americans under foot

“Americans Under Foot” illustration © Lynda Rimke

I was once locked inside a majority-world prison when a riot broke out. Fortunately, the prisoners were only running in every direction looking for tin plates, and snapped into a compressed line before us, a humanitarian aid group providing malnourished men with an afternoon meal.

Later, I watched with back to wall and crawling skin while a rubber-gloved doctor in our group rubbed medication on a prisoner’s head and yelled “Look at ’em jump!” merely referring to the hundreds of lice fleeing chemical extermination.

I can’t imagine what Saeed Abedini is going through right now. We know he is suffering internal bleeding from beatings he received from Iranian prison guards months ago, possible sepsis, weight loss from hunger and threat of death from inmates on the loose with knives. And lice.

His crime? Starting an orphanage with his father in Iran, a humanitarian-aid mission not unlike my own that day in jail. Meanwhile, the perpetrators who are treating him worse than a middle eastern dog get an $8 billion meal ticket.

While U.S. diplomacy handed out Iranian goodies from Santa’s bag, Saeed was transferred by the Iranian government from Evin Prison to an even more notorious prison that houses not merely political offenders, but rapists and murderers on death-row. It matters not that Saeed is a loving father and faithful husband, with his family bereft of Christmas in Idaho. Iran is treating him like vermin.

Moreover, Saeed is not alone. He is one of three U.S. citizens suffering in Iran. Saeed is only Iran’s most recent victim, arrested in July 2012. Amir Hekmati has been detained since August 2011, and Robert Levinson has not been heard from since he was apprehended in March of 2007.

In 2013 North Korea joined in axis-of-evil kidnapping, nabbing and consigning Korean-American tour-guide Kenneth Bae to a hard-labor camp and arresting and brainwashing 85 year old Army veteran Merrill Newman these last few weeks. Neither men have hope of release.

In 1961, during the Cold War, John F. Kennedy addressed the Canadian Parliament, saying “At the conference table and in the minds of men, the free world’s cause is strengthened because it is just. But it is strengthened even more by the dedicated efforts of free men and free nations. As the great parliamentarian Edmund Burke said, ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.'”[1]

How will freedom’s just cause fare when five of our own citizens, good men all, continue to be ground to despair under the Obama diplomacy bus? Saeed Abedini has internal injuries from Iranian beatings [2] with no hope for the surgical intervention he desperately needs. The prison guards at Rajai Shahr have with-held the medication for internal bleeding that Saeed was given at Evin Prison.[3] The wheels of unilateral peace negotiations, apart from any meaningful bargaining for his release, are literally flattening him.

This is a terrible and atrocious irony: an ephemeral cerebral “peace” at the expense of fundamental human rights. I can only hope future negotiation efforts are of the level of dedication John F. Kennedy envisioned, where abject evil is plainly addressed and dealt with.

Increase sanctions with Iran and North Korea until our men return home. That is the least we can do.

Lynda Rimke
Board of Directors
Wheels of Hope

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