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America: the Indispensable Nation…Not!
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Hillary Clinton affirmed “American exceptionalism” in a speech to the American Legion in Cincinnati on August 31.

If there’s one core belief that has guided and inspired me every step of the way, it is this. The United States is an exceptional nation…And part of what makes America an exceptional nation, is that we are also an indispensable nation.

In fact, we are the indispensable nation. People all over the world look to us and follow our lead.

Her speech was another episode in the chronicle of Clintonian triangulation: the continual search for positions that co-opt and neutralize critics of Clinton and Clintonian policies. And by declaring the “indispensable nation” doctrine, Hillary Clinton convincingly shed the pro-peace/anti-military incubus that had bedeviled the Democratic Party and her family over the last three decades and seized the “strength and security” a.k.a. “warmonger” mantle from the GOP.

Her husband, Bill Clinton, had encountered unique difficulties as the first US president not to have served in the military in some capacity in World War II. In fact, he had taken advantage of a student deferment to avoid induction into the military during the Vietnam War. His first visit as president to a military installation as president subjected him to excruciating mockery and virtual insubordination. Joke: “A protester threw a beer at the president. Don’t worry, he dodged it. It was a draft.”

Barack Obama, another Democratic president without military credentials, was flayed in his first and second presidential campaigns for his perceived indifference to “American exceptionalism,” an unscientific exercise in patriotic superstition and Hegelian projection which, in that context, was seen as the assertion that the unlimited exercise of US power was, perhaps through the moral superiority of our nation and its system, perhaps because of some divine mandate, inherently virtuous.

As a black man aware of America’s heritage of slavery and the disaster of the Iraq War, President Obama attempted to separate American exceptionalism from its jingoistic roots and, instead of discarding it, redefined it as an indefatigable national impulse to overcome obstacles, errors, and injustice to progress as a nation. Call it “Practical” or “Scientific” Exceptionalism.

President Obama laid out his vision at a speech at the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in 2015. The hagiographic Washington Post coverage declared:

Its essence amounted to a rebuttal of Ronald Reagan’s famous “City on a Hill” speech [which] sketched a vision of an America that was nearly without flaw.

Well, guess what. “City on a Hill” is back. Per Clinton’s Cincinnati speech:

The United States is an exceptional nation. I believe we are still Lincoln’s last, best hope of Earth. We’re still Reagan’s shining city on a hill. We’re still Robert Kennedy’s great, unselfish, compassionate country.

In Clinton’s vision we are not, I might say, the country that screws up big time… like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did in Libya, for instance.

The determined efforts of the Clinton campaign to scuttle away from its flagbearer’s dismal Libyan legacy is one of the many moments of low comedy in this presidential campaign.

When Clinton was Secretary of State, a Libyan triumph was expected to serve as the tentpole foreign policy achievement for her presidential run. Instead, Libya descended into anarchy, became a crucial origination point and waystation for transnational Islamic militants, and emerged as a nexus of destabilization for North Africa.

Which makes this statement by Clinton rather ironic:

When America fails to lead, we leave a vacuum that either causes chaos or other countries or networks rush in to fill the void. So no matter how hard it gets, no matter how great the challenge, America must lead.

With the Libyan fiasco unexploitable, Clinton was reduced to touting her purported agency in giving President Obama the backbone to kill bin Laden as her signature FP moment.

President Obama generously gave her the credit. Equally generously, he declined to blame her misjudgment for the Libya intervention she so vociferously advocated and, in fact, seems to be engaged in a hurried military exercise to suppress the ISIS franchise in Libya and prevent further Libya-related attention and embarrassment for the Clinton campaign.

In her politics, I believe Clinton is an instinctive and indefatigable frontrunner, determined to push her way to the front of the biggest parade and claim to be leading it, consequences be damned. In the US, that parade organized by the Pentagon and it marches overseas in pursuit of power and profit.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, America in Clinton’s view is not only “exceptional” it is “indispensable,” despite the rather compelling evidence that MENA in general could have “dispensed” with America’s attentions, as Libya found Hillary Clinton “indispensable” in its dismal quest to devolve from a prosperous, well-functioning oil satrapy to an anarchic and immiserated boot camp for militants presided over by three competing regimes.

Even as the United States tried to “lead” and shape the destinies of states with populations in the tens of millions, it has become the strategic plaything of Israel, Saudi Arabia…and Turkey.

Turkey! Which went ahead and invaded Syria to put the hurt on America’s Kurdish allies/assets even though…well, maybe because…it’s a US ally. Which is now playing footsie with Russia, the power it’s supposed to be containing as a key NATO force.

“Indispensability,” however, is not just a feel-good soundbite; it has the savor of one of those over-ruminated and underdigested think tank efforts that mark the path of the Clinton campaign like so many expensive road apples.
The interesting and rather ignored subtext of the “indispensable” formula is that it is actually a step back from “dominant” or “hegemonic.” Remember “full spectrum dominance”? Maybe not, but that was the Rumsfeld formula declaring the United States military could do it all and we shouldn’t be afraid to wield US power unilaterally. That came a cropper in Iraq, so we don’t do that anymore.
“Indispensable,” while projecting a reassuring aura of chesty invincibility to the masses, is supposed to signal to the cognoscenti we are aware of the limits of unilateral power and instead do what we can to structure the battlespace favorably to allocate power between competing and supporting actors so we can inject decisive force when we want to/need to.

This formulation is clearly applicable to dealing with the rise of China in particular and Asia in general, a region, very unlike MENA, of relatively high-functioning states with populations numbering in the hundreds of millions and billions. As US relative strength declines and China muscles up, there’s a clear understanding that the US cannot stay on top by itself. It needs allies—like India and Japan.

The United States may have bid adieu to dominance in Asia; but it will find it hard to uphold even the illusion of US indispensability as its relative strength continues to decline vis a vis Japan and India as well as China; these countries set up their own security regimes that, as needed, complement or exclude the US; and the economic and security costs of creating a “leading” and “indispensable” role for the United States in Asia continue to escalate.

“Indispensability” is the secret sauce for burgeoning Pentagon budgets and ambitious politicians. And of course the more unworkable the objective, the more money has to be spent to try and attain it. Ka-ching!

But it’s not a recipe for regional stability and prosperity. Fact is, the US already has to degrade the regional security order to secure a decisive American role. If you don’t believe me, look at the US policy, actually non-policy, on North Korea.

And look at the US pouring conventional (and in the future, probably tactical nuclear) military capabilities into the Asian theater to deter our allies from going nuclear themselves and eliminating the true foundation of US “indispensability”: its nuclear monopoly a.k.a. the “nuclear umbrella” over the China-containment regime.

The dark side of sustaining “indispensability” is that the United States, as its relative power declines, has to try to reshape and restrain the capabilities and ambitions of its allies, as well as China, in order to preserve the “indispensable” role for American power. That’s a losing battle with India and Japan.

I understand Hillary Clinton wanted to get her national security ticket punched with voters and with the military/industrial/security complex. But trying to keep the United States “indispensable” will probably cost us trillions in the decades to come, guarantees polarization and tensions in Asia, and will probably start a war or two. And it will end in failure, albeit probably after Hillary Clinton has left office and a generation of officers and analysts have paid off their summer homes and their kids’ college loans.

“Indispensability,” despite its pretensions to realism and practicality, comes with a big price tag, maybe even the end of the American empire it is designed to prolong.

(Republished from China Matters by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Hillary Clinton 
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  1. Jason Liu says:

    Good. The world order should shift East.

    The west, with America at its helm, has inflicted terrible cultural and ideological damage on humanity, starting with the “Enlightenment”. It is a supreme irony that humanism has become an attack on human progress itself. We need social hierarchy, structure, and nationalism worldwide to fix this.

    China’s current error is its inability to court other powerful, non-western nations. Even Putin seems more able to reframe moral discourse on the world stage, whereas Chinese leaders are too ideologically detached or needlessly belligerent towards neighbors. The United States, being the big dog, will naturally attract many critics regardless of what it does. This can be easily used by competing powers to undermine American moral authority around the world. But the old men in Zhongnanhai either don’t realize it, or don’t want to do it. That has to change.

  2. “Indispensability,” despite its pretensions to realism and practicality, comes with a big price tag, maybe even the end of the American empire it is designed to prolong.

    And guess who will and who will not pay…

    If it means the end of empire, it may be worth it…

  3. Seems to be indispensable in creating websites for people here.

  4. In fact, we are the indispensable nation. People all over the world look to us and follow our lead.

    People all over the world hate and fear Imperial Washington. Even (or especially) here in Texas.

    • Replies: @Thinking Old Man
  5. @Jason Liu

    This will not be the Chinese century and world order will not shift east. China can go to hell. It has no moral authority, as it murdered over 100 million of its own people. It is a country of arrogant psychopaths who have to steal the accomplishments of White civilization in order wipe its own ass.

    The Chinese are the Jews of the chink world.

  6. 5371 says:
    @Ye Merry Uncucker

    You seem to have some problem comprehending the is/ought distinction.

  7. anon • Disclaimer says:

    This idea that “the world” needs or desires American “leadership” is one of the most cherished myths of American politicians.

  8. Piss on The Pantsuited One, that bought-and-paid-for hack.

    If and when the nuclear shit hits the fan, and the ICBMs are zipping through the skies, I hope the first city Vlad Putin takes out is Washington, District of Corruption. . . .

    • Replies: @Ivy
    , @Carroll Price
    , @Alden
  9. I despise Hillary but it’s important to revisit the invasion of Libya. Britain and France started it. It had to do with their oil supply and their “man,” Gaddafi, had to go. Obama initially wanted to stay out and was mocked quite ruthlessly in the British press. The Daily Mail sneered that Obama was “missing in action” and called him “the great vacillator,” proving once again that the Brits and French hate American power unless it’s being used to abet their policy objectives. To his discredit, Obama did buckle under the pressure, and for that we can thank Hillary, Irish globalist Samantha Power and a couple of headline writers on Fleet Street.

    Hopefully a President Trump reworks every security pact we have around the world to ensure it serves American interests. He can start by letting the Japanese and South Koreans defend themselves.

  10. @WorkingClass

    I can relate to that: after all, a nation and its power elites are often very out of touch with each other (and each other’s best interests). As a German, I can testify :-)

    But you, Sir or Ma’am, seem to be able to do the same. Thank you :-)

    The consequences of this fact are mostly very far-reaching: for exanple, had the people instead of the power elites had their say in 1914, all over Europe, the vast majority would have wanted peace. Even more so in 1939; yes, even in Germany, as confirmed by the reports of the Gestapo.

    Long live the powerless all over the world – the People, the Working Class!

  11. Time Out! Our Nation Has a Tantrum

    After witnessing a long series of colossal national tantrums perhaps “Time Out!” is the best remedy for such willful behavior. more http://www.robertmagill.wordpress.com

  12. “People all over the world look to us and follow our lead.”

    They look at us to confirm that that is indeed a loaded gun we have pointed at their head, and they grudgingly give in to our demands. The US may no longer be indispensible in ways that it once was, but it still has plenty of ways to make others uncomfortable or downright dead.

  13. DB Cooper says:

    India adventurism is not new. As soon as it was created in 1947 it began invading, land grabbing and annexing its neighbors land. In other words India was just continuing the good old traditions of its imperial master, the British Raj. But because India was created under the British auspices and Britain saw India as a proxy in South Asia representing British interest, India’s adventurism was given Britain’s tacit approval if not outright encouragement. Britain, being one of the most influential countries (if not the most influential) in terms of geopolitics, set the tone in how India is viewed by the world (especially the Western world) at large. It is time to take a good hard look at this country. Here are some suggestions for a start.
    1) Get the hell out of Kashmir (annexed in 1947). Kashmir is one of UN first recognized disputed territories. India promised to hold a election there to have the people there determine their fate. India never did.
    2) Get the hell out of South Tibet and Tawang (annexed in 1951). Tawang is the birthplace of the Sixth Dalai Lama and home to a four hundred years old Tibetan monasteries. The people there are living under the notorious ‘shoot-to-kill-no-question-ask’ AFSPA (Arm Force Special Power Act), just like Kashmir and other regions India deemed ‘disturbed’.
    3) Get the hell out of Sikkim (annexed in 1975). Sikkim is an independent Himalayan kingdom not part of the British Raj. India invaded Sikkim and put its king in house arrest for the rest of his lives. Disgusting.
    4) Get the hell out of northeast. The people there hated to be associated with India with a vengeance. There are a lot of independence movements operating in the northeast. The world should support their aspirations.

  14. Rehmat says:

    In 2003, Dennis Byrne called fellow Americans, “A Nation of fools, blockheads, ignoramuses, idiots ….”

    I think he was not that far off. For example, a recent poll conducted among Republicans showed that 43% of the fools among them still believe that even though Barack Obama attends church every Sunday and celebrates Jewish religious events at the White House – he is in fact a Muslim …..

    https://rehmat1.com/2016/09/03/jew-actor-obama-is-a-crypto-muslim/

    • Replies: @Moi
  15. @Jason Liu

    It is a supreme irony that humanism has become an attack on human progress itself

    Useful idiots + psychopathic opportunistic ”beings” are not ”humanism”

    Multiculturalism is the global religion and what happened with almost collective cults it’s not to nurture and to practice humanism itself but to create a global cultural atmosphere of global citizen belonging, as always happen, unfortunately, the populist politicians calling themselves as ”the people”.

    humanism is the mean, the end is the global domination.

    humanism, based on this global or local context, never will be a real end…

    humanism is the Troy horse, global domination and western ultimate subjugation (aka, white people’s) is the greek filling.

  16. Luchorpan says:
    @Jason Liu

    Jason Liu,

    Your second paragraph is excellent. This all started largely with the Enlightenment, and we need social hierarchy, structure, and nationalism – and a multi-polar world order.

    I especially like how you do not mention economic hierarchy, suggesting a large middle class is a positive. Past conservatives in the US erred in actually defending sharp economic divides.

    I notice however that you make no attack on the secular. That’s a shame.

    • Replies: @Jason Liu
    , @Wizard of Oz
  17. Whenever I hear “exceptional” I just keep thinking of Roskolnikov.

  18. Jason Liu says:
    @Luchorpan

    China fares pretty well as a secular society, although this may not be true of all peoples.

  19. @Orville H. Larson

    Potato sacks (expensive ones) have replaced the pantsuits.

  20. America is dispensable.

  21. Moi says:
    @Rehmat

    Barack is, in fact, a Falasha.

  22. BASUDEB says: • Website
    @Ye Merry Uncucker

    Where do you get that 100 million figure from? The Washington Post? What do you know now about Milesovic?

  23. Paddo says:

    The USA is certainly “Exceptional” but is certainly “Dispensable” as far as the rest of the world is concerned.

    • Replies: @Khan Bodin
  24. syd.bgd says:

    In 20th century vocabulary “exceptionalism” and “indispensable nation” combined perfectly suits to term “chauvinism”.
    Read definitions in several dictionaries, in several languages preferably, and think about it.

    Greetings from Belgrade, folks.

    • Replies: @Khan Bodin
  25. Murica is not a nation. It’s just a gatherings of people from all around the world who acquire Murican citizenship. In heads of westerners, citizenship is making a nation. ehehehe

  26. @syd.bgd

    Exceptionalism just equates to exceptionally corrupt. Murica is exceptionally corrupt empire. And they are indispensible as a plague is indispendible to people. One just couldn’t imagine a world without some plague in it. That’s how indispendible a country which has started over 80% of all armed conflicts on the planet and killed around 30 million people in the process, a country which is leeching and parasitizing on the world via their fiat dollar currency, a country which is running around the world always searching for something to steal, etc. is. Very indispensible. The world just can’t imagine itself being free of the liberal western plague and its empire. Who would kill, steal, cheat, murder and parasitize without such indispensible county?

  27. @Paddo

    Exceptionally corrupt and criminal. It’s exceptional the way that black plague of 14th century was exceptional.

  28. @Jason Liu

    As you would hardly, I assume, deny that the West and the modernity it created didn’t derive benefit for some considerable time from the Enlightenment or seek to argue that China benefitted from neither welcoming the Western version nor creating its own [leaving it open to such bastard versions as Marxism???] when do you say the Enlightenment became a negative force or influence?

    • Replies: @Khan Bodin
  29. @Luchorpan

    I am intrigued that you pick up and approve his reference to the Enlightenment. See my question #29.

    Mind you I should add a question about which Enlightenment you and he are referring to as scholars customarily distinguish the American and French Enlightenments from the English and Scottish.

  30. @Jason Liu

    And see addendum to #29 at #30.

  31. @Jason Liu

    Yes. And it’s about time the power shifts east. China had been the wealthiest and most prosperous country in the world for centuries if not millenias until Anglos destroyed her in the 19th century. I am sure that China won’t go around telling people how to live, how we need to westernize and destroy our cultures or attack those who refuse. And she never went on aggression, stealing or murder spree around the world in all her 5.000 yrs of history. Compare that to western history, let’s say Murica’s, and you get a completely opposite picture.

  32. @Wizard of Oz

    Enlightment created nothing but liberal ideology, you ignorant simpleton from Australia. As for cultural and technological achivements, I seriously doubt you Anglos have created the most. Germans are the most productive people when it comes to that aspect. They are not your western country. That liberal ideology brought by Enlightment “intelectual movement” (it has as much as intelectual essence in that ideological movement as you can find vitamins in shit) has never been part of their national conscience. They are just occupied by you. Italians and Spaniards are also not part of your western world. But even those scienctist who massively contributed to advance of western world, like Nikola Tesla for example, are not part of your ethnic stock so you can claim “it was you who brought light from the darkness.” So your claims are void and empty at best, and propaganda at worst.

    • Replies: @Trendless
    , @Wizard of Oz
  33. Trendless says:
    @Khan Bodin

    Goethe, Kant, Leibniz, Schiller were not part of the Enlightenment? I guess I need to revisit my history.

    • Replies: @Khan Bodin
  34. gwynedd1 says:
    @Jason Liu

    Nothing wrong with the classical enlightenment . Speaking of that you might want to read one of its founders Adam Smith who did not have a flattering report of China’s stagnation during his time. If anything China could use it to keep itself from its old enemy of a stagnant cast system.

    The enlightenment you see today is a total perversion of it. Instead of equality under the law and freedom of action , the leftists have used it as a pretext to make the state more powerful by “insuring civil rights”. Its like putting a surveillance camera in your bedroom to make sure no one is looking through the key hole. Its not hands off but hands on. The do not accept the result but attempt to manipulate the results assuming any unequal result must come from injustice. That is not the classical Enlightenment.

    China has indeed boxed itself in. It has not ingratiated itself to its Asian neighbors . Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam , S Korea , Indonesia and the Philippines is not insignificant. It does not have this problem with the world at large and its movement into South America and Africa looks natural. The problem is that they may not be useful allies.

  35. @Trendless

    In what aspect were the “part of Enlightenment,” Westerner? Because they were “enlightening” people by their work? Yes, you should definitely revisit history. Doesn’t your history teaches you that you won the WW2? I don’t know other parts of your propaganda which is masquarading as history, because I never read it, but I am most of it are lies. For example, were you really fighting civil war to free African slaves, or were you fighting it to curb the power of individual states and form what is known as UNITED STATES CORPORATION? You are obviously a libtard.

  36. If we are an indispensable nation, it is only as a last resort. If you want peace prepare for war. But don’t go to war to prove your indespensability. Wars result from a failure of diplomacy. Our national security relies on a balance of power in the world, where we prevent any other power, or combination of powers, from becoming a threat to us. Read Kissinger’s “Diplomacy” for a further explanation.

  37. ……and that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.
    but what is ‘long’ mean, as associated with time? 100 years? 1000 years?
    america fancies herself an empire. the world hegemon. but, she still clings to the auspices of both a democracy and a republic and both are paper thin.
    any nation that has to keep proclaiming itself exceptional & indispensable is afraid that it is neither.
    in fact, the world sees the united states the greatest threat to world peace. that’s the opposite of our grandiose proclamation.
    all empires go extinct. america is on the endangered species list.
    but, the blind lead the blind in the good ole usa. we will suffocate in the wreckage of hubris & inattention to the sign on the wall.
    it won’t come tomorrow, but it will come. perhaps in the bang of a tipping point or the airlessness of a whisper.
    whomever wants to be wiped out in an economic collapse, raise your hand. banks were not punished nor privatized and converted into public banks, they were rewarded for fraud & recklessness. 40% of the gdp is financial manipulations. the banks go, the economy goes with them.
    unless the system is completely overhauled, suffering is in our future.
    just hope i don’t live to see it. gonna be ugly.

  38. Caterina says:
    @Jason Liu

    China has nothing to offer the world other than slave labor.
    It has no morality, other than ‘becoming nothingness’, a real winner.
    It has no history of compassion, only the brutality of the Cultural Revolution, the stain of self-genocide by Mao.
    So sit down and shut up about China’s leadership potential.
    Older is not better.
    Good grief!

    • Replies: @Stonehands
  39. Ben Frank says:

    The closest analogy to the current election is the election of 1856 which elected Democrat James Buchanan. His biographer wrote that “an unprecedented wave of angry passion was sweeping the nation”. The Democrats were united and the opposition was split.
    The rich wanted to import massive amounts of cheap non-white labor to make themselves richer, regardless of the harm to their country. The rich wanted to invade other countries to make an empire. Buchanan supported them fully.
    Like HRC, Buchanan was old, had been a politician for decades, and became the last president to have been Secretary of State. The only president who never married, referred to as an “old maid”, Buchanan adopted the southern mannerisms of his long-time partner.

  40. Ben Frank says:

    “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. ” – Nietzsche. USA fought USSR but now that they are gone, we have become more like them.
    1. Government integration with big business including Wall St., GM and health insurance.
    2. Media generally repeating the government propaganda line.
    3. Suppression of Christianity and the natural family.
    4. Military adventurism and subversion of foreign governments.
    5. Elites using criminal classes to weaken the middle class.

  41. Ben Frank says:

    Are there fewer terrorist attacks recently?
    Did somebody put out the message to pause until they can get her elected?

    • Replies: @pepperinmono
  42. Alden says:
    @Orville H. Larson

    Maybe some sort of bomb that would just destroy the people and not all those glorious Greek revival public buildings and lovely 19th century homes from large mansions to 2 bedroom row houses?

    It’s a lovely city but between the politicians and the indigenous barbarians the population is just dreck.

  43. @Caterina

    “It has no morality, other than ‘becoming nothingness’,”

    Have you been to China lately?

    I was in Chongqing in February.

    25 million people all gainfully employed in some sort of enterprise.
    State of the art infrastructure, new railways, roads , concourses, walking plazas everywhere.

    No dirt bag, aggrieved ni**ers walking around clutching their penises, mumbling rap”music’.

    No- constant sirens wailing, steroidal cops everywhere [didn't see cops anywhere..]

    No graffiti on walls or idiotic “body art” desecrations or weirdo piercings…

    The Chinese Confucian ethic revolves totally around the family.

    I didn’t see anything remotely resembling a gin- mill, at most beer and wine is served in family settings.

    Hollywood, Madison Ave and Wall St. hasn’t gotten their filthy hooks into the Chinese women yet…

    The cities are perfectly clean, as opposed to the blizzard of candy wrappers, potato chip bags and assorted other flotsam that keeps American land whales satiated.

    I was impressed. Here we have reached the bottom of the Soviet system, completely taxed [de- facto reparations] and regulated.

    I haven’t even broached unthinkable topics to normal Chinese, such as Bruce Gender, or gay bltquaiixgfr+*& etc…

    Morals indeed.

    • Replies: @denk
  44. utu says:

    The only hope is a war. The war in which America is defeated once for all.

  45. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Ye Merry Uncucker

    Schadenfreude much?

  46. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Ye Merry Uncucker

    Well one thing’s for certain. You’ll be shouting “We wuz kangz!” like the blacks do for the rest of this century, and probably for centuries after.

  47. @Ben Frank

    I have noticed this as well.
    Wouldn’t be surprised if quiet til election.
    Another group against Trump!

  48. denk says:
    @Stonehands

    If you have been to Beijing you’d prolly find more cops on the streets, with side arms too.

    Beijing cops were traditionally unarmed, they started that practice in 2015 only after spates of brutal attacks on civilians/cops by militant uighurs jihadists…
    courtesy of CIA.

  49. Saw some uighers outside the panda zoo, it was explained to me that they were given prominent locations to buy and sell- as some sort of concession or acknowledgement by the Commy Party.

    They “looked” different then the Han chinese…
    But not as fearsome or numerous as the loathsome wiggers here in Kensington, Phila!

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