Wednesday, August 08, 2007

No Use Staring at the U.S. in Hostage Crisis

With the hostage crisis in Afghanistan dragging on while the number of casualties rises, certain groups in Korea have begun to shift the blame on the United States. One group opposed to the dispatch of Korean troops overseas has held a candle-lit vigil saying the U.S. caused this tragedy, while the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy issued a statement saying the negligence of the U.S. government was the reason behind the lack of progress in negotiations. Certain news media are starting to take that perspective, and the Uri Party hopped on the bandwagon.

It is difficult to believe Washington will be completely open to the idea of freeing Taliban prisoners. The U.S. government has refused to deal with terrorists even when its own citizens were taken hostage. There may be exceptions, but in Iraq alone, six American hostages were killed after the U.S. government refused to negotiate with terrorists. At present, the fate of 10 American hostages remains unclear. U.S. government officials say if this principle is compromised, then terrorism may spread like wildfire around the world.

Even though that may be Washington’s position, this crisis cannot end simply with a decision by Washington. The government of Afghanistan may rely on the U.S., but the people of Afghanistan are fighting against the Taliban since their own livelihoods depend on winning that fight. The government of Afghanistan freed Taliban prisoners in exchange for an Italian journalist and the Taliban have reportedly learned the value of such tactics. If such incidents are repeated, the government of Afghanistan is afraid its stability may collapse and their very lives come under threat.

The Cheong Wa Dae spokesman, who is briefed on relevant information, said Seoul does not think Washington has independent authority. He said it was wrong to think the U.S. held all of the cards. He added the U.S. was cooperating very closely with Korea in the areas of diplomacy, military and other information.

The goal of the Taliban is to dump all of the responsibility on the U.S. government. The fueling of anti-American sentiment by certain groups in Korea will only play into the taliban’s hands and justify their atrocities. As Mehra Juddin Patan, the governor of Ghazni Province said, the U.S. is in a dilemma too, because the Koreans had come to a country where they shouldn’t be.

The more anti-American groups demand the participation of the U.S. in the hostage negotiations, the more they are trapping Korea within Washington's policy of not making concessions to terrorists. The floor leaders of Korea’s five main political parties are seeking to visit Washington D.C. to call for U.S. participation in the hostage negotiation process. But there is a strong possibility that this trip may end up being a political show to get more votes during the presidential election in December.

As the situation grows more serious, efforts by certain groups to use it to fan anti-American hatred will only intensify. Already, those groups may be planning a second version of the mass rallies that happened after the deaths of Shim Mi-sun and Shin Hyo-soon, two schoolgirls who were killed by a U.S. armored vehicle here. The public must be able to distinguish between those who truly want to save the lives of the young Koreans and who are simply trying to capitalize on the suffering.


Easy thought experiment: replace "the Taliban" with "North Korea," then note that South Korea's strategy is consistent in both cases.

Day 19

The summit between President Bush and Afghan President Karzai has made it quite clear, he is not giving into terrorist demands:

U.S President George W. Bush and Afghan President Hamid Karazi agreed on Monday morning not to give in to Taliban kidnappers of 23 Koreans in Afghanistan. In a meeting at the U.S. presidential retreat of Camp David in Maryland, the two made it clear there will be no release of Taliban prisoners in return for the freedom of the surviving 21 Korean hostages, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. “The Taleban are brutal and should not be emboldened by this,” he added.

This is probably joy to the ears of the anti-US groups in Korea. Now all they have to hope for is that the terrorists kill the Korean hostages and then they can really start jumping for joy because they will probably get more traction with their anti-US campaign. Truly disgusting people, but when you are used to making excuses for North Korea making excuses for the Taliban comes easy.

Meanwhile the Taliban continues to want the UN to intervene to set up direct negotiations with the South Korean government, but the UN is unlikely to get involved because they say they don’t deal with terrorist groups. The Africa Union has condemned the Taliban kidnappers as well today if anyone cares because I’m sure the Taliban doesn’t.

The Korean media is beginning to come around with the Joong Ang Ilbo and the Chosun Ilbo releasing editorials bashing the anti-US groups, politicians, and media who are trying to foment anti-US sentiment over the hostage crisis. It is good to see some sanity returning to the Korean media, but we’ll see how long it lasts once the Taliban starts killing more hostages.

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