Sunday, September 12, 2004


'Deserter' surrenders at U.S. base.

CNN story here.

Why the scare quotes around "deserter"? Is there some doubt here that Sgt. Jenkins is actually, in fact, a deserter?

U.S. Army Sgt. Charles Robert Jenkins -- accused of defecting to North Korea 39 years ago -- is back on active duty Saturday after voluntarily turning himself at a military base in Japan.

I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty. Wait, that's not right. . .

Oh, that's right- Sgt. Jenkins has been accused of defecting. We can't rush to any judgments here, folks.
Jenkins disappeared from his Army unit near Korea's demilitarized zone in 1965.
Sgt. Jenkins must have simply made a wrong turn at the 4077th and ended up staying at Pyongyang's Great Leader Revolutionary Workers Battalion Comfort Inn & Conference Center for the past 39 years. Happens all the time.

He later appeared in North Korean propaganda films and lived in the reclusive Communist country for nearly four decades.
How funny! The *exact same thing* happened to me. Except, instead of appearing in North Korean propaganda films, I was tricked into co-starring in a Super 8mm German scheisse film. Let me tell you, I had a bitch of a time explaining that one on my security clearance.

Listen, I'm sympathetic to the issues here. The man is 65 years old, in poor health, and he just wants to spend time with his family, including his wife, a Japanese woman kidnapped by North Korea in order to train DPRK spies.

For Chrissakes, the man spent 39 years in the workers paradise of North Korea. Leavenworth is Club Med in comparison.

I doubt the value in throwing the book at him. There's not much need to make an example out of him-- the United States armed forces doesn't have a big problem with fending off servicemember defections to failed Stalinist states. Fending off Al Qaeda-wannabe grenade throwers, perhaps-- but a tough sentence in the Jenkins case is unlikely to act as a deterrent in those sorts of situations.

That all said, Jenkins violated the oath he swore to his country, and there has to be some consequences for that. I hope the Army legal system can find a way to cut the Gordian knot in this case, and find a way to deliver not simply a sentence, but justice.

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