Welcome Home, Journalists
Natalia J. Garland
Welcome home, Laura Ling and Euna Lee. Thank you, President Bill
Clinton. Although others were intricately involved in the return
of the two journalists who were held as prisoners in North Korea,
their release could not have been negotiated without Clinton's
presidential history and current political repute. Clinton did
something that President Obama probably could not have managed
solely within the arena of his (Obama's) own presidency. Perhaps
this event will help to deflate the public's idolatry of Obama: he
is not a messiah but a mere man who had to rely on the expertise
and goodwill of another man whom he probably dislikes and who owes
There is a lot of
talk--which will continue throughout the week as more details
become available--about the secret negotiations with North Korea.
What did the North Koreans gain? What did the Americans lose?
Right now, there is only speculation. The speculation ranges from
harshly critical (even before the facts are known) to well-reasoned
possibilities. Some people are quickly looking for fault when
they could be celebrating America's freedom and humanitarian
values. Let us give credit where credit is due.
risked his life. Things could have gone wrong. The unexpected or
the miscalculated could have happened. No matter what the
negotiations, verifications, or guarantees of a successful mission,
Clinton and his co-rescuers entered the dangerous territory of the
extremely closed governmental system of North Korea. In addition,
on a political and psychological level, Clinton had to use adroit
diplomacy as he spoke with and shared a meal with one of the
world's worst tyrants, Kim Jong-il.
Did Clinton have
ulterior political motives? For himself and/or for his wife?
Perhaps. However, I suspect there was something unselfish and
redemptive in Clinton's actions. Perhaps he cared. He performed
his duty as former President: a status that, in this instance,
propelled him to fulfill further responsibilities toward the
people. I imagine also that Clinton could have been on a personal
mission as well as a rescue mission. Perhaps the safe return of
the two young women will serve to override his past scandalous
relationships with certain other young women.
This morning, I
turned on the T.V. news to try to get more information about a
local fire that occurred last night. I did not expect to get live
coverage of Clinton and the journalists landing at the Burbank,
California, airport. After everyone deborded the jet, I was struck
by the manner in which Clinton remained in the background. He did
not give a speech. Others (including Al Gore) were at the center
of attention. Humility? Personal satisfaction in a job well done?
Trepidation? Pre-agreement? It was reported that Clinton will
issue a written statement. As I finish writing today's essay at
8:30 a.m. (M.T.), I look forward to reading that statement.
Until we meet