we are neither vain phantoms nor true soldiers, we are the spirits of those who were killed

No Questions Asked, Rather than press China's president to liberalize, the White House imports his muzzle on the media.

FOR HU JINTAO, the substance of his summit meeting with President Bush today will occur before it ever begins — with the 21-gun salute the Chinese president will receive on the White House lawn. Broadcast back to China, the reception will be offered by the communist regime as proof that Mr. Bush regards Mr. Hu as a strategic partner in managing global affairs. But there's another signal moment of the day's events, which will occur just after the Bush-Hu talks. Contrary to the standard protocol for visiting heads of state, there will be no news conference at which American and Chinese journalists can ask unscripted questions.

The White House's acquiescence to a Chinese demand that Mr. Hu not be subjected to possibly embarrassing queries about political prisoners, religious freedom or censorship of the Internet symbolizes a major element of Mr. Bush's policy — his willingness to relegate China's worsening performance on political freedom and human rights to a back burner.

China has an abysmal human rights record, possesses nuclear weapons, has threatened to veto any sanctions against Iran, yet Bush is not only invites them to visit and discourage trade barriers with them at the same time he demonizes Iran. Iran, also repressive, but does hold elections, does not yet anyway possess nuclear weapons, and has been fairly responsible member of the oil exporting community. This administration keeps leading reasonable moderate Americans back to the same head stretching observation, why are some repressive regimes good and some repressive regimes bad. How is it that Bush supporters in the business community cab rationalize falling head over heel to do business with China, yet the idea od nuking Iran hardly raises a brow.

The enemy we face is brutal and determined. The terrorists have an ideology. They share a hateful vision that rejects tolerance and crushes all dissent. They seek a world where women are oppressed, where children are indoctrinated, and those who reject their ideology of violence and extremism are threatened and often murdered. – G.W. Bush, February 24, 2006

So Bush has said, but does not by his actions actually mean that he opposes those that "rejects tolerance and crushes all dissent". China would be a front-runner in a nation's race to crush dissent. Protester gatecrashes Hu visit as China and US fail to make progress

Instead Mr Hu was embarrassed by noisy protests on the streets of Washington, and a protester who managed to disrupt the high pageantry unrolling on the South Lawn of the White House.

Moments into Mr Hu's speech, a woman in a charcoal suit perched on the top tier of the stands reserved for the press began screaming in English and Chinese: "President Bush stop him. Stop this visit. Stop the killing and torture."

She also managed to unfurl a banner in the yellow and red colours of the Falun Gong spiritual movement before being bundled away by White House security.

Her outburst – directly opposite Mr Hu's podium – was captured by CNN and other networks. The Associated Press later identified the protester as Dr Wang Wenyi and said the pathologist had obtained a press pass on behalf of the Epoch Times, a Falun Gong newspaper.

The heckler, and the hundreds of protesters around the perimeters of the White House, underscored the difficulties behind the Bush administration's drive to improve economic ties with China.

Mr Hu began his visit in Washington state, where he was feted at the home of the Microsoft mogul, Bill Gates, and toured a Boeing plant. He is to visit Yale University today.

In public, Mr Bush gave only glancing mention to human rights, noting in his speech on the South Lawn that "China can grow even more successful by allowing the Chinese people the freedom to assemble, to speak freely and to worship."

It is like the flickering images of some old 16mm film, dictator appears with smiling authoritarian style president, honor guard from a civilian controlled military, an en-passioned plea from a Chinese dissident, dissident dragged off by authorities, authoritarian president mutters a few words about freedom to assemble and freedom of speech. Though all very real, it all seems surreal. Was this a huge historic moment in which Bush betrays what neocon Francis Fukuyama called modern conservatism's Trotskyite roots or was it just a forgettable embarrassing moment. It depends, for those trying to keep up with the unraveling of neocon conservatism, the visit of Hu is based on the premise that despite China being a bigger military threat then Iran, and probably more repressive and intractable in its policies we have a huge financial stake in China in terms of them floating our debt, as a market for American goods, and a source of cheap labor for American business. One of the inferences that could be made from this is that since China is already a nuclear power, well what the hell, but what kind of message does that send to Iran or even North Korea. While I can't completely reject that theory based on appearances, it seems more likely that Bush's policy differences between China and Iran are like a blood hound that has been trained to follow the money. Though it could also be that Iran is the snotty nosed kid on the block that happens to have lots of oil. Oil that China and Bush both want; which way is easier to get that oil, drop a few bombs on snotty kid or China. You don't gear up for wars with other super powers that you can't win, you wage war against small non-nuclear countries. If its even marginally the case that continued trade with China and thus more cultural contact will bring about more liberalism in China, then wouldn't that be the case with Iran too. Iran does export terrorism, but how long would they continue to do so if it endangered their economic and social reforms; reforms made possible by at least China style relations with the west. At this point with such a fractured foreign policy, the Bush Doctrine being on the taxpayer's respirator, are these grand wizards of conservative foreign policy just flying by the seat of their pants. Having abandoned all international institutions and traditional allies they're clinging to the the only thing they really know, money and tax cuts. China is underwriting the tax cuts which are to be paid in the future by everyone under 40. Certain American business interests get cheap Chinese labor and a little more access to the Chinese market. China continues to be as tyrannical as its always been while Bush wags his finger in damning disapproval. Meanwhile the realists with a little idealism left in their heart are left hoping that America who a few short years ago held all the aces isn't further weakened for lack of a coherent foreign policy.

Kevin Drum has an interesting revelation about a missed opportunity, Cheney and Iran, TALKING TO IRAN

THE ABBOT of Ursperg, in his Chronicle, year 1123, says that in the territory of Worms they saw during many days a multitude of armed men, on foot and on horseback, going and coming with great noise, like people who are going to a solemn assembly. Every day they marched, towards the hour of noon, to a mountain, which appeared to be their place of rendezvous. Someone in the neighbourhood, bolder than the rest, having guarded himself with the sign of the cross, approached one of these armed men, conjuring him in the name of God, to declare the meaning of this army, and their design. The soldier or phantom replied, “We are not what you imagine; we are neither vain phantoms nor true soldiers, we are the spirits of those who were killed on this spot a long time ago. The arms and horses which you behold are the instruments of our punishment, as they were of our sins. We are all on fire, though you can see nothing about us which appears inflamed.”

from The Ghostly Warriors of Worms Ernes Rhys