Where are they now?

International | What ever happened to Harry Wu, Scott McChrystal, Branko Lovrec, Ura Tchekhovski, and Allison Culpeper? A year-end update on some international heroes of 1996

Issue: "Lifelines: No little people," Dec. 14, 1996

When Harry Wu spoke with WORLD a year ago, he was a folk hero of the human-rights establishment (see WORLD, Jan. 6). The Chinese-born American citizen was accused by Chinese authorities of "stealing state secrets" after a series of clandestine trips back to his homeland. The last one, in the summer of 1995, landed him in prison for three months. When he emerged he had attracted a new level of international attention to China's extensive prison camp system and its use of forced labor in the production of cheap products for export.

Now Mr. Wu's 15 minutes of celebrityhood are over. His uncompromising desire to bring down China's communist government is drawing fire on American soil too. Critics accuse him of exaggerating the human-rights abuses he has investigated. They say he has peddled his findings without regard to their effect on U.S.-China relations. But supporters note his extensive research has not been discredited, and that granting Most Favored Nation status to the Chinese government hasn't changed its despotic habits, anyway.

One critic, Chinese-American businessman George Koo, so disliked Mr. Wu's work that he organized a group called Concerned Citizens for Rational Relations with China to protest Mr. Wu's nomination for the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize. Mr. Wu's supporters point out that Mr. Koo's California-based consulting firm helps U.S. corporations do business in China, particularly with its military.

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Among conservatives Mr. Wu's reputation is now mixed. Hoover Institution colleague Ramon Myers spoke out against Mr. Wu in an interview with the Los Angeles Times last month. He called Mr. Wu "a bitter person who vehemently wants revenge." Although he provided the initial funding for Mr. Wu's research, Mr. Myers told the Times, "I regret, frankly, that he was ever at Hoover."

But after Mr. Wu testified at a July hearing on Capitol Hill, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Jesse Helms said, "If freedom ever comes to mainland China, as they call it, I hope they will consider a statue on Tiananmen Square to Harry Wu."

Mr. Wu's latest campaign is against the World Bank. He accuses the bank of spending $125 million to fund an irrigation project in China that uses exiled laborers and includes military activity.

Mr. Wu himself may not have escaped his own spiritual wilderness. Last December he confessed, "I doubt of God," even as he said, "I think God is still inside my heart. I think he is supporting me and escorting me." In his latest book, titled Troublemaker: One Man's Crusade Against China's Cruelty and just released by Random House, Mr. Wu writes, "I'm a secular man ... with no streak of the martyr."

When the Dayton Accords were signed one year ago, President Clinton promised Americans their soldiers would be needed in Bosnia only until this month. It took him nearly the full year of their deployment to admit to what U.S. Army chaplain Scott McChrystal told WORLD last March (see WORLD, March 30): "We are planting a seed here, and I'm not sure if one year is enough time to let it grow."

A smaller contingent of American soldiers will stay into next year, but Lt. Col. McChrystal's work in the former Yugoslavia is finished. He left U.S. headquarters near Tuzla, where he was head chaplain to the Army's 1st Armored Division, in November. He is on leave before resuming duties back in Germany next year. His division, which served as part of NATO's implementation force known as IFOR, is being replaced by a smaller police division in what will be known as SFOR, or sustainment force.

If the acronym hints at shades of Vietnam, the similarities are not lost on Lt. Col. McChrystal, who was an infantry officer in the Vietnam War. Even the rough terrain around Tuzla and the ubiquitous dampness reminded him of Southeast Asia. "Except in this case we are not at war, we are still enforcing the peace."

Rules for U.S. troops even in peacekeeping are stricter than ever before, given attacks on Americans in Saudi Arabia, and farther back, Somalia and Beirut. Requirements to abstain from alcohol and the local social scene have remained in place, and they are hard on some soldiers. Maintaining "full battle rattle," which means keeping weapons at hand and wearing flak vests with helmets at all times, is stressful to everyone.

For chaplains like Lt. Col. McChrystal, their own workload has increased as a result. An associate with Lt. Col. McChrystal, army chaplain Charlie Morrison, said: "Once the decision was made [to send U.S. troops to Bosnia]--even if you don't agree with it--then good chaplains take care of soldiers. The more alone, isolated, and forgotten they feel, the more important our ministry is to them."


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