The Road to Confusion

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Alright, let’s see if we understand this so far: we have North Korea, one of the world’s most mysterious and hyper states that admits it’s violated a 1994 treaty with the United States by pursuing a nuclear programme and is embarking on resuming that program. The Administration says we can resolve this peacefully by talking to this despotic regime. Then, we have Iraq on the other side of the globe whose government denies having any programme at all and has been under intense scrutiny by the international community. We’re also building up our armed forces in the region and breathlessly proclaim what a threat Iraq is to the United States.

In the words of my best friend, the poet-warrior: what the fuck?

None of this makes any sense at all. We have a country that is, for all purposes, declaring to the world their intention to develop the vaunted weapons of mass destructions and the Bush Administration swears up and down, right and left that the way to deal with this is through diplomatic channels. Okay, we’ll give them that, but why are still going to invade Iraq? The existence of an Iraqi nuclear programme is all but considered a foregone conclusion by the warmongers in the White House but they have so far failed to give anybody any smoking gun. Even British prime minister Tony Blair’s “damning” dossier (released in September) failed to live up to expectations.

Then we hear that legendary spook organization the CIA suspects North Korea of possessing 2-3 nuclear devices, although there is no indicated they have the know-how to mount these devices on a missile. We know North Korea has test fired a long-range Taepodong missile over Japanese territory in 1998, that they have a million-man army and often act like cartoonish villians out of a James Bond flick. It’s the equivalent of someone waving a gun and announcing that they are going to maybe, probably kill someone when they get the drawer where we keep the bullets. Or better yet, like a scene from a movie where the bad guy spells out in great detail his evil plans for all sorts of mayhem to the hero he thinks will be dead soon.

Even veteran North Korea watchers seem puzzled by their actions. At first, it seemed to be dimissed as a desperate negotiating ploy to get the US back to the table, and what the North Koreans really wanted was to engage directly in talks with the Americans. But their actions (kicking out UN inspectors, transferring fuel rods and threatening to re-start the 5 mega-watt reactor) are more like escalating brinkmanship than clever diplomatic positioning. At this point, North Korea seems irrational.

But that word better applies to what we’re getting ready to do Iraq. It isn’t that any believes the Iraqis are just sitting on the hill in their togas and laurel wreaths reciting pre-Islamic poetry and wanting to be left alone. No one should take seriously what Baghdad says is a non-existent weapons programme. Those claims rank up there with a 99% vote to keep Saddam Hussein as president. At the same time, why is that the legendary CIA can make pointed claims about the North Korean nuclear threat but not produce any maps for the UN inspectors in Baghdad as to where the weapons of mass destruction are located? It seems almost impossible that in the four years since the last UN inspectors where thrown out of Iraq, neither American nor British (or Israeli for that matter) intelligence can point out where the damn Iraqis are hiding their bombs. But when it comes to North Korea, we all seem to have enough facts to warrant extreme concern but, then we deflect to diplomacy.

It’s increasingly harder to believe that Saddam Hussein is the existential threat to Americans that the Bush Administration contends he is. We’re about to invade Iraq over what we claim they have, but we’re content to let North Korea salivate like a mad dog over what we know they have. Given that North Korea is geographically closer to the United States than Iraq, it would seem that a burgeoning nuclear player a stone’s throw across the Pacific is much more dangerous than a country we’ve been bombing since the end of the Gulf War -- one that has no missiles capable of coming anywhere close to American soil. Lest we forget, the North Koreans possess missiles that are capable of hitting not only its neighbors, but also the 100,000 American troops stationed in Asia.

That all just leads back to the long-standing question: what exactly is our policy? The chickenhawks in Congress and Capitol Hill are intent on invading and destroying Iraq; the prevailing notion is that we don’t need to have it confirmed that the Iraqis have weapons of mass destruction whether or not the UN inspection team actually finds something. But we’re curiously mum about what to do with North Korea: the best we’ve come up with so far is we won’t deal with them until they abandon their nuclear ambitions. Come on, people! They’re the ones with the weapons of mass destruction, the desire to start up a nuclear programme and threaten their neighbors. The current Iraqi regime is no walk in the park, but why are they suddenly the most dangerous people on earth? In some regards, this is hypocrisy at its best. We thought the message emanating from Washington was that we would tolerate no threat to our country and act pre-emptively to nip this threat in the bud.

Makes sense. In an extremely circular kinda way.