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Johnnie Moore on the ‘Human Rights Catastrophe’ in Afghanistan and the China, Taliban, Pakistan Alliance

As the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has eagerly exploited the crisis to discredit the United States, says Johnnie Moore, a former Commissioner for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

And with the Taliban and Pakistan at its side, the CCP is “creating a new axis of collaborators against the Western democratic order,” Moore says.

The Taliban’s takeover will also wipe out decades of progress in women’s rights and religious freedom in Afghanistan, Moore says.

Moore is the president of the Congress of Christian Leaders. For his human rights advocacy, he’s been sanctioned by the Chinese regime.

Jan Jekielek: Reverend Johnnie Moore, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.

Reverend Johnnie Moore: It’s a pleasure to be here.

Jan Jekielek: Reverend Moore, you were one of the most recent Americans sanctioned by the Chinese Communist Party. I’ve been wanting to talk to you about this for a while, but this isn’t actually your big area of expertise. Your area of expertise is religious freedom realities in the Middle East, which is incredibly topical right now. I think we should start there. What is the situation right now in Afghanistan?

Rev. Moore: It is a catastrophe in every way you look at it. It’s a human rights catastrophe. For decades, the world has worked aggressively to try to advance the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, religious minorities in Afghanistan. It’s all gone in all likelihood.

There’s this spin that this is a new Taliban. It’s not a new Taliban, it’s the same old Taliban. It’s a national security crisis, a catastrophe. Every extremist in the world will look at Afghanistan being ruled by the Taliban on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 as a coup d’etat for extremism.

Any person in the world that lives in a country where there are are extremists, that country is now a more dangerous country. It’s a geopolitical catastrophe.

You have the Chinese Communist Party very keen on exploiting this crisis, using it to undermine the United States of America. You have Taliban leaders that were in Beijing just a few weeks before this happened, quite a conspicuous occurrence. You have a Taliban that now has a relationship with Iran that they previously didn’t have when they were in charge 20 years ago.

It’s directly a humanitarian crisis, a catastrophe. And with all the images that we’re seeing from this region—I’m an optimist, but I’m very pessimistic about what’s happening in Afghanistan.

Jan Jekielek: What is it that you’re hearing from the ground because you’re actually in contact with religious minorities in the region, in the area, right now?

Rev. Moore: Yes, I mean, people are terrified. And they should be terrified. Just a couple of weeks ago, the President of the United States was saying, there’s not a chance in the world that the Taliban is going to run over Kabul.

The White House seems to be trying to change the story, to spin a different narrative, but the fact of the matter is that there are plenty of people that would have left Kabul if they thought that there was any probability of these things happening. But these are real human beings. I heard from a group of Hazara Shia converts to Christianity.

Jan Jekielek: Okay, you have to break this down.

Rev. Moore: Afghanistan is a Sunni majority country, Sunni Muslim majority country with a small Shia minority that is traditionally persecuted by some of the majority Sunni members of the country. And within that Shia minority is another group called the Hazara Shia, which are ethnically discriminated against.

So you have by its nature, a religious and ethnic group discriminated against, and a bunch of them largely because of disillusionment with the behavior of the Iranian regime have left their religion and converted to Christianity. So they’re like walking around with a death sentence.

They have a bullseye on their back. They have left their community, their ethnicity, their religion, and to begin with, they were a part of a persecuted community. They are desperate; they don’t know what to do.

And then you have the American citizens. The State Department was giving guidance to just get to the airport and supposedly giving comfort to people that were stuck in Kabul, because we’re coordinating with the Taliban.

This is a Taliban that has 600,000 American weapons now, a Taliban with maybe 70,000 American vehicles now and potentially hundreds of aircraft paid for by U.S. taxpayer dollars—some of the most sophisticated weaponry in the world.

And our government is telling our citizens, “Just get to the airport and we’ll take care of you.” This is an incomprehensible situation. One of those citizens was a mom of six kids that I was hearing from over the weekend. Her husband was in the United States. This mom and her six kids live in the United States. They traveled over to see family.

The mom and dad are Afghans who received asylum in the United States because the father was a hero. He saved an American life 20 years ago. He handed his cell phone to an American woman who was hostage. She was able to contact the authorities. The United States Special Forces saved her life. The whole family has asylum in the United States.

But they decided a few weeks ago, the mom and six kids, to go over and see elderly family in Afghanistan. And in the blink of an eye from Friday to Sunday, the country’s overrun by the Taliban. They made four attempts at the airport, one of which they get caught in Taliban crossfire.

And finally through a hole in the wall—I won’t say the details, but in a very disgusting inhospitable route—this mom with her six little kids made it into the airport, and the first people they saw weren’t even Americans. Thank God, a British soldier informed the Americans about this family, and they sat in those conditions until they could get out of the country.

This story has been repeated 1,000 times. It is not a good time for the United States. It is a catastrophe for the Biden administration, whatever they try to say about it, and members of Congress need to hold them accountable for it.

I also am entirely confident that any adversary of the United States of America that thinks that this catastrophe means the United States is any weaker, will discover that we aren’t any weaker, because the American people will hold our government to account and assure that our citizens received what they deserved from their government to begin with.

But this is on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, a Taliban flag will fly over Kabul, and it didn’t have to be this way.

Jan Jekielek: You said you don’t think this is a new and different Taliban, which is some of the messaging that I’m seeing. And in the context of you having been on the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom, so the six years doing this work and being very familiar with this area, why do you think things have not changed?

Rev. Moore: The whole premise that the Taliban has changed is based upon words the Taliban is using in their press conferences. They have a couple of spokespersons which have exquisite English. Maybe one of them grew up in the UK or something. And I can understand people watching this and saying, “Well, this is a different Taliban. They’re talking about inclusive government, rights of women, and all of these things.”

But if you go back and look at what the Taliban said in 1996, which was the last time they took over Afghanistan, it literally is a copy and paste of the words that they’re saying in press conferences now, compared to the words that they said in press conferences then.

And then not to mention, outside of Kabul and in other parts of Afghanistan, we’re already seeing some of the worst vices of the Taliban 20 years ago. Americans and the international community and others should not take any solace in these pristine English words coming from press conferences that are basically meant to buy time. And they’re modifiers of those words.

They’ll say, “I will respect the rights of women, and women can have jobs within the context of Sharia law.” And of course there are lots of interpretations of Sharia law. The largest Islamic group in the world is a group in Indonesia. They’re called the NU in slang. They have an exquisite interpretation of Sharia law, which affords women’s rights, and humanitarian concerns, and promotes religious freedom for minority communities.

This is not the interpretation of the Sharia law of the Taliban. The Sharia law of the Taliban is the most egregious form of Islamic interpretation. It is by its nature, discriminatory, and the United States government should not be carrying the water for Taliban propaganda.

Can the Taliban change? Maybe they can change. Is this a changed Taliban? Not in my assessment, and not in the assessment of any any religious freedom advocate or human rights advocate or expert in Islam that I know. There is no indication that it’s a changed Taliban.

Jan Jekielek: What about apostasy? How does that work under the Taliban exactly? Apostasy, just to clarify what I’m talking about, is people deciding to convert to a different religion. Here in America, there’s no issue, you can just go do it, but that’s not the case everywhere in the world.

Rev. Moore: No, no, you’re going to die. You’re going to die if you change your religion. You’re going to die by mob justice in the outskirts of Afghanistan. And again, this is different now. Back when the Taliban sheltered Osama bin Laden, they didn’t control the whole country. They control more of the country now than they did then.

These apostasy laws, by the way, don’t just exist in Afghanistan. They exist in many countries around the world like Pakistan. Now, what we’re seeing part of the geopolitical catastrophe is an alliance between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Chinese communist party.

Two of the three countries that I just mentioned, Pakistan and Afghanistan, punish apostasy—Afghanistan soon will by its interpretation of Sharia law, and Pakistan already has strict apostasy laws. Apostasy laws that apply to Muslims that don’t obey the official interpretation of Sharia law, much less Hindus or Sikhs or atheist or converts.

A fundamental human right of human beings is the ability to change their beliefs. There’s nothing more fundamental than this. You are given the freedom of choice. People can change what they believe. That doesn’t mean proselytization, that doesn’t mean forcefully coercing somebody to change their beliefs, but as human beings with agency to make decisions about their lives, the fundamental premise of human rights is that people can change their beliefs.

But if you change your religion in many parts of the world today, you’re going to lose your job if you’re lucky. You’re going to lose your home or your livelihood if you’re lucky. You may very well die in many countries of the world.

And now what we have is, we have a full genocide happening in China against the Muslim minority and the the Uyghurs. And the Chinese Communist Party is aligned with Iran, a majority Muslim country, with Pakistan, a majority Muslim country, and now with Afghanistan. With Beijing already announcing that they would recognize Afghanistan’s leadership.

It’s time for Muslims around the world to raise their voice. And frankly, there is a lot of momentum on this issue, and this is why we will see some of the most forceful responses against the Taliban will come from moderate Muslims around the world who are tired of terrorists hijacking their religion.

And sure there are gradations of Islamism among the Taliban, but right now the Haqqani Network has been given responsibility for security in Kabul. The United States, the Biden administration, is telling us that they are coordinating their activities with the Taliban. The Taliban has put the Haqqani Network in charge of security in Kabul.

To the people watching us have this conversation: okay, Haqqani Network, what is this? The leader of the Haqqani Network at this very moment still has a $5 million bounty on his head by the United States government for terrorism. The Haqqani Network has been largely the intermediary to the Taliban from Al Qaeda and other extremists, which the White House is saying to us have been eliminated from Afghanistan.

At least that’s what the president said, until an hour later when the Department of Defense, apparently having not watched the press conference that the president had conducted said, “No, there is Al Qaeda still in the country.” It is a monumental foreign policy failure from elite experts in Washington DC, and it’s not a Democrat or Republican issue.

Democrats and Republicans need to put their politics aside and solve this problem and solve it now. There’s no room for scoring political points on anyone. It’s time for Democrats and Republicans and the president to have some humility, and the Secretary of State and our leadership in our intelligence and defense areas, to get around a table and say like, “The United States of America, we’ll talk about what went wrong in a little while, but right now we’re solving this problem in all aspects of this problem.”

The United States cannot lead from behind. Whether it wants to be, or whether it believes itself to be the sole superpower in the world, it still is. And we have to act like it.

Jan Jekielek: On this point, let’s dive into the China side of this. You mentioned, of course, that the CCP has said that they will recognize the Taliban as government, so to speak. How does this look in your mind? What is this alliance about, and how does it speak to this whole religious freedom question?

Rev. Moore: The relationship between Beijing and the Taliban is the latest example of a neocolonialism and exploitive foreign policy emanating from the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing, that aims to take advantage of any country and any leader gullible enough to accept their promises which are almost never fulfilled.

In the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom in our annual report, I added a comment at the end of the chapter on China. And in my comment, the point I was making was a warning to all of these countries around the world that are taking humanitarian propaganda from the Communist Party attached to the Belt and Road Initiative that we just wanna help you.

But again and again and again, every country around the world that has chosen to engage in this game has found themselves regretting it. That’s why there are unfinished bridges and roads all over the world.

Take what happened between Gaza and Israel earlier this year where the Communist Party was trying to, through their propaganda arms and publications all over the Middle East and around the world, was trying to exploit the divide between Israelis and Palestinians.

The spokespersons for the Foreign Ministry of China and in embassies all around the world were publishing articles. And in those articles and in those editorials, they were aligning themselves with the Palestinian cause, which of course was a grand effort to cover up what they’re doing to the Muslim minority in their own country.

But in the end, if they fulfilled the promise, and I’m not sure whether they did or not, the CCP gave $1 million afterwards to provide support for the Palestinian cause. What they do is they exploit vulnerable countries through leaders in order to advance their agenda.

And what’s happening around the world slowly and what the Taliban will learn, and what Pakistan will learn, and some of these other countries that have chosen to go down this path is what the Chinese people long ago learned but aren’t allowed to say: the first victim of the worst vices of the Communist Party are its own people, the Chinese people.

All of those countries around the world that the communists are attempting to colonize with a new colonialism are going to learn the same lessons.

When it comes to the Taliban, it’s really simple. Number one, they want to exploit the current situation in order to diminish the prestige of the United States of America. Number two, they share a small border with Afghanistan in Xinjiang, and they wanna cut a deal with the Taliban to ensure the movement across that border is under their control. Number three, may be later on, they might have interest in a trillion dollars of rare earth minerals in Afghanistan. Number four, they’re creating a new axis of collaborators against the Western democratic order.

While we’re sitting here talking, the talking points coming out of Beijing are about undermining democracy. So what the communist party is attempting to do is they’re saying that what’s happening in Afghanistan is an indication of number one, you can’t rely on the Americans, number two, the failure of democracy. Democracy doesn’t work.

And they’re trying to redefine democracy and actually allege that they have democracy. A Chinese democracy versus an American democracy.

But what they don’t have is what we’re seeing now—which is American soldiers risking their lives in inhospitable and difficult situations, perhaps without even sufficient orders to fully do their job because of political dynamics in the United States, being willing to die at that airport to save one baby handed over a wall.

Because democracy is not about casting ballots in ballot boxes. Democracy is about a set of values that says that every single human being is important, whatever their ethnicity, whatever their religion, whatever the politics, whether you disagree or don’t disagree. This is the secret sauce of democracy.

What will happen, as has happened again and again in the United States, is even in this difficult moment in our country, we will emerge stronger. It will happen.

Unfortunately, around the world, the cheap assistance of a communist regime that is only interested in their own power, not those they are allegedly trying to help, is robbing from the people of all these other countries their opportunities.

Afghanistan is losing some of its best and brightest and most brilliant people on those airplanes. It’s great history in that part of the world, its heritage. People are leaving and they’re leaving partially because of whatever was said in that conversation a month ago in Beijing. Who knows what was said? But apparently it’s clear to the Taliban that they would not be standing alone if they ended up in charge of Afghanistan again.

The people of Afghanistan will suffer in the way that people of China are suffering. In Tibet and Xinjiang, as well as the evangelical Christians all over the country and the Falun Gong practitioners. The people suffer, and that’s the tragedy.

Americans need to wake up, dust ourselves off. We took a bruising in the last week. Regroup and remind ourselves that these values, that have made us the most powerful but truly benevolent country in human history, are strong enough to see us through this unfortunate hour.

Jan Jekielek: From what I’m hearing from some of our contacts in Europe and especially in the Asia Pacific region, for example in India, I’m hearing that there’s a kind of a panic. We thought America had our backs, but I’m not sure we believe that anymore. I’m not saying this is the official position, but I am saying that there are officials, more than one, that are thinking this right now. And I don’t think it’s the only place.

Rev. Moore: I think it’s overstated. I think in a multi-party system in the United States of America, there are members of the Republican and Democratic Party in the House and the Senate that, despite our divided politics in the United States of America, have been in direct contact with leaders all around the world, making it clear that in the United States and in our democracy, there is no dear leader that sits in a big white building that has all the power in the world.

The world is a mess; it’s complicated. America makes mistakes like every country in the world makes mistakes. But the brilliance of our founders was to create a durable country with checks and balances on power to ensure that there are governors on all of these mistakes. And we found a way to see ourselves through.

Now, I think countries need to make a decision, a couple of decisions. Number one, maybe some countries have relied too much on the United States of America and our benevolence, And they owe it to their own people to do what the United States has done, which is to take personally the responsibility we have for our own nation. And they don’t need to rely as much of the United States. Regional countries in various regions of the world—one of the great lessons of the Trump administration was that peace is possible through strength.

One of the motivating factors for the Abraham Accords, for instance, was a recognition that one of the complicating factors of democracy is that our foreign policy does change, and rather than being tethered to a single election in the United States of America, Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, Morocco, and eventually other countries need to come together and take responsibility for their own region, and take the benevolence and the assistance and the investments and the relationship and friendship with the United States as a value add to their regional ambitions. Yes, it’s a shock to the system; it’s a wake up call—that leaders need to take responsibility.

But I guarantee there isn’t a leader sitting, with any honest introspection in any country of the world, however close they are to China, for instance, that would rather … when they have a serious problem, be in the trench with the Chinese versus the United States of America, whatever they say.

See, we have to be careful to not succumb to the propaganda. This is, by the way, what communism is really good at. The communist system, wherever it’s been tried in history eventually crumbles down on itself.

This is the story of COVID-19. Whatever the origins of the virus are, and all of these things, that’s for other people to decide, and intelligence communities are looking into that and everything. But what is undeniable is that there were early warning signs in Wuhan. And rather than the voices of those whistleblowers being taken by the Chinese government as a blessing so that they could get ahead of this—because the first people to suffer would be the Chinese people from this pandemic—in order to protect their own image in the world, in order to ensure that they had all power in their own country, they suppressed the voices of those people.

They suppressed the voices of those people. This is what always happens with communism. This is the lesson of history. It eventually crumbles down on itself. But what the communists have always been good at is propaganda. They’re good at sharing all of these stories around the world and deceiving people and trying to intimidate people and all of these things.

And we should be careful not to fall fall prey to that because whatever leaders are saying in press conferences and all of these things, it was the Chinese Communist Party whose mishandling of a pandemic infected the entire world. But it was the free world’s discovery of vaccines that have saved millions around the world and will save tens and millions more.

I guarantee, whatever’s being said in press conferences, when it’s all said and done, in a moment of honest introspection, many of those leaders around the world would much rather be aligned [with the U.S.]. Their private phone calls will still come to the White House, not to Beijing, but they need to take responsibility for their own countries.

I was not against withdrawing from Afghanistan. We’re the United States of America. We don’t have forever wars. We don’t run other people’s governments. What we do is when we withdraw, our withdrawal should be aligned with our values. And unfortunately—and there are a couple of theories as to why it happened—our withdrawal in Afghanistan did not align with our values and has had unintended consequences, but it doesn’t change the big picture. We’re still the United States.

Jan Jekielek: Right, and as you’re saying, this propaganda by the Chinese regime is really kind of on overdrive right now. I mean, it’s almost a gloating of sorts.

Rev. Moore: Yes, which is weakness, not strength. The United States is a confident country. We hold our leaders to account. What Chinese Communist Party member today is holding the leaders of China to account for their mishandling of a pandemic that killed countless Chinese people?

But when it’s all said and done, our president and his cabinet and members of Congress in this country, if they mishandled this withdrawal in substantive ways that this wasn’t one of those random acts of history that you couldn’t see coming, the people of the United States will know, and the people will hold them to account. And the people holding them to account will do it with small little pieces of paper in ballot boxes in about 18 months.

It’ll change, and we’ll fix it. But the problem with authoritarian governments around the world, particularly those that suppress human rights and religious freedom is that those governments aren’t self-correcting. They end up hurting themselves from the inside.

In the United States of America, our humility is part of our strength. … I’m critical of the handling of the catastrophe in Afghanistan. One of two things happened. Either the White House ignored intelligence coming from the Intelligence Community or advice coming from the State Department or the Department of Defense advising the White House not to withdraw in the way they withdrew. That might have happened.

Or it might be like in 2011. Our defense secretary in 2011 had a different job. One of the things he was responsible for was the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, which created a vacuum, which led to ISIS, which later on we destroyed. We solved the problem. It may be our defense secretary; it may be that other people made bad decisions. I don’t know, we’ll see what happens.

I’m critical of the White House. And the White House is doing everything that they can to try to paint a rosier picture of the situation. Okay, that’s fine; that’s in their right; they have a job to do.

They have to get tens of thousands of Americans and other vulnerable people out. But in the United States of America, we hold these people to account. We don’t believe the propaganda; we put pressure on. The media in the United States of America is statistically democratic, 80 percent of the media. Every survey you look at that studies donations and publicly available data, it’s clear, our media in the United States, they vote democratic.

And yet the media from CNN to MSNBC and everyone in between have been unrelenting in their criticism of the president that many of them voted for, because that’s the beauty of the United States of America. This is why things get better faster here. And this is why we feel a responsibility for fixing problems that we help create.

Jan Jekielek: I have also noticed this frankly really good reporting coming out of many media, which has been a breath of fresh air. Quite honestly surprising. There are many media. I haven’t been expecting that for quite some time. So that’s fascinating.

What I really want to talk about right now is actually your sanctioning by the Chinese regime. How did that happen? This was after you had already left USCIR at this point. You were already a private citizen. Why do you think they chose to sanction you?

Rev. Moore: I don’t know. I don’t know why I was sanctioned. On one level, I’m sad I was sanctioned. I love China. Unlike some people that the Communist Party likes to pick on. Let’s say, well this person has never been to China, they don’t know China, they believe in propaganda, I’ve been to China. I’ve been to China several times.

I even once ate at a Uyghur restaurant in Beijing many, many years ago. Far from Xinjiang, but I sat with a family and I learned about their culture and their story and their history. I love that country. And I’ll be honest, I’m sad I can’t travel there again. But I’ll tell you what I said when I woke up one morning and to my great surprise, as a private citizen of the United States of America, I found out that the spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry of China mentioned my name in retaliation for the sanctioning of a Chinese official.

Jan Jekielek: Yes, Yu Hui, this 610 Office official.

Rev. Moore: An official who subjected the Falun Gong community to incomprehensible horrors. Incomprehensible horrors, hunted down the community, and would have done even worse if he would have had the capability of doing it.

Frankly, the United States government should have sanctioned this person long ago. The United States government shouldn’t have allowed its foreign policy interest across multiple administrations and its economic interest and pressure from Wall Street and other places to let this person and people like them across the Communist Party subject people to the horrors they were subjected to.

But I’ll tell you what I said that morning when I woke up and I was surprised by this. I said, “The Communist Party must be far weaker than I thought that they were, if I’m a threat to them.” You can see who I am, I’m just a regular person, one of 50 million advocates for religious freedom in the United States of America.

Religious freedoms are in the heart of who we are. We all care about religious freedom. And actually, if you watch the daily press conferences, you read the transcripts, it’s just how I do it, not a day goes by when in these carefully choreographed press conferences in Beijing where the government doesn’t plant a question on these issues in order to address the question.

These are all signs of weakness, not signs of strength. These are signs of weakness. They’re very fearful. There are fewer than 100 million members of the Communist Party, probably much fewer, when it’s all said and done.

When you put the Tibetans and the Uyghurs and the Falun Gong practitioners and people who believe the Communist Party is corrupt and all of these other things together, there are orders of magnitude more Chinese people who oppose the Communist Party.

Every single day, however strong they act that they are, every single day, they wake up scared for a spark that would ignite the fire that’s inside the heart of every freedom-loving human being, who eventually says enough.

You see it in young people across China who’ve just chosen to stop working because of a lack of hope. You see it in communities whose relatives have just disappeared. Just one day, just gone.

A people whose organs have been forcefully taken from them in order to facilitate the transfer of organs from healthcare tourists that travel to China in order to have a transplant, and mysteriously within a few hours there’s exactly what they need that’s available often from minority communities, including the Falun Gong community. These are horrific realities every single day.

If they didn’t feel weak in this area, they wouldn’t try to go after regular people like me. I hope that millions of people around the world recognize that all the things that are dear to them are at jeopardy in the world that we’re living in today.

Because the fact of the matter is, the United States is the world’s sole superpower, no question. Militarily, financially, economically, every way you look at it, this is not a close second between the United States and China. But China is number two, and we’re at a crossroads. The people on Wall Street and our elected members of Congress, Democrat and Republican, whoever occupies the White House, and regular citizens who have been subject to various forms of economic exploitation, including in the Midwestern United States, need to make a decision.

This is the tragedy. Communism isn’t Chinese. Communist ideas didn’t come from within China. China had one of the greatest civilizations in human history with innovations that preceded millennia of discoveries and other parts of history and other parts of country. China imported a foreign idea into the country and fomented a cultural revolution. China has been ideologically colonized, replacing one of the greatest civilizations in human history.

We want see that civilization back. Imagine what could happen with the United States and China as free countries. The great historic Chinese civilization and the brilliant self-correcting contributions of the United States of America, if we had a competition to make the world a better place.

But that’s not where we are; we’re at a crossroads. And frankly, there’s only one issue that matters when you go to the ballot box these days in the United States, and that is this issue. And you have to wonder if there are people too, even within the Communist Party itself in China, who see that they’re on a dead end road and it’s time to correct it.

Jan Jekielek: “There’s only one issue in the ballot box, that’s this issue.” What is this issue exactly?

Rev. Moore: It’s the relationship between the United States and China, the Communist Party specifically. Of course, in America we vote for all kinds of things. But Democrats or Republicans, whoever they vote for, that’s the issue.

The issue is this great competition taking place between the United States and China, competition between Western democratic values and an autocracy that’s willing to do whatever it wants to do to maintain its power. That includes stealing intellectual property from the United States of America. That includes subjecting its own citizens to horrors. That includes biomedical experimentation governed by no international ethics standards.

As I said earlier, communism all crumbles in on itself eventually. With fearful people, you don’t have whistleblowers. If these things don’t work, communism falls in on itself. What’s different now is that the Communist Party in China is experimenting with certain things in our technological age that could take the world with them when they crumble. … Again, whatever the origins of the virus, the fact that it’s mishandling contributed to the infection of the entire world ought to be a wake-up call.

Every American ought to know right now, from their member of Congress, did the United States contribute to any experiments in China, gain-of-function experiments for instance, which we would not allow, that aren’t legal in the United States of America? I don’t know, I don’t know. Members of Congress need to find this out, but it’s a question that needs to be asked.

Did any government official authorize any experiment on any virus with any taxpayer money that is illegal to do in the United States of America? We need to hold our leaders to account on all of these issues.

By the way, and this is not a time for people in the United States to subject Asian Americans to any ounce of discrimination, any skepticism or any other things. We have to make sure our values transcend all of these things.

But we also can’t take the bait that every time we questioned the behavior of the communist regime in Beijing, the conversation has shut down because of accusations of racism against Asian Americans. The farthest thing can be true.

We have to stand together as the most diverse nation and perhaps in human history, arm and arm, proud of our values despite our inadequacies, always correcting our democracy, and say, these are the things that we believe in and we’re going to stand up for them. And we have to believe in our own strength. There’s a role for the international community. There’s also a role for the United States to be the United States.

Jan Jekielek: Reverend Moore, any thoughts before we finish?

Rev. Moore: I’m as optimistic as I’ve ever been before about the long game. I am pessimistic about short-term decisions by our political leaders and by the average American. And I think it’s time that all of us learn to fall in love again with our country. Not just our political party, but with our country, in all of its diversity, in all of its complexity.

There are plenty of people around the world, including foreign governments that want to exploit our divisions. And the best thing that we can do is stand arm in arm. And that means we criticize everybody on every side. It means we stand up for those issues that are important to us. It means we vote like every election is the most important in our lifetime. It means that we fight like every decision is the most important in the world.

But when the decision is made, we remember that we’re all Americans, and we wait to next time to perfect those decisions. It’s time for Americans to fall in love with the beauty of their country again. And that’s our best defense against the exploitation of values that are contrary to what has made us the amazing country that we are.

Jan Jekielek: Well, Reverend Johnnie Moore, it’s such a pleasure to have you on.

Rev. Moore: Thanks for having me.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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