By Ramzy Baroud
The US administration’s double standards in dealing with the intensifying nuclear crisis in North Korea further strengthens the argument that President George W Bush’s colonial designs are either exasperated by the vulnerability of his foes or deterred by their lethal preparedness.
Considering the US-North Korea protracted standoff, one can only imagine how foolishly disposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein must now feel that he didn’t pursue a more determined programme of weapons of mass destruction. Even if one would accept Iran’s claims that its nuclear programme is constructed for peaceful purposes, one has to wonder if Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is willing to reconsider the overriding intent of his nuclear ambitions.
Indeed, the United States’ feeble, yet precarious handling of the Korean Peninsula crisis, instigated by North Korea’s underground nuclear test on October 9 in the north-east Hamgyong province is further attestation to a very important deduction: The US war on Iraq was never intended to dismantle Iraq’s alleged stockpiles of illicit weapons, but to control the world’s most strategically and economically viable region. Despite incessant assurances by the former Iraqi government that it possessed no such weapons, allegations confirmed repeatedly by international monitors and verified on more than one occasion by the United Nations itself, war seemed the only rational response in the anxious minds of Washington’s warmongers.
A recent study, published by a joint US-Iraqi team in the eminent medical journal, The Lancet, estimates that about 655,000 Iraqis have been killed in post-invasion Iraq, 31 per cent of whom have fallen victim to US and other ‘coalition’ attacks. While the bulk of the reported casualties allegedly took place during the ongoing ethnic strife, few can claim that such deaths would have taken place were it not for the state of chaos and ethnic rivalry created and fed by the March 2003 US takeover. Needless to say, no WMDs were ever recovered from Iraq, for no such weapons existed.
Yet while the death toll is now comfortably exceeding the half-million mark, US officials arrogantly parrot the same tired argument: that the world is now better off without Saddam Hussein, a classically pretentious retort to any serious criticism of the Bush administration’s disastrous and reckless war. In my visit to Iraq in 1999 to report on the crippling economic embargo, the sites of newly erected statues honouring Saddam provoked a feeling of revulsion and disgust. However, to confidently argue that Iraqis are better off now than ever before is pure hypocrisy and self-exaltation.
What is even more infuriating to any rational human mind is the eagerness for war exhibited by the US administration and its propagandists throughout the Western media prior to the invasion of Iraq, and the utter laxity — interrupted by occasional shouting matches — towards a much more immediate North Korean threat, one that is sending waves of fear throughout an already fractious region.
Only days after the North Korean nuclear test, some US officials ruled out the military option, while others called for the resumption of the six-nation talks which had for years engaged North Korea, the United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.
The talks were of great benefit to a region whose economic progress is highly dependent on its political stability. Although the nuclear row is anything but new — North Korea renounced its commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1993 — the US seemed willing at times to exhaust the diplomatic option. Such efforts proved successful as early as 1994, when former US President Jimmy Carter visited the North to help diffuse simmering tension.
The most recent development, however, was the culmination of a row that dates back to late 2005. Just weeks after a joint statement by the six nations declared the North’s agreement to end its nuclear quest and dismantle its programme, the Bush administration provoked Pyongyang when it slapped the impoverished country with monetary sanctions that gravely harmed its banking system. Level-headed US diplomats involved in engaging North Korea were, once again, marginalised by elements within the administration that saw sanctions and war as the only effective foreign policy mechanisations. Just as the war on Iraq failed to bring stability to the Middle East and secure US economic interests there, the breakaway from diplomatic efforts to engage North Korea have helped produce an irrevocable scenario, where the latter now effectively possesses semi-usable nuclear capabilities. Pyongyang now has nuclear technology and the long-range missiles to deliver them. If the issue were treated with sincerity, political consistency, yet unity and firmness from the outset, the region would not have had to endure such trepidation. Instead, the US found it more suitable to ravage Iraq under a cluster of pretences in a war that has substantiated and spread terror around the world, not withstanding Iraq itself.
How will Washington respond to Kim Jong II’s latest grandiose act is still unclear, but it will most likely be consistent with the United States’ own political agenda, not the good of the region. In my first visit to South Korea a few months ago, I learned to appreciate the peacefulness and hospitality of the Korean people; they are one of the most accomplished and proud nations I have ever visited; their ambitions hardly deviate from those of political stability, economic prosperity and progress. Japan too has ample reasons to see an end to this uncertainty, and the Japanese people too don’t deserve to be held hostage to lethal US-North Korean games.
There is so much at stake for the economically vibrant Asian Pacific Rim countries; knowing what we now know about the risk of allowing the United States to meddle in other regions’ affairs and the disastrous Iraq tragedy it helped spawn, these countries must rely on their own diplomatic channels to bring an end to, as opposed to further exasperate, the nuclear crisis. The Korean peninsula must be denuclearised for the sake of its people and the region as a whole. The US inconsistency, double standards and quick resorts to policies of starvation and wars cannot achieve such an objective; it can only make matters worse, with Iraq remaining the prime example.
-Ramzy Baroud’s latest book: The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London) is now available on www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com and www.plutobooks.com.