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Jesse Helms: a hero and champion

By Cao Chang-qing

In the US, July 4 is known as Independence Day, a federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Coincidentally, two former US presidents who had made major contributions to their country, second president John Adams and third president Thomas Jefferson, passed away on the 50th US Independence Day. Former US senator Jesse Helms also passed away on Independence Day this year.

Evangelist Billy Graham has said that for people who have fought for the freedom of people and a free market, Independence Day is the perfect day to leave this world.

An editorial in the Wall Street Journal said that Helms’ passing on Independence Day was especially meaningful because he had fought for freedom all his life and was strongly opposed to communism. The editorial stated that Helms had been a Cold War hero just like former US president Ronald Reagan because, during his 30 years in office, Helms stood up for what he believed in and fought communism in the face of constant pressure from the left wing.

In the mid-1990s, Helms proposed economic sanctions on Cuba, which legally assured that the US did not deal with Fidel Castro’s regime. These were mandatory sanctions and were aimed at ending the dictatorship in Cuba. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Helms gained notoriety for openly criticizing China. He presided over congressional hearings on human rights abuses such as the use of prison labor in China, and was one of the few US senators who openly opposed China hosting the Olympic Games. Helms believed that a dictatorship focused on eliminating freedom should not host an event that symbolizes freedom.

Helms also became a close ally of Taiwan during his fight against communist China. He firmly supported the passing of the Taiwan Relations Act and later proposed the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act to further secure Taiwan’s safety. At a launch party for Helms’ memoirs, Here’s Where I Stand, published in 2005, the first female US ambassador to the UN, Jeane Kirkpatrick, made a speech praising Helms for his firm support of Taiwan. In his memoirs, Helms accused both former US president Jimmy Carter and former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger of betraying Taiwan. He also urged the American people not to be misled by Beijing’s political tricks and to spare no effort to prevent Taiwan’s annexation.

When Helms retired, then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) presented him with the Order of Propitious Clouds with Grand Cordon. The senator said that he was glad to have helped safeguard Taiwan’s sovereignty, security and democracy.

Helms was not afraid of being different. He opposed the Martin Luther King Day bill in 1983, saying that King had two associates with communist ties, while also questioning King’s private life. He severely criticized the UN, saying it was corrupt and inefficient and even criticized it when he was invited to speak there, saying that the UN should not even entertain the idea that Washington would tolerate the UN depriving the US of its rights. In terms of UN membership fees, Helms said that the payment of membership fees was not a form of charity; he thought it was an investment that had to have some sort of return.

The Chinese media denounced Helms, saying that he severely damaged China’s international reputation, while the US left-wing media also denounced him as a troublemaker. However, these comments show exactly what sort of power and influence Helms possessed. To those who value freedom, Helms was a hero and champion.

Cao Changqing is a writer based in the US.

Published on Taipei Times, Jul 08, 2008
TRANSLATED BY DREW CAMERON AND EDDY CHANG

2008-07-08

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