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End the 67-year war

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on September 13, 2017 at 4:56 am

Robert Alvarez, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientis, 11 September 2017

AlvarezAdjusted.jpg

 

It’s time to find a path to end the 67-year-long Korean war. As the threat of military conflict looms, the American public is largely unaware of the sobering facts about America’s longest unresolved war and one of the world’s bloodiest. The 1953 armistice agreement engineered by President Eisenhower—halting a three-year-long “police action” that resulted in two million to four million military and civilian deaths—is long forgotten. Struck by military leaders of North Korea, the United States, South Korea, and their United Nations allies to halt fighting, the armistice was never followed up by a formal peace agreement to end this conflict of the early Cold War.

A State Department official reminded me of this unsettled state of affairs before I traveled to the Youngbyon nuclear site in November 1994 to help secure plutonium-bearing spent reactor fuel as part of the Agreed Framework between the United States and North Korea. I had suggested that we take space heaters to the spent fuel pool storage area, to provide warmth for the North Koreans who would be working during winter to place highly radioactive spent fuel rods in containers, where they could be subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. The State Department official became upset. Even 40 years after the end of hostilities, we were forbidden to provide any comfort to the enemy, regardless of the bitter cold interfering with their—and our—task.

How the Agreed Framework collapsed. In the spring and summer of 1994, the United States was on a collision course with North Korea over its efforts to produce the plutonium to fuel its first nuclear weapons. Thanks in large part to the diplomacy of former President Jimmy Carter, who met face-to-face with Kim Il Sung, the founder of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the world pulled away from the brink. Out of this effort sprang the general outlines of the Agreed Framework, signed on October 12, 1994. It remains the only government-to-government accord ever made between the United States and North Korea.

The Agreed Framework was a bilateral non-proliferation pact that that opened the door to a possible end of the Korean war. North Korea agreed to freeze its plutonium production program in exchange for heavy fuel oil, economic cooperation, and the construction of two modern light-water nuclear power plants. Eventually, North Korea’s existing nuclear facilities were to be dismantled and the spent reactor fuel taken out of the country. South Korea played an active role in helping prepare for the construction of the two reactors. During its second term in office, the Clinton administration was moving towards establishing a more normalized relationship with the North. Presidential advisor Wendy Sherman described an agreement with North Korea to eliminate its medium and long-range missiles as “tantalizingly close” before negotiations were overtaken by the 2000 presidential election.

But the framework was bitterly opposed by many Republicans, and when the GOP took control of Congress in 1995, it threw roadblocks in the way, interfering with fuel oil shipments to North Korea and the securing of the plutonium-bearing material located there. After George W. Bush was elected president, the Clinton administration’s efforts were replaced with an explicit policy of regime change. In his State of the Union address in January 2002, Bush declared North Korea a charter member of the “axis of evil.” In September, Bush expressly mentioned North Korea in a national security policy that called for preemptive attacks against countries developing weapons of mass destruction.

This set the stage for a bilateral meeting in October 2002, during which Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly demanded that North Korea cease a “secret” uranium enrichment program or face severe consequences. Although the Bush Administration asserted the enrichment program had not been disclosed, it was public knowledge—in the Congress and in the news media—by 1999. North Korea had strictly complied with the Agreed Framework, freezing plutonium production for eight years. Safeguards over uranium enrichment had been deferred in the agreement until sufficient progress was made in the development of the light water reactors; but if that delay was seen as dangerous, the agreement could have been amended. Shortly after Sullivan’s ultimatum, North Korea ended the safeguards program for its spent nuclear fuel and began to separate plutonium and produce nuclear weapons—igniting a full-blown crisis, just as the Bush administration was poised to invade Iraq.

In the end, the Bush administration’s efforts to resolve the impasse on North Korea’s nuclear program—aka the Six-Party Talks—failed, largely because of the United States’ adamant support for regime change in North Korea and persistent “all or nothing” demands for a complete dismantlement of the North’s nuclear program before serious negotiations could take place. Also, with the US presidential election nearing, the North Koreans had to have remembered how abruptly the plug had been pulled on the Agreed Framework after the 2000 election.

By the time President Obama took office, North Korea was well on its way to becoming a nuclear weapons state and was reaching the threshold of testing intercontinental ballistic missiles. Described as “strategic patience,” Obama’s policy was to a large extent influenced by the pace of nuclear and missile development, particularly as Kim Jong-un, the founder’s grandson, ascended to power. Under the Obama administration, economic sanctions and increased-duration joint military exercises were met with intensified North Korean provocations. Now, under the Trump administration, the joint military exercises by the United States, South Korea and Japan—intended to demonstrate the “fire and fury” that could destroy the DPRK regime—appear to have only accelerated the pace at which North Korea has stepped up its long-range missile testing and detonation of more powerful nuclear weapons.

Dealing with the nuclear weapons state of North Korea. The seeds for a nuclear-armed DPRK were planted when the United States shredded the 1953 Armistice Agreement. Beginning in 1957, the US violated a key provision of the agreement (paragraph 13d), which barred the introduction of more destructive armaments to the Korean peninsula, by ultimately deploying thousands of tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea, including atomic artillery shells, missile-launched warheads and gravity bombs, atomic “bazooka” rounds and demolition munitions (20 kiloton “back-pack” nukes). In 1991, then-President George H.W. Bush withdrew all the tactical nukes. In the 34 intervening years, however, the United States unleashed a nuclear arms race—among the branches of its own its own military on the Korean Peninsula! This massive nuclear buildup in the South provided a major impetus for North Korea to forward-deploy a massive conventional artillery force that can destroy Seoul.

Now, some South Korean military leaders are calling for the redeployment of US tactical nuclear weapons in the country, which would do nothing but exacerbate the problem of dealing with a nuclear North Korea. The presence of US nuclear weapons did not deter a surge in aggression by North Korea in the 1960s and 1970s, an era known as the “Second Korean War,” during which more than 1,000 South Korean and 75 American soldiers were killed. Among other actions, North Korean forces attacked and seized the Pueblo, a US Naval intelligence vessel, in 1968, killing a crew member and capturing 82 others. The ship was never returned.

North Korea has long pushed for bilateral talks that would lead to a non-aggression pact with the United States. The US government has routinely spurned its requests for a peace agreement because they are perceived as tricks designed to reduce the US military presence in South Korea, allowing for even more aggression by the North. The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl echoed this sentiment recently, asserting that North Korea is not really interested in a peaceful resolution. While citing a statement by North Korean Deputy UN Ambassador Kim In Ryong that his country “will never place its self-defensive nuclear deterrence on the negotiating table,” Diehl conveniently omitted Ryong’s important caveat: “as long as the US continues to threaten it.”

Over the past 15 years, military exercises in preparation for war with North Korea have increased in extent and duration. Recently, Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central’s much-watched The Daily Show, asked Christopher Hill, chief US negotiator for the Six-Party talks during the George W. Bush years, about the military exercises; Hill declared that “we never have planned to attack” North Korea. Hill was either ill-informed or dissembling. The Washington Post reported that a military exercise in March 2016 was based on a plan, agreed to by the United States and South Korea, that included “preemptive military operations” and “‘decapitation raids’ by special forces targeting the North’s leadership.” In the Washington Post article, a US military expert did not dispute the plan’s existence but said it has a very low probability of being implemented.

Regardless of how likely they are to ever be implemented, these annual wartime planning exercises help perpetuate and perhaps even strengthen the brutal coercion by the North Korean leadership of its people, who live in constant fear of an imminent war. During our visits to North Korea, we observed how the regime inundated its citizens with reminders about the carnage caused by napalm that US aircraft had dropped during the war. By 1953, US bombing had destroyed nearly all structures in North Korea. Dean Rusk, Secretary of State during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, said several years later that bombs were dropped on “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.” Over the years, the North Korean regime has developed a vast system of underground tunnels used in frequent civil defense drills.

It’s probably too late to expect the DPRK to relinquish its nuclear arms. That bridge was destroyed when the Agreed Framework was discarded in the failed pursuit of regime change, a pursuit that not only provided a powerful incentive but also plenty of time for the DPRK to amass a nuclear arsenal. Secretary of State Tillerson recently stated that “we do not seek a regime change, we do not seek collapse of the regime.” Unfortunately, Tillerson has been drowned out by coverage of belligerent tweets by President Trump and sabre-rattling by former military and intelligence officials.

In the end, a peaceful resolution to the North Korean nuclear situation will involve direct negotiations and gestures of good faith by both sides, such as a reduction or a halt of military exercises by the United States, South Korea, and Japan, and a reciprocal moratorium on nuclear weapon and ballistic missile testing by the DPRK. Such steps will generate a great deal of opposition from US defense officials who believe that military might and sanctions are the only forms of leverage that will work against the North Korean regime. But the Agreed Framework and its collapse provide an important lesson about the pitfalls of the pursuit of regime change. Now, a nuclear arms control agreement may be the only way to bring this over-long chapter of the Cold War to a peaceful close. It’s difficult to persuade someone to make a deal, if he is certain you’re planning to kill him, no matter what he does

 

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Time to Restrict the President’s Power to Wage Nuclear War

In Democracy, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on September 13, 2017 at 1:54 am

By JEFFREY BADER and JONATHAN D. POLLACK SEPT. 12, 2017
For the first time in a generation, there is widespread anxiety about the possibility of nuclear war, stimulated by the extreme tensions between North Korea and the United States. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has advised Americans that they can sleep safely at night, a reassurance that most people probably wish they did not need to hear.
Mr. Tillerson offered his soothing counsel to deflate media hype about recent threats and counterthreats exchanged between Pyongyang and Washington. His words also reflect profound unease about the temperament and judgment of the two leaders who could trigger inadvertent war: President Trump and Kim Jong-un.
Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim appear to believe that bombast serves their domestic needs. Both seem to think that they can dominate and intimidate through the direst of threats. However, words can easily have consequences that neither leader seems to grasp.
Should we be living in a world where two leaders can stumble into a nuclear holocaust? North Korea’s accelerated pursuit of nuclear weapons clearly requires a much-enhanced containment and deterrence policy by the United States and its allies to prevent Mr. Kim from undertaking ever-riskier options. But what can be done to constrain the actions of an American president whose stability is now openly questioned, even by the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker of Tennessee?
To limit the possibilities of an almost unimaginable conflict, there is a need to pursue a long overdue legislative remedy.
Under Article I of the Constitution, only Congress can declare war. Yet during America’s numerous wars since World War II, presidents have never sought such authorization. The major reason? Nuclear weapons. There was widespread agreement that the president needed maximum flexibility to respond to a Soviet attack and that involving Congress would cause undue delays in a moment of crisis. As a result, the president has had essentially unchecked power to wage war, including launching a nuclear strike.
However, strategic planners understood the risks of enabling a single officer in a silo in North Dakota, perhaps under the most stressful conditions imaginable, to initiate a nuclear strike. The nuclear command-and-control system therefore entailed a “two key” system requiring simultaneous actions by two officers to activate a launch.
The time is long overdue to introduce comparable checks at the highest levels of the executive branch. The strategic circumstances faced by the United States today are altogether different from those during the Cold War. Despite heightened tensions triggered by Russian revanchism in Ukraine and elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe, the real risk of nuclear war emanates from a rogue actor, and North Korea heads the list. Almost casual presidential invocations of fire and fury have rendered circumstances far more dangerous.
The United States should in no way diminish its ability to respond to a nuclear or conventional attack by North Korea against United States territory or the territory of an ally. However, we should put in place a system of constraints to ensure that a preventive or pre-emptive nuclear strike by the United States must be evaluated through a careful, deliberative process.
Congress should therefore amend the War Powers Act to cover the possibility of preventive or pre-emptive nuclear strikes. This would ensure that the president could not simply provide the codes to his military aide carrying the nuclear “football” and launch such an attack on his own authority.
Legislation should provide for a small group of officials, possibly including the vice president, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the four leaders of the House and Senate, to give unanimous consent to any such nuclear strike. It would ensure that multiple sets of eyes, equipped with stable emotions and sound brains, would be able to prevent such a nuclear strike undertaken without appropriate deliberation.
This proposal would raise difficult constitutional questions. All presidential administrations have deemed the War Powers Act to be unconstitutional. Giving officers appointed by the president and subject to his direction formal veto power over military decisions could be problematic and precedent setting. If so, confining the veto power to the congressional leadership might be a preferable alternative.
Even during the Cold War, there was great risk in ceding to one person the ability to kill millions in a flash. There is no good reason to enable an American president to retain absolute authority in circumstances completely unlike those faced during the Cold War.
Assurances that nuclear weapons remain an option of absolute last resort, to be considered only after the concurrence of leaders from the executive branch and from the Congress, would also calm the nerves of United States allies deeply troubled by loose talk about the resort to nuclear weapons.
This is not to suggest that President Trump nurses some secret desire to launch a nuclear attack. However, the United States needs to act very prudently in dealing with an isolated and uniquely adversarial state. For its part, Congress has the power to prevent hair-trigger responses or impulsive actions that could lead to nuclear war.

Jeffrey Bader was a senior adviser to President Barack Obama on Asia from 2009 to 2011. Jonathan D. Pollack is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, specializing in Korea and China, and was a professor at the United States Naval War College.
A version of this op-ed appears in print on September 12, 2017, on Page A27 of the New York edition with the headline: Stumbling Toward A Nuclear Holocaust.

Trump review leans toward proposing mini-nuke

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on September 12, 2017 at 8:50 am

It would be a major reversal from the Obama administration, which sought to limit reliance on nuclear arms.

By BRYAN BENDER 09/09/2017

The Trump administration is considering proposing smaller, more tactical nuclear weapons that would cause less damage than traditional thermonuclear bombs — a move that would give military commanders more options but could also make the use of atomic arms more likely.

A high-level panel created by President Donald Trump to evaluate the nuclear arsenal is reviewing various options for adding a more modern “low-yield” bomb, according to sources involved in the review, to further deter Russia, North Korea or other potential nuclear adversaries.

Approval of such weapons — whether designed to be delivered by missile, aircraft or special forces — would mark a major reversal from the Obama administration, which sought to limit reliance on nuclear arms and prohibited any new weapons or military capabilities. And critics say it would only make the actual use of atomic arms more likely.

“This capability is very warranted,” said one government official familiar with the deliberations who was not authorized to speak publicly about the yearlong Nuclear Posture Review, which Trump established by executive order his first week in office.

“The [nuclear review] has to credibly ask the military what they need to deter enemies,” added another official who supports such a proposal, particularly to confront Russia, which has raised the prominence of tactical nuclear weapons in its battle plans in recent years, including as a first-strike weapon. “Are [current weapons] going to be useful in all the scenarios we see?”

The idea of introducing a smaller-scale warhead to serve a more limited purpose than an all-out nuclear Armageddon is not new — and the U.S. government still retains some Cold War-era weapons that fit the category, including several that that can be “dialed down” to a smaller blast.

Yet new support for adding a more modern version is likely to set off a fierce debate in Congress, which would ultimately have to fund it, and raises questions about whether it would require a resumption of explosive nuclear tests after a 25-year moratorium and how other nuclear powers might respond. The Senate is expected to debate the issue of new nuclear options next week when it takes up the National Defense Authorization Act.

The push is also almost sure to reignite concerns on the part of some lawmakers who say they already don’t trust Trump with the nuclear codes and believe he has dangerously elevated their prominence in U.S. national security by publicly dismissing arms control treaties and talking opening about unleashing “fire and fury” on North Korea.

“If the U.S. moves now to develop a new nuclear weapon, it will send exactly the wrong signal at a time when international efforts to discourage the spread of nuclear weapons are under severe challenge,” said Steven Andreasen, a State Department official in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush who served as the director of arms control on the National Security Council in the Clinton administration. “If the world’s greatest conventional and nuclear military power decides it cannot defend itself without new nuclear weapons, we will undermine our ability to prevent other nations from developing or enhancing their own nuclear capabilities and we will further deepen the divisions between the U.S. and other responsible countries.”

The details of what is being considered are classified, and a National Security Council spokeswoman said “it is too early to discuss” the panel’s deliberations, which are expected to wrap up by the end of the year.

But the review — which is led by the Pentagon and supported by the Department of Energy, which maintains the nation’s nuclear warheads — is undertaking a broad reassessment of the nation’s nuclear requirements — including its triad of land-based, sea-based and air-launched weapons.

The reassessment, the first of its kind since the one completed for President Barack Obama in 2010, is intended “to ensure that the United States’ nuclear deterrent is modern, robust, flexible, resilient, ready, and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies,” Trump directed.

The United States has long experience with lower-yield nuclear devices, or those on the lower range of kilotons. For example, the bombs the United States dropped on Japan in World War II were in the 15- to 20-kiloton range, while most modern nuclear weapons, like the W88 warhead that is mounted on submarine-launched missiles, are reportedly as large as 475 kilotons. The device tested by North Korea earlier this week was reportedly 140 kilotons.

So-called mini-nukes were a prominent element of the American arsenal during the early decades of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union’s conventional military capabilities far outstripped those of the United States and military commanders relied on battlefield nuclear weapons to make up for the vulnerability.

In the early 1950s, the Pentagon developed a nuclear artillery rocket known as the “Honest John” that was deployed to Europe as a means of deterring a massive Russian invasion. The Pentagon later introduced the so-called Davy Crockett, a bazooka with a nuclear munition in the range of 10 to 20 tons.

“We even had atomic demolition munitions,” said Philip Coyle, the Pentagon’s top weapons tester in the 1990s, who also managed nuclear weapons programs at the Department of Energy. “They were made small enough so that U.S. Army soldiers could carry them in a backpack. It was a very heavy backpack. You wouldn’t want to carry them very far.”

More recently, during the administration of George W. Bush, the Pentagon sought to modify one of its current warheads — the B61 — so it could be tailored to strike smaller targets such as underground bunkers, like the type used by North Korea and Iran to conceal illicit weapons programs. The so-called Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator was intended to rely on a modified version of the B61, a nuclear bomb dropped from aircraft. But that effort was nixed by Congress.

The nuclear review now reviving the issue is taking some of its cues from a relatively obscure Pentagon study that was published in December, at the tail end of the Obama administration, the officials with knowledge of the process said.

That report by the Defense Science Board, a Pentagon advisory panel, set off what one Pentagon official called a “dust-up” when it urged the military to consider “a more flexible nuclear enterprise that could produce, if needed, a rapid, tailored nuclear options for limited use should existing non-nuclear or nuclear options prove insufficient.”

But the finding “emerged from a serious rethinking about how future regional conflicts involving the United States and its allies could play out,” John Harvey, who served as adviser to the secretary of Defense for nuclear, chemical and biological programs between 2009 and 2013, recounted at a Capitol Hill event in June.

“There is increasing concern that, in a conventional conflict, an adversary could employ very limited nuclear use as part of a strategy to maximize gains or minimize losses,” he explained. Some call this an “‘escalate to win’ strategy.”

Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at an appearance before a defense industry group last month, described the rationale this way: “If the only options we have now are to go with high-yield weapons that create a level of indiscriminate killing that the president can’t accept, we haven’t provided him with an option.”

But critics question the logic of responding to Russian moves in kind.

“[Vladimir] Putin’s doctrine and some of his statements and those of his military officers are reckless,” said Andrew Weber, who served as assistant secretary of Defense responsible for nuclear policy in the Obama administration. “Does that mean we should ape and mimic his reckless doctrine?”

“The premise that our deterrent is not credible because we don’t have enough smaller options — or smaller nuclear weapons — is false,” he added in an interview. “We do have them.”

For example, he cited the B61, which recently underwent a refurbishment and can be as powerful as less than a kiloton up to 340 kilotons, and the W80, which is fitted to an air-launched cruise missile that can deliver a nuclear blast as low as five kilotons or as high as 80, according to public data.

A new, more modern version of a low-yield nuke, he added, would “increase reliance on nuclear weapons. It is an old Cold War idea.”

Joe Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund, a foundation that advocates reducing nuclear arms, also took issue with the argument for more nuclear options. “They decry the Russian argument,” he said of the proponents, “but it is is exactly the policy they are now favoring: advocating for use of a nuclear weapon early in a conflict.”

“It is difficult to imagine the circumstances under which we would need a military option in between our formidable conventional capabilities and our current low-yield nuclear weapons capabilities,” added Alexandra Bell, a former State Department arms control official. “Lawmakers should be very wary of any attempt to reduce the threshold for nuclear use. There is no such thing as a minor nuclear war.”

Others also express alarm that depending on what type of device the review might recommend, it might require the United States to restart nuclear tests to ensure its viability. The United States hasn’t detonated a nuclear weapon since 1992.

“If we actually started testing nuclear weapons, all hell would break loose,” said Coyle, who is now on the board of the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, a Washington think tank. “In today’s environment, if the U.S. were to test low-yield nuclear weapons, others might start testing. Russia, Iran, China, Pakistan, India. It would certainly give North Korea reason to test as often as they wanted.”

In Cirincione’s view, the idea is fueled by economic, not security reasons. “This is nuclear pork disguised as nuclear strategy,” he said. “This is a jobs program for a few government labs and a few contractors. This is an insane proposal. It would lower the threshold for nuclear use. It would make nuclear war more likely. It comes from the illusion that you could use a nuclear weapon and end a conflict on favorable terms. Once you cross the nuclear threshold, you are inviting a nuclear response.”

But others involved in the deliberations contend that if the administration seeks funding for a new tactical nuke, it might get a far more receptive audience in Congress.

Already Republicans are pushing to build a new cruise missile that some say would violate the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia — a direct response to Moscow’s violations of the arms control pact. The Senate is expected to debate the issue next week when it takes up the defense policy bill, which includes a controversial provision similar to one already passed by the House.

 

Pope Francis: Causing Climate Change Is a “Sin”

In Climate change, Environment, Politics, Public Health on September 11, 2017 at 6:20 am

 

By TomP , Daily Kos, Wednesday May 21, 2014 · 11:17 AM MDT

I hope this has an impact on people. Pope Francis recently spoke about climate change. Yes, it’s real:

Pope Francis made the religious case for tackling climate change on Wednesday, calling on his fellow Christians to become “Custodians of Creation” and issuing a dire warning about the potentially catastrophic effects of global climate change.
Speaking to a massive crowd in Rome, the first Argentinian pope delivered a short address in which he argued that respect for the “beauty of nature and the grandeur of the cosmos” is a Christian value, noting that failure to care for the planet risks apocalyptic consequences.

“Safeguard Creation,” he said. “Because if we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us! Never forget this!”

The pope centered his environmentalist theology around the biblical creation story in the book of Genesis, where God is said to have created the world, declared it “good,” and charged humanity with its care. Francis also made reference to his namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi, who was a famous lover of animals, and appeared to tie the ongoing environmental crisis to economic concerns — namely, instances where a wealthy minority exploits the planet at the expense of the poor.

“Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude,” Francis said.

Francis also said that humanity’s destruction of the planet is a sinful act, likening it to self-idolatry.

“But when we exploit Creation we destroy the sign of God’s love for us, in destroying Creation we are saying to God: ‘I don’t like it! This is not good!’ ‘So what do you like?’ ‘I like myself!’ – Here, this is sin! Do you see?”

Banking on Uranium Makes the World Less Safe

In Environment, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear powere, Peace, Politics, War on September 11, 2017 at 6:05 am

by LINDA PENTZ GUNTER

There is a curious fallacy that continues to persist among arms control groups rightly concerned with reducing the threat of the use of nuclear weapons. It is that encouraging the use of nuclear energy will achieve this goal.

This illogical notion is enshrined in Article IV of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which rewards signatories who do not yet have nuclear weapons with the “inalienable right” to “develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”

Now comes the international low-enriched uranium bank, which opened on August 29 in Kazakhstan, to expedite this right. It further reinforces the Article IV doctrine— that the spread of nuclear power will diminish the capability and the desire to manufacture nuclear weapons.

The uranium bank will purchase and store low-enriched uranium, fuel for civilian reactors, ostensibly guaranteeing a ready supply in case of market disruptions. But it is also positioned as a response to the Iran conundrum, a country whose uranium enrichment program cast suspicion over whether its real agenda was to continue enriching its uranium supply to weapons-grade level.

The bank will be run by the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose remit is “to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy.” Evidently the IAEA has been quite successful in this promotional endeavor since the agency boasts that “dozens of countries today are interested in pursuing nuclear energy.”

A caveat here, borne out by the evidence of nuclear energy’s declining global share of the electricity market, is that far more countries are “interested” than are actually pursuing nuclear energy. The IAEA numbers are more aspiration than reality.

Superficially at least, the bank idea sounds sensible enough. There will be no need to worry that countries considering a nuclear power program might secretly shift to nuclear weapons production. In addition to a proliferation barrier, the bank will serve as a huge cost savings, sparing countries the expense of investing in their own uranium enrichment facilities.

The problem with this premise is that, rather than make the planet safer, it actually adds to the risks we already face. News reports pointed to the bank’s advantages for developing countries. But developing nations would be much better off implementing cheaper, safer renewable energy, far more suited to countries that lack major infrastructure and widespread electrical grid penetration.

Instead, the IAEA will use its uranium bank to provide a financial incentive to poorer countries in good standing with the agency to choose nuclear energy over renewables. For developing countries already struggling with poverty and the effects of climate change, this creates the added risk of a catastrophic nuclear accident, the financial burden of building nuclear power plants in the first place, and of course an unsolved radioactive waste problem.

No country needs nuclear energy. Renewable energy is soaring worldwide, is far cheaper than nuclear, and obviously a whole lot safer. No country has to worry about another’s potential misuse of the sun or wind as a deadly weapon. There is no solar non-proliferation treaty. We should be talking countries out of developing dangerous and expensive nuclear energy, not paving the way for them.

There is zero logic for a country like Saudi Arabia, also mentioned during the uranium bank’s unveiling, to choose nuclear over solar or wind energy. As Senator Markey (D-MA) once unforgettably pointed out: “Saudi Arabia is the Saudi Arabia of solar.” But the uranium bank could be just the carrot that sunny country needs to abandon renewables in favor of uranium.

This is precisely the problem with the NPT Article IV. Why “reward” non-nuclear weapons countries with dangerous nuclear energy? If they really need electricity, and the UN wants to be helpful, why not support a major investment in renewables? It all goes back to the Bomb, of course, and the Gordian knot of nuclear power and nuclear weapons that the uranium bank just pulled even tighter.

Will the uranium bank be too big to fail? Or will it even be big at all? With nuclear energy in steep decline worldwide, unable to compete with renewables and natural gas; and with major nuclear corporations, including Areva and Westinghouse, going bankrupt, will there even be enough customers?

Clothed in wooly non-proliferation rhetoric, the uranium bank is nothing more than a lupine marketing enterprise to support a struggling nuclear industry desperate to remain relevant as more and more plants close and new construction plans are canceled. The IAEA and its uranium bank just made its prospects a whole lot brighter and a safer future for our planet a whole lot dimmer.

Linda Pentz Gunter is the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear. She also serves as director of media and development.

The Silence of the Good People

In Climate change, Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, Poetry, Public Health, Race, War on September 9, 2017 at 12:06 am

By Paul Street

Trutdig, Sept. 6, 2017

Editor’s note: This essay was written before Hurricane Irma emerged in the Caribbean. Irma is another historic superstorm whose fury is significantly fueled by climate change.

I naturally disapprove strongly of the virulent white racists who gathered to violently defend Confederate “slave power” statues in Charlottesville, Va., two weekends ago, but I’ll say one thing for them: At least they seem to care quite a great deal in urgent, if vile, ways about politics and current events.

The older I get, the more I am struck by the bloodless social and political indifference and lethargy of millions upon millions of my fellow Americans.

Tyranny feeds on mass apathy and docility as much as it does on the marshaling of dark and reactionary forces. As Martin Luther King Jr. wrote: “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people. … In end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

“He who passively accepts evil,” King added, “is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

Ecocidal Evil in Power

Look at the rolling national atrocity that is the quasi- and perhaps pre-fascist Donald Trump presidency. Every week, it seems, the orange-tinted beast comes forward with new threats and offenses to basic civilizational decency. Look at recent events: the crazy game of thermonuclear chicken Trump continues to play with Kim Jong Un; the dog-whistling cover Trump gave to the Nazis and other white supremacists in Charlottesville; the president’s threat to “shut down the federal government” if Congress doesn’t pay for his criminally idiotic and racist border wall; his granting of an early, pre-sentencing pardon to diabolical Joe Arpaio, the former longtime racist-fascist sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County.

Behind the scenes of “This Week in Trump” (TWIT), the “Insane Clown President” has been effectively advancing a hard-right agenda directly through the nation’s executive branch. The federal bench is being remade in the image of the radically reactionary and arch-regressive Federalist Society. Financial regulations are being rolled back along with environmental, consumer and civil rights protections. Trump is doing everything he can to slash health coverage for poor people short of his failed efforts to repeal Obamacare—this while he angles to pass a plutocratic tax cut for the rich in a nation where the top tenth of the upper 1 percent already has as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

The worst and least discussed part of the Trump outrage may be the White House’s climate change-denialist commitment to the deregulation of energy and the dismantling of environmental protections. Humanity stands on the precipice of full-on environmental collapse, with anthropogenic (really capitalogenic) global warming (A/CGW) leading the grave threat to livable ecology. Trump’s radically reckless response is to pull the United States out of the moderate Paris Climate Accords, to remove all references to climate change from federal websites, and to head the Environmental Protection Agency with a fellow petro-capitalist climate change-denier who is dedicated to crippling that federal department.

Trump’s proposed budget calls for a 16 percent cut to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, which monitors all things climate- and weather-related. The White House wants to slash $513 million from that department’s satellite program.

On Aug. 15, 10 days before Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, Trump signed an executive order repealing the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, established under Barack Obama in 2015. The standard required the federal government to factor in climate change and sea-level rise when building infrastructure.

Meanwhile, as Houstonians struggle to recover from an epic storm clearly rooted in A/CGW, Trump proposes to lop off $667 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). His budget slashes disaster preparedness and response programs and FEMA’s pre-disaster mitigation program. It would wipe out the agency’s entire national flood insurance analysis program.

This is exterminist, ecocidal madness on steroids.

At the same time, Trump calls for $2.6 billion to finish his big, stupid, racist wall. In Phoenix two weeks ago, he threatened to “shut down the federal government” if it fails to fund that great monument to white-nationalist nativism. All this while advancing major tax breaks for the wealthy few and their giant corporations.

The Destructive Ideology of ‘I Voted’

This is big, existentially dire stuff. Talk about evil. And yet I routinely confront abject indifference and aversion to anything and everything political on the part of ordinary white middle-class Americans. If I were to try to engage people on these topics in downtown Iowa City, Iowa, right now (I am writing on a sunny, football-perfect Saturday afternoon here), people would politely step past me with no more consideration than what they give to a Jehovah’s Witness. “Go Hawks” (short for the Iowa Hawkeyes), they’d tell me. Yes, there is a significant increase in occasional liberal and progressive activism and protest under Trump. But it’s nowhere close to matching the level of dangerous and malicious criminality in Washington.

Millions of “good Americans” go through life in a chilling state of morally idiotic self-obsession and consumerism, chattering endlessly about their vacations, purchases, home repairs, automobiles, ailments, jobs and purely private dramas. The fact that the world’s most powerful state is headed by a racist, sexist and eco-exterminist white-nationalist, nuke-wielding malignant narcissist atop a team of right-wing, arch-plutocratic, planet-killing, science-denying enemies of peace, justice and democracy somehow doesn’t register as worthy of mass civil unrest in most American minds—white minds especially.

Masses of good Americans have other things to worry about. A well-dressed liberal and white-haired white lady I often see downtown is perpetually on her computer planning her and her retired husband’s next flight to some city abroad (today it’s Amsterdam, last month it was Jakarta, Indonesia). I asked her recently if she thinks she makes the world any better by flying around it again and again. She shot me an angry look and said, “I voted. For Hillary.”

It’s one thing to tell a pollster that you think government should work for social justice and common good. It’s another thing to forgo your drunken football tailgate or your next planet-cooking travel adventure in order spend your time and money differently, for movements to bring your purported noble ideals into fruition.

Trump and his noxious cadres of sociopathic ecology-wreckers and plutocratic racists calculate that masses of good Americans are so pervasively indifferent, self-absorbed (often to the point of pathological narcissism), preoccupied, distracted, diverted, disinterested and demobilized that they can get away with just about anything while pounding his ugly and angry white base to make the world yet more precarious and vile.

There’s something else that Trump counts on: mass acceptance of the childish notion that going into a two- [capitalist-] party ballot box for two minutes once every two or four years is a great and glorious exercise in popular self-rule. “Rejoice citizens,” the U.S. wealth- and power-elite and its ubiquitous commercial media tell the people: “You had your input on Election Day.”

Under the American religion of voting, Noam Chomsky told Dan Falcone and Saul Isaacson last year, “Citizenship means every four years you put a mark somewhere and you go home and let other guys run the world. It’s a very destructive ideology … basically, a way of making people passive, submissive objects. … [We] ought to teach kids that elections take place but that’s not politics.”

Remember what Trump tweeted on the second day of his presidency in response to historic, large-scale protests of his inauguration: “Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote?”

Beyond the weird assumption that the people who marched against him didn’t vote against him, the real problem with that statement was the notion that a narrow-spectrum, candidate-centered election contest between two capitalist candidates once every 1,460 days grants a serious popular say on the direction the nation should take.

The marches against Trump’s inauguration were historic in scale. They were completely tied in with the election cycle, however. And, all of them (with all due respect for the airport and town hall protests in defense of Muslim travel rights and health care) have been remotely replicated in response to the actual policies—as opposed to the electoral advent—of the openly geocidal, racist and corporate-kleptocratic Trump presidency.

“The really critical thing,” the great radical American historian Howard Zinn once wrote, “isn’t who’s sitting in the White House, but who is sitting in—in the streets, in the cafeterias, in the halls of government, in the factories. Who is protesting, who is occupying offices and demonstrating—those are the things that determine what happens.” As Zinn explained in an essay on the “Election Madness” he saw “mesmerized liberals and radicals alike” as Barack Obama rose toward the White House in the spring of 2008:

The election frenzy seizes the country every four years because we have all been brought up to believe that voting is crucial in determining our destiny, that the most important act a citizen can engage in is to go to the polls and choose one of the two mediocrities who have already been chosen for us. … Would I support one [presidential] candidate against another? Yes, for two minutes—the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting booth. … But before and after those two minutes, our time, our energy, should be spent in educating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools. Our objective should be to build, painstakingly, patiently but energetically, a movement that, when it reaches a certain critical mass, would shake whoever is in the White House, into changing national policy on matters of war and social justice.
‘The Real Issue to Be Faced’

But here Zinn was not radical enough. “Changing national [and state and local] policy” (Zinn) is only the tip of the iceberg of the transformation required. Near the end of his life, Dr. King wrote in his final essay that “the real issue to be faced” beyond “superficial” matters (like the color or partisan identity of a U.S. senator or president) was “the radical reconstruction of society itself.” He wrote that the black struggle of his time was “exposing evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of our society. It reveals systemic rather than superficial flaws.”

Those sage words ring with even greater relevance today than they did half a century ago. The U.S. didn’t get to its current horrific state simply through the machinations of the Trump campaign and the Republican Party. The real and deeper causes are systemic, institutional, cultural, moral and intellectual-ideological. As Naomi Klein notes in her new book, “No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need,” the shocking Trump ascendancy is “not just [about] an individual or even a group of individuals. … [It’s about the neoliberal capitalist] system that has elevated them to such heights.” A system, writes Klein, under which the “Democratic Party establishment [is] also enmeshed with the billionaire class.”

Hurricane Harvey is no aberration, no freakish fit of nature. It’s another terrible example of the new normal created by U.S-led global petro-capitalism, headquartered to no small degree in the “petro-metro” of Houston itself—the nation’s fourth largest city. As the environmental writer Robert Hunziker noted last Friday:

The human footprint is driving climate change to hyper speed. … Today’s rapidly changing climate is the upshot of the Great Acceleration or post-WWII human footprint into/onto the ecosystem. … Abnormal is now normal. One-hundred-year floods are passé. … Epic floods and historic droughts are the norm. It’s all happened within the past couple of decades. It was only [five] years ago that Hurricane Sandy caused $75B in damages as the second costliest hurricane in U.S. history. In France in 2003, the hottest heat wave in over 500 years killed approximately 15,000, as well as 70,000 throughout Europe. Stifling heat hung in the air for months, no movement, atmospheric troughs of jet streams stood still, likely influenced and altered by global warming, specifically via radical changes in the Arctic, which is losing its bright reflecting ice cap that used to reflect up to 90% of solar radiation back into outer space. … Meanwhile, drought clobbered the Middle East, especially Syria, experiencing its worst-ever drought in 900 years, displacing one-to-two million farmers.
This is the handiwork not of humanity per se but of Homo sapiens under the command of capital—as it has been for just a small slice (roughly half a millennium) of its history. Harvey is yet another deadly reminder that “nature bats clean-up” and will not let Homo sapiens off the hook for letting its capitalist “elite” drive global temperature to deadly extremes with excessive carbon emissions that are a direct consequence of modern capitalism’s lethal addiction to endless accumulation, commodification and quantitative “growth.”

‘The Time Is Always Right to Do Right‘

Those who persist in thinking that we can “wait” for the next election (assuming that Trump doesn’t take action to suspend the next presidential electoral extravaganza)—and then the next one after that and so on—to address the pressing issues of our time might want to read the following passage from a forgotten speech Dr. King gave at Illinois Wesleyan University in 1966:

The great challenge facing the nation today is to get rid of a system that is evil and that is morally wrong. Now, in order to get rid of this system, it will be necessary to develop massive action programs. The problem will not work itself out. In order to develop massive action programs, we’ve got to get rid of one or two myths that are quite prevalent and that we hear a great deal around various communities. One is what I often speak of as the myth of time … the argument that only time can solve the problem of racial injustice. Only time can bring integration into being. And so those who set forth this argument tend to say to the Negro and his allies in the white community, just be nice and just be patient and wait 100 or 200 years and the problem will work itself out.

I think there is an answer to that myth. That is that time is neutral, it can be used either constructively or destructively. And I’m absolutely convinced that in so many instances the forces of ill will in our nation, the extreme righteous of our nation have used time much more effectively than the forces of good will. And it may well be that we will have to repent in this generation, not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people who would bomb a church in Birmingham, Alabama, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say wait on time.

Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes though the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers with God. And without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. And so it is necessary to help time and to realize that the time is always right to do right.
As I’m sure Dr. King would observe were he alive today (he’d be 88 years old), climate change—the biggest issue of our or any time—is a problem that is not going to “work itself out.”

More to the main point of this essay, we don’t have time to wait for it to do so. The fourth chapter of Klein’s new book is properly titled “The Climate Clock Strikes Midnight.” Tell me, dear reader, when did then-senior Exxon scientist James Black write that “man has a time window of five to ten years before the need to make hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical” because of how “mankind is influencing the global climate … through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels”? As Klein notes, those words were penned in 1978—the very year, for what it’s worth, when I (a budding young former-juvenile-delinquent-turned-bibliophilic-Marxist) read the great eco-socialist Barry Commoner’s urgent 1971 book “The Closing Circle: Nature, Man, and Technology” and then promptly forgot about the environmental issue for 15 years.

It is one thing to speak the standard “liberal” and “pragmatic” language of gradual, step-by-step progress—the discourse of “not making the perfect the enemy of the good”—when it comes to issues like poverty, inequality, mass incarceration, school funding, health care, taxation and the right to form unions. With these and other problems, Bill McKibben noted seven years ago, it is sometimes acceptable “to split the difference between different positions, make incremental change, and come back in a few years to do some more. It doesn’t get impossibly harder in the meantime—people will suffer for lack of health care, but their suffering won’t make future change impossible.”

Global warming is different for two reasons. First, as McKibben observed, it is “a negotiation between human beings on the one hand and physics and chemistry on their other. This is a tough negotiation, because physics and chemistry don’t compromise. They’ve already laid out their nonnegotiable bottom line: above 350 [carbon] parts per million [ppm in the atmosphere] the planet doesn’t work.” Second, as Klein writes, “Climate change … ha[s] a different relationship to time.” She further says:

With the politics of climate change … we don’t get to try again in four years. Because in four years, the earth will have been radically changed … in the interim, and our chances of averting an irreversible catastrophe will have shrunk. … Lots of social movements have adopted Samuel Beckett’s famous line: “Try again. Fail again. Fail better” as a lighthearted motto. I’ve always liked the attitude; we can’t be perfect, we won’t always win, but we should strive to improve. The trouble is, Beckett’s dictum doesn’t work for climate—not at this stage in the game. If we keep failing to lower emissions … there won’t be more opportunities to fail better.
Talk about what King called “the fierce urgency of now.” And talk about evil: The greenhouse gassing-to-death of life on Earth will make the Nazis, the sadistic Southern U.S. slave owners and the perpetrators of the Belgian genocide in the Congo all look like small-time criminals.

Mother Nature is a harsh and demanding mistress. We are anthrosuicidal fools to ignore her ever more pressing entreaties. 350? We passed 410 ppm earlier this year. We are on a pace for 500 by 2050 [which means so-long Antarctic, which means the end of the planet’s life-support system. As Klein notes, relaying what the world’s leading Earth scientists recently told her, “the window during which there is time to lower emissions sufficiently to avoid truly catastrophic warming is closing rapidly.”

If we are serious about averting environmental catastrophe in the next generation, we cannot take a “letter grades” approach. We are in pass-fail territory—and failing badly—in that policy realm. By all Earth science indications, it’s not about gaining a little bit this year, a little bit next year. We are approaching a chasm: We either take the leap or it’s game over, and, as Chomsky told Occupy Boston five years ago, “everything else we’re talking about won’t matter.” Hence the name of a recently formed Canadian statement platform for socially just, democratic, and environmentally sustainable policy: The Leap Manifesto.

Since Dr. King’s time, the United States has made some shining progress around questions of identity, civil liberties, bigotry and sexuality. It has made zero progress and, in fact, moved backward on economic justice and, most dangerously of all, on the intimately related environmental question, which now hangs over us like a great global Grim Reaper daring us to care about the fate of our own and countless other species.

A recent report on Moyers & Company shows that left-leaning social, political and environmental/climate progressives are the nation’s “new silent majority.” Now would be the time for that silence to find a voice. King’s line from the introduction to this essay bears repeating: “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

 

Paul Street holds a doctorate in U.S. history from Binghamton University. He is former vice president for research and planning of the Chicago Urban League. Street is also the author of numerous books.

The Freeze-for-Freeze Solution: An Alternative to Nuclear War

In Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on September 8, 2017 at 11:37 pm

 

By Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War, WorldBeyondWar.org
http://worldbeyondwar.org/freeze-freeze-solution-alternative-nuclear-war/

On August 5, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster informed MSNBC that the Pentagon had plans to counter the “growing threat” from North Korea—by launching a “preventative war.”

Note: When someone armed with world-ending weapons is speaking, language is important.

For example: a “threat” is merely an expression. It may be annoying, or even provocative, but it is something that falls well short of a physical “attack.”

“Preventative war” is a euphemism for “armed aggression”—an action the International Criminal Court identifies as “the ultimate war crime.” The slippery phrase “preventative war” serves to transform the aggressor into a “potential” victim, responding to a perceived “future crime” by acting in “self-defense.”

The concept of “preventative violence” has a domestic counterpart. An investigation by London’s The Independent found that US police killed 1,069 civilians in 2016. Of those, 107 were unarmed. Most of these individuals died because of the concept of “preventative war.” The typical defense from the officers involved in deadly shootings was that they “felt threatened.” They opened fire because they “felt their lives were in danger.”

What is intolerable on the streets of America should be equally unacceptable when applied to any country within range of Washington’s globe-straddling weaponry.

In an interview on the Today Show, Sen. Lindsey Graham predicted: “There will be a war with North Korea over their missile program if they continue trying to hit America with an ICBM.”

Note: Pyongyang has not “tried to hit” the US: It has only launched unarmed, experimental test missiles. (Although, listening to Kim Jong-un’s heated, over-the-top rhetorical threats, one might think otherwise.)

Living in the Shadow of a Frightened Giant

For all of its unparalleled military might, the Pentagon has never been able to assuage Washington’s abiding suspicions that someone, somewhere, is plotting an attack. This fear of a constant “threat” from foreign forces is invoked to channel massive tides of tax dollars into an ever-expanding military/industrial pond. But policies of perpetual paranoia only make the world a more dangerous place.

On September 5, Russian President Vladimír Putin, responding to journalists’ questions about the worrisome face-off between the US and the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK), issued this warning: “[R]amping up military hysteria in such conditions is senseless; it’s a dead end. It could lead to a global, planetary catastrophe and a huge loss of human life. There is no other way to solve the North Korean Issue, save that peaceful dialogue.”

Putin dismissed the efficacy of Washington’s threat to impose even harsher economic sanctions, noting that the proud North Koreans would sooner “eat grass” than halt their nuclear weapons program because “they do not feel safe.”

In a commentary posted in January 2017, Pyongyang underscored the fears that prompted the DPRK to acquire its nuclear arsenal: “The Hussein regime in Iraq and the Gaddafi regime in Libya, after surrendering to the pressure from the US and the West, which were attempting to subvert their regime[s], could not avoid the fate of doom as a consequence of . . . giving up their nuclear program.”

Time and again, the DPRK has railed against the ongoing joint US/ROK military exercises staged along Korea’s contentious borders. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) has characterized these events as “preparations for the second Korean War” and “a dress rehearsal for an invasion.”

“What can restore their security?” Putin asked. His answer: “The restoration of international law.”

Washington’s Nuclear Arsenal: Deterrent or Provocation?

Washington has expressed alarm that the latest long-range tests by the DPRK suggest that Pyongyang’s missiles (sans warhead, for now) may be able to reach the US mainland, 6,000 miles away.

Meanwhile, the US maintains its own long-established and launch-ready atomic arsenal of 450 Minuteman III ICBMs. Each can carry up to three nuclear warheads. At last count, the US had 4,480 atomic warheads at its disposal. With a range of 9,321 miles, Washington’s Minuteman missiles can deliver a nuclear blow to any target in Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East, and most of Africa. Only Southern Africa and parts of the Antarctic are beyond the reach of America’s land-based ICBMs. (Add the Pentagon’s nuclear-armed submarines, and nowhere on Earth is beyond Washington’s nuclear reach.)

When it comes to defending its nuclear missile program, North Korea uses the same excuse as every other atomic power—the warheads and rockets are solely intended as a “deterrent.” It is basically the same argument employed by the National Rifle Association, which asserts the right to self-protection involves the right to bear arms and the right to use them in “self-defense.”

If the NRA were to apply this argument at the global/thermonuclear level, consistency would require that organization stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Kim Jong-un. The North Koreans are simply insisting on their right to “stand their ground.” They are only claiming the same status that the US grants to other existing nuclear powers—Britain, China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Pakistan, and Russia.

But somehow, when “certain countries” express an interest in pursuing these weapons, a nuclear-armed missile is no longer a “deterrent”: It instantly becomes a “provocation” or a “threat.”

If nothing else, Pyongyang’s truculence has done the nuclear abolition movement a great service: it has demolished the argument that nuclear-tipped ICBMs are a “deterrent.”

North Korea Has Reason to Feel Paranoid

During the brutal years of the 1950-53 Korean War (called a “peace action” by Washington but remembered by survivors as “the Korean Holocaust”), American aircraft dropped 635,000 tons of bombs and 32,557 tons of napalm over North Korea, destroying 78 cities and obliterating thousands of villages. Some of the victims died from exposure to US biological weapons containing anthrax, cholera, encephalitis, and bubonic plague. It is now believed that as many as 9 million people––30% of the population—may have been killed during the 37-month-long bombardment.

Washington’s war on the North stands as one of the deadliest conflicts in human history.

The US blitz was so merciless that the Air Force eventually ran out of places to bomb. Left behind where the ruins of 8,700 factories, 5,000 schools, 1,000 hospitals, and more than a half-million homes. The Air Force also managed to bomb bridges and dams on the Yalu River, causing farmland floods that destroyed the country’s rice harvest, triggering additional deaths by starvation.

It is worth recalling that the first Korean War erupted when China honored a 1950 treaty obliging Beijing to defend the DPRK in the event of a foreign attack. (That treaty is still in effect.)

The Continued US Military Presence in Korea

The “Korean conflict” ended in 1953 with the signing of an armistice agreement. But the US never left South Korea. It built (and continues to build) a sprawling infrastructure of more than a dozen active military bases. The Pentagon’s military expansions inside Republic of Korea (ROK) are frequently met with dramatic eruptions of civilian resistance. (On September 6, 38 people in Seonju were injured during a confrontation between thousands of police and demonstrators protesting the presence of US missile interceptors.)

But most troubling to the North are the annual joint military exercises that deploy tens of thousands of US and ROK troops along the DPRK’s border to engage in live-fire exercises, marine assaults, and bombing runs that prominently feature nuclear-capable US B-1 Lancer bombers (dispatched from Anderson Airbase on Guam, 2,100 miles away) dropping 2,000-pound bunker-busters provocatively close to North Korean territory.

These annual and semi-annual military exercises are not a new strategic irritant on the Korean Peninsula. They began just 16 months after the signing of the armistice agreement. The US organized the first joint military deployment—”Exercise Chugi”—in November 1955 and the “war games” have continued, with various degrees of intensity, for 65 years.

Like every military exercise, the US-ROK maneuvers have left behind landscapes of scorched and bombed earth, bodies of soldiers inadvertently killed in mock-combat accidents, and vast profits reliably tendered to the companies that supply the weapons and ammunition expended during these martial extravaganzas.

In 2013, the North responded to these “show of force” maneuvers by threatening to “bury [a US warship] in the sea.” In 2014, Pyongyang greeted the joint-exercise by threatening “all out war” and demanding the US halt it’s “nuclear blackmail.”

The “largest ever” military drill was held in 2016. It lasted two-months, involved 17,000 US troops and 300,000 soldiers from the South. The Pentagon characterized the bombings, amphibious assaults, and artillery exercises as “non-provocative.” North Korea responded predictably, calling the maneuvers “reckless . . . undisguised nuclear war drills” and threatening a “preemptive nuclear strike.”

Following Donald Trump’s incendiary threat to strike Kim with “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” the Pentagon opted to bank the flames even higher by proceeding with its previously scheduled August 21-31 air, land, and sea exercise, Ulchi-Freedom Guardian. The verbal slugfest between the two combative leaders only intensified.

While most of the US media has spent the past months obsessing over North Korea’s nuclear program and its missile launches, there has been less reporting on Washington’s plans to “decapitate” the country by removing the Korean leader.

A “Wide Range of Options”: Assassination and Covert Ops

On April 7, 2917 NBC Nightly News reported that it had “learned exclusive details about the top secret, highly-controversial options that are being presented to the president for possible military action against North Korea.”

“It’s mandatory to present the widest possible array of options,” Nightly News’ Chief International Security and Diplomacy Analyst Adm. James Stavridis (Ret.) stated. “That’s what enables presidents to make the right decisions: when they see all the all the options on the table in front of them.”

But the “wide array of options” was dangerously narrow. Instead of considering diplomatic options, the only three options placed on the President’s table were:

Option 1:

Nuclear Weapons to South Korea

Option 2

“Decapitation”: Target and Kill

Option 3

Covert Action

Cynthia McFadden, NBC’s Senior Legal and Investigative Correspondent, laid out the three options. The first involved reversing a decades-old de-escalation treaty and shipping a new assortment of US nuclear weapons back to South Korea.

According to McFadden, the second option, the “decapitation” strike, was designed to “target and kill North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un and other senior leaders in charge of missiles and nuclear weapons.”

Stravridis, however, cautioned that “decapitation is always a tempting strategy when you’re faced with a highly unpredictable and highly dangerous leader.” (The words are freighted with a chilling irony given that the description fits Trump as well as Kim.) According to Stravridis, “The question is: what happens the day after you decapitate.”

The third option involves infiltrating South Korean troops and US Special Forces into the North to “take out key infrastructure” and possibly stage attacks on political targets.

The first option violates numerous nuclear nonproliferation agreements. The second and third options involve infringements of sovereignty as well as gross violations of international law.

Over the years, the Washington has used sanctions and military provocations to harass the North. Now that NBC News has been given the go-ahead to “normalize” the political assassination of a foreign leader by presenting Kim’s murder as a reasonable “option,” the geopolitical stakes have grown even higher.

http://www.nbcnews.com/widget/video-embed/916621379597” width=”560″ height=”315″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

Washington has imposed sanctions (a form of economic water-boarding) on a wide array of targets—Syria, Russia, Crimea, Venezuela, Hezbollah—with negligible results. Kim Jong-un is not the kind personality that responds well to sanctions. Kim has ordered the execution of more than 340 fellow Koreans since he assumed power in 2011. HIs victims have included government officials and family members. One of Kim’s favorite means of execution reportedly involves blowing victims to pieces with an anti-aircraft gun. Like Donald Trump, he’s use to getting his way.

And so, it is doubtful that overt US threats calling for Kim’s murder will do anything more than harden his determination to empower his military with “offsetting” weaponry that can “send a message” to Washington and to the tens of thousands of American soldiers surrounding North Korea to the south and east—in Japan and on Okinawa, Guam and other Pentagon-colonized islands in the Pacific.

The Fourth Option: Diplomacy

While the Pentagon cannot guarantee what impact its actions may have on the future, the State Department has significant data on what has worked in the past. It turns out that the Kim regime has not only approached Washington with invitations to negotiate an end to hostilities, but past administrations have responded and progress has been made.

In 1994, after four months of negotiations, President Bill Clinton and the DPRK signed an “Agreed Framework” to bring a halt to the North’s production of plutonium, a component of nuclear weapons. In exchange for abandoning three nuclear reactors and its controversial Yongbyon plutonium reprocessing facility, the US, Japan, and South Korea agreed to provide the DPRK with two light-water reactors and 500,000 metric tons of fuel oil a year to offset the energy lost while replacement reactors were constructed.

In January 1999, the DPRK agreed to meetings designed to deal with missile proliferation matters. In exchange, Washington agreed to remove economic sanctions imposed on the North. The talks continue through 1999 with the DPRK agreeing to halt its long-range missile program in exchange for a partial lifting of US economic sanctions.

In October 2000, Kim Jong Il sent a letter to President Clinton in a gesture designed to affirm the continued improvement of US-North Korean relations. Later, in an op-ed written for the New York Times, Wendy Sherman, who served as special adviser to the president and secretary of state for North Korea policy, wrote that a final agreement to terminate the DPRK’s medium- and long-range missile programs were “tantalizingly close” as the Clinton Administration came to an end.

In 2001, the arrival of a new president signaled an end to this progress. George W. Bush imposed new restrictions on negotiating with the North and publicly questioned whether Pyongyang was “keeping all terms of all agreements.” Bush’s sally was followed by Secretary of State Colin Powell’s brusque denial that “imminent negotiations are about to begin—that is not the case.”

On March 15, 2001, the DPRK sent a heated response, threatening to “take thousand-fold revenge” on the new administration for its “black-hearted intention to torpedo the dialogue between north and south [Korea].” Pyongyang also cancelled ongoing administrative talks with Seoul that had been intended to promote political reconciliation between the two estranged states.

In his 2002 State of the Union address, George W. Bush branded the North as part of his “Axis of Evil” and accused the government of “arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.”

Bush followed up by formally terminating Clinton’s “Agreed Framework” and halting the promised shipments of fuel oil. The DPRK responded by expelling United Nations weapons inspectors and restarting the Yongbyon reprocessing plant. Within two years, the DPRK was back in the business of producing weapons-grade plutonium and, in 2006, it conducted its first successful nuclear test.

It was an opportunity lost. But it demonstrated that diplomacy (although it takes attention and great patience) can work to accomplish peaceful ends.

“Dual Freeze”: A Solution that Could Work

Unfortunately, the current resident of the White House is an individual with a short attention span and is notoriously lacking in patience. Nonetheless, any avenue that takes our nation down a path not labeled “Fire and Fury,” would be a road best travelled. And, fortunately, diplomacy is not a forgotten art.

The most promising option is the so-called “Dual Freeze” plan (aka the “Freeze-for-Freeze” or “Double Halt”) recently endorsed by China and Russia. Under this tit-for-tat settlement, Washington would stop its massive (and massively costly) “invasion games” off North Korea’s border and shores. In exchange, Kim would agree to halt the development and testing of destabilizing nuclear weapons and missiles.

Most mainstream media consumers might be surprised to learn that, even before the China-Russia intervention, the North itself had repeatedly proposed a similar “Dual Freeze” solution to resolve the increasingly dangerous stand-off with the US. But Washington repeatedly refused.

In July 2017, when China and Russia partnered to endorse the “Dual Freeze” plan, the DPRK welcomed the initiative. During a June 21 TV interview, Kye Chun-yong, North Korea’s ambassador to India, declared: “Under certain circumstances, we are willing to talk in terms of freezing nuclear testing or missile testing. For instance, if the American side completely stops big, large-scale military exercises temporarily or permanently, then we will also temporarily stop.”
“As everybody knows, the Americans have gestured [toward] dialogue,” North Korea’s Deputy UN Ambassador Kim In-ryong told reporters. “But what is important is not words, but actions . . . . The rolling back of the hostile policy toward DPRK is the prerequisite for solving all the problems in the Korean peninsula . . . . Therefore, the urgent issue to be settled on Korean peninsula is to put a definite end to the US hostile policy toward DPRK, the root cause of all problems.”

On January 10, 2015, the KCNA announced that Pyonyang had approached the Obama Administration offering to “temporarily suspend nuclear tests that concerns the US [and] . . . sit face to face with the US.” In exchange, the North requested that the “US suspend joint military exercise temporarily.”

When there was no response, North Korea’s minister of foreign affairs made public note of the rebuff in a statement posted on March 2, 2015: “We already expressed our willingness to take a reciprocal measure in case that the US halts joint military exercise in and around South Korea. However, the US, from the very beginning of the New Year, outright rejected our sincere proposal and effort by announcing ‘additional sanction’ toward North Korea.”

When the Trump administration rejected the latest Russia-China “Freeze” proposal in July 2017, it explained its refusal with this argument: Why should the US halt its “lawful” military exercises in exchange for the North agreeing to abandon its “illicit” weapons activities?

However, the the US-ROK joint-exercises would only be “legal” if they were provably “defensive.” But, as past years (and the NBC leaks cited above) have shown, these exercises are clearly designed to prepare for internationally outlawed acts of aggression—including violations of national sovereignty and the possible political assassination of a head of state.

The diplomatic option remains open. Every other course of action threatens an escalation towards a potential thermonuclear clash.

The “Dual Freeze” seems a fair—and wise—solution. So far, Washington has dismissed Freeze-for-Freeze as “a non-starter.”

ACTIONS:

Tell Trump to Stop Threatening North Korea

Roots Action Petition: Sign Here.

Tell Your Senators: No Military Action Against North Korea

Write your Senators today insisting upon a diplomatic – rather than a military – solution to the conflict with North Korea. You can amplify your impact on this issue by calling your Senators as well. The Capitol Switchboard (202-224-3121) will connect you.

Gar Smith is an award-winning investigative journalist, Editor Emeritus of Earth Island Journal, co-founder of Environmentalists Against War, and author of Nuclear Roulette (Chelsea Green). His new book, The War and Environment Reader (Just World Books) will be published on October 3. He will be speaking at the World Beyond War three-day conference on “War and the Environment,” September 22-24 at the American University in Washington, DC. (For details, visit: http://worldbeyondwar.org/nowar2017.)

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015, 2016, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.

Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

Help support DavidSwanson.org, WarIsACrime.org, and TalkNationRadio.org by clicking here: http://davidswanson.org/donate.

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Is a Nuclear War Inevitable?

In Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on September 7, 2017 at 7:04 am

By LeRoy Moore, Boulder Camera. Sunday, September 3. 2017

On August 8 President Donald Trump said if North Korea doesn’t stop threatening the U.S. it would be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” A spokesman for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un responded that this would be met with a “sea of fire.” These counter-threats present the greatest danger of nuclear war since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. But President John Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev were more levelheaded.

 

Is a nuclear war inevitable? Negotiations are under way, but publicly neither Trump nor Kim backs off. If a war breaks out, the more powerful U.S. can destroy North Korea, though U.S. analysts say North Korea has up to 60 nuclear weapons. Would a war be limited to these two countries? Other nuclear powers, such as China or Russia, may weigh in.

 

In even a limited war we may experience the “nuclear winter” broached by scientists in the 1980s. A nuclear exchange that strikes cities would put so much smoke into the atmosphere that the Sun’s warmth can’t reach us, temperatures drop and the world is plunged into a decade-long nuclear winter – so cold no food can be produced. Millions may die.

If this is what we face, why not get rid of nuclear weapons? Here are a few answers. First, in The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb (1995) Gar Alperovitz shows that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not necessary, because Japan was already negotiating its surrender with the Soviet Union (at the time a neutral party). This was known to decision-makers in Washington. The real reason to use the bombs was not to defeat the Japanese or save the lives of U.S. troops but to intimidate the Soviets.

Second, after the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was well known that tens of thousands of innocent non-military people had died, including “all those children” mentioned by a repentant President Truman. Had the U.S. lost World War II, its leaders, like those of Germany and Japan, would have been punished for violating the “laws of war.” But victors aren’t punished.

Third, not long after the war ended, the Soviets proposed that all nuclear materials be deposited with the U.N. so bombs could not be built. The U.S. disagreed, so it could continue as the strongest power. The Soviets soon had bombs of their own. Thus began the arms race.

Fourth, Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970 obligates parties to the treaty “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date . . . and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” The language is clear, but none of the five nuclear states at the time (U.S., USSR, England, France and China) acted to abolish their nuclear weapons. Now, 46 years later, four more nations have nuclear weapons – India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. None act to eliminate their weapons. International lawyer Richard Falk, in his book Power Shift (2016), calls the Non-Proliferation Treaty a sham.

Fifth, on July 7, 2017, at a U.N. session 122 nations – 63 per cent of all countries – adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It prohibits the development, production, possession, testing and use of nuclear weapons. These weapons are unconditionally stigmatized as standing outside international humanitarian law. What is commonly called the “Ban Treaty” will enter into force as soon as it is signed by 50 nations. It opens to signatures on September 20. Several countries, including the U.S., say they will not sign.

The folly continues. Given this sad history, I often think that only the actual use of nuclear weapons by one or more parties will bring the human race to its senses. Must we pay the high price of nuclear war between the U.S. and North Korea to turn the world away from these harmful weapons?

A wiser approach is for the United States, which took the lead of introducing nuclear weapons, now to lead the world to abolish them. If the U.S. signs the Ban Treaty, other nations will follow. Ridding the world of nuclear weapons is long overdue. These weapons should be abolished before their use abolishes us.

 

Please sign and share with others this petition calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Go to this link https://actionnetwork.org/letters/tell-us-to-join-treaty-banning-nuclear-weapons-possession

 

LeRoy Moore, PhD, is a consultant with the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, Boulder, CO.

An Incoherent Strategy on North Korea

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on September 7, 2017 at 6:59 am

Editorial Boaard, New York Times, Sept. 6, 2017

The North Korean nuclear threat is worsening by the day. Tougher economic sanctions have not accomplished much, if anything. Nor has President Trump’s bellicosity. Sunday’s nuclear test was the North’s most powerful blast in the 11 years it has been detonating nuclear weapons. There are signs of another test soon.

Mr. Trump’s approach has so far consisted of sanctions, pressure on China — North Korea’s chief ally — and taunts against the government in Pyongyang. These messages have not only produced zero positive results but they have also sowed confusion about his intentions. The president and his team seem unable or unwilling to put together a realistic and coherent strategy that goes beyond pressure tactics and harsh rhetoric to include a serious effort to engage the North Koreans.

There have been some inexplicable errors along the way. The latest was to pick a fight with South Korea, an ally whose cooperation is vital to resolving the North Korea crisis. At a moment when South Korea needs to be able to trust America’s commitments, Mr. Trump has unwisely hinted at abrogating an important bilateral trade deal, thus potentially ceding more economic ground to China, and accused its new president, Moon Jae-in, of “appeasement” toward North Korea. The South Koreans are so upset, there is talk among some of developing their own nuclear weapons, which would compound the present insanity.

Containing the North is not a simple task. President Bill Clinton worked out a deal that froze the North’s plutonium program for eight years, only to see the agreement collapse under George W. Bush. The North’s nuclear program is now far more advanced, making getting rid of it, or even containing it, a lot harder.

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, is certainly playing a dangerous game; Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, warned Monday that Mr. Kim is “begging for war.” But unless he is completely deranged he must know that war with the United States would be suicide. He seems to regard nuclear weapons as his only guarantee of survival in the face of American hostility.

He has reason to worry: Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the Libyan leader, gave up his nascent nuclear program in 2003 in return for promises of economic integration with the West. But when rebels rose up against him, he was bombed by the United States and its allies, then executed by rebels.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have insisted that the United States is not aiming for regime change. But it could be doing considerably more to lower the temperature and lead the way to a more peaceful solution. On Sunday, Mr. Mattis seemed intent on doing just the opposite, promising a “massive military response” in return for “any threat” — not just an attack but the threat of an attack — against the United States; its territories, like Guam; or its allies. And while Mr. Mattis and Mr. Tillerson have both hinted at dialogue with the North, Mr. Trump tweeted that “talking is not the answer!”

Ms. Haley pressed the Security Council this week to impose an oil ban on North Korea. That’s a likely nonstarter, since it would mostly affect China, which is the North’s primary oil supplier and has long resisted such a ban because it fears it could set off a collapse of the Kim regime, a flood of refugees into China and the reunification of the Korean Peninsula under South Korea. Many experts also doubt the usefulness of sanctions as a tool to force the North to abandon its nuclear weapons, which Pyongyang sees as the only real leverage it has on the global stage.

Ms. Haley’s boss seems no less enamored of the China card, threatening to end trade with China if it does not curtail trade with the North — a completely empty threat given the powerful economic ties between China and the United States and China’s pivotal role in the global economy. Mr. Trump would be better advised to work with China on a diplomatic initiative that could include the threat of tougher sanctions but would offer the North a deal in which Pyongyang would freeze its nuclear and missile tests in exchange for some American concessions, like a reduction in military exercises.

It is not at all clear that Mr. Kim is interested in talking. But Mr. Trump needs to test the possibility before design or miscalculation leads to war.

 

What the Media isn’t Telling You About North Korea’s Missile Tests

In Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on September 5, 2017 at 10:09 am

By Mike Whitney
September 04, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – Here’s what the media isn’t telling you about North Korea’s recent missile tests.

Last Monday, the DPRK fired a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan’s Hokkaido Island. The missile landed in the waters beyond the island harming neither people nor property.

The media immediately condemned the test as a “bold and provocative act” that showed the North’s defiance of UN resolutions and “contempt for its neighbors.” President Trump sharply criticized the missile test saying:

“Threatening and destabilizing actions only increase the North Korean regime’s isolation in the region and among all nations of the world. All options are on the table.”

What the media failed to mention was that, for the last three weeks, Japan, South Korea and the US have been engaged in large-scale joint-military drills on Hokkaido Island and in South Korea. These needlessly provocative war games are designed to simulate an invasion of North Korea and a “decapitation” operation to remove (Re: Kill) the regime. North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un has asked the US repeatedly to end these military exercises, but the US has stubbornly refused. The US reserves the right to threaten anyone, anytime and anywhere even right on their doorstep. It’s part of what makes the US exceptional. Check out this excerpt from an article at Fox News:

“More than 3,500 American and Japanese troops kicked off a weeks-long joint military exercise Thursday against the backdrop of an increasingly belligerent North Korean regime. The exercise, known as Northern Viper 17, will take place on Hokkaido — Japan’s northern-most main island — and will last until Aug. 28….

“We are improving our readiness not only in the air, but as a logistical support team,” Col. R. Scott Jobe, the 35th Fighter Wing commander, said in a statement. “We are in a prime location for contingency purposes and this exercise will only build upon our readiness in the case a real-world scenario occurs.” (US, Japanese troops begin joint military exercise amid North Korea threat”, Fox News)

Monday’s missile test (which flew over Hokkaido Island) was conducted just hours after the war games ended. The message was clear: The North is not going to be publicly humiliated and slapped around without responding. Rather than show weakness, the North demonstrated that it was prepared to defend itself against foreign aggression. In other words, the test was NOT a “bold and provocative act” (as the media stated) but a modest and well thought-out response by a country that has experienced 64 years of relentless hectoring, sanctions, demonization and saber rattling by Washington. The North responded because the Washington’s incitements required a response. End of story.

And the same is true of the three short-range ballistic missiles the North tested last week. (two of which apparently fizzled out shortly after launching.) These tests were a response to the 3 week-long joint-military drills in South Korea which involved 75,000 combat troops accompanied by hundreds of tanks, armored vehicles, landing craft, heavy artillery, a full naval flotilla and flyovers by squadrons of state of the art fighters and strategic bombers. Was the North supposed to sit on its hands while this menacing display of brute military force took place right under its nose???

Of course not. Imagine if Russia engaged in a similar operation over the border in Mexico while the Russian fleet conducted “live fire” drills three miles outside of San Francisco Bay. What do you think Trump’s reaction would be?

He’d blow those boats out of the water faster than you could say “Jackie Robinson”, right?

So why the double standard when it comes to North Korea? Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

North Korea should be applauded for showing that it won’t be intimidated by the schoolyard bully. Kim knows that any confrontation with the US will end badly for the North, even so, he hasn’t caved in or allowed himself to be pushed around by the blustering, browbeating thugs in the White House. Booyah, Kim.

By the way, Trump’s response to Monday’s missile test was barely covered in the mainstream media, and for good reason. Here’s what happened two days later:

On Wednesday, a US-led flight-group of F-35B fighters, F-15 fighters and B-1B bombers conducted military operations over a training range east of Seoul. The B-1B’s, which are low-altitude nuclear bombers, dropped their dummy-bombs on the site and then returned to their home base. The show of force was intended to send a message to Pyongyang that Washington is unhappy with the North’s ballistic missile testing project and is prepared to use nuclear weapons against the North if it fails to heed Washington’s diktats.

So Washington is prepared to nuke the North if they don’t straighten up and do as they are told?

It sure looks that way, but who really knows? In any event, Kim has no choice but to stand firm. If he shows any sign of weakness, he knows he’s going to end up like Saddam and Gaddafi. And that, of course, is what’s driving the hyperbolic rhetoric; the North wants to avoid the Gaddafi scenario at all cost. (BTW, the reason Kim has threatened to fire missiles at the waters surrounding Guam is because Guam is the home of Anderson Airforce Base which is the point-of-origin for the B-1B nuclear-capable bombers that have been making threatening flyovers on the Korean Peninsula for some time now. The North feels like it has to respond to that existential threat.

Wouldn’t it help if the media mentioned that fact or does it better serve their agenda to make it look like Kim is barking mad by lashing out against the ‘totally innocent’ United States, a country that only seeks to preserve the peace wherever it goes?

Give me a break!
It is so hard to find anything in the media that doesn’t reflect Washington’s bias and hostility. Surprisingly, there was pretty decent article at CBS News last week written by a former Western intelligence officer with decades of experience in Asia. It’s the only article I’ve found that accurately explains what’s really going on beyond the propaganda. Check it out:

“Prior to President Trump’s inauguration, North Korea made it clear it was prepared to give the new U.S. administration time to review the policy and come up with something better than President Obama’s. The only wrinkle was that if the U.S. went full-steam ahead with its annual joint exercises with South Korea (especially if that were accompanied by more talk of “decapitation” and more flights of strategic bombers over the Korean peninsula), the North would react strongly.

In short, the U.S. did, and the North reacted.

Behind-the-scenes contacts went up and down, but couldn’t get traction. In April, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un paraded new missiles as a warning, to no effect. The regime launched the new systems, one after another. Still, Washington’s approach didn’t change.” (Analysis: Pyongyang’s view of the North Korea-U.S. crisis”, CBS News)

Okay, so now we know the truth: The North gave it their best shot and came up snakeeyes, mainly because Washington doesn’t want to negotiate, they’d rather twist arms (Russia and China), tighten the embargo and threaten war. That’s Trump’s solution. Here’s more from the same piece:

“On July 4, after North Korea’s first successful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch, Kim sent a public signal that the North could put the nuclear and missile programs “on the table” if the U.S. changed its approach.

The U.S. did not, so the North launched another ICBM, very deliberately deeming it a warning to the U.S. that they were to be taken seriously. Still, more B-1 bombers flew over the Peninsula, and the U.N. Security Council passed new sanctions.” (CBS News)

So, the North was ready to do some serious horse-trading, but the US balked. Kim probably heard what a wheeler dealer Trump was and figured they could work something out. But it hasn’t happen. Trump has turned out to be a bigger bust than Obama, which is pretty bad. He not only refuses to negotiate but he also delivers bellicose threats almost every day. This isn’t what the North was expecting. They were expecting a “non interventionist” leader who might be receptive to a trade-off.

The current situation has left Kim with no good options. He can either cave in and terminate his missile program altogether or increase the frequency of the tests and hope that they pave the way for negotiations. Kim chose the latter.

Did he make a bad choice?

Maybe.

Is it a rational choice?

Yes.

The North is betting that its nuclear weapons programs will be valuable bargaining chits in future negotiations with the United States. The North has no plan to nuke the west coast of the United States. That’s ridiculous! That doesn’t accomplish anything. What they want is to preserve their regime, procure security guarantees from Washington, lift the embargo, normalize relations with the South, extricate the US from the political affairs of the peninsula, and (hopefully) end the irritating and endlessly provocative 64 year US occupation. Yankee go home. Please.

Bottom line: The North is ready to deal. They want negotiations. They want to end the war. They want to put this whole nightmare behind them and get on with their lives. But Washington won’t let them because Washington likes the status quo. Washington wants to be a permanent feature in South Korea so it can encircle Russia and China with lethal missile systems and expand its geopolitical grip bringing the world closer to nuclear Armageddon.

That’s what Washington wants, and that’s why the crisis on the peninsula will continue to boil.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.
This article was first published by Counterpunch –