Fri, Mar 24, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Off with the Generalissimo's head

Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) was a brutal fascist, a savage murderer and an incompetent military strategist whose lust for power contributed to nearly 60 years of suffering and bloodshed among the people of China and eventually Taiwan.

So what possible justification could there be for a democratic state to "honor" his memory by keeping statues of him on military bases?

Since the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lost power in 2000, there have been many instances in which pan-blue diehards have demonstrated their desire to brush aside the legal requirements of a democratic state in an effort to re-establish totalitarian control of Taiwan.

This attitude was especially evident after the 2004 presidential election. At the time, rumors abounded that a coup d'etat had been attempted by pan-blue fanatics, but had quickly fizzled out because of the good sense of most military and political leaders.

Later came such travesties as the attacks on government buildings by mobs led by pan-blue legislators, demands for unconstitutional "compromises," and the establishment of the extra-legal "March 19 Shooting Truth Investigation Special Committee" designed to prove whatever former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) decided was the "truth."

However, in a democracy trust is something that political leaders must work to establish. They are not entitled to it. So when members of the KMT respond to criticism of their party's inglorious, authoritarian past with the kind of visceral rhetoric they employed this week, many Taiwanese become deeply afraid of what will happen should the KMT return to power.

We've had to suffer through Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) efforts to demonstrate that he is a political player on the world stage as he glad-hands and grandstands from London to LA peddling his poppycock about "maintaining the status quo" between China and Taiwan.

Perhaps Ma would be better off investing some time in establishing his national leadership credentials by demonstrating that he is unafraid to stare down the revisionist reactionaries in his own party, before he gallivants about the globe giving civics lessons to the Chinese Communist Party.

He could start by endorsing the de-politicization of the one institution that can make or break Taiwan's democratization: the military. It is absurd to maintain that "for historical reasons" it is desirable for the military to retain the trappings and symbolism of a one-party state. It is vital to show that the institutions of the state belong to the state's ultimate sovereigns -- not any political party, but the people of Taiwan.

Removing the statues of the "Generalissimo" from all public localities is desirable and necessary to dismantle the totalitarian cult of personality that befits only crackpot regimes like North Korea.

Jonathan Fenby wrote in his biography of Chiang, Chiang Kai-shek: China's Generalissimo and the Nation He Lost, "The Cold War made an objective assessment of Chiang almost impossible as the past was viewed through the lens of what followed."

"Either he was a faithful friend of the West who had been undone by Communist cunning, Western irresolution and treachery in the State Department; or he was a reactionary, cruel, incompetent dictator who was no better than the warlords, who betrayed the true interests of his nation by failing to stand up to the Japanese in time, and who perverted the sacred teachings of Sun Yat-sen (孫中山)," Fenby wrote.

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