Jimmy Carter Frees Hostage

Jimmy Carter has managed to achieve as private citizen that which alluded him as president: Freeing an American citizen held hostage by a hostile government.

An American held captive for seven months in North Korea stepped off a plane in his hometown Friday, looking thin but joyful as he hugged the former president who had helped win his release and family and friends surrounded him in a group embrace.

Aijalon Gomes was accompanied by former President Jimmy Carter, who had flown to Pyongyang to negotiate his freedom. Gomes, who had been teaching English in South Korea, was imprisoned and sentenced to eight years’ hard labor for crossing into the North from China on Jan. 25 for unknown reasons.

North Korea’s state-run news agency reported last month that Gomes had attempted suicide, leading his family to ask for his release on humanitarian grounds. North Korea said this week it would release Gomes to Carter if the former president came to get him.

Gomes hugged Carter and then his mother before his loved ones encircled him, praying and waving their hands skyward while two people held a banner behind them that read: “Welcome home. Salvation is ours.”

In all seriousness:  Good on President Carter for taking the trip and getting this poor man reunited with his family.

One of the annoying constancies of American foreign policy over the last few decades has been the capturing of citizens only to see them released to high profile private citizens (ex-presidents Clinton and Carter and Jesse Jackson most notably) in order to tweak the sitting administration.

FILED UNDER: Africa, Quick Takes, World Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Juneau: says:

    After 29 years, Carter finally found a way 🙂  As you say James, in all seriousness, this is great news for the teacher and his family, and Carter done good – if’n he did it as a private citizen.

  2. Alex Knapp says:

    Jimmy Carter has managed to achieve as private citizen that which alluded him as president: Freeing an American citizen held hostage by a hostile government.

    Umm… the Iranian hostages WERE released on his watch, thanks to negotiations his Administration undertook.  Negotiations that, I migth add, did not involve selling the Iranian government weapons.

  3. Steve Plunk says:

    Finally.
     
    Alex,  True enough but it was mighty close.  I doubt it was the negotiations as much as they knew Reagan was to be taken seriously.

  4. john personna says:

    I always suspected that Carter and Reagan played some good cop, bad cop.

  5. Franklin says:

    I always suspected that Carter and Reagan played some good cop, bad cop.
    They may have, and I have no fundamental problem with this (same but opposite with the transition from Bush to Obama).  But we can’t ever know for sure, or the effect is ruined.

  6. James Joyner says:

    the Iranian hostages WERE released on his watch, thanks to negotiations his Administration undertook.

    Wikipedia confirms my recollection: “The hostages were formally released into United States custody the following day, just minutes after the new American president Ronald Reagan was sworn in.”  But, yes, after having American sovereign territory held for a mere 444 days, the release was negotiated.

    Negotiations that, I migth add, did not involve selling the Iranian government weapons.

    True that. Reagan’s ultimate solution was ill advised and, well, illegal.  But Reagan was dealing with a much more complicated problem:  American private citizens being kidnapped randomly and held who knows where.  Carter faced people in the country on his behalf, held on American sovereign soil.
     
     

  7. wr says:

    JJ — What are you talking about? Ronald Reagan’s administration sold missiles to the Iranians to raise money to illegally fund the Nicaraguan terrorist group called the Contras. This had nothing to do with protecting Americans, and everything to do with hatred of any government that leaned left.