Not much is known about the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), known widely here in the United States as North Korea. The country is frequently referred to as a "Hermit Kingdom" - one that has walled itself off, intentionally, from the rest of the world.
However, despite the attempts at secrecy, the occasional video, photo, or simple story escapes with those individuals who escape the country. Stories of brutal repression, of human rights abuses that many of us could not simply fathom.
The nation operates a secret network of internment camps, believed to hold some 200,000 political prisoners. These prisoners are held for offenses ranging from counterrevolutionary activities, attempted escape, or mentioning Kim Il-Sung's goiter.
For some, their crime was being related to someone, within three generations, who had committed crimes against the government.
One such case was the case of Shin Dong-hyuk, whose story was recently highlighted by Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes. Watch the video below.
Apparently, Arkansas congressman Tom Cotton (Go ahead, guess the party) finds merit in the North Korean policy.
Cotton, who has made a habit of saying stupid things, such as this gem, where he noted that five jihadists had reached their targets in the U.S. during Obama's presidency, but in the over seven years after that one little incident on September 11, 2001, zero terrorists hit their targets in the U.S.! Watch below...
So Cotton, who is supposedly contemplating a Senate run against the imperfect-but-far-better-by-comparison Mark Pryor, apparently finds some inspiration in how North Korea treats political opponents. From the Arkansas Times, who in turn got this blockquote from the Huffington Post:
Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Wednesday introduced legislation that would "automatically" punish family members of people who violate U.S. sanctions against Iran, levying sentences of up to 20 years in prison.For his part, Tom Cotton withdrew the amendment but in a statement indicated that he planned to reintroduce it at some point in the future.
The provision was introduced as an amendment to the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013, which lays out strong penalties for people who violate human rights, engage in censorship, or commit other abuses associated with the Iranian government.
Cotton also seeks to punish any family member of those people, "to include a spouse and any relative to the third degree," including, "parents, children, aunts, uncles, nephews nieces, grandparents, great grandparents, grandkids, great grandkids," Cotton said.
"There would be no investigation," Cotton said during Wednesday's markup hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "If the prime malefactor of the family is identified as on the list for sanctions, then everyone within their family would automatically come within the sanctions regime as well. It'd be very hard to demonstrate and investigate to conclusive proof."
That's thoroughly unsurprising, considering the Republicans' standard operating procedure of doubling down on unpopular initiatives. But this time, Tom Cotton might be too extreme even for today's Republican Party.
Tom Cotton might be too extreme even for today's Republican Party.
FURTHER READING: The Arkansas Times, one of my favorite publications, has noted how the DSCC is going after Cotton:
Tom Cotton is clearly wasting no time trying to push his extreme right wing agenda through Congress. Yesterday, Cotton introduced an amendment to “automatically” institute severe penalties on extended families, including nieces, nephews, and great grandchildren, of people accused of violating U.S. sanctions against the Iranian government.
Cotton’s legislation would completely disregard American citizens’ due process rights guaranteed under the Fifth Amendment. In the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Cotton said, “there would be no investigation,” before inflicting harsh punishments of up to 20 year prison sentences upon "parents, children, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, grandparents, great grandparents, grandkids, great grandkids" of those accused of violating sanctions against Iran.
“To call Tom Cotton an extreme ideologue is not overstating anything,” said Justin Barasky, a spokesman at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “He is proposing legislation that would eliminate the constitutional right to due process for grandchildren, nieces and nephews of Americans accused of a crime.”
Polls show that a majority of Americans view the Republican party as extreme, but the legislation was even too far right for Cotton’s House Republican colleagues, who ultimately forced him to withdraw the amendment.