(Washington Examiner) WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner broke a minor law in Russia. She did not deserve to rot in a penal colony for such a trivial offense.
That said, it is an embarrassment to the United States and a testimony to President Joe Biden’s incompetence that he just released a major international weapons smuggler — “the Merchant of Death” is the man’s nickname — in exchange for Griner’s freedom. But Viktor Bout was not just an arms smuggler, he was serving a federal prison sentence for conspiring to kill Americans. This was a deal that no one would have considered for even one second, but for Griner’s fame and privilege.
Griner, who styles herself a social justice activist, once described being a black person in America as “a world where we just can’t live. We can’t wake up and do whatever we want to do. Go for a run, go to the store to buy some candy, drive your car without the fear of being wrongfully pulled over.”
Admittedly, the law she broke attaches a disproportionate punishment to a trivial crime. But at least she got a chance to see what another country’s justice system is like from the inside. Perhaps she will learn from this experience what generally happens when you violate laws abroad, outside the freest and fairest nation on Earth. She may have also gained some perspective on the fact that there are places where racism is much worse than it is in the U.S.
Outside the U.S. and a handful of other Western countries, criminal defendants have almost no rights. That is a very sharp contrast with the country whose national anthem Griner once demanded not be played at WNBA games.
Everyone could be happy with an ending in which a chastened Griner returns home with that lesson. Unfortunately, this story is a lot bigger than Griner, for it involves bloody conflicts and perhaps millions dead.
First, the idea of paying ransom to Russian President Vladimir Putin is obviously repugnant and counterproductive. Much like Chinese authorities, the Russians will be encouraged by Biden’s weakness to take even more U.S. hostages and hold them on flimsy or false charges in hope of extracting concessions.
Second, and even more importantly, Biden traded for Griner’s freedom by releasing a genuine threat to human freedom and world peace. Bout is a man for whom black lives certainly do not matter — he is legendary for selling weapons into African conflicts and to the worst of the continent’s human rights abusers. He was caught in 2008 in a sting operation in which he was attempting to sell rocket launchers and surface-to-air missiles to people he thought were representatives of Colombia’s terrorist Marxist guerrilla fighters.