Joseph Sabino Mistick: Response to murders a departure from America’s values |
Joseph Sabino Mistick, Columnist

Joseph Sabino Mistick: Response to murders a departure from America’s values

American student Otto Warmbier, center, is escorted at the Supreme Court in Pyongyang, North Korea in March 2016.

From the beginning, the Founders of this nation understood that all eyes would be on America, and they made it clear in the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence that they cared about what the world would think of us.

“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another … a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

Those words were followed by a list of grievances that informed the “opinions of mankind” and left little doubt that our break with Great Britain was just. Over time, other nations looked for American virtue, and the power of America’s example made it the leader of the free world.

But the “opinions of mankind” have been shaken lately, especially by our nation’s official response to the murders of American college student Otto Warmbier and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of foreign tyrants.

Warmbier and some college friends were visiting North Korea in 2016 when he was arrested for stealing a poster from his hotel wall just before he headed for the airport. Warmbier was tried in a “show trial” and convicted, sentenced to 15 years in prison, and severely beaten and tortured until he was sent home in 2017, where he was declared brain dead and died six days later.

Anyone who knows anything about North Korea also knows that none of this could have happened without the knowledge and assent of Kim Jong Un, the “Supreme Leader” of North Korea. It is that simple.

Khashoggi was the father of three American children and lived in Virginia. His articles in The Washington Post were often critical of the rulers of Saudi Arabia. Khashoggi was lured into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he was murdered by a Saudi hit squad and dismembered with a bone saw. There is audio and video evidence of all of this.

Anyone who knows anything about Saudi Arabia also knows that none of this could have happened without the knowledge and assent of Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. It is that simple.

But instead of a harsh and just response from the American president, the world saw something different. Donald Trump said that it was enough for him that the North Korean leader denied knowing about the murder of Warmbier. And he gave the Saudi prince a pass for Khashoggi’s murder because a good relationship with him is good for our economy.

Maybe Trump is naïve or willfully blind, or maybe he would never let a moral stance get in the way of a good deal, or maybe he actually admires these leaders who have total control over the lives of others — but whatever it is, it is wrong.

As the late Sen. J. William Fulbright said, “It is not our affluence, or our plumbing, or our clogged freeways that grip the imagination of others. Rather, it is the values upon which our system is built.

“When we depart from these values, we do so at our peril.”

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