The heroes of Asian democracy are not Americans but Asians

2 Sep

“Will today’s generation of Americans resist the allure of retreat, and will we do in the Middle East what the veterans in this room did in Asia?”

– George Bush, Current American President

In claiming that “America liberated Asia”, George Bush is inadvertently trying to “whitewash” the atrocities of the previous and current US administrations in backing some of the worse dictators in the region.

In an article for LA Times, “Who Freed Asia?”, Ian Buruma refuted those claims and argued that the transition to democracy in the region is mostly attributed to the people themselves. In Japan, he says,“Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s administration helped Japanese liberals restore and improve their prewar democratic institutions. Trade unions were given more clout. Women got the vote. Civil liberties were boosted. And the semi-divine Japanese emperor was brought down to earth. Much of the credit for this goes to the Japanese themselves and the idealistic, left-leaning New Dealers in MacArthur’s government who supported them.”

He went on to describe how the previous American administrations were “actively backing authoritarian rulers” the likes of South Korea’s Park Chung-hee, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, Indonesia’s General Suharto and Taiwan’s Chiang Kai-shek.

To understand more on the history of political oppression in Asia, Dr Chee Soon Juan’s book, “To Be Free, Stories from Asia’s struggle against Oppression” is a good starting point containing stories of Asia’s freedom fighters from Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi to South Korea’s President Kim Dae Jung, Philippines’ assassinated presidential aspirant Benigno Aquino, Indonesia’s internationally acclaimed author Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Taiwan’s parliamentarian Shih Ming-teh and Singapore’s Chia Thye Poh, who was detained without trial in Singapore for more than 25 years. He served a sentence longer than that of Nelson Mandela.

While some of the above mentioned countries are or have successfully been on the process of transition to democracy, the majority of Asian authoritarian governments remain in power, and often with the approval of the US Administration. Think President Musharraf of Pakistan, Mr Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, the military regime in Burma, and Hun Sen of Cambodia, just to name a few.

The struggle of the people of Asia is still continuing today.

To quote from Ian, “The heroes of Asian democracy are not Americans but Asians.”

Read the entire Ian Buruma article, “Who Freed Asia?”


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