A Socialist In Canada, August 14, 2017
Enclosed are the texts of two articles, weblinks to other recommended articles, and a brief commentary, on the U.S. military and nuclear threats against the people of Korea.–Roger Annis
North Korea has learned the brutal lessons of U.S. regime change and will not disarm
Will World War III kick off this week because of the bellicose actions of a buffoonish leader with a dodgy hair-cut and his sinister nuclear-armed warmongering rogue state? Or, can Donald Trump and the U.S. be deterred?
Of course, in State Department-friendly Western media, it’s North Korea and its leadership who are routinely portrayed as the nut jobs. But you don’t have to carry a torch for the North Korean government or be a card-carrying member of the Kim Jong-un Appreciation Society to acknowledge that the country’s leadership has actually been behaving very rationally. Because recent history tells us that the best way to deter an attack from the U.S. and its allies is not to disarm, dress up as John Lennon and make statements about how much you desire peace, but to do the exact opposite.
Consider what happened to Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya. Like the DPRK, all three were U.S. ‘target states’. And all three were destroyed and their leaders killed. Do we honestly think these countries would have been attacked had they possessed nukes or missiles that could reach U.S. targets? Of course not. Detailed analysis of these conflicts shows us that the Empire gets its way through a mixture of bluff followed by the use of military force, but only when it believes the risks are minimal, or non-existent. If it believes the risks are too high, it backs off and starts talking about the need for ‘dialogue’ and ‘diplomacy’.
To understand how the global hegemon acts in the international arena we don’t need to study huge academic textbooks, only remember what happens in the school playground.
In 1999, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic not only lacked ICBMs, but strong international allies who were prepared to stand by his country in its hour of need. Even though the Russian military were champing at the bit to help their historical Slavic allies in Belgrade, Yeltsin and the ruling elite in Russia were purportedly given financial inducements to stay out. Whether or not that is true, a new IMF loan was conveniently agreed just a week after NATO began its illegal aerial bombing campaign.
The U.S. only expected military action to last a few days before ‘Slobo’ would cave in and accept the Western military alliance’s right to occupy mineral-rich Kosovo and have free unhindered access over the whole of Yugoslavia.
‘I don’t see this as a long-term operation. I think this is something that is achievable within a relatively short space of time,’ boasted Secretary of State Madeline Albright.
But Slobo and the stoical Serbs did not cave in. As the bombing campaign continued, splits began to emerge in NATO between the hawks, comprised of the U.S. and Britain, and the countries from continental Europe who favored dialogue with Belgrade.
On April 15, 1999, the Guardian reported that ‘American officials rejected a six-point German peace plan which included a 24-hour bombing pause, a United Nations peacekeeping force and civilian monitors.’ It went on to note how British Prime Minister Tony Blair ‘also gave the plan a polite cold shoulder.’
NATO atrocities, such as the killing of 16 civilians in the bombing of Serbian State Television – a clear war crime – and the bombing of a passenger train and a convoy of Kosovan Albanians, were beginning to turn public opinion against the ‘humanitarian’ operation. With the war not going to plan, it was time once again for the U.S. to make threats. To increase the pressure on Milosevic, the Yugoslav President was indicted as a war criminal, a process I described here.
In addition, hints were made that NATO was planning a ground invasion. President Clinton declared on 18th May 1999 that he ‘would not take any option off the table.’ Victor Chernomyrdin, Yeltsin’s envoy, flew to Belgrade to persuade Milosevic to accept NATO’s terms – or face an escalation of the war.
But would there really have been boots on the ground or was it one big bluff? Evidence suggests the latter. NATO’s supreme commander Wesley Clark revealed in his memoirs that the Alliance’s top political leaders had reached no consensus over sending in ground troops. And would NATO have gotten away with intensifying its air campaign? Clark also admitted that by mid-May, NATO ‘had gone about as far as possible with the air strikes.’
I’m sure that seven years later, as he lay in his prison cell a sick man, denied the proper medical treatment which his heart condition required, Milosevic regretted not saying ‘nyet’ to Chernomyrdin in 1999 and calling Washington’s bluff.
Four years later it was the turn of oil-rich Iraq to be attacked.
Saddam Hussein and his Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz repeatedly told the world’s media that their country possessed no WMDs. They were accused of lying by western neocons, but the endless war lobby knew the Iraqi leadership was telling the truth. Saddam’s country was attacked not because it possessed weapons of mass destruction, but because it didn’t. With its air defenses severely weakened after years of Allied bombing, and its own air force decimated in the first Gulf War, Iraq was a sitting duck. Bush and Blair lied about the country being a ‘threat’ – and one million Iraqis eventually died.
Over in oil-rich Libya, Muammar Gaddafi drew absolutely the wrong conclusions about what had happened to Iraq. Eagerly seeking the end of U.S. sanctions on his country, he foolishly agreed in December 2003 to eliminate his WMDs program. He should have reacted to ‘Shock and Awe’ by building up his arsenal, but instead, falling for the silver-tongued promises of Western leaders who were going to end his country’s isolation, he did the opposite.
George W. Bush hailed his decision as a “wise and sensible choice.” Tony Blair, for his part, said: ‘This courageous decision by Colonel Gaddafi is an historic one. I applaud it. It will make the region and the world more secure.’ But of course, it didn’t. It only paved the way for the destruction of Gaddafi’s country by the same countries whose leaders had hailed him as ‘wise’ and ‘sensible’ a few years earlier.
Again, I’m sure that eight years later, as Gaddafi lay in his underground hideout, trying to escape capture from U.S.-backed ‘rebels’(who eventually killed him in the most brutal way imaginable), he bitterly regretted his decision to disarm.
Which brings us back to North Korea.
It’s clear that Kim Jong-un has seen what happened to Milosevic, Saddam and Gaddafi and the devastation wreaked on their countries and acted accordingly. North Korea’s strategy is clearly based on the belief, borne out by events described above, that the U.S. is a bully which only attacks the weak. Thus, saber-rattling and generally playing a ‘high line’ is the best way to avoid attack. We must remember too that North Korea lost around 1m people in the Korean War 1950-53, many from an intensive U.S. bombing campaign.
Of course, the neocons in Washington don’t like it when a country stands up to them in this way, which is why the former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who never let his guard down for one moment, got such a terrible press. The Empire seeks to prevent ‘target states’ developing nuclear weapons capabilities as it knows that if they do it won’t be able to threaten them. It’s revealing to note that the strongest supporters of ‘nuclear deterrence’ in the West are also the strongest opponents of countries such as Iran or DPRK acquiring nuclear weapons.
‘We’ need nukes to defend ourselves from attack, but it is deemed totally outrageous if countries in the global south, which ‘we’ threaten on a routine basis, seek to acquire such weapons for the same reason.
To deter a U.S. attack, North Korea, or indeed any other country in the line of fire, has to convince the serial warmongers in Washington that the cost of launching such an assault would be too high. Being ‘nice’ and singing ‘Give Peace a Chance’ won’t cut the mustard. Remember that John Lennon, who wrote and sang that song, lost his life from a gunshot.
While Saddam implored the West, ‘Believe me, I have no WMDs,’ Kim Jong-un has done the exact opposite and talked up his country’s capabilities. However, Kim knows that words alone are not enough; he also needs to demonstrate that North Korean projectiles can be a threat to the U.S. Hence the announcement on Wednesday that it was ‘carefully considering’ a plan to fire four missiles into the sea off the island of Guam, home to two U.S. bases.
Of course, Pyongyang’s strategy is high risk, especially with such a volatile individual as Donald Trump – who seems desperate to earn neocon approval to avoid a possible impeachment – in The White House.
Recent history though suggests that North Korea, by keeping its fists clenched and continuing to indulge in missile ‘willy-waving’ is doing absolutely the right thing. The big lesson of the last thirty years is surely that deterrence works. If you’re a ‘target state’ and can’t deter the warmongers in Washington, you’re in grave danger. Just ask the ghosts of Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi.
Every U.S. president makes unilateral nuclear threats, it’s an American tradition
This week marks the anniversary of two monstrous war crimes: the nuking of two undefended Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on August 6 and 9, 1945. The fake history I learned as a child in the 1950s and 60s was that the bombings saved the lives of a million Japanese and Americans who would have perished in a land invasion of Japan. That was a lie. The U.S. anticipated turning its World War 2 ally the Soviet Union into its postwar enemy, and hoped to scare the scare the Soviets with the terrible carnage its new nuclear weapons would inflict.
The hundreds of thousands murdered at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the opening acts of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, the beginning of a U.S. nuclear armed crime wave which has lasted over 70 years and included each and every U.S. president from Harry Truman to Donald Trump. ‘Nuclear armed crime wave’ isn’t hype and it’s not exaggeration. When you rob someone and tell your victim you’ve got a gun, you’re charged with armed robbery whether or not you pull or use the weapon.
By that standard, the U.S. has been a rogue nation on a nuclear armed crime spree now in its eighth decade. A few years ago, the American Friends Service Committee compiled a partial list of the times U.S. presidents have openly threatened humanity with nuclear destruction. You can find it by googling “American Friends Service Committee” and “nuclear blackmail.” Here are a few of the dozens of incidents listed in ‘Incidents of nuclear blackmail’ (April 9, 2012):
- In 1946 and 1948 President Harry Truman threatened the Soviets over Iran and Berlin, respectively, and the Chinese in 1950 and 51.
- President Eisenhower also threatened the Chinese over Korea in 1953, and again in 1956 over Quemoy and Matsu. He offered the French nukes to use against the Vietnamese at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.
- President Kennedy threatened a nuclear strike at the Soviets over Berlin, and sent nuclear armed missiles to Turkey on the Russian border in 1961. Though these were later wisely withdrawn after the nuclear standoff of the Cuban missile crisis, the U.S. has consistently based its nukes on its fleets and bases in the Pacific, in Europe and Asia, and for decades in South Korea.
- Presidents Johnson and Nixon menaced North Korea, Vietnam and the Soviet Union with air and seaborne nukes, and President Gerald Ford ordered nuclear armed bombers from Guam to loiter for an extended time off the coast of North Korea.
- Jimmy Carter issued the Carter Doctrine, reaffirmed by Ronald Reagan which committed the U.S. to a nuclear response if its vital interests in the Middle East were every threatened. Ronald Reagan terrified the world, though he did briefly consider a lasting arms treaty with the U.S.SR.
- Bush 1, Bush 2 and Bill Clinton all menaced North Korea and Iraq.
- Obama declared “all options on the table” against Iran.
The AFSC list does not include vital U.S. assistance in developing nuclear weapons technology given to apartheid South Africa which later relinquished its nukes, and apartheid Israel, which currently has missiles aimed at every Arab capital within a thousand miles, and at Iran.
So while Donald Trump’s “fire and destruction” bombast is criminal and detestable, it’s not new. It’s merely the latest installment in a long running crime wave by the planet’s number one nuclear armed felon, the United States of America.
U-S-A. Let’s make it great again.
* Averting annihilation, by John Carl Baker, published on Jacobin, Aug 12, 2017 (John Carl Baker is the Mellon-ACLS Public Fellow at the Ploughshares Fund, where he holds the title of Political Engagement Strategist.)
To prevent nuclear catastrophe, we must stand in solidarity with ordinary people across the Korean peninsula.
* North Korea faces the fury of U.S. empire, by David Whitehouse, Socialist Worker.org, July 31, 2017
[This article provides much detail on the history of U.S. military and nuclear aggression against the Korean people. Ironically, the article appears in the anti-Russia, ‘plague on all their houses’ Socialist Worker.org, published in the U.S. This publication has long claimed that the U.S. has no regime-change plan in Syria and it has supported the regime-change war waged by rightists in Syria. Regarding Ukraine, Socialist Worker.org lays equal or greater blame on Russia for the conflict there, and it calls the March 16, 2014 referendum vote in Crimea to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia a “Russian annexation”.]
Leftists who are struggling with the lessons of Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Ukraine
Below is a selection of what some left-wing publications and figures are saying about the U.S. aggression against the Korean people. Text boldened in places for emphasis.–RA
The urgent priority must be the opposite, to de-escalate and pursue a negotiated resolution to the crisis, which major players in the region are trying to achieve and most commentators recognise as eminently possible. This would, however, require a sharp change of direction from both sides…
The cycle of threat and counter-threat is creating an appalling situation in which warfare between nuclear states is being discussed as a serious option on both sides… Such provocative actions on both sides must end…
International Viewpoint (Europe-based Trotskyist publication), Aug 10, 2017, same article re-published in Green Left Weekly (Australia) Aug 12, 2017:
… The danger of course is that the two main forces in play are commanded by unpredictable megalomaniacs. Calculations of rational state interests don’t necessarily win out when such people call the shots. The war danger is very real.
For the people of North Korea, warnings from their leadership about the United States seem all too real. During the Korean War (1950-53), the whole of the North was bombed flat and according to some estimates a third of its population died.
A Washington Post journalist Blaine Harden explains that although much of the propaganda of today’s North Korean regime is preposterous and idiotic, the hatred of America is often genuine and based on memories of the Korean war…
… The Congressional establishment did score one victory over Trump. That was the bipartisan lopsided vote to impose new sanctions on Russia, supposedly for its “meddling” in the US elections. [The bill approved by the U.S. Congress in end-July 2017 escalating sanctions against Russia, North Korea and Iran.]
Trump wants to better relations with Russia, and did not like this bill. He was especially incensed by a clause that says he could not change these or other sanctions, which he says is an unconstitutional invasion of presidential powers… (See note below.)
… There is every chance that such a conflict would go nuclear, either because the U.S. used nuclear weapons in a first strike or because the North Korean military responded to a serious (even non-nuclear) assault as it has promised and trained to do – with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons strikes on U.S. forces in Japan and South Korea.
And in the same publication, in A history of the nuclear arms race, Aug 13, 2017:
… By seizing the initiative in Japan, the U.S. also wanted to scotch any ambitions that the U.S.SR might have to build an empire on its eastern borders along with the new empire it was establishing on its west…
Nuclear weapons were from the outset an outgrowth of the competition between the great powers…
Within each camp [U.S./western Europe, and U.S.SR], the dominant imperialist consolidated its power. In the West, the U.S. forced Britain to disband its empire to allow access for its big corporations to new markets. The U.S. built dozens of military bases across Western Europe to extend its military reach within the umbrella of the newly established North Atlantic Treaty Organization…
In the East, Russia established the Warsaw Pact to extend its occupation of the lands it conquered in 1945…
The two blocs developed as mirror images of each other.
Note by RA:
The view that Donald Trump wishes to have improved relations with Russia but is being frustrated by a U.S. ‘deep state’ loyal to the Democratic Party is widely held across right wing and left wing political spectrums in the world. It is a naive or malevolent view, depending on who is voicing it, concocted from random musings by Trump during the 2016 presidential election campaign.
Everything in the foreign policy of the U.S. government under Trump belies the claim that he seeks improved relations with Russia (or China). The U.S. government is stepping up intervention in Ukraine and Syria. (Trump has ended the CIA’s failed program of support to right-wing paramilitaries in Syria, but other agencies of the U.S. government continue their intervention there. The Turkish news agency Anadolou revealed last month, for example, that the U.S. is expanding its direct military presence in Syria.) The Trump-led U.S. has reaffirmed its leading role in NATO. It is continuing the Obama regime’s escalation of the nuclear arms race, and it has deepened sanctions against Russia and Iran. The list goes on.
Despite all this evidence, naive observers and writers continue to believe that a Trump-led U.S. aims to improve relations with Russia. Some are driven by wishful thinking and determined opposition to a perceived ‘liberal’ wing of the U.S. ruling class represented by the Democratic Party. Left-wing writers are driven by ignorance and prejudice against modern-day Russia and its Soviet Union predecessor.
Then there is the puzzle of recent comments by the widely respected Australian journalist and filmmaker John Pilger. He spoke to RT‘s ‘Going Underground’ program on August 12. RT reports:
When asked by Going Underground host Afshin Rattansi if there was a ‘deep state coup’ against Donald Trump over his willingness to forge a partnership with Moscow, Pilger agreed with that proposition.
“There is a rolling coup attempt against the President of the United States at the moment, there’s no question about that,” Pilger responded. “They want him out. All the major pillars of power in the United States, plus the Democratic Party, plus most of the media, want Trump out.”
Pilger said in the interview that “the one oasis of sanity” in the rule of Donald Trump is that “he does not wish to go to war with Russia.” But few people believe that the United States is ‘going to war’ against Russia anytime soon. Rather, we see a continuing buildup with ominous implications: increased sanctions, increased NATO buildup along Russia’s border with other eastern European countries, accelerated nuclear weapons programs, and increased military intervention in Syria. What is all this if not ominous steps that could lead to war with Russia?
Returning to the subject later in the interview, Pilger said, “The one anomaly [in Trump’s rule] is wanting to have some peace deal with Russia…”
“Trump is a bit of a wimp compared to Obama” he continued (at which point the interview recording ends). The latter claim is downright false. New research shows that Trump is anything but a “wimp” when it comes to foreign wars. Foreign Policy Magazine reports on August 9 that Trump’s administration is dropping more U.S. bombs on foreign soil than any other president in recent history. It writes:
Six months into Trump’s presidency, we now have enough data to assess his own approach. The results are clear: Judging from Trump’s embrace of the use of air power — the signature tactic of U.S. military intervention — he is the most hawkish president in modern history. Under Trump, the United States has dropped about 20,650 bombs through July 31, or 80 percent the number dropped under Obama for the entirety of 2016. At this rate, Trump will exceed Obama’s last-year total by Labor Day…
Hand in hand with Trump’s enthusiasm for air power comes a demonstrated tolerance for civilian casualties. Increased air power in Iraq and Syria has resulted in unprecedented levels of civilian deaths…
The expansion of air power and acceptance of civilian harm are together a problem, but they are made worse by the fact that they are occurring without any diplomatic strategy to wind down the wars…[End note.]