Rodman "saw" no repression during his visits -- and has since downplayed Kim's brutality (despite rehab).
Needless to say, this is outrageous and plays right into the hands of North Korea's dictatorship.
Yet, sadly, a similar brand of trips are at the heart of the Obama Administration's Cuba policy.
They are known as "people-to-people" travel.
In announcing his new "people-to-people" travel policy in January 2011 (despite an American hostage being held by the Castro regime), President Obama stated that the purpose of this policy was "to help promote [the Cuban people's] independence from Cuban authorities."
A well-intended goal. But the exact opposite has been happening.
Nearly every "people-to-people" trip approved by the State and Treasury Departments have included visits with Castro regime officials, government ministries and even its repressive organs (e.g. the "Committees for Defense of the Revolution" and the official censors at the "Union of Writers and Artists").
Every single trip has been pre-approved by the Castro regime and includes official government "tour guides."
Every single traveler stays at a luxury hotel owned by the Castro regime and frequents establishments owned by military and intelligence officials, who oversee the island's repressive apparatus.
(Want to promote the "independence" of the Cuban people from the authorities? At least require all American travelers to stay at "casa particulares.")
Currently, these "people-to-people" tours are more akin to "people-to-Castro" tours.
Don't believe us?
A non-scientific survey of 423 "people-to-Castro" travelers by Friendly Planet Travel, which commercializes these trips, claims that travelers returned from Cuba opining there's little repression and that the U.S. should change its policy.
Not surprisingly, so did Dennis Rodman upon his return from North Korea.
Even the AP recognizes that, "[the survey] could provide ammunition to the harshest opponents of people-to-people travel, who have argued from the beginning that the tours, partially organized in concert with Cuban state-run entities, let the Communist government put its best face forward and hide its warts... In general, the tours tend not to include much contact with Cuban dissidents."
(Note to AP: They are not partially organized in concert with Cuban state entities. They are completely organized in concert with Cuban state entities. Also, they include no contact with Cuban dissidents.)
To which the State Department pushed back saying that "people-to-Castro" travel has successfully "contributed to a more realistic and therefore more positive view of Americans and the United States by the Cuban people."
Based on what evidence?
Moreover, what Cubans (whose surname is not Castro) had a negative view of Americans? Those standing in the long lines at USINT? Or those risking their lives in make-shift boats?
Americans have always been viewed more positively by Cubans than other foreigners, including Canadians and Europeans, who travel in droves to the island. Maybe that's because Americans hadn't been exploiting their suffering, or coddling their repressors -- until now.
"Being favorably disposed to Cuba and ordinary Cubans should not be confused with endorsing a totalitarian system of government," added the State Department.
Yet that's exactly what these "Rodman-esque" trips are doing -- playing right into the hands of Cuba's dictatorship.