Wednesday, August 5, 2009

It’s all a stunt on so many levels

I’m sure in a certain sense, the government of North Korea believes it has dumped all over the United States and achieved a significant political victory in the eyes of the world by being willing to grant the release of two U.S. news broadcasters to former President Bill Clinton.

Perhaps they think that they are tweaking the mentality of the segment of our society that is most outraged by the very existence of Kim Jong Il – which in many cases is the same segment of society that also has its hang-ups about the existence of Clinton himself.

THEY GAVE CLINTON a victory on the international diplomacy stage, which will bother those people who would prefer that Clinton and his wife just wither away from the public eye – rather than remaining as an ex-president and incumbent secretary of state.

So it will be curious to see just how this gets spun by those elements of our society that will be pleased to have the two broadcasters of U.S. citizenship (but Asian ethnic background) returned home.

Will it get as absurd as the people who want to believe that the timing of the release of hostages in Iran in early 1981 was done because of fear of Ronald Reagan? I don’t doubt that they were held in captivity for as long as they were because of a desire to embarrass then-President Jimmy Carter.

But to listen to those people who want to praise the very memory of Reagan, it was all his doing (even though I’m convinced his existence had nothing to do with that issue).

NOW I REALIZE there aren’t direct parallels between the release of those hundreds of Embassy workers and other U.S. citizens who spent about a year-and-a-half in the captivity of Islamic extremists, and the current situation involving two ladies who were arrested for their work and spent the past month with a Korean criminal conviction (and prison sentence at hard labor) dangling over their heads.

I have enough sense to realize that the real reason for their arrest was a Korean regime in the northern part of the nation that didn’t particularly want the outside world looking at the way things go in that country.

So after having the two ladies locked up in a Korean prison and ignoring the overtures of the U.S. government to let them free (including a plea from Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton), it took an outside effort by the former president to get something done.

Now as some observers will note, there probably was some sort of outside understanding before the project was undertaken. I doubt Bill Clinton would have made a long-distance flight from the United States to North Korea if he didn’t have a pretty darned good chance of succeeding.

AS FOR THOSE of you who want to create jokes about Clinton making a long-distance flight just to hook up with a couple of chicks, keep them to yourself.

Anyway, it took less than one full day from the time Clinton arrived in Pyongyang to the time his airplane took off for Los Angeles, with Laura Ling and Euna Lee in tow.

The two worked for Current TV, a cable news outlet that supposedly is a more balanced alternative to the reporting that at times borders on propaganda from outlets such as Fox News. Coincidentally enough, Current TV is an entity being overseen by one-time Nashville newspaperman (and Vice President) Al Gore.

Which adds yet to the factor that giving in to Clinton creates the potential for embarrassment.

GORE, CLINTON (AS in Hillary), even President Barack Obama, all were unable to get action on the issue of letting the two broadcasters go free.

Yet retiree Bill Clinton gets action in one day.

I suppose it’s similar to all the times when the Rev. Jesse Jackson has gone into nations that are hostile toward the United States and manages to achieve some results on a particular issue.

Does this make Bill Clinton the 21st Century equivalent of Jesse Jackson? It could.

BUT IN THE end, I don’t think it matters all that much.

Because the bottom line is that Ling and Lee are free, no longer having to face the possibility of actually having to serve a 12-year prison sentence for trying to sneak into the country so they could get an unhindered view of what is truly happening in the nation that all too many of us think of as merely being part of the punch line from old M*A*S*H television show reruns.

And now we can put the two in the same category as Roxana Saberi, the freelance writer and broadcaster who endured her own ordeal in an Iranian jail earlier this year before being set free. In short, it’s going to mean a lot of book deals, and hopefully some accurate accounts of life in those two countries within the next couple of years.

At the very least, it would be nice to see something reported that indicated the level of nonsense being spewed by the North Korean government when their official statements said the release of Lee and Ling was evidence of “humanitarian and peace-loving policies.”



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