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Freeing Journalists Stirs Debate

If there were a better story to set off a sometimes uncivilized argument between Our Readers Who Comment than Bill Clinton's trip to North Korea to provide a photo op with dictator Kim Jong Il in exchange for the release of two U.S. journalists, I don't know what it would be.

The hard right is predictably concerned that this will be read as tacit U.S. recognition of a repressive regime with nuclear ambitions, an argument former U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton also makes on the op-ed page.

Some of our readers express similar concerns, but more disagree and say so. There is excessive use of the term wingnuts. But it is a complex issue. Several readers were pleased that the women were released but also questioned why they crossed the border into North Korea. There is a little Clinton bashing and some amusing exchanges.

We'll start with 27081, who outlined both sides of the discussion in writing, "These two women are extremely lucky that the "Dear Leader" needs and craves photos of him smiling and shaking hands with a former President of the United States more than he needs them in prison... It is sad that the United States has agreed to be complicit in this propaganda bonus for this little despot. Good for these two women, but shame on us for allowing this propaganda tool."

joey3 asked, "does this mean that barry's foreign policy includes negotiating with terrorist like nation states, terrorists in general? what price for just two idiot so called journalists? terrorists all over the world now know they can win by taking american hostages, prisoners, because north korea got something out of this release..."

info13, who obviously didn't read Glenn Kessler's story, complained that "...REPORTERS are NOT doing their HOMEWORK folks. This is a documentable pattern of behavior. And all the public is told is that Bill Clinton is a magician... It is an OLD STORY with Obama's byline. And NO ONE has the depth, interest or skill to report it right. We are scammed again."

coolbliss wrote, "I am happy that Laura Ling and Euna Lee are free...
But I want to see tens of thousands of North Koreans freed from the labor camps. Do they get a pardon from Kim Jong Il?..."

esch said, "It looks like quite a few people both inside and outside the administration did a lot of things right on this one."

labman57 wrote, "So let's see. We have 3 options:
1) Cut our losses and let the two young women rot in a North Korean prison.
2) Nuke the whole freakin' nation. The women would die, but the opportunity to take out an adversary would be worth the collateral damage.
3) Let Bill Clinton provide a pre-negotiated photo op for that whack-job Kim Jong Il, the women are released, and tensions between the two nations are reduced such that diplomacy and talks involving nuclear threats possibly can be resumed. Gee. I don't know. Tough call..."

jayelle5 said, "While I'm glad that these journalists are free... I can't help but feel a degree of annoyance at private citizens who put themselves in harms way only to end up being arrested and used as pawns in a propaganda war. Same issue with the American hikers who strayed into Iran. What will it take to ensure their safe release?..."

murphyjim41 added, "I hope as a minimum the state department revokes the passports of these two dummies. The last thing we need is to have fame seekers going around the world causing dangerous international incidents..."

B2O2 asked, "How exactly does this event give North Korea "legitimacy"? I keep hearing detractors of the mission saying this, but they never say how. North Korea is the same country they were before the freeing of the journalists. They can spin this any way they want on their government media, but they have no more credibility internationally than they did before."

MET9 wrote, "And the score is: One Merchant ship Captain saved. Two Journalists released. Zero American lives lost on both occasions. Result: President Obama's ways of handling International Crisis' keep Americans alive..."

Slager21 said, This sounds "prearranged" and the question is now: how much did it cost us."

dfc102 responded, "What a terrible disappointment is must be. The lives of two innocent women get saved by a Democrat and the right responds with chagrin, paranoia, and schaudenfreude. Maybe the next time they'll be killed or jailed for years and then you can gloat."

annegreen wrote, "The wingnuts on this list just can't stand success, can they? they are such a joke. Obama is President and Clinton is King. Eat your little right wing hearts out."

To which cschotta1 replied, "The economy is tanking, the tax revenue is worst since the depression, Obama is failing yet you dorks think that this is a success! lol"

capntrips added, "why so bitter? I think most people think it's wonderful that they got out...but with only half of the equation, it's premature to know how much of a success it really was... in general, negotiating with dictators and terrorists isnt high on our national wish list...dont you agree?..."

annegreen then wrote, "backatcha capn. Not bitter, quite happy. And the idea that the U.S. does not negotiate with terrorists is a myth but you are welcome to it..."

All comments on this article are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  August 5, 2009; 6:43 AM ET
 | Tags: North Korea; Bill Clinton, Obama  
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Next: Bill Clinton Contacts: Good or Evil?


I have a suggestion:

We should send all the journalists who believe we have somehow let the US down to Pyongyang as exchange hostages.

That will show the North Koreans who is boss!

Posted by: syeo | August 5, 2009 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Propaganda victory?!?!

I'm glad to see all you right-wingers think that getting your picture taken with Clinton is such a great thing.

To me it looks like Bill hates being there and Dear Leader looks like a small crazy gnome who just got an autograph from Michael Jackson. And this legitimizes Dear Leader how?

Posted by: dre7861 | August 5, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

It is scary to think that Bolton was ever in a position of power. The man is sick. There is a related post at

Posted by: carlyt | August 5, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

oh yeah, such a propaganda victory for kim jong-il in the international community who no longer see him as a short, little tyrant; but as a generous benefactor of humanitarian causes....

sheesh, for gullibility on that scale, you need to seek out republicans/wingnuts/birfers.

nothing more entertaining that seeing obama -- and the clintons -- prevail while their antagonists seethe...

Posted by: mycomment | August 5, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

I'm hesitant to cheer for the two reporters who have been returned to the US liked misbehaving children for straying into a country without a visa. 12 years and hard labor seems rather high but North Korea has a right to it's soveriegnty just like every other nation. They may be brutal, but that is their nation and their issue, not ours.

Now that Clinton has been determined to be the key to the ladies jail cell, what will other incursions result in? What about the three hikers in Iran...will Clinton go there? What about other prisioners held on trumped up charges in other countries that haven't made it to the front page?

The journalists took a known high risk project and got caught. Several nations do not think highly of reporters and yet these ladies took a risk, then had the audacity to ask for the US for help. My goodness, they put our foreign relations at risk for many years because of their self gratifying pursuit of 'the story'. I'm glad we didn't lose precious American blood over this one.

Posted by: MI-Sooner | August 5, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

I feel very sad reading some of these comments. One of the few feel good stories to have come out in months in the depths of this terrible recession, and all some people can do is shoot it down.

Have Americans become cynics? Are we so steeped in our ideology we can't collectively celebrate the freedom of Lee and Ling?

Posted by: unscum | August 5, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Christ, I love it when an article amounts to the ravings, and analysis of said ravings, by annonymous comment board posters. BTW, the population of African elephants has tripled in the last 10 years, Obama's a terrorist satanist muslim extemist who was born in Kenya, here's a link to a great Keyboard Cat clip, medical coverage for all Americans = socialism, Jon Goslin was caught with another woman, and leave Britney alone!

That verifiable information being stated, only a total @-hole would lament the freeing of American journalists from a N. Korean labor camp.

Posted by: Terrorfied | August 5, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I fail to see how this helps North Korea in world politics, so it seems this was all for domestic consumption, which means Kim is probably in trouble with those who see him vulnerable. Not sure if that's a good thing.

As for Bolton, what a dolt. As usual he fired off a knee jerk reaction not knowing what was going on behind the scenes. Shoot first and ask questions later. So glad that crowd is out of power, but why does the post give them a column? Bolton has rarely been right and this just adds to the pile.

Posted by: Fate1 | August 5, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

I'd rather have news without politics than politics without news. Al's big propaganda channel creates more problems than it solves. Al and Bill are making a bundle. Let's hope they don't start a new newspaper here. We have enough trouble as it is. Maybe they can start a newspaper for N. Korea with Al as publisher.

Posted by: Dermitt | August 5, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

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