There are so many problems with Menachem Rosensaft’s Aug. 14 op-ed piece “President Clinton’s mission to North Korea ennobles us all” it is tough to begin.
The rallying cry of “never again” in regard to the Jewish Holocaust obviously has no application to the North Korean gulag where more than 500,000 people have perished and where more than 200,000 people including entire families are still imprisoned and tortured again and again.
The North Korean slave state is ruled by gangsters who have no concept of human rights. In the North Korean prison camps, where babies are hung on meat hooks and live fetuses are fed to ravenous dogs, the concept of ennobling any human life would be a far-fetched fantasy.
In writing about Norbert Masur and his mission to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust, Rosensaft notes, “a Jew risked his life to sit with one of the greatest mass murderers of all time” (Himmler). Yes he did. Does anyone really think former President Clinton risked his life to sit with the North Korean gangsters? Masur negotiated the release of 1,000 Jews. Varian Fry, as Rosensaft observes, “smuggled more than 2,000 anti-fascist writers, artists, and other intellectuals out of Vichy France to safety.” Clinton did not save 2,000 or even 1,000 lives. He saved two lives, and he left many thousands of others to suffer an unspeakable fate. At the least it would certainly seem as if the price of human life has increased considerably.
Rosensaft notes, “Jewish law does place certain limitations on pidyon shvuim so that the payment of excessive ransoms would not become an inducement for taking captives who could then be ransomed.” Quite so. That is exactly why we must know what the cost of redeeming these captives is before we can determine if the cost was too high. In 1994, under President Clinton, the U.S. provided two light water reactors and a large supply of fuel oil to North Korea. The reactors were supposed to make electricity. Subsequently, the North Koreans reprocessed 8,000 fuel rods and converted then into nuclear bombs. If the price of redeeming these two captives was the endangerment of the world, the price was too high.
And finally we had the spectacle of President Clinton negotiating the release of the captives while his wife, the secretary of state, was line-dancing with some dignitaries in the Congo.
She nearly had a nervous breakdown when a questioner had the temerity to ask what her husband thought about China and the Congo. We all remember when Henry Kissinger made William Rogers uncomfortable enough at his secretary of state position that his tenure became untenable. If others like George Mitchell and Bill Clinton are doing her job for her, it may be time for Hillary to look for more meaningful employment.