Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Taiwan Academic Suggests Eni Step Aside

In a letter to the editor of the Taipei Times, Michael Turton, a university English instructor on Taiwan, has called for Faleomavaega to step aside as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment, saying “It is high time that the US had for itself a Chair . . . who evinces a robust and nuanced understanding of US commitments in Asia, US policy toward China and who can tell the difference between an ally and an opponent of the US.”

The Cleveland-born academic, who writes a highly respected and widely read blog on Taiwan politics, The View from Taiwan, said Eni’s latest letter to the Taipei Times attempting to soften the blow of his humiliation when the House reversed his amendments to a resolution on the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) “shows the kind of champion chutzpah that separates the truly pathetic from the happily ignorant.”

“Unfortunately,” continued Turton, “this is not the first time Faleomavaega has displayed an unseemly ignorance on the TRA, Taiwan and US policy toward Taiwan. Last year, as the Taipei Times noted in an earlier editorial, he attempted to have language that said China threatens Taiwan removed from a resolution on the last Taiwan presidential election. In 2007, Chris Nelson of the well-known Washington insider sheet The Nelson Report said that “Faleomavaega stated that it was US policy to agree to ‘one China,’ and he stated it in ways that tracked the PRC [People’s Republic of China] position. In fact, the official US position does not accept China’s definition, but rather straddles the issue with deliberate ambiguity.” Nelson was one of the Democratic staffers on the drafting of the TRA.”

Like Mr. Nelson, Eni also is a Democrat. Turton also says that Eni is simply regurgitating Beijing’s propaganda. That should come as to surprise to anyone who realizes Eni is a founding member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group of the most radical leftist senators and congressmen. He quietly left the group only when one of his opponents pointed out the group's agenda to American Samoa's electorate in a recent campaign but that did not stop him from offering a toast to the late Communist dictator Hi Chi Minh on a trip to Hanoi in 2007.

Mr. Turton better have handy a steel helmet that he can strap on tightly because he can expect retaliation from American Samoa’s peripatetic delegate who, if Turton is correct, seems to know little about Taiwan politics, despite countless trips there over the past two decades, including one in 1991 as an election observer at a time a deadly hurricane was tearing apart our territory. He would have been forgiven had he asked to cut that trip short to come home to assess the need for emergency federal relief, but we suppose he preferred to remain on Taiwan to make sure voters’ rights were fully protected.

Mr. Turton should be prepared to withstand a withering fusillade of verbal abuse and insults and a questioning of his credentials to offer such a judgment of a sitting chairman of subcommittee in the United States House of Representatives. Eni can’t help himself. Not only does he not understand Taiwan politics or U.S. policy towards Taiwan and PRC, he also does not understand proportionality of response. Nor is there any criticism of him too small to let go by.

This will be interesting to watch continue. In the meantime, read Turton’s letter in it entirety here:


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