The editorial staff in the September 16, 2010 edition of The News & Observer published an interesting editorial titled “Free all three.” It is a call for the Iranians to free the two remaining Americans being held on spy charges. Thankfully, Sarah Shourd, the third American was freed by the Iranian government on humanitarian reasons because of alleged health problems.
Although I give credit to the N&O editorial staff for admitting that anything is possible, I strongly disagree with its claim that charges of espionage against the three Americans are laughable. First, a lot of assumptions are tossed around, such as the three are left-leaning in their political philosophy, even though they are alums of the University of California-Berkeley. Not all alums from Berkeley are left-leaning or liberals. But the spy agency in the United States (almost all nations have them) is smart enough not to send men in trench coats and wearing sunglasses to the Iranian border to snoop around. They’re going to send someone who seems most unlikely to fit the mold of a spy… say, for example, a hiker with left-leaning tendencies.
Now, I’m not saying that the trio of hikers is spies, because I do not know. However, I would not call them naïve… a more appropriate adjective would be stupid. Why in the world would three Americans, without knowledge of the local language, go hiking around the border of a country openly hostile to the United States, and a country listed as a terrorist country by the United States? Not only that, but they were on Iran’s border with Iraq, a volatile country which doesn’t embrace Americans or the Christian religion. Sarah Shourd did not clarify why they were hiking around the Iranian border during snippets of interviews given following her release. The only comment she could say on that issue was, “It’s a misunderstanding.”
I have nothing against hiking, but with all of the beautiful national parks, open country, and nicely designed cities in the United States, why would one even leave the States to get in some hiking? And if one just had to get out of the States, there are plenty of countries with much more hospitality towards Americans than Iran. For me, if I felt the need to hike abroad, my first choice would be Ireland. Nice and green, and I can sorta understand the language. My second choice would be Scotland, for the same reasons, except the language is a little bit more difficult to understand. My third choice would be England… you get the picture. Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and all the other “stans,” North Korea, Darfur, would not even garner consideration. Although Cuba and Venezuela have some bad blood between them and the U.S., I would feel relatively safe going to those countries, but they would not be on the top tier of my list of foreign countries to go hiking in.
Another sticking point for the N&O editorial staff writer appears to be the “$500,000 bail.” Well, all I can say is that it is a lot less than the bail set for Heather Holley on a charge of identity theft – which was $6 milllion. Of the two charges, I would consider espionage much more serious than identity theft. Bail for some defendants charged with murder is less than six mil. Still, I have yet to see an editorial in The News & Observer about the excessive bail amount set for Ms. Holley.
According to recent media accounts, the Iranian leader has made subtle overtures suggesting a willingness to exchange the two American hikers for eight Iranian citizens being held in U.S. jails. I don’t know the charges against the eight Iranians, but such a prisoner exchange would be ideal. First we would be able to free the two remaining hikers. Secondly, we could free the American taxpayers of the burden of providing room, board, and health care for eight individuals which our country doesn’t want to begin with. It’s a win-win situation, and we should jump at the opportunity.
What all Americans should learn from this sad and unfortunate series of events is not to do dumb things. For an American to be hiking around Iran, or Iraq… or Afghanistan… or Pakistan is dumb. Just like it would be dumb for me, or any outspoken Mike Nifong supporter, to set foot on Duke University campus. After I was humiliated, embarrassed, and nearly arrested for no reason by campus police, it makes absolutely no sense for me to venture onto Duke property again.
For those of you unfamiliar with events leading up to my Henry Louis Gates Jr.-like near arrest, here’s a condensed version. I went to the Duke University Law School (wearing my Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong tee shirt… no big deal – right?) to attend an event open to the public on a first come, first served basis. Arriving early, I struck up conversations with about a half dozen or so people, and gave some of them my business card (which had information about the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong). Upon leaving the large classroom where the event was held, en masse with others in attendance, I was singled out by a uniformed security guard. He asked me what I was doing there, and I told that I had just attended the event. (Duh..) He then proceeded to tell me that I was trespassing and needed to leave the campus (which I was in the process of doing before he intercepted me). I asked why I was being kicked off campus, and he stated that he did not know… that he was just following orders of the building manager. He refused to take me to the building manager and so as I left, he followed me like I was an imminent threat. I told him that he did not need to follow me, and he responded that he was going to make sure that I left the campus grounds. As I was walking, he called backup, and an extremely menacing officer drove up in a patrol car seconds later, and got out. Now I had two uniformed officers following behind me. As I boarded the city bus to leave campus, the guard told me that I was nearly arrested three times.
I pressed Duke University for an answer regarding my inhospitable treatment, and was told by Michael Schoenfeld, a vice president, that the university employees did not mistreat me, and that I was kicked off campus for repeatedly violating their rules against solicitation. Schoenfeld described solicitation as me handing my business card to someone and asking him/her to visit my website. (Absurd… right?) Then he deflected responsibility for actions ordering me off campus from the administration to the campus police. Evidently, according to Schoenfeld, some people complained to police about the business card I gave them. This is nothing more than a lie. Mr. Schoenfeld expects me to believe that someone who accepted a business card from me went to the police to complain. He then expects me to believe that the campus police is going to waste its time, manpower, and resources to escort a person who handed out a couple of business cards off campus. The excuse Mr. Schoenfeld came up with, besides being full of falsehoods, is laughable, but it was the best excuse the university could come up with for humiliating me, embarrassing me, and nearly arresting me. To end his correspondence, Mr. Schoenfeld stated that I am welcome to return to the campus as long as I don’t engage in solicitation.
So without a logical explanation for my mistreatment and near-arrest on the Duke University campus, much less acknowledgement of guilt or an apology, does Mr. Schoenfeld actually think I would even consider returning to Duke University? Well, I’m no glutton for punishment, I’m not a masochist, and I’m not dumb.