03/17/2008 04:45 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Sorry, Tibet, Our Hands Are Tied

Monday, the Chinese government closed the Tibetan border to foreigners in the aftermath of the worst violence in the region in decades. As unconfirmed reports continue to trickle out of Lhasa, Chinese officials, in the last week, have brutally quelled mass freedom protests in Tibet, leaving anywhere between 16 (China's count) and 100 Tibetans (exiles' count) dead. Chinese forces have imprisoned dozens of Buddhist monks and activists and have threatened increased force if the Tibet protests do not subside by Monday at midnight.

If you ask China, the riots stem from that rabble-rousing Dalai Lama stirring up violence in the week that marks the 49th anniversary of the failed 1959 Tibetan uprising that sent the Buddhist leader into exile.

If you ask Tibetan exiles, however, the impetus for the riots is the upcoming Beijing Olympics and the torch run through Tibet and to the summit of Mount Everest. To many ethnic Tibetans, the passage of the Olympic torch through Tibet is the ultimate insult to a region that has been religiously oppressed and economically exploited by Beijing for nearly six decades.

News of the clash between Chinese military forces and Tibetan protesters Friday was overshadowed in the U.S. media by comments made by Barack Obama's pastor Jeremiah Wright, who said 5 days after September 11th that "America's chickens are coming home to roost." While Wright's assessment of American foreign policy as somehow justifying the 9/11 attacks comes across as profoundly insensitive and radical, and will surely haunt Obama as his campaign continues, Wright's statements about how "the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards" couldn't be more true with regard to the situation in Tibet.

Washington's failed policy with regard to China -- allowing the Communist nation to usurp the American labor force, control the U.S. dollar and bail out America's failing investment banks on the broken promise of "moving toward democracy" -- has truly, to borrow the words of Rev. Wright, been brought back to our front yards. Not only because America has become China's economic indentured servant, but because when human rights abuses and religious persecution runs wild in China, America's hands are tied and voices are muted. The Bush administration, by showing a total disregard for human rights, has surrendered America's most important weapon in combating China -- our moral high ground.

On Thursday, just one day before the bloody protests broke out in Lhasa, the Chinese government released its official response to the Pentagon's annual report of the nations with the worst human rights violations in the world calling the Iraq War " the greatest humanitarian disaster of the modern world." China's report on U.S. human rights, according to Xinhua, said the following:

America's arrogant critique on the human rights of other countries are always accompanied by a deliberate ignoring of serious human rights problems on its own territory... This was not only inconsistent with universally recognized norms of international relations, but also exposed the double standards and downright hypocrisy of the United States on the human rights issue, and inevitably impaired its international image...The United States has a notorious record of trampling on the sovereignty of and violating human rights in other countries...The invasion of Iraq by American troops has produced the biggest human rights tragedy and the greatest humanitarian disaster in modern world... 'Secret prisons' and 'torturing prisoners' have become synonymous with America.

If you lost focus while reading the quote above, that's China speaking of America, not the other way around.

In Bush's America -- an America where we torture prisoners or send them to countries that make our torture look like patty cake, where we deprive certain suspects for years without the right to a lawyer, trial or even an accusation, where our male interrogators in Guantanamo flush the Koran down the toilet while our female questioners humiliate Muslim detainees with sexual touching -- we have completely lost our authority to condemn China for its human rights abuses in Tibet. When the Bush people "call on the Chinese government to refrain from violence," as they did Friday, can they still do it with a straight face?

The only high American official with the balls to outright reproach China for its actions in Lhasa is an American official, well, without balls. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement Wednesday as soon as violence erupted. She said:

The violent response by Chinese police forces to peaceful protesters in Tibet is disgraceful. It must be met with strong condemnation by the United States government and the international community. The Chinese government should immediately provide information on the welfare and whereabouts of the detained Buddhist monks and facilitate access by international human rights monitors and journalists to Tibetan areas.

Speaker Pelosi, a Democrat who is not and has never been complicit in the disastrous Bush foreign policy, has retained her right to speak out on the religious plight of the Tibetan Buddhists and should continue to be a leading voice on China leading up to the Olympic Games.

As for the Bush people, their repudiations of international human rights abuses are now met by world leaders with eye rolls and laughter. And after all the lies and violence by which we Americans will remember this era in U.S. foreign policy, it will be the loss of our moral authority that will have the most far-reaching consequences throughout the world.