So, why is Vice-president Mike Pence attending the Winter Olympics in South Korea? Is it because he's a sports fan who just wants to enjoy the quadrennial spectacle of the Olympic games?
Pence is going to the games for political purposes. He intends to use them as an opportunity to level a propaganda attack against North Korea, the communist regime that the U.S. government has long been committed to regime-changing. To advance this political aim, Pence will be accompanied by Fred Warmbier, the father of the University of Virginia student who died in the United States after being held in North Korean custody for more than a year.
I wonder if the thought has even occurred to Warmbier that President Trump and Pence are just using him as a political pawn, one whose role is to highlight the brutality of the North Korean regime. Never mind that the Olympics are supposed to be a forum for sports events, not political attacks and propaganda. The Trump-Pence mindset is: Why let a good opportunity to make propaganda points go unseized?
Actually though, Fred Warmbier's participation in this dangerous political gamesmanship serve to provide valuable lessons to the American people, not about North Korea, but about our very own government.
After all, what's the message that Warmbier thinks he's delivering when he accompanies Pence to the Olympics? Giving him the benefit of the doubt, he thinks that his participation will focus the world's attention on human-rights abuses in North Korea.
Well, duh! Whoever doesn't know that the North Korean communist regime engages in human rights abuses has been living on another planet. After all, this is a communist regime, one that has been around for some 80 years. And not just any communist regime but instead one of the most oppressive communist regimes in the world.
Everyone knows this. The message that Warmbier thinks he is delivering by accompanying the vice-president of the United States is superfluous. It's not a message that anyone hasn't already gotten.
That includes his 21-year-old son Otto, who made the decision all on his own to enter North Korea and attempt to steal a large North Korean propaganda sign and bring it back to the United States.
That was stupid, very stupid. But let me tell you something about young people, and I speak from experience. Young people are stupid. But that's not the worst of it. The worst of it is that they don't realize they're stupid. In fact, young people think that they are the smartest people in the world.
Did Warmbier's stupidity justify the 15-year jail sentence that North Korean officials meted out to him? Of course not. Any reasonable regime would have simply reprimanded him and thrown him out of the country. After all, most everyone (except young people) know that young people are stupid, which means they do stupid things.
But this is no ordinary regime. It is one of the most brutal and oppressive regimes in the world. Its propaganda signs are akin to sacred property. Otto Warmbier was stupid to try to steal one and bring it back to the United States. He was risking his life and his liberty for a stupid reason.
At Warmbier's trial, he was convicted and sentenced to 15 years at hard labor. Here is where the real lessons for Americans begin.
U.S. commentators have called the trial a "kangaroo" trial or a "show" trial. What do they mean by those terms? What they mean is this: North Korean officials "knew" that Warmbier was guilty. As far as they were concerned, they could have just sent him directly to jail without having to go through the niceties of a trial. But like other communist regimes in history, they wanted a trial to make it appear like judicial procedures had been followed before they punished the guy.