Sunday, March 06, 2011

EU Foreign Affairs/Security Catherine Ashton's Raving Hypocrisy

Taiwan's recent executions "sparked concern in the EU". No really, I kid you not. Check this out:
In a statement issued following the executions, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton said she deeply regretted the execution and urged Taiwan “not to undertake further executions.”

Saying the EU had been encouraged by Taiwan’s de facto moratorium on executions that had been in place from late 2005 until last year, Ashton called on Taiwan to “put in place an immediate de facto moratorium on executions, pending legal abolition.”

The executions came less than a year after the ministry resumed the implementation of capital punishment in April last year.

Following the resumption of capital punishment, Taiwan is now once again “one of the very few industrial democracies to implement capital punishment,” Ashton said, adding that the EU considers the abolishing the death penalty a contribution toward the enhancing of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights.

“It’s the EU’s view that the death penalty does not serve as an effective deterrent, and that any miscarriage of justice, which is inevitable in any legal system, would be irreversible,” Ashton said in the statement.
Who is Catherine Ashton? Readers may recall that it was Ashton who put forth a new policy document arguing that the time had come for the EU to sell weapons to China.

Yes, Ashton's position is that it is wrong for Taiwan to execute five of its citizens convicted of crimes by due process of law, but it is ok to sell China weapons that it will use to maim and kill innocent civilians in the countries that it may go to war with, and to preserve and extend its murderous authoritarian rule at home and abroad.

UPDATE: Lots of comments below.

UPDATE 2: FOARP observes:
It should also be said: when making the statement condemning the death penalty Ashton was speaking for the entire EU in her official capacity. The proposal to lift the ban on arms sales, on the other hand, was her own.
_______________________
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

38 comments:

Raj said...

Just ignore her. Despite her title, she is a nobody in the European Union. I mean that, which is both sad and at the same time very reassuring.

Anonymous said...

well said, sir! even better, write a letter to Taipei Times on this or even better an oped for the TT. this needs to be shouted loud and clear and make sure SHE reads it.

Trevor UK Cornwall

Anonymous said...

Let's make one thing absolutely clear here. While the EU might be hypocritical (an accusation PRC trolls like to throw at "the West" as well)...there is ABSOLUTELY nothing good about the death penalty and it is indeed a shame that Taiwan returned to it.

Anonymous said...

She is an unelected nobody.

Sad to see such an antidemocratic institution as the EU yapping all around the world about what other countries should or should not do...

Marc said...

You should read Ashton's wiki page. She does seem to be quite ineffective and not at all respected as an EU commissioner. She received the lowest ranking of any EU officer according to a survey.

Freeman said...

You're comparing apples and pies. Seriously, I'm disappointed to see that you, such popular blogger, use such simplistic reasoning to defame a person's credibility. I disagree on her stance in regards to selling arms to China, but I agree with her on the death penalty. Does that make me a hypocrite, too?

justrecently said...

I don't think that a lifting on the EU arms embargo is really on the card, as both France and Germany have moved away from what were rather "China-friendly" positions during the Chirac presidency / Schröder chancellorship. The country which currently advocates a lifting of the embargo most vocally is Spain - and they have their special reasons, given that Beijing is a major creditor of the country.

But if the EU should move closer to selling arms to China, the US should remind Europe that solidarity is no one-way street, and that this will weaken American commitment to security in the European region. Plain and simple.

Anonymous said...

Ah, since when did logic or consistency matter a whit to European libs?

nick said...

I don't see what all the fuss is about. Ashton is right about the death penalty -- and right to put pressure on Taiwan about it -- and wrong about arms sales to China.
She's hardly unique in being right about some things, wrong about others. And it's better than being wring all the time.

Michael Turton said...

The issue isn't that the death penalty is wrong, guys. You can't say it is ok to kill innocents wholesale, but advocate that killing them retail is wrong.

I'm glad she is a nobody and that the EU isn't going to sell weapons soon.

Freeman, if your position is consistent, how can you be a hypocrite?

John McNeil Scott said...

It doesn’t really matter who said it. The German government said the same thing. And, like it or not, opposition to the death penalty is the settled opinion of the EU and all of its member countries.

I oppose Aston’s position on this, but if you want to trade inconsistencies you could also point out that all those years ago when most of the democratic world turned their backs on Beijing in the aftermath of Tiananmen Square it was Taiwanese businessmen who rushed to fill the void and invest in China thus beginning the long-term dependence of the Taiwanese economy on the same China that the country doesn’t want Europe to sell weapons to.

The issues are not comparable. The EU should NOT sell weapons to China and if the EU opposes the death penalty and says so to other countries – as it does – then it is ENTIRELY REASONABLE to say so to Taiwan too.

The circumstances surrounding the (non-)announcement of these executions until after the act, is itself a cause for concern about the transparency of the administration of justice in Taiwan.

Some people oppose the death penalty, others support it. But bashing the EU or Ashton on this isn’t warranted. The EU is consistent on this, wish it was always as consistent. In this matter Ashton speaks for ME.

Michael Turton said...

The issues are not comparable. The EU should NOT sell weapons to China and if the EU opposes the death penalty and says so to other countries – as it does – then it is ENTIRELY REASONABLE to say so to Taiwan too.

The issues are totally comparable. You can't maintain that opposing the death penalty is "progressive" while advocating something as regressive as selling arms to China. What does she think they will be used for?

Pay attention: this isn't about the death penalty, which I don't support. It's about hypocrisy.

Anonymous said...

It's about hypocrisy.

Then when can we expect an opinion piece stating all the reasons why the US (or anyone for that matter) should not sell any arms to Taiwan? To be consistent one cannot oppose arms sales to China while supporting arms sales to Taiwan.

Robert R. said...

The issues are totally comparable. You can't maintain that opposing the death penalty is "progressive" while advocating something as regressive as selling arms to China. What does she think they will be used for?

Surely you jest. In the infamous words of SoS Hillary Clinton, "There's human rights and there's business. One shouldn't impact the other" (or something like that).
:P

Michael Turton said...

Then when can we expect an opinion piece stating all the reasons why the US (or anyone for that matter) should not sell any arms to Taiwan? To be consistent one cannot oppose arms sales to China while supporting arms sales to Taiwan.

The issue isn't the death penalty or arms sales, but the hypocrisy of advocating killing people wholesale on one hand but opposing that in retail on the other, of claiming that one is "progressive" while advocating arms sales to one of the worst regimes on earth.

justrecently said...

It doesn’t really matter who said it. The German government said the same thing.
John McNeil Scott:
Germany isn't saying the same thing. It doesn't speak this right into China's face, but during her visit to Beijing, when asked about the embargo at the CCP's central academy, chancellor Merkel told the audience that the embargo wasn’t there because of suspicions that Beijing might have “aggressive intentions”, but because of the state China was in domestically. People in Europe were “highly sensitive” about human rights in China.

Not even lib services in China's favor (and Spain's statements may or may not count as lib services - who knows).

Marc said...

I'm with you on this one, Michael. Ashton made her political career as a anti-nuke, pro-gay, feminist. For her to shake her finger at Taiwan's death penalty and with the other hand offer weapons to a country that routinely 'disappears' its citizens (as well as doing business with countries that also do that) strikes me as lame politicking.

If she rebuked China in the same breath, then perhaps her criticism could be taken more seriously.

Anonymous said...

Newsflash, the West sells weapons to dictatorships around the globe, I wish it wouldn't, but one can make an argument that less business for the West will only result in more money for the Russian's/etc.

FOARP said...

False dichotomy. Yes, Ashton was wrong on arms sales. Yes, Ashton is right to criticise the executions - at the very least she is according to the ECHR which is the guiding document on human rights in Europe, which places a non-derogatable duty on all signatory nations to abolish the death penalty. It's for this reason that the UK insists that the US commit not to call for the death penalty when extraditing people to the US on capital charges.

And yes, Ashton is a meaningless Eurocrat. That doesn't make her wrong on this. If your question is "Why does she do x when she does y", the same can be asked of a million other politicians and a million other policies.

For example, why does President Obama declare his presidency to be supportive of democratic development, but withhold recognition from democratic Taiwan in favour of non-democratic Mainland China? Why did the KMT oppose arms purchases in opposition and support them in government? Why did Chen Shuibian back abolition of the death penalty back in 2001 and then allow the execution of prisoners in 2005?

In truth, you can only support what you support, and oppose what you oppose. Opposing a policy out of opposition to hypocrisy alone is likely to come across as tacit condemnation of the policy itself.

So I'd like to ask: do you support the death penalty? Do you think it should be abolished in Taiwan? If yes, then why criticise Ashotn on this? If no, then why not say so?

Michael Turton said...

FOARP, read the previous comments.

nick said...

Ashton hasn't said "it is ok to kill innocents wholesale", Michael, and I'm sure you don't believe that she would. (You ask "What does she think they will be used for?" -- a good question to ask of any politician facilitating arms sales to any country. I suspect her answer would be the usual: defence of borders, mainly through deterrence.) The hypocrisy here is just the common-or-garden variety that is shared by all politicians who push for human rights yet approve of wars or at least arms sales.

I think that thinking about this example for a minute makes it clear that being a hypocrite is better than being wrong on both counts: pro-death penalty and pro-arms sales. I'd rather that my political representatives were right on half the issues than consistently wrong...

All that said, of course, those of us who are EU citizens have a moral obligation (in my opinion) to do what we can to head off the resumption of arms sales to China that strong interests in the EU have been pushing for. I hope justrecently is right that France and Germany have both moved away from this position, but I suspect that the arms companies will keep pushing.

One thing that citizens of all democracies could do, particularly in the wake of the jasmine revolutions, is to press our politicians to ban arms sales to dictatorships and non-democracies of all kinds. (Of course, if the recent misuse of weapons were the benchmark, then the obvious country on which to impose an arms embargo would be the US, with the UK running a close second. But we have to start somewhere, so let's try to stop arms from going to places like Saudi Arabia -- and catch China with the same prohibition.)

Michael Turton said...

Ashton hasn't said "it is ok to kill innocents wholesale", Michael, and I'm sure you don't believe that she would.

Why no, Nick, I don't think she would ever say that aloud.

Michael Turton said...

Of course, if the recent misuse of weapons were the benchmark, then the obvious country on which to impose an arms embargo would be the US, with the UK running a close second. But we have to start somewhere, so let's try to stop arms from going to places like Saudi Arabia -- and catch China with the same prohibition.)

I totally agree.

Anonymous said...

How many subs and missiles have been used to crack down on civilians in China Micheal? I think it is fair to say that the PRC can manufacture everything it needs to crack down on its own population...

James said...

I think those disagreeing with Michael here have put forward their case pretty compellingly: either consistency trumps all or it's better to be right at least some of the time.

Otherwise a hierarchy of desirable states of affairs would yield: 1)Consistently right 2)Consistently wrong 3)50:50. It's pretty obvious #2 and #3 are the wrong way round there, no?

FOARP said...

@Michael - Do you support the death penalty or not?

Michael Turton said...

FOARP, no, but my position is not relevant.

Michael Turton said...

James, the equivalency thesis that is being pushed here is morally objectionable. A lot more people will die from China possessing advanced weapons than from Taiwan carrying out the death penalty. I would prefer her being right on the former and wrong on the latter. The two outcomes are not identical.

Marc said...

@FOARP, I don't agree it's a false dichotomy. The topic is Ashton and her neo-lib record. If it were Obama, I'd say the same thing about his words vs. actions. Politicians are masters of hypocrisy; that's how they keep their jobs. That's the point being made here by Michael (and @nick).

The sub-topic is the death penalty, which needs to be argued apart from Ashton's opportunism. Another is the amorality of the arms industry.

I would also say that the issues of arm sales and stated objections of the death penalty dovetail in the form of involvement (or meddling, depending on the issue) in the affairs of other governments. Weapons or lethal injections: they both kill whether they're intended for moral/immoral, defensive/offensive purposes. The broader moral question is, what is the value of a human life?

Also, @nick I'm not sure why you would first impose an arms embargo on the UK. Surely Russia, France and Germany deserve primary consideration before the UK.

FOARP said...

It should also be said: when making the statement condemning the death penalty Ashton was speaking for the entire EU in her official capacity. The proposal to lift the ban on arms sales, on the other hand, was her own.

She therefore is not necessarily being hypocritical, since this condemnation is an expression of settled EU policy, and she is required to condemn the death penalty in all instances, particularly where it was put on hiatus and then apparently resumed for reasons of political expediency, even if this is not her own personal view. Public officials who carry out policies not in agreement with their own personal views are not hypocrites, but simply doing the job they are expected to do. Indeed, there cannot be any politician or official who agrees with every single thing their job requires them to do.

Finally, why are you condemning an announcement which you agree with, and which is merely an expression of long-held policy, on grounds of who is giving it?

James said...

No equivalency Michael; the point is, it's not a tradeoff is it?

Michael Turton said...

Thanks everyone.

nick said...

@Marc. Why the UK? A brief answer, since this is going a bit off-topic.
Two reasons. First I'm a UK citizen so, it's my responsibility.
But more importantly, because (on the coat-tails of the US) the UK has committed the supreme war crime twice in the past decade:
"The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, which followed World War II, called the waging of aggressive war "essentially an evil thing...to initiate a war of aggression...is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." "
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_aggression

France and Russia are no saints (Chechnya, Africa), but neither has recently invaded anywhere. Germany's record over the last 60 years is much better, although they have some nasty alliances these days: e.g. with Uzbekistan.

Marc said...

@nick - got it.

Thought you were implying that the UK was equal to the US in arms exports.

Michael Turton said...

It should also be said: when making the statement condemning the death penalty Ashton was speaking for the entire EU in her official capacity. The proposal to lift the ban on arms sales, on the other hand, was her own.

That's true.

Anonymous said...

Why would you not want arms going to Saudi Arabia? Its government buys lots of weaponry from the US, which it keeps locked away and rusting, for fear that its military might oust the royal family in a coup. They trying to keep a balance of power between the palace guard and the military proper, and depend on the USA for their actual defense.

John McNeil Scott said...

It should also be said: when making the statement condemning the death penalty Ashton was speaking for the entire EU in her official capacity. The proposal to lift the ban on arms sales, on the other hand, was her own.

That's true.


Of course,

1 - the EU hasn't lifted the ban on arms sales to China.

2 - opposition to death penalty is established EU policy.

3 - Parts of the EU system, the European Parliament especially, is VERY pro-Taiwan.

3 - Europe will take it as a slap in the face so soon after giving visa-free entry to Taiwanese in Ireland, the UK, and Schengen areas.

Michael Turton said...

1 and 3 are not relevant and no one is debating 2. 4 is quite true. I hope they do.