Apparently, if you’re an American and you get caught with vape pens full of hash oil at a Russian airport at a time of heightened tensions with the Kremlin, President Joe Biden’s administration will jump-to in order to ensure you’re released. You may even be traded for a murderous arms dealer who earned the moniker “Merchant of Death.”
If you’re an American missionary pilot working with a Christian organization and your aid missions fall afoul of the ruling government of Mozambique, however, you’re mostly on your own, bub.
That’s the object lesson we can take from the cases of Brittney Griner and Ryan Koher, only one of whom is important enough to merit the administration’s attentions. Griner, a WNBA star who also played basketball in Russia, had been sentenced to nine years in Russian prison after pleading guilty to drug possession.
While the sentence was unusually harsh, there seems to be little doubt Griner committed the act in question; according to Fox News, Griner said she had been prescribed cannabis for pain and had inadvertently put it in her luggage before her Feb. 17 arrest. As anyone with a functioning knowledge of world affairs knows, Russia isn’t exactly Oregon when it comes to tolerating mind-altering substances — so even if she became an international pawn in a game of diplomatic chess, no one was laboring under the misapprehension this was all a big misunderstanding and Griner had done nothing amiss.
Koher’s case, however, is a different story.
According to Boise, Idaho’s KTVB-TV, Koher was detained by police in Mozambique on Nov. 4 while preparing to fly supplies to an orphanage in the country in southern Africa, where he has been working with Mission Aviation Fellowship
“It seems like it was connected to the location of the flight. It was going up the north where there are insurgents right now there. There have been attacks, but we have been doing work to help the victims of those attacks,” said Annabel Koher, Ryan Koher’s wife.
“We’re not exactly sure where the miscommunication was or the misunderstanding.”
A news release from MAF indicated that “Koher was detained prior to piloting a charter flight to deliver supplies to orphanages near Montepuez, Mozambique. While conducting the normal security scan at the airport November 4, police took an interest in some vitamins, over-the-counter medications, and food preservative supplies Koher was to deliver for the orphanages and adult staff. None of the confiscated material belonged to Koher nor had it been loaded onto the airplane.”
“Koher was detained … along with two South Africans volunteers, on suspicion that their flight was in support of insurgent activity,” MAF reported.
The family has been in Mozambique for some time; Koher has worked with MAF since 2019 and his wife said their “three-year-old considers it home.”
“He asked me if we can go back,” she told KTVB.
MAF Chief People Officer Ruth Harrison, who called Kohler a “gentle giant,” is convinced he wasn’t working with the insurgents, according to CBN News — but, in this case, Mozambique authorities seem intent on detaining him.
“We know Ryan is innocent. There is really no reason for him to be held at this point,” she said.
“We haven’t seen [situations like this] at all, and honestly, just detainment like this, it’s a surprise to us,” Harrison added. “[The locals] are as puzzled as we are on this, ’cause it doesn’t make sense. It is out of character.”
Now, the U.S. embassy and Kohler’s lawyer are working to free him, as are the people at MAF.
“[Kohler’s] wife and children deserve to have him back home in time for Christmas, and the organization that serves the orphans in northern Mozambique needs the supplies he was trying to deliver when he was wrongly detained,” said MAF president and CEO David Holsten.
“I urge Christians around the world to pray for Ryan’s safety and swift release, and call on those in power both in Mozambique and here in the U.S. to do everything they can to resolve this wrongful detainment.”
Mission Aviation Fellowship pilot Ryan Koher and two South African volunteers have been detained since November 4 in Mozambique on suspicion of supporting insurgent activity. pic.twitter.com/OuqvERsbYj
— Mission Aviation Fellowship (@maf_us) December 2, 2022
Now, I’m not sure whether or not the United States currently has, stashed away somewhere in our penal system, a Mozambican gun runner who’s earned the title “Merchant of Death.” Conveniently, in the case of Brittney Griner, we had a Russian arms dealer who went by that sobriquet: Viktor Bout, who was freed Thursday so we could get Griner back.
Bout was serving a 25-year sentence for a litany of offenses, including conspiracy to kill Americans. The former Soviet military officer, who ran one of the largest illegal arms smuggling operations in the world, would often supply weapons to authoritarians, insurgents and terrorists around the globe, often arming both sides — because, hey, money’s money.
He was eventually captured in 2008 after he offered undercover U.S. agents posing as Colombian narcoterrorists a $20 million “breathtaking arsenal of weapons — including hundreds of surface-to-air missiles, machine guns and sniper rifles — 10 million rounds of ammunition and five tons of plastic explosives,” according to Fox.
And — whaddya’ know? — the Pentagon is apparently worried the “Merchant of Death” might go back to merchanting death now that he’s been released.
“I think there is a concern that he would return to doing the same kind of work that he’s done in the past,” a senior Pentagon official told Fox News.
But at least he was apologetic about it. Or not: “If I didn’t do it, someone else would,” he said during a New Yorker interview in 2012.
And let’s not forget that releasing Viktor Bout only got us Brittney Griner back. Paul Whelan, a retired Marine who’s been jailed in Russia on specious espionage charges since 2018, wasn’t included in the deal. Previous reports had indicated he might also be freed as part of a proposed swap for a man who’s claimed an untold number of lives — but no such luck, apparently.
The reason we traded Bout for Griner, of course, is because Griner isn’t just famous. She’s a cause célèbre on the left for a variety of reasons, including the fact she protested “systemic racism.”
Some commentators also argued the only reason she was in Russia in the first place was that the WNBA doesn’t pay its players like the NBA does. This — in case you’re daft or don’t follow the sportsball — is because the NBA is exponentially more lucrative than the WNBA, and the only reason players like Griner get huge salaries overseas is because government-connected oligarchs pay them exorbitant salaries because they want to win at all costs, not caring if they ever see a cent of profit. The fact some pundits actually thought this business model made an argument for pay equity in American women’s basketball boggles the imagination.
Ryan Koher isn’t famous. But then, he also didn’t commit a crime. He wasn’t stupid enough to show up at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow with vape pens full of cannabis oil in a country where that’s very illegal at a time when said country was gearing up for a new Cold War with the United States.
Koher’s crime, apparently, involved delivering supplies to needy people. He’s the kind of detained American we should be working overtime to get home — and whose case should be plastered all over the front page of every major establishment media website. And yet, silence. Crickets. A few stories here and there, but otherwise, all silent.
I’m not saying there’s ever a case where the “Merchant of Death” ought to be traded for someone’s freedom. However, if you’re going to do it, do it for the Lord’s servant, not the WNBA’s stoner.
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