‘Kim Jong Bill’ Richardson and Camp 22

kim-jong-bill.JPG[Update:   The dissenting comments have been erased again.  Gov. Richardson’s fans want to create a cult of adulation in which all  dissent is stifled and concentration camps are never mentioned.   All of this is somehow  familiar to a North Korea-watcher.]

[Update 2:   Help us keep “Kim Jong Bill” on Wikipedia until he asks Kim Jong Il to close down Camp 22.  I’ve put the text and code at the bottom of the post, below the line.  Everyone is encouraged to keep pasting it back in if Kim Jong Bill’s supporters continue to show their authoritarian ways.  Wikipedia shouldn’t be a fan site (as of now, it is).  It should  include  fair criticism, too.]

Earlier,  I referenced my visit to this fawning “unofficial” Bill Richardson  campaign site.  The host of that site put up  an entry boasting about “Governor Richardson’s North Korean Breakthrough.”  This is  spectacularly ill timed, coming  on the very eve of North Korea getting  back its dirty millions and still missing the deadline to shut down Yongbyon.   It’s as if  Al Gore  were to claim he  invented those Nigerian spam e-mails.  Specifically, Gov. Richardson claims,

My years of experience dealing with North Korea and my knowledge of the region allowed me to help facilitate this new resolution to end their nuclear weapons program.

So I asked “kencamp” if Bill Richardson had ever found the time to ask his North Korean friends — the ones who respect and listen to him, we are told — about a place known as Camp 22, which is very possibly the worst place on earth.  Here is the answer I got:

About Deleting Posts

This morning I deleted three posts that appeared in quick one right after each other last night. All three were particularly critical of Gov. Richardson. While this website isn’t supposed to be a Richardson lovefest with no criticism allowed, we are a “for Richardson” site.I didn’t have time to research the claims in these posts in order to respond. The topics were social services in New Mexico, North Korea and honestly I forget the third. One of them still exists as a comment here, as it was double posted by the author.

If you don’t like Richardson and you feel that by posting here will get some attention for your gripe and “show those Richardson supporters” what a creep he really is, please think twice. I’ll delete your post and eventually delete your account if you persist. Feel free to start your own anti-Richardson blog or community though at any number of free services (here and here).

Yes, it’s their blog, and this is mine.  But the post was on-topic, and there was no reason but the intolerance of dissenting views for deleting it.  Here is the post I put up to replace the one that “emmetoconnell” deleted [Update:   Also since deleted by the “Richardson for America” administrators.]:

========   Deleted Comment at “Richardson for America” =========

In all of Gov. Richardson’s travels to North Korea, did he ever ask his hosts about Camp 22?  Does he know what goes on in there?   Do you?  There are 50,000 men, women, and children in  Camp 22  and up to a quarter of them die there each year.  Most die from hunger, disease, and abuse, but not all.  Here’s what happened to one family:

‘I witnessed a whole family being tested on suffocating gas and dying in the gas chamber,’ he said. ‘The parents, son and and a daughter. The parents were vomiting and dying, but till the very last moment they tried to save kids by doing mouth-to-mouth breathing.’

Hyuk has drawn detailed diagrams of the gas chamber he saw. He said: ‘The glass chamber is sealed airtight. It is 3.5 metres wide, 3m long and 2.2m high_ [There] is the injection tube going through the unit. Normally, a family sticks together and individual prisoners stand separately around the corners. Scientists observe the entire process from above, through the glass.’

There are 200,000 men, women, and children in North Korea’s concentration camp system.  Camp 22, the worst of these camps,  stands alongside Mauthausen and Tuol Sleng as one of  human history’s  greatest crime  scenes.   Americans may wonder whether Bill Richardson raised this subject to the North Koreans who (as you suggest)  hold him in such great esteem, and with whom he holds such influence.  Does he realize just what his amateur diplomacy is legitimizing and perpetuating?  What do the words “never again” mean to Bill Richardson?  The answers to these questions  say much about the kind of person he is, and the kind of president he would be. 

Last time I raised this question, you chose the cowardly option of deleting this post and avoiding the issue.  But you raised this topic.  You’re boasting about the value of Bill Richardson’s warm relationship with these killers.  This time, instead of just deleting my post, how about just asking Bill Richardson  if he has any plans to mention  Camp 22  next time he shakes hands with  the men who run the gas chamber?

========= End Deleted Comment =========

Now, how much influence any American has with Kim Jong Il is dubious.  In fact, Bill Richardson showed up just in time for the North Koreans to  use him as a propaganda  tool in anticipation of their “victory parade” this weekend.  This year,  they’ll celebrate  Kim Il Sung’s birthday, plus  the fact that they’ve hoodwinked the Americans yet again.   History will judge President Bush harshly for this sellout at a time when economic and political pressure could have secured something far more lasting, substantive, and verifiable, and a wiser and better man than Bill Richardson would want nothing to do with it.  The best thing history will have to say about Bill Richardson is that  his claim  is  spurious.  Even so, he shows his disdain for those who paved the way for this photo op:

The bottom line is that diplomacy works – there is no other lesson to draw from this monumental breakthrough. And we desperately need someone in the White House who understands this and can restore American international leadership.

The State Department’s negotiation of this reprehensible capitulation was complete long before the giddy  North Koreans led Bill Richardson around the decks of the  U.S.S. Pueblo and sent him home empty-handed.  But in these strange times, bad diplomacy, like a  rich woman’s baby, has a thousand fathers. 

===Criticism===
*[http://freekorea.us/2007/04/13/kim-jong-bill-richardson-and-camp-22/ “Kim Jong Bill” Richardson and Camp 22:]   A human rights activist challenges Gov. Richardson on the closeness of his relationship to North Korea, and asks whether Richardson has ever called for the closure of the notorious [[Hoeryong Concentration Camp]] during this lengthy relationship.
*[http://www.dprkstudies.org/2007/04/13/bill-richardson-has-al-gore-disease-but-worse/   Another blogger (coincidentally named Richardson; no relation) questions Richardson’s claim to have facilitated a “breakthrough” in North Korea diplomacy]; the claim closely predated North Korea’s failure to meet an agreed deadline to shut down its nuclear reactor at the [[Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center]].

47 Comments

  1. What do the words “never again” mean to Bill Richardson? The answers to these questions say much about the kind of person he is, and the kind of president he would be.

    The sad reality is the words “never again” don’t mean S*%# (to this world).

    I’ve been tieing in NK’s Human Rights situation with Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and eventually Pol Pot with the video edits. Which doing so just reminded me fundamentally how history teaches us nothing.

    The observer of my student-teaching asked me why I didn’t go for teaching history/social studies in high school since my lessons on English literature often bring in the historical context and she said it showed how much I am interested in the subject.

    How could I teach history to teens like we are supposed to – about democracy and the global community and learning from the past and the progress of mankind and what not —– when I know what the reality is?

  2. “kencamp” keeps erasing comments (on-topic comments) over at the Bill Richardson blog.

    That blog isn’t based in North Korea, by chance?

  3. Wasn’t Bill Richardson once drafted by the Kansas City A’s? Didn’t he hit a gland slam home run in the bottom of the 9th inning of the seventh game of the 1972 World Series to win it all for the Oakland A’s?

  4. Further to Sine qua non,

    They’ve deleted all of my comments also.

    It appears that uppity ‘non-choir’ members ‘need not apply’.

    So much for reasoned debate.

  5. Thanks to some Richardson supporters, I have been directed to this post.

    1. I did not author the post on how posts and comments are deleted at America for Richardson. My colleague Emmett O’Connell authored it, and I support what he wrote.

    2. America for Richardson is not hosted, nor based in North Korea.

    3. I am ok with dissenting opinions that don’t agree with my own, and am in no way trying to censor anybody on America for Richardson. Perhaps some mistakes were made by me in deleting some of the comments on that site. If you feel this way, I apologize. However, as Emmett O’Connell is one of the founders of AFR, I will abide by his policy as expressed in his post on deleting comments and posts. However, Emmett deleted the first post you put up, and I followed suit when you re-posted. Keep in mind though what Emmett said:

    If you don’t like Richardson and you feel that by posting here will get some attention for your gripe and “show those Richardson supporters” what a creep he really is, please think twice. I’ll delete your post and eventually delete your account if you persist. Feel free to start your own anti-Richardson blog or community though at any number of free services (here and here).

  6. Where is the line between “showing those Richardson supporters what a creep he really is” and “griping” – and – complaining about Richardson’s actions and policies go?

    Apparently, seeking to refute your site’s and Richardson’s claims of making a great break-through in US-NK relations that Richardson accomplished himself is one place the line is being drawn.

    I guess that will be an effective way of preventing people who know a whole lot about US relations with both North and South Korea from pointing out that those claims are ridiculous.

  7. Feel free to e-mail me at ken at kencamp dot net if you’d like to take this conversation offline. I’m happy to discuss your complaints about America for Richardson and how it is administered, but I won’t be engaging you or Mario Burgos any further on the blogs so we can avoid any possible flame war.

  8. Ken, I don’t think you can make a credible claim that you deleted this post, which raised a legitimate on-topic question, for any reasons other than your (I use the term collectively) fear of confronting issues as serious as concentration camps and gas chambers. Please do not insult my intelligence by denying that you’re censoring dissenting views on your site without even offering some rational alternative explanation. What you’re doing is obvious. I am not the one who made a political issue out of Bill Richardson’s relationship with people who are committing genocide as we speak.

    If I’m being unfair in blaming you both for Mr. O’Connell’s actions, then there’s a simple way you can show it. You can put the comment back in a post published under your own name.

    (By the way, who seriously suggested that your site is hosted in North Korea? I think you’re misreading something there.)

    More importantly, you can forward the question about Camp 22 to Bill Richardson. If he responds, I will publish that response in full. Unlike “Richardson for America,” I don’t delete views just because I disagree with them. All I ask is that you stay on topic and show respect for others who participate in the discussion. If what you claim about Gov. Richardson’s influence in North Korea is true, you have a great opportunity to (a) win this argument, (b) bring great credit to the candidate you support, and (c) most importantly, save thousands of lives.

    The next move is yours.

  9. I am not afraid to have this conversation in public, and I don’t see why you should be.

    I will promise you that I’ll delete any obscene or vitriolic comments. Consider yourself clad in asbestos with a no-flame guarantee. I think we’re all interested in hearing you defend your candidate’s positions.

  10. I am not the one who made a political issue out of Bill Richardson’s relationship with people who are committing genocide as we speak.

    Do you prefer the Bush Administration policy of calling the North Koreans names and not talking to them? I didn’t say Bill Richardson endorses the rule of Kim Jong-Il and likes everything he does. I’m giving him credit for talking to the regime and getting things done, no matter how small the actions are.

    Sine que non in the comments above questioned whether or not the blog was based in North Korea.

    And I’m not afraid of having this conversation in public, I’m just finished having it in public. You have my e-mail address if you want to comment further.

    As a gesture of goodwill to you I will try to get an answer from the Richardson campaign on your question about Camp 22. If/when I receive a response, I will post it at America For Richardson.

  11. It is official the Governor RIchardson site is a propaganda site that would make Kim Jong-il proud. They can’t even answer reasonable questions and deflect the questions as if we are calling the guy a “creep” which none of us criticizing Governor Richardson has even done.

    Than to say that they are not censoring anyone is absolutely ridiculous.

  12. The Bush Administration has always been talking to the North Koreans, except when the North Koreans were boycotting talks. As for name-calling, I think you probably overestimate the North Koreans’ sensitivity to such things. The North Koreans are pretty accomplished name-callers.

    Now, if you’re looking for someone to defend the Administration’s policies on North Korea beyond that, look elsewhere. The Bush Administration made one-act play out of talking human rights, but did next-to-nothing in practice. Functionally, the Bush policy was just a multilateral version of the Clinton policy. Behind the scenes, many of the same people ran both. Both failed for the very same reason — North Korea’s absolute disinterest in conforming itself to any diplomatic, moral, or humanitarian standard of civilized human behavior. Had we exerted the kind of political and financial pressure on North Korea that exists only in the imaginations of Bush’s least-informed critics, we’d be talking about helping South Korea rebuild the wreck that Kim Jong Il left behind when he took the last flight to Beijing.

    I can see why Sine Qua may have been tempted to pull your chain. I think you deleted his comment, too, which was also on-topic and substantive (clue: he was kidding, Ken, just like my photoshop with the oversized head). You certainly haven’t earned any respect from this site’s readers for censoring those dissenting views, although you could regain some of it by restoring the comments. You’ve also unintentionally brought the wrong kind of attention to your candidate. Censorship tends to work that way. Incidentally, this post got visits from (at least) the Senate and the State Department today. Nice going.

    If and when you get that answer from Gov. Richardson, feel free to drop me a line and I’ll post his response.

  13. Do you prefer the Bush Administration policy of calling the North Koreans names and not talking to them? I didn’t say Bill Richardson endorses the rule of Kim Jong-Il and likes everything he does. I’m giving him credit for talking to the regime and getting things done, no matter how small the actions are.

    Name calling, eh?

    I guess this is the “no sticks nor stones nor hurtful words” foreign policy doctrine.

    And as OneFreeKorea points out, North Korea was talked to all this time, they just were not told what they wanted to hear just so they could pat the US on the back and say, “Thanks.”

    As for the last part —- as soon as North Korea does something based primarily or even close to primarily due to Gov. Richardson’s talking to them, let me know.

    You tried to let me know when it came to honoring the new agreement, but that hasn’t happened yet.

    You spoke of a breakthrough which nobody can see but Gov Richardson.

    Even the return of the bodies of the Korean War GIs was bought and paid for by the current US government.

  14. It’s no use. You may as well debate the owner of the Songun Blog.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see him come up with something like, “When Bill Richardson’s plane touched down in Dulles, the terrible nor’easter dissipated, and a ray of sunshine fell on a snow white dove of peace.”

  15. Sign seen at “Governor Richardson’s North Korean Breakthrough”:

    Only sychophants need attempt to post here.

    Dissenting posts will be eliminated. (That is , after we tumble to the fact that they actually represent a dissenting point of view. Sometimes this may take a day or two. So, please, check back frequently. If we have STILL failed to delete them, please contact us on our secret hot line.)

    Signed,

    ‘Big’ Bill

    PS

    Have a nice day!

  16. I’ve voted Democratic in the last four presidential elections and don’t expect to switch in 2008. I know who is not getting my vote.

  17. Just wanted to let you know that as a further sign of good faith on my part, I have re-posted your second post on America for Richardson. What Emmett said stands: you are free to re-post, but his policy on deleting posts stands.

  18. Thank you. I hope we’ll hear from Gov. Richardson on the greater issue of human rights and the value of his influence. As I see it, a basic regard for human life and a commitment to some degree of transparency are both inextricably linked to the nuclear issue.

    If nothing else, the issue that should not be lost in this discussion is suffering of the tens of thousands of people inside Camp 22.  I hope you’ll read that post, look at the pictures, and see how those people live and die.  I think we can agree that the hideous things being done there transcend our political differences.  Whatever influence any American has with the North Koreans, to the extent that any of us has some, should not ignore that urgent humanitarian priority.

  19. You may as well debate the owner of the Songun Blog

    Hehe…..at least that guy has some flare…I actually love his blog since I stumbled on it…

  20. I was going to ask the same question. Ever since I got burned on the Seeing Eye blog a few years ago, I’ve been careful about assuming that the ridiculous wasn’t merely in jest. Songun seems to be intentionally ridiculous.

  21. The ‘Banner of Songun’ blog is a spoof, as well as ‘Juche Girl’.

    While I think the author has some days that are better than others, overall, the ‘artcles’ are rather amusing.

    I can’t say the same, however, for some of the commenters at that blog, though. Some of them are downright scary.

  22. Banner of Songun is definitely a parody site. I’ve talked to the author of it a couple of times. He never said it was a parody, but come on, you know it is. Or else it’s Kim Jong Il himself!

  23. So let me get this straight you guys are angry because Gov. Richardson recovered the remains of some fallen soliders in a very closed society but failed to close a political prisoner camp in North Korea? Give me a break. I am all for a unified Korea under the Seoul government but North Korea is a closed country! If the DPRK will shot you trying to flee the north what makes you think they will free the people that oppose thier government?

  24. Yes I did read what you said. There is a ton of places where human rights abuses have have happened. The DPRK will use anything for propaganda as well. They did when Madaline Albright visted as well. The country is a propaganda state that spins everything in their favor. As an American and a vet having served in the RoK I am glad to see that Gov. Richardon did get the bodies back of our fallen soliders and returned them home. When you look across the DMZ at night and realize the DPRK soliders use fire at night to stay warm you know something is wrong. But to accuse him of not using his influence to shut down a political prisioner camp? And honestly knowing Gov. Richardson I would not be suprised if he talked about the nuke issue and had some influnence in it.

  25. First, you mischaracterized my argument, which is flat-out dishonest. I didn’t criticize Richardson for bringing home remains. I criticized him for giving the world’s most oppressive regime — one that’s operating concentration camps comparable to Dachau, Mauthausen, and Tuol Sleng and starving millions of its people — a complete free pass on human rights. So if you really did read the post, you’re just an ordinary liar.

    “There is a ton of places where human rights abuses have have happened.”

    Then here’s something else you obviously did not read. Please name one place — much less “a ton — where anything on this scale has happened, to this degree of depravity since the Year Zero of the Khmer Rouge, and before that since the end of Nazi Germany. What would history say about a politician who marketed himself based on his warm relationship with Pol Pot or Hitler? Leave aside that Richardson’s claim of credit for this diplomacy is mostly fraudulent.  Bill Richardson’s defenders will eventually be glad for that.

    By the way, let us know if you ever find that six-fingered man.

  26. Bill Richardson also had absolutely nothing to do with recent nuke-related deals, despite his claiming to have a hand in them. It’s nice that he helped get some service member remains home, but that is a separate issue, and the bottom line is that Bill Richardson is a liar.

  27. I feel that it’s pertinent to mention something here: it took Bill Richardson much of the 1990s to get those soldier remains back, and you have shown no evidence that he has not talked to North Korea about the concentration camps. Aside from that, it’s not always up to an ambassador or a diplomat to decide what to talk about; when he went to North Korea to discuss proliferation and the retrieval of soldier remains, it was because someone in the Bush and Clinton administrations sent him there to do that. He was probably not even allowed to mention Camp 22 for fear of antagonizing a dictator who actually IS insane and actually HAS weapons of mass destruction. I mean, think about it, how is he supposed to reach a goal of preventing nuclear proliferation with a country while simultaneously telling them to shut down a network of concentration camps, about which very little is actually known?

    That’s where I must criticize you. Kencamp’s actions, however, were fairly immature and uncalled for, and that’s what I think people should be upset about in this particular blog; not what Bill was able or unable to accomplish with an authoritarian regime led by a wildly unstable man.

    While I am a supporter of Bill Richardson (thusfar, I haven’t researched other platforms very thoroughly yet), I do realize that this counts as a sort of hole in his record, and I intend to ask him about Camp 22. If I am able to learn anything, I’ll be sure to let you know.

  28. Bill Richardson has a day job. He’s not a diplomat. It’s entirely up to him to choose his friends. He chose genocidal tyrants. He makes his embrace of them public. He trades on it. It seems fair to ask why, and what good it’s doing us.

    I posit that Bill Richardson is marketing this “friendship” to voters, trading on the embrace of mass murderers to burnish his foreign policy credentials. Otherwise, he’d just be the governor of a small, remote, economically unsuccessful state.

    Several months ago, the “americaforrichardson” bloggers promised to contact their candidate to find out whether he has ever brought up the worst death camp this planet has seen since 1945, with the possible exception of Tuol Sleng. That was months ago, yet not a word from them.

    Not that I stopped there. I called Bill Richardson’s press secretary to ask him myself. His name is Gilbert Gallegos, and his number is (505) 412-2644. I got an answering machine, so I left a number. No response. So I don’t think I’m out of line in inferring that maybe Bill Richardson either has no idea what Camp 22 is, or doesn’t care about the people dying there as much as he cares about spoiling his presidential campaign by letting principle get in the way. Whatever the reason, he isn’t talking about it. But since I’ve published the number for you and every other reader of this blog with the desire to dial it, by all means prove me wrong. If you can get the answers that Bill Richardson refuses to give me, I look forward to hearing them.

    For a few years, Richardson might be excused for not bringing up the worst place on earth with its proprietors. Still, let’s do what you seem to expect and make the absolutely unjustified and unproven assumption that he has. If that has done no good for more than a decade, Gov. Richardson has acquired a duty to demand answers in public. I predict he’ll flunk it, but the opportunity is always there.

    Maybe the next time his hosts trot him out to the deck of the Pueblo as the cameras churn, he might interrupt the process of making a propaganda laughingstock of himself by asking, just once, for Kim Jong Il to shut down Camp 22.

    Yes, this could kill the mood and lead to some uncomfortable silence. It might give offense to his hosts. But if we can’t reach agreement on a point as fundamental as not killing kids in gas chambers, just how productive a relationship does Bill Richardson really think he’s building? How many decades must pass, and how many more men, women, and children will be murdered in that hell on earth before Bill Richardson thinks the time has finally come to so much as mention it?

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