By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
The case against Rohrabacher gets stronger. There is irrefutable documentation proving that far from opposing Clinton's "disastrous" China engagement policy, Rohrabacher actually helped shape it. With 16 other Republicans, the congressman signed an Oct. 27, 1993, letter to then-Secretary of State Warren Christopher encouraging technology transfers from the U.S. to China. Rohrabacher and his colleagues wrote that while they supported "the objective of controlling missile proliferation," they were concerned that sanctions did not "allow communications satellites to be launched from China"—specifically satellites owned by Hughes Electronics Company, which makes consistent campaign contributions to the congressman.
To ensure the Clinton administration understood his position, Rohrabacher—the politician so outraged by the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and averse to cooperating with communists—stressed in his letter to Christopher, "We believe that national-security policy objectives can be met without placing sanctions on communications satellites, and we ask you to direct that these satellites be excluded from any list of sanctionable items [to China]."
The Cox Report asserts that China made massive gains in its military satellite and missle capabilities specifically because of the business relationships Rohrabacher encouraged. Nowadays, the congressman is angry, saying he was duped. He told the Weekly that "Hughes and Clinton assured me that if I would support their plans, then there would be the ultimate of precautions—that absolutely no technology would be transferred to the communists. Of course, all the precautions went right in the trash basket as soon as they got their deal." Rohrabacher places blame squarely on Clinton "for the worst betrayal of America's security interests since the Rosenbergs. . . . The Chinese Communists, the people who hate us, now have the ability—a greater ability—to incinerate millions of Americans." He also has stinging words for Hughes Electronics and other American-based conglomerates that associate with the Chinese. "Powerful American business interests wanted to go there and wanted to make a quick profit, and they couldn't care less about the other implications of doing business with a regime that is so tyrannical and so militaristic."
Although pundits and reporters and politicians have cheered the bipartisan nature of Cox's spy report, Americans should be suspicious whenever the two major political parties agree. If the Democratic and Republican national parties have anything in common, it's that they are both funded by big business. U.S.-based multinational corporations have a messy track record when it comes to placing U.S. national security over expanding markets and foreign profits. That point is only more salient in the aftermath of this latest scandal.
At the urging of well-connected defense-company executives, Ronald Reagan was the first president to allow two U.S.-based businesses, Hughes Electronics and Loral Space & Communications Corp., to form partnerships with other nations—including China. The companies have been using Chinese launch services for their satellites since the late 1980s, after the NASA Space Shuttle Challenger disaster temporarily put U.S. rocket launches on hold. The foreign governments supplied rockets that launched the technologically sensitive satellites but were to never have access to the satellites themselves or to any American secrets. But Chinese rockets blew up, too, destroying the American satellites. Cox Committee investigators found that the corporations —fearful of losing more money if additional satellites were destroyed during launches—secretly violated U.S. law and surreptitiously gave China the technical data to improve their rockets. The probe also uncovered an incriminating paper trail of internal corporate memos and reports showing a stunning contempt for honesty and national security.
"It is almost certain that the U.S. satellite manufacturers' recommendations led to improvements in the People's Republic of China's rockets and that the improvements would not have been considered or implemented so soon without U.S. assistance," the investigation found. Those enhancements were "useful for both commercial and military purposes."
Simply stated: for larger profits, Hughes Electronics and Loral—two corporations that have lived well off American taxpayers through massive Pentagon contracts—effectively told the Chinese government how to improve their once-inferior, dysfunctional rockets, whether those rockets were designed to carry communication or espionage satellites or nuclear warheads.
Odd then that the disturbing (some might say treasonous) actions of the multinational corporations have been successfully downplayed (some might say intentionally) by Cox, his committee, Congress, the White House, media conglomerates and defense contractors. Remember that the committee had been formed to investigate whether U.S. companies in partnership with China had compromised national security. They found their answer—convincingly. Nevertheless, when Cox—who may be corporate America's biggest congressional mouthpiece—and his carefully selected committee released its report, it focused on the weakest, most unsubstantiated part of their probe: alleged Chinese espionage at two nuclear-defense laboratories, the proof of which was supplied solely to the CIA four years ago by a Chinese spy working on behalf of his country's counterintelligence service.
About the only motives we can be sure of, however, are those of Hughes Electronics and Loral: as the Cox Report makes clear, they gave away secret U.S. technology to save themselves money. Numerous individuals who have given away far less sensitive data for comparatively insignificant cash have been convicted of treason. But leave it to the Newport Beach millionaire Republican, who regularly mocks defense attorneys, to come up with a novel defense for Hughes Electronics and Loral, which have given Cox campaign contributions. He generously concluded in his report that the companies—which have denied intentional wrongdoing—had been wracked merely by a "conflict of interest." Clinton's Justice Department is reportedly considering criminal indictments.