Monday, July 26, 2004

(Even) More on Bobby Fischer

Not to seem like I'm obsessed with one topic, but Salon had a very good article over the weekend on Bobby Fischer. Much of the article is simply an examination of Fischer's life and its sad final act (though its possible I'm being premature on that front), but one thing that has gone unnoticed in all this is the role the US government has played in his arrest last weekend and its motivations. Rene Chun points out in her article that his whereabouts have been known for years - he hasn't exactly been hiding out from the government that's supposedly "out to get him." The timing of the whole thing has come into question as well. Why arrest him now? Is it because of his loud proclamation of unpopular (and perhaps, to some, offensive) views? Or is it some sort of bargaining chip Japan has taken in a ploy to try and prevent US extradition proceedings against Carl Jenkins, the other noted expat arrested in Japan recently (who just so happens to be married to a Japanese citizen). In that particular case, the Army is probably far more interested in prosecuting Jenkins than the administration is - they've never tolerated desertion and with combat operations ongoing overseas, they doubtless would like to make a public example of someone.

But does that make it right? I suppose what bothers me about both cases is that resources in the Justice Department and elsewhere are spent on prosecutions of old men who, relatively speaking, have committed rather harmless crimes (though it could be argued that Jenkins harmed national security interests, anything he "knew" about the US military in Korea was not only limited at the time he defected, but is so long out of date to be rather pointless) and while that is no excuse for their this really what we want to be spending time on?

I don't generally go in for conspiracy theories, but...this all seems like bread and circuses to me. I really hope I'm wrong.


At 4:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being a student of conspiracy theory, ordinarily I would agree that there's something to connect the two men. However, this time I'm not certain. Fischer's passport was canceled by the U.S. last December. It was only when he tried to travel abroad this month that anyone knew of the cancellation. So theoretically, he could have remained in Japan probably indefinitely, living just as he was before, without anyone being the wiser, so long as he never used his passport.

Jenkins is a very strange case. I don't understand a whit of what's going on with that one. How can a Japanese woman (presumably a normal healthy one with a strong sense of nationalist pride and equal amounts of disgust for North Korea) eventually consent to life in the North *and* marriage to one of her kidnappers' cohorts? For example, I could believe it more if the woman had met Jenkins before he allegedly defected, and that would point to her subsequent kidnapping as being staged... but there's no evidence that he was ever in Japan or that she was ever in Korea. Highly unusual for two citizens from two of the most prosperous First World nations to just be slammed together by vicious historical power games and agree to raise a family in a poverty-striken Communist state that's technically an enemy to both their homelands *and* neither of them speaks the language, what?

Of course, if the Japanese were savvy enough, they could indeed use the case of one man as leverage for the case of the other.


At 1:50 PM, Blogger Banjax said...

I agree with you that the Jenkins case is strange. The US has known about him for some time, but the whole kidnapped wife was unknown until the North Koreans admitted it back a few years ago. I suppose some of it could be a kind of Stockholm Syndrome thing, with two people developing a shared love because of their positions in Korean society as outsiders. But, Jenkins seems to have been treated as a sort of elite within the North's society, and his wife was secluded and prevented from any real contact with anyone. From what I understand, he was her teacher in the Korean language - but I might be mistaken in that.

And yes, the Fischer passport was only revoked in January, but again...I have to ask why then and not years ago. They've known his whereabouts and he's been wanted for his crime for over a decade. Why all of a sudden revoke the passport?


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