North Korea And The US: How Two Dissimilar Countries Must Right Their Wrongs

Isi Stein - Elite Daily - September 23, 2014

Several American "officials," including personalities like Bill Clinton and Dennis Rodman, continue to campaign for the releases of Kenneth Bae, Matthew Todd Miller and Jeffrey Fowle - three Americans North Korea is holding hostage.

Bae was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for what the regime claims was a plot to overthrow the government. Miller was arrested for allegedly ripping up his tourist visa at immigration, a move somehow interpreted as attempted espionage, and was later sentenced to six years of hard labor.

Fowle's crime? He left a Bible inside of his hotel room, an offense which, come sentencing, will no doubt reveal another disproportionate result, again a great example of North Korea's "legal system" at work.

Considering North Korea's actions over the years and the negative global image that it has created for itself, it is impossible for many Westerners to believe that Bae, Miller and Fowle are truly criminals.

One might even question whether the North Koreans genuinely feel that the three prisoners pose any danger to North Korean society or to their own government.

Clearly, there are other interests at play. Holding three Americans hostage can either be viewed as a move to assert national power - to ironically attain greater levels of international standing - or to extract political and economic concessions from the United States.

Regardless, the reality remains: Three human beings are serving unwarranted punishments for their purported infractions. This will not only spell the end of their freedom, but, no doubt, also put extreme strain on their physical and mental health.

The United States, a sovereign nation that is dedicated to its citizens and to upholding the ideal of justice, must do everything possible to ensure the speedy and safe return of those who were captured.

Somewhat ironically, a case of comparable egregiousness has been taking place within our own borders. While President Clinton, Dennis Rodman and others continue to pay attention to the three North Korean prisoners 6,500 miles away, similar corruption exists a mere 250 miles from the White House.

Jonathan Pollard, who was jailed in the 1980s for passing classified United States documents to Israel while working for the US Naval Intelligence Command, is living a similar nightmare.

Jonathan Pollard is sitting in prison, almost 30 years into a life term that has already included seven years in solitary confinement and stints at various holding facilities.

This disproportionate punishment is the harshest ever assessed by the United States to an accused spy who passed information to a US ally.

Precedent dictates that Pollard's crime warrants an average of two to four years and a maximum of 10 years in a federal prison. He has now served roughly ten times the average.

To make matters worse, Pollard's health is rapidly deteriorating, and those who are intimately familiar with the ex-spy's situation are skeptical that he will live much longer. Simply put, if Jonathan Pollard dies in prison, our country will be responsible for ignoring one of the greatest miscarriages of justice ever recorded.

History will not be kind to us if we don't take steps to mitigate the great injustice that Pollard has already suffered.

There are those who will naturally argue that comparing the cases of Bae, Miller and Fowle with that of Pollard, is preposterous. After all, Pollard committed an actual offense, while it is doubtful that the same can be said for the three Americans held in North Korea.

However, that objection only makes sense with a view to the first 10 years of Pollard's sentence, since that length of time is, by precedent, an appropriate maximum punishment for his crime.

After that 10-year threshold, the prisoner's status changed; just like Bae, Miller and Fowle, Pollard is a victim. I can say without reservation that Jonathan Pollard's reality and that of his three comrades thousands of miles away is no different.

That is why President Obama must immediately listen to the calls for Pollard's release from thousands of political officials, former and current intelligence chiefs, human rights activists, business professionals and religious leaders.

Lawrence Korb, Jimmy Carter, John McCain, James Woolsey, Alan Dershowitz, Michael Mukasey and others are supporters who have called on the President to end this madness, once and for all.

We must bring our leaders to task for failing to act in accordance with the values that our country, and every single American, holds dear, even when it is difficult to do so. We are not North Korea. While there is no doubt that Pollard committed a crime, there is also no doubt that it is now time to release him.

As Americans, we understand the importance of affording a human being due process, regardless of nationality or race. When we fail to do so and make mistakes, we must fix them.

While I am by no means comparing Barack Obama and Kim Jong Un, both of them share a common responsibility: At their hands collectively lay the lives of these four human beings.

These leaders must decide whether to preside over the signing of unjust death certificates or to do the right thing and allow the prisoners to have new chances at life. We must demand answers, and we must act, before it is too late.

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