ever more sophisticated roadside bombs. Fifth, anti-war protests are resuming -- this time with the participation of relatives of soldiers killed during the quagmire."

Concludes Eland, "The Bush administration has been very cavalier about spending other peoples’ (Americans’ and now their allies’) money and lives on George and Don’s Big Iraqi Adventure. But the natives in America and Spain may be getting restless."

See "Mayhem in Madrid," by Ivan Eland (3/16/04)

Also see:

"Blowback: U.S.- and Israeli-Style" by Ivan Eland (3/9/04)

Center on Peace & Liberty

OnPower.org -- U. S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East

PUTTING "DEFENSE" BACK INTO U.S. DEFENSE POLICY: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World, by Ivan Eland

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2) HIV Experiment Shows Child Welfare System Running Amok

Reports of improper medical testing by New York City’s foster-care bureaucracy could lead to overdue reforms that would make child-welfare agencies more transparent and accountable, according to Wendy McElroy, research fellow at the Independent Institute.

One hundred HIV-infected children -- some as young as three months old -- were assigned by the city's Administration for Children's Services to be tested with experimental AIDS treatments. But the agency lacked both the medical expertise and the legal authority to supervise the treatment of children without a parent or foster parent to render consent.

"No one could fault researchers for administering appropriate drugs to sick children and monitoring the results, especially when the children might not otherwise receive treatment," writes McElroy in a column for FoxNews.com. "But questions immediately arise concerning studies that purportedly tested the 'safety,' 'tolerance' and toxicity' of AIDS drugs. Or one that tested the reaction of HIV-positive children, ages six to seven months, to the injection of two doses of meals vaccine."

Medical experts have called the experiments outrageous and potentially fatal, but the data that could confirm or dispel such fears have disappeared from the agency. Furthermore, the former head of the agency -- during whose tenure the agency conducted the experiments -- has remained silent.

"Hopes are not enough," McElroy concludes. "For once, a child welfare system must have the courage and decency to open itself to public scrutiny."

See "When 'Mother' is a Bureaucracy," by Wendy McElroy

Also see:

"A Man’s (and Woman’s) Home Is a Castle," by Wendy McElroy (1/20/04)

LIBERTY FOR WOMEN: Freedom and Feminism in the Twenty-first Century, by Wendy McElroy

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3) China Adopts Rights Amendments

Breaking with doctrines laid down by Mao, China's legislative assembly yesterday passed what appear to be the most promising institutional reforms China has seen in more than five decades of oppressive communist rule -- constitutional amendments that formally protect property and human rights.

Constitutional safeguards have long been recognized in the West as essential for securing the rights of the people from governmental overreach and thereby enable people to enjoy the prosperity that accompanies liberty. In China, however, the notion of a constitutionally limited government never took hold. Authoritarian rule has been the norm in China for at least two millennia.

But this doesn't mean that China has no liberal traditions to draw upon in its fight to break the chains of oppression. For example, as James Dorn explained last spring in THE INDEPENENT REVIEW, Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu advised political rulers to rule with the lightest touch:

Administer the empire by engaging in no activity.
The more taboos and prohibitions there are in the world,
The poorer the people will be.
The more laws and orders are made prominent,
The more thieves and robbers there will be.
Therefore the sage [ruler] says:
I take no action and the people of themselves are transformed.
I engage in no activity and the people of themselves become prosperous.

It remains to be seen, of course, whether China's government will actually move to protect property rights and human rights. Speaking out against the Tiananmen Square massacre, for example, can still land you an extended stay in the Laogai work prison system. But China's adoption of the new amendments does give one hope that China will take meaningful steps away from the tyranny that has victimized the world's most populous country.

See "China Codifies Property and Human Rights" by Edward Cody (WASHINGTON POST, 3/14/04)

For more on China, see:

"The Primacy of Property in a Liberal Constitutional Order: Lessons for China," by James A. Dorn (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Spring 2003)

Gary M. Anderson's review of THE GREAT DIVERGENCE: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy, by Kenneth Pomeranz (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Winter 2004)

"The Aftermath of China's Accession to the World Trade Organization" by James C. Hsiung (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Summer 2003)

Christopher Lingle's review of EAST AND WEST: China, Power, and the Future of Asia, by Christopher Patten (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Spring 1999)

Human-rights activist Harry Wu's Independent Policy Forum presentation, "The Outlook for China, Human Rights and the Laogai Gulag" (3/27/96)

"Autocratic Ghosts and Chinese Hunger" by Bryan Caplan (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Winter 2000)

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