WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Two years ago, former President Jimmy Carter traveled to Havana to break bread with the Dean of Dictators, Fidel Castro -- for 45 years the brutal ruler of Cuba's island paradise. While there, Carter not only embraced a despot responsible for torturing and repressing his people -- but took time to denounce his own country, saying the United States "is hardly perfect in human rights."
Castro was one of the few tyrants who failed to grace William Jefferson Blythe Clinton's social calendar, though Clinton made it a habit to meet regularly with the Dictator-of-the-Month while in office. Yasser Arafat visited 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. no less than 11 times. Be it Fidel Castro, Yasser Arafat or former Soviet dictator Mikhail Gorbachev, it seems American liberals crave the affection of brutal authoritarians whose regimes have brought nothing but agony and cruelty to their people.
Last week is a case study in liberal support for dictators. First, it was none other than Saddam Hussein. Despite numerous reports of the Iraqi dictator's bloody atrocities, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton felt it necessary to speak up on his behalf -- commending his treatment of women!
Could Mrs. Rodham be unaware of the mass graves containing the bodies of thousands of Iraqi women and their children, documented by Fox News and others? Is she oblivious of reports showing that during Saddam's reign of terror, more than 200 women were beheaded and their families were forced to display their severed skulls on stakes in front of their homes? Hasn't the junior senator from New York heard of the thousands of women who were raped by members of Saddam's family and the Iraqi security services? How did she miss the photos and videotape of Iraqi women and girls who had been singled out for beatings and torture with hot branding?
But maybe those things don't matter to Clinton. In a speech to the Brookings Institute last week, she described Saddam as "an equal opportunity oppressor," and then went on to lament the heady days under his watch when Iraqi women "went to school, they participated in the professions, they participated in government and business." "And," this liberal champion of women's rights pointed out, "as long as (Iraqi women) stayed out of (Saddam's) way, they had considerable freedom of movement."
Mrs. Rodham went on to condemn the U.S.-lead coalition efforts to build democracy overnight in Iraq. But, she praised the United Nations' 12-year-long attempts to "nurture democratic movements" in the Balkans, something she defended as a "time-taking task." She failed to mention that the Balkan operation costs more than $1.5 billion per year.
The so-called mainstream media ignored Clinton's unconscionable defense of Saddam, her denunciation of U.S. efforts in Iraq and her praise for the U.N. Perhaps that's because there was another dictator in trouble who needed them more: Haitian tyrant, Jean Bertrand Aristide.
On Feb. 29, Aristide, who was restored to power by his friend Bill Clinton, decided he ought to get out of Port-Au-Prince before the people he had been repressing for 10 years dragged him out of his palace. The petty tyrant, whose mental stability has long been questioned, asked for, and received, security from U.S. Marines so that he could get to the capital city's airport and flee to Africa. Once safely there, Aristide called a press conference and claimed he was "kidnapped" at gunpoint and "forced to leave" Haiti. Resorting to hyperbole and dramatics, he went on to say that armed forces "came at night ... there were too many, I couldn't count them."
True to the axiom that no despot is too dirty for a liberal to defend, Sen. John Kerry, who called the U.S. military's rescue of 804 medical students off the island of Grenada "a bully's show of force," is now demanding a congressional investigation of Aristide's claims that he was taken against his will, at gunpoint, in the middle of the night and forced to go someplace he didn't want to go.
In fairness, presidential candidate Kerry admits: "I don't know the truth of it. I really don't," but he thinks "it needs to explored" because he has a "friend in Massachusetts who talked directly to people who have made that allegation." That ought to be enough evidence to launch a multimillion dollar congressional investigation.
Candidate Kerry is backed up by members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who are in high dudgeon that there is one less dictator in the world from whom they will receive party invitations. "I am especially concerned," said Rep. Maxine Waters, "by the possibility that the U.S. government may have armed and trained the former military officers and death squad leaders who carried out last Sunday's coup."
Those sentiments were echoed by none other than John Kerry's daughter. "I believe this administration just helped overthrow, basically overthrow, a democratically elected president," said Vanessa Kerry. "We basically, in our silence, allowed him to be deposed."
Forget that it took days for Secretary of State Colin Powell to find Aristide a home, before the Central African Union reluctantly agreed to take him in. The dictator was in the country for less than a day before he had his phone privileges revoked and government officials were trying to ship him elsewhere. "He's already started to embarrass us," Minister Parfait Mbaye said of Aristide. "He's scarcely been here 24 hours and he's causing problems for Central African diplomacy."
But that doesn't stop liberals from coming to Aristide's support. Jesse Jackson went right to work to get Aristide on the phone with American reporters who would print his tale of woe. Though welcome mats are being pulled from under Aristide's feet all over the world, Jackson demands that the United States grant him asylum.
Former Rep. Ron Dellums, Haiti's representative in Washington, said his advice to the administration was, to "be part of a political solution," because Dellums alleges, "you guys (the United States) are the 800-pound gorilla." Interesting that Dellums would refer to his own country and own government as "you guys" instead of choosing to say, "we" or "us."
But that's the problem, isn't it? Liberals who support dictators like Castro, Hussein and Aristide don't see themselves as one of "us" when it comes to America. That's why they seem to like dictators more than democracy. Perhaps that's why so many of them clamored to have little Elian Gonzalez ripped from a relative's arms in Miami and shipped back to a dictator.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.