Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Welcome back, Carter.

Former President Carter may have met Kim Jong-il on his last trip. And may have offered him things. And talked about Aijalon Mahli Gomes's condition and stuff.

Wordy essay: 
When former President Jimmy Carter went over to North Korea to fish out Holy Roamer Aijalon Mahli Gomes, it was widely reported and generally assumed that he did not end up meeting Kim Jong-il.

Since it was always figured that high-profile visits by the likes of former President Bill Clinton or Carter are what the status-hungry DPRK craves, it was puzzling that KJI would take off just as Carter was arriving.

The Dear Leader, so the speculation went, had snubbed Carter when he chose instead to make a last-minute trip to northeast China (where, many believe, he was getting Beijing's approval for the ascension of his son, Kim Jong-un, but I, Kushibo, believe he was getting permission — or perhaps even orders — to do Chinese-style reforms). Either that, or KJI was afraid of the Carter Curse™.

So far, so good. Joshua at One Free Korea noted that the snub may have been a good thing, because it made it harder for Carter to offer anything other than a suitcase full of gourmet organic peanut butter in exchange for Mr Gomes's freedom.

But wait... Perhaps Mr Carter did in fact meet Kim Jong-il on this last trip. I hold this out as a possibility simply because Mr Carter, in a discussion at the Carter Center, didn't say one way or the other:
The 2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner would not say if he met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. But he said he spoke with leaders who told him "they were eager to have peace talks that will lead to the denuclearization of the peninsula and a permanent peace treaty with the U.S. and South Korea." [AP via WaPo]
Why would this be a secret? If he didn't meet him, then he didn't meet him. But if he did meet him and there was something he wasn't to reveal (like KJI's physical condition?) then the "cannot confirm or deny" response would make sense. Not saying it's the only possibility, but it is a plausible reason.

And perhaps Carter did make some offers Pyongyang wouldn't refuse. I'm gleaning this from the title of the AP article ("Carter hopes prisoner release helps peace talks") and this quote:
"We didn't have any communication with North Korea, so they called and asked me to come over there to get Mr. Gomes," the Georgia Democrat said during a discussion at the Carter Center. "They said they would not let him go to anyone except me. Obviously, they wanted me to come back over there."
Reading between the lines, it seems quite likely that someone in the Pyongyang regime had Mr Carter come over to talk about returning to the denuclearization talks because they could extract a quid pro quo from him.

The talk also went into the conditions of Mr Gomes's incarceration:
Carter said doctors determined that Gomes, of Boston, had been treated "superbly" during his seven months in prison and that North Korean officials gave him his own prison cell. He also said Gomes was given his own hospital room in the country's capital, Pyongyang, after he tried to commit suicide, but he did not elaborate.
"Treated superbly"? Sounds a bit different from what some had speculated. I guess if it's not true, Mr Gomes himself might speak up eventually.

See Abstract.


  1. treated SUPERBLY? yeah, that's why he wanted to kill himself...all the kind treatment he received.

  2. Hmm... I'm going to play devil's advocate here and assume that Carter's statement is factual. This may be a sound assumption because Carter probably did in fact have a chance to speak with Gomes privately, although it's possible that (a) Gomes was not ready to reveal the extent of any maltreatment and/or (b) Carter may wish to avoid publicly criticizing the Pyongyang regime for fear it would close off a channel that is important for fishing out people like Gomes, Laura Ling, or Euna Lee.

    I would also add that the KCNA had been surprisingly accurate about their description of the Ling-Lee incident, enough that one can "interpret" them for actual facts. I realize that's an unorthodox view, but I think it's a sound one.

    So that leads us to the question: Is it possible that someone who was treated "superbly" in DPRK custody would still try to commit suicide? I certainly think such a scenario is plausible.

    For starters, one who is treated "superbly" in prison (e.g., well fed, well cared for medically, not beaten, allowed on occasion to meet the Swedes, etc.) is still in prison. He was in a cell, his own cell. In fact, the solitary confinement, even with "superb" treatment otherwise, could push someone to the edge.

    Also, we should not forget that Holy Roamers Robert Park and Mr Gomes have exhibited Mosaic or Messianic complexes that come with them a bit of a recklessness and perhaps an outright death wish. In other words, they may have been predisposed to suicidal behavior even before they crossed into North Korea.

    Given, then, the demoralizing situation of being stuck in prison without a foreseeable end (other than the end of the sentence), unable to proselytize, unable to even communicate much with anyone else, those suicidal tendencies may have indeed gained more power.

    It's also possible that Mr Gomes, increasingly aware that he seems to have been forgotten by Washington and Pyongyang, may have engineered a suicide attempt as a ploy to get released (after all, it was a failed attempt). If so, that "cry for help" certainly did the trick: Look at the timeline of when Carter was contacted by the North Koreans to come and get Mr Gomes.

    And this is one reason why I dislike what Lee, Ling, Park, and Gomes have done: It makes me actually have to agree (sort of) with the Pyongyang regime, at least about the "facts."

  3. Perhaps Gomes lost weight because of their superb healthcare and diet.


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