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A Worthy Legacy
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America’s Suicidal Statecraft
The End of the 19th Century
Up Close: A Mother’s View
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My Angels Are Come
The Declaration of White Independence: The Founding Documents of Transudationism
Awaken and Arise!
One Time in Paris
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North Korea: “Sanity”
By Michael Parenti
Nations that chart a self-defining course, seeking to use their land, labor, natural resources, and markets as they see fit, free from the smothering embrace of the US corporate global order, frequently become a target of defamation. Their leaders often have their moral sanity called into question by US officials and US media, as has been the case at one time or another with Castro, Noriega, Ortega, Qaddafi, Aristide, Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, Hugo Chavez, and others.
So it comes as no surprise that the rulers of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) have been routinely described as mentally unbalanced by our policymakers and pundits. Senior Defense Department officials refer to the DPRK as a country “not of this planet,” led by “dysfunctional” autocrats. One government official, quoted in the New York Times, wondered aloud “if they are really totally crazy.” The New Yorker magazine called them “balmy,” and late-night TV host David Letterman got into the act by labeling Kim Jong-il a “madman maniac.”
To be sure, there are things about the DPRK that one might wonder about, including its dynastic leadership system, its highly dictatorial one-party rule, and the chaos that seems implanted in the heart of its “planned” economy.
But in its much advertised effort to become a nuclear power, North Korea is actually displaying more sanity than first meets the eye. The Pyongyang leadership seems to know something about US global policy that our own policymakers and pundits have overlooked. In a word, the United States has never attacked or invaded any nation that has a nuclear arsenal.
The countries directly battered by US military actions in recent decades (Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, then again Iraq), along with numerous other states that have been threatened at one time or another for being “anti-American” or “anti-West” (Iran, Cuba, South Yemen, Venezuela, Syria, North Korea, and others) have one thing in common: not one of them has wielded a nuclear deterrence-until now.
Let us provide a little background. Put aside the entire Korean War (1950-53) in which US aerial power destroyed most of the DPRK’s infrastructure and tens of thousands of its civilians. Consider more recent events. In the jingoist tide that followed the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President George W. Bush claimed the right to initiate any military action against any “terrorist” nation, organization, or individual of his choosing. Such a claim to arbitrary power-in violation of international law, the UN charter, and the US Constitution-transformed the president into something of an absolute monarch who could exercise life and death power over any quarter of the Earth. Needless to say, numerous nations–the DPRK among them-were considerably discomforted by the US president’s elevation to King of the Planet.
It was only in 2008 that President Bush finally removed North Korea from a list of states that allegedly sponsor terrorism. But there remains another more devilishly disquieting hit list that Pyongyang recalls. In December 2001, two months after 9/11, Vice President Dick Cheney referred chillingly to “forty or fifty countries” that might need military disciplining. A month later in his 2002 State of the Union message, President Bush pruned the list down to three especially dangerous culprits: Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, who, he said, composed an “axis of evil.”
It was a curious lumping together of three nations that had little in common. In Iraq the leadership was secular, in Iran it was a near Islamic theocracy. And far from being allies, the two countries were serious enemies. Meanwhile the DPRK, had no historical, cultural, or geographical links to either Iraq or Iran. But it could witness what was happening.
The first to get hit was Iraq, nation #1 on the short list of accused evil doers. Before the Gulf War of 1990-91 and the subsequent decade of sanctions, Iraq had the highest standard of living in the Middle East. But years of war, sanctions, and occupation reduced the country to shambles, its infrastructure shattered and much of its population drenched in blood and misery.
Were it not that Iraq has proven to be such a costly venture, the United States long ago would have been moving against Iran, #2 on the axis-of-evil hit list. As we might expect, Iranian president Mahmoud Amadinijad has been diagnosed in the US media as “dangerously unstable.” The Pentagon has announced that thousands of key sites in Iran have been mapped and targeted for aerial attack. All sorts of threats have been directed against Tehran for having pursued an enriched uranium program-which every nation in the world has a right to do. And on a recent Sunday TV program, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that the United States might undertake a “first strike” against Iran to prevent its nuclear weapons development. Read More
The Obama Enigma: Imperial
By Rodrigue Tremblay
“We do not want a PAX Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children – not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women – not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.”
“I will not hesitate to use force unilaterally, if necessary, to protect the American people or our vital interests wherever we are attacked or imminently threatened. …We must also consider using military force in circumstances beyond self-defense, in order to provide for the common security that underpins global stability – to support friends, participate in stability and reconstruction operations, or confront mass atrocities.”
“Our interest in Afghanistan is to prevent it from becoming a haven for terrorists bent on attacking us. That does not require the scale of military operations that the incoming administration is contemplating. It does not require wholesale occupation. It does not require the endless funneling of human treasure and countless billions of taxpayer dollars to the Afghan government.”
Those who thought that the election of Barack Obama as American President would mean a fundamental shift in U.S. foreign policy should have lost their illusions by now. Faces change but the system remains. When you want change, it’s necessary to look beyond a single individual and evaluate the team he is working with …or for. And the Obama team is what can be called a soft neoconservative team, all devoted to maintaining the military-industrial complex, and all sold out with the ideology of permanent wars rather than permanent human progress.
The truth is that during the last election, both candidate McCain and candidate Obama campaigned under the cover of fighting terrorism. That is the reason I had concluded then that candidate Obama was only marginally superior to candidate McCain, but not fundamentally different. In fact, I believe that as far as character goes, McCain was probably more his own man than Obama, who has demonstrated a tendency to align himself with powerful interests in order to bolster his political career.
There seems to have been a deal here: Obama will be kept busy shaking hands, traveling and delivering grand speeches or sermons, while Chief of cabinet Rahm Emanuel will run the White House. Everything then fell into place: Marine Corps General James Jones was named National Security Advisor (N.B.: The national security adviser heads the National Security Council, which is the part of the White House structure that deals with foreign policy), and Bush’s Defense Secretary Robert Gates was asked to remain at his post. This alone should have persuaded most everyone that U.S. foreign policy would only change in tone, not in substance.
By enlarging and expanding the Afghanistan-Pakistan war, just as U.S. troops reduce their unwelcomed presence in Iraq, Obama has de facto endorsed interventionism and militarism as the cornerstone of his foreign policy. This is a failed policy, besides being immoral, because it requires the pursuit of a contradiction, i.e., killing civilians and supporting authoritarian regimes while attempting to obtain the support of a foreign population in favor of democracy.
What is more, Obama is enlarging a war that has no clear rationale behind it and no clear objectives. If the main rationale is to build his political image as “commander-in-chief”, then Obama is falling into the same trap as George W. Bush. The Afghanistan-Pakistan war will be his war and it will be a quagmire. When he signed an order increasing U.S. troops by 17,000 combat and support personnel in Afghanistan, then newly sworn in President Barack Obama said the war in Afghanistan was “still winnable”. What did he mean? Does it mean that the U.S. will have troops over there for decades?
It seems that nothing is learned from history and that everything has to be relearned. Such a policy failed miserably in Vietnam, and it is most likely to fail again in Afghanistan-Pakistan, two countries whose borders are highly artificial, having been imposed by imperial Great Britain in the nineteen century. It also failed for the Soviets who had to withdraw from Afghanistan after eight-and-a-half disastrous years. Soon after, the entire Soviet regime collapsed.
Indeed, by enlarging the Afghanistan-Pakistan War, President Obama is embarking on a course of action that could eventually destroy his presidency. It will be a repeat of President Lyndon B. Johnson who was destroyed politically with his Vietnam War, even though this was a war he had not started. As in Vietnam, the ill-conceived Afghanistan war will become a war of attrition that will drain public support and finances as the war becomes more and more Americanized. This will be another tragedy.
If Obama listens to the military, as he obviously seems to do, he will be fed the deadly pablum that every problem in the world is a military problem. But this is false and counterproductive. In fact, bombing civilian populations will only enrage them against the invaders, just as bombing the United States would naturally enrage Americans. On that, Obama and his team are on the same wavelength and on the same path to disaster as Bush-Cheney and their neocon sycophants.
This is too bad. President Barack Obama is quickly wasting his political capital and his political credibility. And once lost, it will be difficult to regain them.
Rodrigue Tremblay is professor emeritus of economics at the University of Montreal and can be reached at rodrigue.tremblay@ yahoo.com. He is the author of the book The New American Empire. Visit his blog site at www.thenewamericanempire.com/blog.
A bone-chilling political
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