Paul R. Hollrah, O.E.
Hostage Rescue...Clinton Style
American journalists Laura Ling and
Euna Lee, reporters for Al Gore’s Current TV organization, are
now back on American soil. The two were captured by North Korean
security forces in March of this year under circumstances that remain in
dispute. They were charged with espionage, tried, and sentenced to 12
years in a labor camp.
Were the women captured on North Korean soil or on Chinese soil? And why
were they there? Perhaps these mysteries will now be solved. But what we
may never know is the price that the Obama Administration paid for their
In a New York Times report,
headlined "In Release of Journalists Both Clintons Had Key Roles," the
Times said, "Former President
on Wednesday morning after a dramatic 20-hour visit, in which he won the
freedom of two American journalists, opened a diplomatic channel to
North Korea’s reclusive government, and dined with the North’s ailing
While the White House has attempted to
promote the fiction that Clinton traveled to Pyongyang as a private
citizen, probably to avoid questions on what price Obama had to pay to
win the women’s release, it is clear that Clinton went to North Korea as
an official representative of the Obama Administration. Was a deal made?
Was there a quid pro quo? We are, after all, dealing with an
administration that would call out teams of union goons to rough up
senior citizens as they attempt to express their fears that Obama’s
healthcare "reform” proposal would ultimately ration healthcare for
The recent history of Democrat
involvement in international hostage rescue attempts is not a pretty
one...especially where the Clintons are concerned.
For example, during the mid-90s my partner and I represented the United
Methodist Church in all the states of the former Soviet Union. And
inasmuch as the Methodists felt it was important to first save a man’s
life before they could save his soul, most of our work involved the
delivery of humanitarian aid to the needy people across the nation.
On October 7, 1993 we received a call from Methodist Church headquarters
in New York, advising us that they had a new assignment for us. One of
their members, Kenneth Beaty, of Mustang, Oklahoma, was working in
Kuwait, helping to extinguish the oil field fires left behind by Saddam
Hussein’s invasion forces as they retreated back across the border at
the end of the first Gulf War.
Beaty had inadvertently wandered across the Kuwait-Iraq frontier and was
taken into custody by Saddam’s Republican Guards. He was taken to
Baghdad, tried on charges of espionage, and sentenced to a long prison
term. Our assignment was to win his release.
Our initial reaction was to declare what we would NOT do. We would not
attempt a rescue by hiring teams of mercenaries in black jump suits to
fly into Baghdad in black helicopters. That method had been employed
successfully by H. Ross Perot in 1979 when he rescued two of his EDS
employees being held in Iran. It was tried a second time in April 1980
when Jimmy Carter sent in an armed force to rescue the fifty-three
diplomats being held in the U.S. Embassy by a group of radical Iranian
That effort was a miserable failure. Three helicopters and a C-130 cargo
plane were lost and eight American servicemen died in the Iranian
desert. No one had to tell us that, if a rescue attempt failed in Iran
in 1980, with the entire U.S. military establishment to draw upon, the
odds were not good that we could make it work in 1993. We would only
succeed in getting a lot of people killed.
The only reasonable alternative was to offer Saddam a ransom...U.S.
national policy on the payment of ransom, notwithstanding.
It had been U.S. policy for many years not to pay ransom to recover
Americans being held in foreign lands. That policy was much in evidence
during the Reagan years when seven Americans were being held by Islamic
extremists in Lebanon. One of those hostages, Lt. Col. William F.
Buckley was the CIA Station Chief at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut when he
was taken captive in March 1984.
A year later, when word reached Ronald Reagan that Colonel Buckley was
being tortured to death, he gave the order to get our hostages back.
According to National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, Reagan’s exact
words were, "I want you to do whatever you have to do to help these
people keep body and soul together.”
What followed was a complex plan in which American-made anti-tank
missiles were sold to the Iranians, at hugely inflated prices, with the
Israeli government acting as middle men to avoid violating the
long-standing policy against ransom payments. Israeli profits from the
transaction were then used to support the Contra forces fighting a
guerilla war against the Communist Sandinistas in Nicaragua,
circumventing the Democrats’ Boland Amendment which prohibited the
expenditure of funds to assist the pro-American Contras.
Unfortunately, the so-called "arms-for-hostages” deal came too late to
save Lt. Col. Buckley. He was murdered by his Islamic captors and his
remains were not returned to the United States until 1987.
Democrats in Congress held public hearings on the Iran-Contra affair and
several members of the Reagan White House staff, including National
Security Advisor Robert "Bud” McFarlane; his deputy, Admiral John M.
Poindexter; and Lt. Col. Oliver North were sentenced to prison terms on
charges of perjury and contempt of congress.
Convictions of all three were subsequently overturned on appeal.
However, congressional Democrats were so enraged that the Reagan
Administration had found a way around the Boland Amendment, making it
possible to support the anti-Communist forces in Nicaragua, that there
was even talk of impeaching Ronald Reagan.
Needless to say, after the fuss created by liberals and Democrats over
Reagan’s handling of the Iran-Contra affair...where, technically, no
U.S. laws were violated...the Clinton Administration found it very
difficult to publicly put their stamp of approval on our efforts to pay
a ransom to Saddam Hussein in 1993.
Nevertheless, in the days that followed, American pharmaceutical
manufacturers agreed to contribute some $250,000 worth of
pharmaceuticals and other medical supplies to our ransom attempt. It was
just what the Iraqis needed. Due to an effective international embargo,
the Iraqis were seriously short of food and medical supplies, and Saddam
quickly accepted our offer.
However, while officials of the Clinton State Department were involved
in every aspect of the effort to recover Ken Beaty, Democrats could not
be seen as having their "fingerprints” on a deal to ransom an American
prisoner from an Iraqi prison...especially after the fuss they’d made
over Iran-Contra. They had to have a plausible cover story.
Accordingly, on November 13, 1993, then-Senator David Boren (D-OK), now
president of the University of Oklahoma, announced in a high profile
Washington press conference that he would fly to Baghdad to plead with
Saddam Hussein for Kenneth Beaty’s release.
Boren arrived in Baghdad on November 14 and returned with Beaty on
November 15. The ensuing press conference featured numerous Clinton
Administration officials with broad smiles on their faces. It was a
great photo op, but it was all a sham. Kenneth Beaty’s freedom was
bought and paid for long before Senator Boren flew to Baghdad to "plead”
for his release.
So, if the Clintons and Barack Obama were all deeply involved in saving
Laura Ling and Eula Lee from the horrors of a North Korean labor camp,
we can’t help but wonder what price was paid. Their freedom certainly
did not come about because of a sudden attack of conscience on the part
of Kim Jon-Il.
What we are now learning is that Bill
Clinton went to Pyangyong with word that Obama was willing to accede to
Kim Jong-Il’s demand for direct talks with the United States, pulling
the rug out from under the Chinese, the South Koreans, and the Japanese.
If that is the case, Obama paid a very high price for the release of the
two women...a price that the American people and our Asian allies will
come to regret.