North Korea. Plus "what the Iraq war was all about, part:654782564"
In a deal which was initially celebrated as a big success, North Korea's Stalinist government have claimed that they will end their nuclear weapons programme, rejoin the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and permit monitoring by the IAEA. In return, the US will "normalize" relations with them, granting economic aid and the guarantee that the US will not attack.
Though it seems a bit premature to take a guy like Kim Jong-Il at his word, a North Korea without nuclear weapons is something to celebrate. But as with all great power foreign policy, there need to be some serious reservations about this affair, and some serious scrutiny. In my opinion this is just one more sign that Iraq would have been attacked under any pretext.
In some ways, cooler relations between that "tyrant" Kim Jong-Il (quoting the Bush administration) and that "half-baked man" Bush (North Korea's words) are a good thing, but not as much as one might initially think. I never wanted to see North Korea get attacked, but then again, the moment it announced that it had nuclear weapons, attacking it ceased to be an option. The losses would have been too great and therefore it was better to topple a flimsier regime. Iraq. The fact that the place had long been coveted by this administration as a source of energy cemented it as the place to bomb and occupy, but that's a different issue for now. The key point here is that Iraq's weakness in military terms ensured that the Bush administration saw an easy win. The country was practically spreading it's legs for entry. North Korea had nothing to fear in this vein. In the first election debate between Bush and Kerry last year, the two discussed how they would negotiate with Kim, not whether they would. Even the more aggressive zealots advising the government had no stomach for a pre-emptive strike. In their appalling school-essay-style tract An End to Evil, the infamously bellicose Richard Perle and David Frum advocated a mere blockade of the country. A good way of killing Koreans without dropping any bombs. Bound to appeal to all the sadists with a love for cutting costs, but not to those who dreamed that Kim would somehow be booted out.
The rationale for the masculine entry into Iraq has been well-documented. WMDs and terrorist links. If the two combined then we would be looking at what Condoleezza Rice ominously described as a mushroom cloud over New York. scary. In this period it was hard to watch the news without some pesky old crustie with a suit blathering on about weapons of mass destruction. It was a very annoying and repetetive phrase.
The argument had worn out its welcome before the invasion, when the likes of former UN inspector Scott Ritter asserted that Saddam had no such weapons. After the invasion it was conceeded, even by many of the hardline fanatics, that there were no such weapons, but that omething far more magical had taken place. The wonder of Democracy. Those same subservient commentators who practically punctuated their sentences with talk of WMDs suddenly rushed to tell us that the Iraqis now had "freedom" (a word that has long since lost much of its meaning in my eyes due to the sheer abuse of it) and "democracy". Various other undemocratic regimes (Belarus, Burma, Cuba, Syria, Zimbabwe) were condensed into the phrase "outposts of tyranny" to maintain the theme. It was the last compelling arguement for the invasion and it stinks as much today as it did then due to what was happening at the same time in other parts of the world.
At the end of 2003 one such example was given of the contradictions that Bush and Blair's governments had talked themselves into. Colonel Gaddafi announced that he no longer wanted nuclear weapons. He didn't have them, and wasn't particularly close to developing them, but it was announced as a success of the War on Terror because it showed that other governments could be deterred from trying to get their hands on WMDs. In exchange for this, Gaddafi got what he actually had wanted all along: a welcome back into the global community and economic ties withe the US and EU, who, as usual, were salivating at the oppurtunity to flog some weapons to any government they could find (the undemocratic and aggressive China springs to mind. And as the gay Chinese man hitting on me yesterday at work gleefully reminded me: "in our country, we hang our criminals"- true story. Nothing happened) Gaddafi needed weapons for the same reasons he always has: to prop up his dictatorship. Aww, no "freedom" for the people of Libya. That's just too bad. Gaddafi can continue to be a small, yet persistant thug, safe in the knowledge that he is in from the cold.
And now it seems the same is true with North Korea. The Bush administration doesn't want to export democracy to that wretched, far-away place. They just want it to pipe down and stop being a nuisance. By apparently helping to get it to back down on nuclear weapons they have restored their relationship to what it was when Bush came to power. It was his bully boy rhetoric that contributed most to the crisis, and having undone his bad work he should not feel too pleased with himself.
This is a country rife with severe hunger and malnutrition. A country which keeps firing squads and hangman's nooses handy in case anybody is foolish enough to question what is going on around them. Like I said, I don't want it bombed, but I do want to know why there was no mention of human rights in the discussion. I want to know what is the actual link that binds the "outposts of tyranny". They all abuse their populations (to VERY varying degrees), but so do Kuwait, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Nigeria, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Colombia. So, Cuba is sanctioned for it's barely visible human rights abuses while Israel and Pakistan can commit great big ones while also brandishing nuclear weapons and threatening to attack their neighbours. Libya can give up their weapons and carry on with abuses while Zimbabwe, who has never produced any, continues to harass its population as outcasts. Since breaking out of the USSR, the dictatorship of Belarus has enjoyed its scarce natural resources in international isolation while the former Soviet tyrannies of Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan have got on like a house on fire withe the west, respectively offering their natural gas and airbases to the US. Why are some welcomed by the Bush and Blair axis, while others are called to account? Could it be a prejudice against those not towing the line? Could the Iraq war have been about oil resources? It all seems so painfully obvious now. The pompous neo-con grandstanding, in which it was claimed America would set the captive populations of the world free, was simply a way of legitimising the crimes committed in self-interest. It will always be an Iraq that gets "liberated" rather than a Burma, because some countries have a part to play. They have stratefic value or plentiful resources.
There is a scene in The Simpsons where Bart takes up smoking, gives it up straight away and gets a reward and a pat on the back from Homer, who tells him "giving up smoking is one of the hardest things you can do". The Homer Simpson of the world has allowed the same thing to happen wioth North Korea and Libya. The moral of the story is: get nuclear weapons. Nobody will attack you and when you choose to give them up you will get the rewards and acceptance necessary to kick start your return to the international stage.
"Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere." - George W. Bush (March 24, 2004)