So, to answer those of you who asked, I don’t know why Google’s Eric Schmidt is flying to Pyongyang with Kim Jong Bill, but whoever is in charge of the State Department these days doesn’t sound very happy about the visit, or by the timing of our least favorite camera-hog has-been ex-governor. Says State’s mouthpiece –
As you know, they are private citizens. They are traveling in an unofficial capacity. They are not going to be accompanied by any U.S. officials. They are not carrying any messages from us. Frankly, we don’t think the timing of this is particularly helpful, but they are private citizens and they are making their own decisions.
Why am I smiling? Because I voted for a government that has no use for washed-up politicians who think that mass murderers make good props for their self-aggrandizing photo ops, and that their capacity to appease them is a qualification. My best guess is that Richardson is trying to spring Kenneth Bae, which he probably thinks would make him relevant again.
Schmidt’s game is harder to guess, but he has a history of what one informed OFK reader calls “war tourism” and naive altruism. The fact that he’s well known as a big Obama donor probably required State to distance itself from him. At the same time, Google has sometimes made gestures toward advocating human rights and internet freedom in North Korea. For example, Google even flew 10 North Korean defectors to a Google Ideas INFO Summit in California last year. One of them related this story:
When he entered the camp for the first time, he was terrified at the sight of emaciated prisoners with hollowed eyes and no human dignity. They performed meaningless and arduous labor tasks from sunrise to sundown, and suffered from not only physical torture, but also excruciating mental pain. People whispered to him that they did not know what crimes they were being sentenced for, yet they did not have the strength to complain. One day, he was sent to the prison ‘hospital,’ where people laid on wooden boards shoulder to shoulder. He saw people cultivate diseases in their own bodies so that they could expedite their deaths, since committing suicide was considered a crime that would punish their loved ones living outside the camps. At the young age of 17, he developed the sense to predict when somebody would die, based on their breathing patterns. Paul recalls thinking, “that man has about two more days left before he leaves this earth.” After a bedmate would pass, Paul would not report his/her death because he would be able to eat the corpse’s food ration. He would continue to sleep next to corpses and eat their foods until nurses noticed the rotting bodies, after which patients would be tasked with carrying the stiff corpses out into a mass open grave. He left the hospital, and went back his barracks, even more determined to survive and defect from this country.
Bill Richarson was unavailable for comment. Schmidt, on the other hand, actually spoke at the opening of the conference. (HT to a reader and friend for this information).
If you forced me to wager, I’d bet Richardson doesn’t bring Bae back. North Korea still hasn’t exhausted his hostage value yet. They’ll probably want to keep him in a cage until they’re secure in their knowledge that Susan Rice has failed to secure any meaningful U.N. response for their missile test. Then, they’ll summon someone of higher status to fetch him. When they do, I hope our State Department will issue a travel advisory like this one:
The Department of State strongly advises U.S. citizens to stay the fuck out of North Korea. You have no business there. Nothing good will come of your visit. Did your hippie professors, your pastor, and your mom tell you that you could change the world? They were all full of shit. Actually, you are incapable of changing the world. If you were capable of changing the world, you wouldn’t be going to North Korea; you would be gainfully employed as an electrical engineer. Your visit will not make peace. That “Three Cups of Tea” guy? A fraud.
This regime will milk you for cash until it decides that it can milk Uncle Sam for even more cash by entrapping you into doing something stupid. Have you heard about the Fiscal Cliff? It means we’re done done filling suitcases with the taxpayers’ hard-earned, non-counterfeit cash for Jimmy to come ransom you out. North Korea would only use that cash (or yours) to buy sarin and incubators from a scientist in Uzbekistan who borrowed money from the mob and lost it playing Texas Hold’Em online. So don’t say we didn’t warn you.
That goes double diplomats and ex-presidents. We had to cut the travel budget this year. That’s why you all have e-mail accounts.