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.