Sadly, Iraq looks like an open society compared with another member of the Axis of Evil -- North Korea.
Dutch journalist Peter Tetteroo spent six years trying to get permission to visit there. When he finally got in for a week in 2000, he found the most repressive regime in the world. His work is presented in a documentary, “Welcome to North Korea,” airing this month on Cinemax.
Tetteroo was not allowed to leave his hotel without government “guides.” They escorted him to various monuments and museums dedicated to Kim Il Sung, the country’s heavy-handed dictator from 1948 until his death in 1994. He was succeeded by his son, Kim Jong Il, making North Korea the world’s first monarchial dictatorship. Syria followed those proud footsteps when Basher Assad succeeded his father Hafaz in 2000.
Unfortunately, Tetteroo wasn’t allowed to visit the countryside, where millions of Koreans have starved to death in recent years. He comes closest to real life in Pyongyang when he aims his camera out the window, probably without the permission of his minders.
School children spend six hours each day practicing -- not their letters or numbers, but getting ready for a parade in honor of “Dear Leader” Kim. A cop goes though the motions of directing traffic -- but there are no cars on the road. A modern luxury hotel stands 45 stories tall -- and houses only about a dozen guests. Oh, and watch what you say -- every beautiful room is bugged.
A number of people have asked why we’re going to war in Iraq. One of the main reasons is to make sure dissenters always have the right to ask that sort of question. We’re a free society -- superior, quite frankly, to Iraq and North Korea, because the First Amendment severely restricts our government’s ability to control information.
The rest of the world will be a better place when we’ve successfully exported that openness.