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Oh, THAT Shining Light of the Republican Party.......

Saipan, DeLay, and what WAS behind the anti-C campaign?

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, January 11, 2006.

To me, the most offensive characteristic of the American Conservative is his willing ignorance of history or, worse, his deliberate distortion of it. Conservatives love the fake myths of our past, stories that didn’t folk evolve but have an author and publishing date, and that elevate and grace the image of the noble American, generally Anglo, always male. This is why they loved Ronald Reagan, who lied about the past when not totally removed from reality, or maybe he thought the nation as dumb as he was.

Conservatives love the American West and its cowboy icon because that catches their glorifying self image of lone, independent men of character and justice carving a new nation with fingernail and grit. You find the longing to append that image to themselves among American Businessmen with the same ferocity with which truckers want to be mistaken for the last of the cowboys, at least pre-Brokeback Mountain. None of it is true, though, but they don’t like to be contradicted.

The American West, Garry Wills wrote, was composed of gun control and government support and made up of a lot of independent folk trying to become dependent in a hurry. No sector of the economy is more socialized and protected than those associated with the American West: agriculture, beef, and mining. The supposed last frontier of Ted Stephens’ Alaska is the worst of all: most of the state is federally owned, and its citizens are subsidized out the wazoo. Still, Stephens wants the rest of us to pay for his bridges to nowhere.

But there is worse. Much worse. In Saipan.

Saipan, for the benefit of CU history majors, is an island that became part of the United States through the grace of World War Two. Three thousand and more Americans died taking it from the Japanese, and in 1945 it became a trust territory, and since 1986 part of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Its indigenous population was granted U.S. citizenship. It’s part of the United States. You knew that, right?

Sleaze quickly moved in. With a few key labor law exemptions and a tweak of immigration codices, Saipan was able to import “guest” workers from all over south Asia, and pay them $1.35 an hour. Virtually all the big US clothing stores and manufacturers had products made there. And why not? Unbelievably low labor cost that could still legally have the “made in the USA” tag appended to it, thus pretending to the public that happy, well paid workers with health benefits and a decent salary made their sweatpants and briefs with the breathable padded crotch. Not that I’d know.

This, of course, went over like a pregnant pole-vaulter with those concerned with nasty things like virtual slavery and sweatshop profits back home. And those Abercrombie and Fitch, Brooks Brothers, and Banana Republic executives needed help in Congress to protect their, eh, heroic business practices in the tradition of what made America great.

In 1998, Brian Ross of ABC News broke all this. But it bears bringing up again. Because imported workers were made to work 14 hour days, seven days a week, and pay their slave masters $7k to escape from China or Vietnam or who knows where for what they were told were jobs in America. Which they were, sorta. Just not the America that you and I know.

In their America, young women and perhaps boys of attractive qualities could be flensed off to become reluctant sex slaves. If they became pregnant, they had forced abortions. This story sound familiar? I’ll bet there are some among us who might have a flicker of recognition in their eyes.

In 1997, Tom DeLay decided that the preservation of this capitalist hell was an important battleground for American conservatism that had to be defended. After all, Saipan had all this golf and diving locations that, coincidently, Congressmen and K Streeters love. And, also? There were all these nubile young Asians who you normally only saw in Bangkok. He found support at home. Despite forced abortions, indentured servitude, slavery, and working conditions considered untenable in Mordor, people like Christian Coalition founder Ralph Reed were all part of the support system, possibly because the manufacturers who benefited contributed to political campaigns in the right way. During that 1997 visit, DeLay toasted the slavers and garment manufacturers. This is a quote. “You are a shining light for what is happening in the Republican Party.” Not in America. IN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY. He returned home and fought to keep Congress’ hands off this gem.

Guess who invited DeLay to Saipan? Saipan’s beloved lobbyist and warrior for indigenous peoples everywhere, our great fellow American: Jack Abramoff. But you’d already guessed that, hadn’t you? After all, Abramoff’s tentacles seem to reach into every sordid aspect of the pseudo-conservatives’ reign of power.

Perhaps even here in Colorado. Remember that we’re still waiting to hear who put up the money for all those anti-Referenda C and D ads during the last election, the ones with the over the top lies, straw dogs, and outright fabrications reminiscent of ……who, now? And those responsible still won’t tell us who paid for it. How come, we wondered? What shadows stand behind that campaign?

Have you already guessed? I don’t know, myself.