November 21, 2005, 8:26 a.m.
Now that CNN has collected and aired footage of the various depredations, indignities, and violent acts committed against North Koreans by their own government with Undercover in the Secret State, it seems as apt a time as any to ask the National Lawyers Guild to apologize for "North Korea: The Grand Deception Revealed," a Kim Jung Il whitewash so virulently anti-American it makes Fahrenheit 9/11 look like a commercial for the John Birch Society.
Some background: In late 2003 the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) — an amalgamation of far-left lawyers and law students ostensibly "dedicated to the need for basic and progressive change in the structure of our political and economic system" — sent a delegation to North Korea and determined that the country "was not the Orwellian society George Bush and much of the media is trying to portray."
Unfortunately, this verdict was no surprise. While the NLG's beginnings as a civil-rights-focused alternative to then-segregated American Bar Association in 1937 were quite noble, the organization's affinity for oppressors and terrorists since has been more than a little troubling.
The NLG downright swoons when it comes to Castro's Cuba, for example, going so far as to vigorously defend five Cuban spies convicted of espionage in Miami and link approvingly to Castro speeches. The NLG also continues to gnash their collective teeth and wail over Haiti's deposed Jean-Bertrand Aristide, "The Left's Favorite Thug". Post-Sept. 11 the Guild printed the pamphlet "Know Your Rights," helpfully warning Middle Eastern immigrants that, "Talking to the FBI or other agents can be dangerous. The FBI is not just trying to find terrorists, but is gathering information on immigrants and activists who have done nothing wrong." Such were just a few of the reasons I gave to young, well-intentioned NLG volunteer observers when refusing their offers of assistance during my own arrest at last year's Republican National Convention.
The North Korean lovefest begins at the airport before the delegation has even entered the Hermit Kingdom proper. "It was not a highly charged and intimidating scene, and was more relaxed than most U.S. airport security," the delegation noted, adding "The contrast between North Korea and its lack of policeman and North America in which armed police in bulletproof vests are commonplace was more than striking — it was startling. If the presence or absence of armed policemen is a criterion for a free society then it speaks volumes about the nature of the two societies." It isn't, of course. The true criterion is what a society does with those armed police, a distinction the NLG seems to have chosen to willfully, blissfully ignore.
As world citizens we feel obliged to reveal the truth and take steps to build, rather than destroy, relationships, even with those whom we may disagree," the delegation declares once in country, yet it seems there were precious few actual disagreements. North Korea's unionized workforce, military, healthcare, education and legal systems are all effusively praised, frequently via derisive comparisons to the United States.
"The delegation feels that the U.S. government cannot advocate the rule of law and democracy, when it fails to model it itself," the group writes, for example, before coming astonishingly close to holding up North Korea as a model democracy. "The absence of other parties is not considered a failing, as the entire society is socialist," they note, claiming straight-faced that Kim Jung Il "was not immediately appointed after his father's death" and that the "Korean Worker's Party and National Assembly took much time allegedly engaged in extensive discussion before electing him." Apparently the policy of imprisonment and state sanctioned murder of anyone who publicly challenges has evolved since Kim Jung Il took office.
No matter. To the NLG delegation the most heavily fortified border in the world as a sort of wayward tourist destination for environmentalists. "The beautiful hills of the DMZ, along with the five rivers that poor [sic] into the lush landscape, make it more suited for an eco-park than a war staging ground." That is, if it weren't for the ugly Americans who "continuously blared propaganda and music from speakers on the south side." The delegation stops shortly thereafter for a picnic, busting out impromptu versions of "We Shall Overcome" and other "old anti-war and protest songs," for North Koreans, who then graced them with apples. "Little did we know upon going to this country, where its populace was allegedly being starved, that we would have our pockets stuff with produce!" Then again, being propaganda tools of a bloodthirsty authoritarian regime does come with certain perks.
Thus, the delegation duly urges the "ill-informed people of the West" to be exposed to "another truth about the North Korean war." Basically this means taking all the evidence of U.S. war crimes at the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum at face value — including the conspiracy theory that the Korean War was "a cover for the attempt by the United States to conquer and occupy North Korea with a potential toward potential invasions of Manchuria and Siberia" — while browbeating George W. Bush for making "insulting and discriminatory" comments about Kim Jung Il's lack of physical stature.
That official statements of the DPRK have referred to Bush as "a man bereft of an elementary reason or a politically backward child" doesn't seem to bother the NLG. Nor is the delegation's scolding America that, "We cannot be respected unless we respect others," tempered any by the DPRK's colorful contention that the United States is the "the root cause of all sorts of our nation's disasters and misfortunes; an empire of evil that even ruthlessly tramples on the people's religions; and the stronghold that spreads a degenerate age's corrupt culture of perversion, corruption, violence, and lust." If there is any justice in the world, the authors of this report will happen upon this CNN special. Hopefully they catch footage of children forced by Communist-party officials to watch the summary execution of men who tried to help others escape to freedom and feel shame for not two years ago heaping slavish praise on the North Korea's "progressive" legal system, applauding the nation's supposed "lack of a death penalty" as "a sign of a civilized nation." Everyone knows Texas is worse than North Korea, right?
When they see men risking everything — their freedom, their lives, the lives of their family members — to paste up a single poster critical of Kim Jung Il, will the delegation members feel a nagging guilt for breathlessly concluding that North Koreans "appear to have genuine respect for the insights and actions of the 'Dear Leader' who is guiding their country"? Will they stand by their collective statement that, "Under the current climate in the United States with the Patriot Act, domestic spying and the 'with us or against us' rhetoric, it is sadly ironic that we are the ones afraid to speak freely"? After watching a video of an old woman being savagely beaten unprovoked on a train by a army officer, will they still boast that North Korean women are "not objectified in the same ways they sometimes are in the West"?
The short answer is: Whatever the evidence, probably not. Communism is sort of like love that way: It means never having to say you're sorry.
"As trial lawyers we have substantial experience and training in telling when someone is being evasive or untruthful," they write. "As a group we concluded that we were not being misled, nor were answers intended to divert us from deeper inquiry." Grand deception, indeed.
— Shawn Macomber is a writer living in Boston. He runs the website http://www.returnoftheprimitive.com/.