Category Archives: President Kim Jong-un

Destiny and Daring: South Korean President Moon Jae-In’s Impossible Journey Towards Peace

South Korean President Moon Jae-In

The South Korean president, Moon Jae-In, has been a discreet if powerful mover in the recent détente and peace-building process between North and South Korea and the US.  If the momentum of the Panmunjom Declaration and the successful summit between the DPRK and the US are continued, then promising outcomes are possible: peace and denuclearization of the peninsula, economic reintegration, diplomatic normalization, possible future confederation, and fundamental geopolitical shift.  What bodes well is that the people of South Korea have extraordinary confidence in President Moon Jae and his policies.  This much loved and respected individual is someone who has spent a lifetime achieving extraordinary outcomes while struggling against impossible, unbelievable odds.

The following passages in block quotes are some vignettes (in his own words, lightly annotated or edited for clarity) extracted from his modest, understated autobiography, Destiny, written in 2011, that give us some insights into this extraordinary leader and human being.

Rich Tigers and Starving Dogs:

In 1972, the South Korean military dictator Park Chung Hee—a former Japanese colonial collaborator—directed his secret police to rewrite South Korea’s authoritarian constitution.  The result, known as the Yushin [“revitalizing reform”] constitution, was a totalitarian document cribbed in title, content, and spirit from the Imperial Meiji Constitution of the Japanese Empire.  This constitution granted Park the South Korean presidency for life, along with powers comparable to the Japanese Showa Emperor.

Sodaemun Prison was an infamous prison constructed by the Japanese 1907 to imprison and torture Korean independence activists during their long colonization of Korea.  After the Japanese left, the South Korean military dictatorship—created from whole cloth from former Japanese collaborators by a cold war US caretaker government—used it to imprison many South Korean activists fighting for democratic reform–in continuity with the habits of their former colonial masters.  When popular protests broke out against this 1972 constitutional coup, Park Chung Hee imprisoned and tortured its key leaders.  Moon Jae-In was one of the student activist leaders imprisoned in Sodaemun Prison for protesting the Yushin “reforms”.  Here he describes his experiences in Prison.

In the Prison, there were two types of prisoners. “Tiger fur” prisoners, and “dog fur” prisoners.

Dogs and Tigers had a different prison lives.  In no other place in the world does the power of wealth manifest itself so nakedly.  In our cell, half of the prisoners were “tiger furs”, and the others were “dog furs”, and so I inadvertently got some of the benefits of the tigers, for example, tiger cells and dog cells got different amounts of time to use the washing facilities in the morning.

Everyone in my cell called me student, and treated me well. I had been a 4th year law student, when I was arrested, and I had passed the first level of the bar exam, so I helped cell mates write appeals or legal briefs. Word got out, and prisoners in other cells also asked me to help.

There is something I can’t forget from my life in prison. At the time, near the prison, there were many pigeons, and often they would settle in the yard. When I was bored, I would watch them from above. There were also inmates who would throw leftover food to the doves.  In our cell, there were many tigers, and they would purchase “private meals”. They would also buy snacks between meals–dry wheat crackers, which when mixed with margarine and egg yolk, making a sort of cream–was worth eating.

So naturally, the [unappetizing] “government food” [i.e. prison food] would be left over. So I would collect it and toss it to the pigeons.

As that continued, the pigeons would start to gather near our cell at regular times. But whenever I threw out the food, the young boys being held in the children’s block, would scurry towards the windows of their cells and watch the pigeons fight it out amongst themselves for food scraps. First, I thought they were watching for the sheer spectacle of it. But I was wrong. They weren’t watching it for fun.  I was told that they were pained and regretful at the food scraps that were being wasted on the pigeons, food that they would have liked to eat themselves. I was shocked, ashamed, and remorseful.

All the young boys were “dogs”, so all the food they got was “government food” and that was all, and so they were all starving.  After that, I got the cooperation of my cellmates to always leave untouched a few of the “government meals”, and to send them whole over to the boy’s block.

Theater of Cruelty

After serving time in Prison for his anti-government activism, Moon was forcibly conscripted into the South Korean Military.  After basic training, he was sent into the Special Forces Warfare Brigade (1st Paratroop Brigade) led by a General Chun Doo Hwan.  A close retainer of Park Chung Hee, Chun would later take power as the military dictator in a coup in December of 1979 after the assassination of Park, and rule the county with an iron fist until 1987.  Along the way, Chun would declare martial law, imprison tens of thousands off the street into “Triple Purification Re-education Camps”, and would unleash tanks and helicopter gunships on the citizen protestors in the City of Gwangju. Activists leading up to, and after this period, even after they had finished their prison sentences, were often conscripted into the military for further long term re-education though brutal military training, a form of prolonged conversion torture—Special Forces divisions had casualty rates of 25%. Moon talks here about the last days of basic training.

To uncover beatings, a supervising division inspector would come unannounced, and inspect recruits’ behinds for bruises inflicted with (baseball) bats. Mindful of this, our trainers wouldn’t beat our behinds, but beat us on the soles of our feet instead. Being beaten on the soles of the feet is many times more painful than being beaten on the behind. Because I had been designated a senior squad leader, every time any member of our platoon made a mistake, I was beaten. So I received the bastinado* a lot.

[*Bastinado, Falanga, Falaka, Beating or flogging of the feet, is a humiliating and excruciating form of punishment and is widely recognized as a form of torture. Often associated with the Third Reich, and Middle Eastern dictatorships, it uses the exquisitely pressure-sensitive nerves of the foot that balance the body to inflict unremitting, excruciating, crippling pain].

As basic training evaluation time approached, our boot camp drill instructors threatened us. “If you write something [negative] on your “wish list” [evaluations], we will do an analysis of the handwriting, and we will find you and make your life unbearable.” With a couple of days before the end of our basic training, the upper division inspector came over to conduct a training evaluation. The inspector chased out all the drill assistants, handed out sheets of paper, and asked us write down everything that had been troubling, difficult, everything that could be improved, and to list all the incidents of beatings and other violations that we had suffered or observed. When everyone hesitated, the inspector said with convincing sincerity, “Your basic training has ended, but if there are things that should be fixed, please list them, so those who come behind you will not suffer the same difficulties and indignities, and our military will be able to develop into a better military”.

When the active service soldiers started to rubberneck around us, the inspector chased them out with loud, scolding words.  “It will be all anonymous, so there will be no repercussions”, he said.  “Your trainers will have intimidated you, but they will never see any of the content, so no need to worry”.  Reassured by the reassuring atmosphere, most of the trainees started to write.  Actually, to tell the truth, we could have written pages upon pages, and still not exhausted all the abuses.

But as soon as the inspectors left, the drill assistants rushed into the space, carrying the very papers we had just written.  It was a complete set up.  The remainder of the time we underwent “energetic reunification”*.  They stated that they would flush out those who had alleged serious abuses, creating an atmosphere of terror.  The next day, the “evaluators” came out again for the “wish list”.  They repeated the same things, created the same reassuring atmosphere. These were the actual inspectors.   But no one was going for it this time.  No one wrote a word.

[*”Kihap” or ”Energetic reunification” is an Orwellian South Korean euphemism for corporal punishment, derived from Japanese military training that uses physical mortification as a way of “rectifying disunified [martial] energy”. South Korea’s government, with its Japanese colonial collaborators and officers, its military culture was likewise derived from Japanese military training and ideologies].

Frozen

5 years later, in 1979, after prison and military service, Moon finally returned to college.  The dictator, Park Chung Hee, whose government had put him in prison, had been assassinated by his own chief of secret police (KCIA) in the prelude to a drunken orgy, as they argued over how violently to suppress civilian protests.  Chun, the general who had led the special warfare brigade where Moon had been a conscript, had taken power in a military coup, and the county was awash with protest and demonstrations against yet another military dictatorship.  When protests escalated, Martial Law was declared, and Moon was arrested again.

I knew it in my bones. Even during martial law, some street protests had been allowed [as an escape valve], and the military had not entered university campuses, but this time, the military was going to go into the campuses and really laying down the law. I told my wife on the bus, “As soon as we get back home, I am going to have to go temporarily into hiding. If that happens, don’t be ashamed.”  It was a naïve wish.

The moment we got off the bus to the entrance to the [family] farm, 5 or 6 burly toughs surrounded us, pointing guns.  They shouted, “Freeze.  Hands up.  You’re Moon Jae-In, right?”.   They were detectives from the Chungnyangni police station who had been waiting to arrest me.

“Can I see your warrant?” I said.

“F*** your warrant”, they said.  This is Martial Law, they shouted, and waved a paper stamped in red ink with the words “Martial Law Certificate”.

They were intimating that under Martial Law, the warrant system is suspended, and thus I should shut up and put up.  In front of the members of my family-in-law, hand cuffs were put on me, and I was put on a bus, and taken into detention at Chungnyangni police station in Seoul.

At that time, I had been living in a boarding house inside Kyunghee University.  The night before my apprehension, Martial Law troops had broken into the boarding house looking for me, and torn the place apart, including the women’s quarters. When they didn’t find me, detectives had gone to my in-law’s home in the morning, breaking in and kicking the place apart with their boots, and still not finding me, they had terrorized the only person there, my wife’s younger sister, a high school student into revealing that we had gone to the [in-law’s] farm on Gangwha Island. So there they were, at the entrance to the farm, having staked out the bus station the whole day, all the while snacking only on bread. In front of my mother and father-in-law, with guns pointed, they forced my hands up and cuffed me.  It was a truly humiliating moment. As I was being taken away, looking out the back of the bus, I could see that they were stunned, frozen in place, wordless.

Catalyst:

In January 1987, seven years into the Chun dictatorship, a student activist by the name of Park Jong Chul was waterboarded to death.  Ghosted away by the police in the middle of the night to one of south Korea’s many “Anti-Communist Interrogation Centers (i.e. torture chambers)” he had been tortured and waterboarded to death.  Although not an uncommon event at the time—thousands had been tortured, some of them to death–Police claimed he had died spontaneously from a heart attack but a coroner with unusual integrity had certified that he had died under torture.

Moon, in the meantime, had been re-released from prison, passed the bar exam, and finished training at the national law institute.  Despite graduating second in his class, because of his activist background, he was denied any opportunities within the judiciary or government.  Although receiving several offers from white shoe corporate law firms in Seoul, he turned them down to partner with one of the rare human rights and labor lawyers in the country, Roh Moo Hyun, who had made a name for himself fighting for the lost causes of tortured political prisoners. 

Roh Moo Hyun, Moon’s partner in crime–a self-taught lawyer with only high school diploma–would later become President of South Korea in 2003, and would invite Moon to be his chief of staff.  Moon would continue the Sunshine policy—the policy of rapprochement with North Korea, including the building of a collaborative business zone.  Roh would later be hounded to suicide by conservative forces, and in the wake of his death, Moon would re-enter politics, later riding the candle light revolution all the way to the presidency in 2017, a revolution in which 16 million people took to the streets to oust the last corrupt, reactionary, dictatorial vestiges of Park Chung Hee and his daughter.

In January 1987, the torture-homicide scandal of Seoul National University student, Park Jong Chul erupted. The police spokesman stated that when the interrogator slammed the table while asking questions, Park had made a sudden sound, and then had fallen down and died. The entire country erupted in fury. The southern city of Pusan was even more enraged. The victim was from Pusan.  The parents lived in Pusan. His 49th Day Departure Rites [Traditional Korean mourning customs believe that the spirit of the deceased remains on the earth for 49 days before departing for the spirit world; at this time, a final departure ceremony is held] The rage against the dictatorial oppression burned most fiercely in Pusan.

February 7th, “The National Committee for the Commemoration of Park Jong Chol” spearheaded a series of national events to remember Park Jong Chol. Counselor Roh and I were part of this preparation committee. The Pusan Region People’s Commemoration Event” was put together by this committee.

The commemoration venue was the Buddhist temple in the middle of the city, The Temple of Great Awakening–Dae Kak Sa.  But the police had hermetically sealed off the temple, and made it impossible to even approach the venue. Riot police had surrounded the temple in layered phalanxes, and citizens who were attempting entry were fired on with tear gas. A scrum of University students faced off against police, and shouted “Bring Back Jong Chul”, but were unable to make any headway into the temple.

We couldn’t just give up and retreat. The Pusan People’s Collective held an emergency assembly, and at the end of it, decided to meet in the street in front of the Pusan Nampodong Theater and conduct a simplified ceremony. Discreetly, people left and regrouped in front of the theater.

At the agreed upon time, 2pm, 300 citizens and students gathered, and held an abbreviated commemoration and rally. They sang the national anthem, protest songs, and gave speeches denouncing the dictatorship, and Counsellor Roh conducted the commemoration rituals. This was the first mass street rallies held since the massive 1979 Busan-Masan Democracy Protests [that triggered the assassination of Park Chung Hee]. In a short time, a multitude of citizens had joined the fray, and the streets were packed full.

Belatedly realizing what had happened, the police encircled the area, and then sent in the “white skull brigade” [Martial arts trained riot police specializing in violent protest suppression—snatching leaders and cracking skulls]. In order to protect the frightened citizens, the leaders of the Pusan Peoples’ Collective placed themselves as a barrier between the students and citizens and the police, sitting down in a long non-violent chain on the ground. Counselor Roh and I joined them.

The police started firing tear gas randomly at the seated protestors. There was no way to avoid it, so we quietly just took the shots.

Then the riot police hurtled towards us, breaking up our lines, snatching us up, and dragging us into the “chicken wire” buses [buses used to detain and transport protestors, with chicken wire over the windows].  Because of the tear gas, even after we were in the buses, we couldn’t open our eyes for a long time.  We were taken over to the Pusan region Anti-Communist Interrogation Center.  That day, after we successfully held our abbreviated ceremony, even after we were apprehended, 10,000 people came out to protest, long into the evening.  This was the beginning of the end, the catalyst for the June protests.

In June of 1987, millions of South Koreans took to the streets—the largest street protests in modern history—and brought down the military dictatorship of Chun Doo Hwan.

Rocking the G7: Trump Stomps His Allies

Disruption, disturbance, eruption, the words crowning the presidency of Donald J. Trump, who has effectively demonstrated an idea made famous by Nazi doodler of law and political theorist Carl Schmitt: politics is defined, not by identifying with friends in cosy harmony but with enemies in constant tension.

There are many ways that Trump might be seen as a creature of Schmittian reaction.  Alliances may well be lauded as good (the diplomat’s clichés of “eternal friendship”, “special bonds” and the treacly covering that comes with it), but then again, potential adversaries can also be considered in accommodating fashion.  In every enduring friendship between states is a potential enemy in wait, a dormant instinct that, given certain circumstances, might awake.  In every alliance, a potential shift might undermine, if not threaten, the national interest.

In short, the current US president likes the bruising, the bullying and the cajoling in the abstract name of US self-interest. Forget the distinctions and the similarities.  There are no values in any shared sense.  There is only his road.

The press conference concluding the summit with Kim Jong-un on Sentosa Island provided the platform for Trump to round on his supposed allies even as he praised Little Rocket Man as his newly made friend, Chairman Kim, no less.  The spectacle was terrifying for groupies of the US empire, those who have praised the virtues of alliances and bonds with Washington as necessary for the Pax Americana.  Before them, the spectacle of US hegemony was being challenged with a brazen confidence. The Chairman seemed to be getting what he wanted, even if it all seemed a touch vague.

As the Kim-Trump show unfolded, the rubble at the G7 seemed to be growing, a sentiment captured by the satirical Borowitz Report in The New Yorker.  The meeting preceding the gathering in Singapore had put many a nose out of joint.  After leaving the Quebec summit, Trump got his fingers busy by tweeting that he had asked US representatives not to endorse the customary joint communiqué from the G7 leaders calling for “free, fair, and mutually beneficial trade” over the devil of protectionism.

The cooling towards Canada’s Justin Trudeau was a case in point, mixed with the usual air of berating condescension and sulkiness.  Much of it had arisen because of a disagreement on whether a sunset clause would find its way into any renegotiated trade agreement between Mexico, Canada and the United States.  Trump’s own version of reality was that negotiators were “pretty close on the sunset provision”.  Trudeau differed on such a reading, wanting nothing of the sort.  The bad blood was taking time to dry.

“Based on Justin’s false statements at his news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our US farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our US reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at tariffs on automobiles flooding the US market!”

In Singapore itself, Trump wished to add some flesh to the remarks, getting a few jocular asides in.  “When I got onto the plane,” considered Trump, “I think that Justin probably didn’t know that Air Force One has about 20 televisions, and I see the television.  And he’s giving a news conference about how he will not be pushed around by the United States.  And I say, push him around?  We just shook hands.  It was very friendly.”

Then came that picture, poured over by aroused pundits and eager commentators, showing Trump sitting down like a bemused, bright coloured Buddha, seemingly defiant, with Germany’s Angela Merkel leaning across with grave school teacher disapproval. “In fact,” he explained, “the picture with Angela Merkel, who I get along with very well, where I’m sitting there like this, that picture was we’re waiting for the document because I wanted to see the final document as changed by the changes that I requested.”

For Trump, the visuals are nigh everything, and this titillates the pundits he lures like starving waifs to a banquet.  Academics are also getting on board, being brought into Trumpland’s sordid undergrowth.  “Critics of President Trump say this is President Trump isolated,” suggested Dan Nexon of Georgetown University on the G7 snap, “so it feeds into the pre-existing narrative.”  But then came the other side, those supporters who considered the show “a sign of American strength, status and position in the dominance hierarchy.”

Others have also fallen for tissue-like substance and liberal readings, suggesting that Trump is seducing those who should know better.  “The symbolic meaning of a 13-second handshake in the visual form is the establishment of a physical and therefore a personal bond between the two leaders,” came the distinctly unscientific observation of political science professor Bruce Miroff.  The G7 meeting did the opposite of the Sentosa Island summit, suggesting a spectacle “of alienation, opposition and even international condemnation of Trump.”

Any amount of time might be spent on such performances, but Trump, for all the displays, remains heartily consistent in what superficially seems to be jolting anarchy.  On the issue of mistrusting, badgering, even punishing allies economically, he has remained true to his word, carrying through attitudes nursed since the 1980s. “I’d throw a tax on every Mercedes-Benz rolling into this country,” he claimed in his 1990 Playboy interview should he ever become President, “and on all Japanese products, and we’d have wonderful allies again.”  And, prophetically, he promised a Schmitt-inspired attitude: don’t “trust our allies” and “perfect” that “huge military arsenal”.

North Korea Issue is Not De-nuclearization But De-Colonization

The critics had already signaled their strategy for derailing any meaningful move toward normalizing relations between the United States and North Korea. Right-wing neoliberals from CNN, MSNBC and NPR are in perfect alignment with the talking points issued by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and the Democrat Party that took the position that anything short of the North Koreans surrendering their national interests and national dignity to the United States was a win for North Korea.

For much of the foreign policy community, corporate media pundits and leaders of the two imperialist parties, the issue is North Korean de-nuclearization. But for the people in Korea and throughout the global South, the real issue has always been the unfinished business of ending the war and beginning the de-colonization of the Korean peninsula.

The interrelated issues of respecting the dignity and sovereignty of the North Korean nation and engaging in an authentic process of de-colonization are precisely why the U.S.-North Korean initiative will fail without a major intervention on the part of the people in the United States demanding that their leaders commit to diplomacy and peace.

There should be no illusions about U.S. intentions. If U.S. policymakers were really concerned with putting a brake on the North Korean nuclear-weapons program, they would have pursued a different set of policies. Such policies would have created the necessary security conditions to convince the North Koreans that a nuclear deterrence to the United States was unnecessary.

The fact that those conditions were not created were less a result of the evil intentions of the North Koreans than it reflected the need to maintain the justification for continued U.S. military deployment in South Korea and in the region. Being able to point to North Korea as a threat to regional security has provided the justifications for U.S. power projection in the region and the ever-expanding U.S. military budget.

With the growing power of China over the last few decades, the threat of North Korea allowed the United States to continue a physical presence right at the underbelly of China. That is why the “agreed framework” under Clinton was not implemented and then jettisoned by the Bush administration. It is also why the Obama administration’s so-called strategic patience was really about a series of increasingly provocative military exercises and no negotiations.

Full Spectrum Dominance and the Psychopathology of White Supremacy

Korea has historically played a significant role for the U.S. imperial project since the end of the second World war. The emergent forces U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower identified as the military/industrial/complex are still present, but are now exercising hegemonic power, along with the financial sector within the U.S. state. Those forces are not interested in a diplomatic resolution of the Korean colonial question because their interests are more focused on China and maintaining U.S. regional hegemony in East Asia. The tensions in Korea have not only provided them the rationale for increased expenditures for various missile defense systems but also for bolstering public support for the obscene military budgets that are largely transferred straight to their pockets.

That is why the historic record is replete with the United States sabotaging negotiated settlements with the North, but then pointing to North Korean responses to those efforts as evidence of North Korean duplicity.

In addition to the material interests and hegemonic geopolitical objectives, the social-psychological phenomenon of inculcated white supremacy is also a factor and has buttressed imperial policies toward that nation for years.

For example, the psychopathology of white supremacy invisibilizes the absurdity and illegitimacy of the United States being in a position to negotiate the fate of millions of Koreans. The great “white father” and savior complex is not even a point of contestation because it is not even perceived — the rule of whiteness through the dominance of the Western capitalist elite has been naturalized.

Therefore, it is quite understandable that for many, the summit is the space where the North Koreans are essentially supposed to surrender to the United States. It is beyond the comprehension of most policymakers and large sectors of the public that North Koreans would have ever concluded it is not in their national interest to give up their defenses to a reckless and dangerously violent rogue state that sees itself beyond the law.

And it is that strange white-supremacist consciousness that buys into the racist trope that it was Trump’s pressure that brought North Korea to the table. The white-supremacist colonial mentality believes the natives will only respond to force and violence.

As U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the good old boy from South Carolina, argues “The only way North Korea will give up their nuclear program is if they believe military option is real.”\

But as Kim Kye Gwan, North Korea’s first vice minister for foreign affairs and former nuclear-program negotiator pointed out in relationship to the reasons why North Korea stayed with the process:

The U.S. is miscalculating the magnanimity and broad-minded initiatives of the DPRK as signs of weakness and trying to embellish and advertise as if these are the product of its sanctions and pressure.

Unfortunately, the white-supremacist world-view renders it almost impossible to apprehend reality in any other way. That is why it is inevitable that the Trump administration—like the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations—will mis-read the North Koreans.

The North Korea issue is a classic example of why it is impossible to separate a pro-peace, anti-war position from the issue of anti-imperialism. The concrete, geopolitical objectives of U.S. imperialist interests in the region drives the logic of regional dominance, which means peace, de-colonization and national reconciliation for Korea are counter to U.S. interests. And while we must support the U.S. state’s decision to halt military exercises, we must recognize that without vigorous pressure from the people to support an honest process, the possibility of conflict might be ever more alive now as a result of the purported attempt at diplomacy.

The nature of the North Korean state is not the issue. What is the issue is a process has begun between the two Korean nations that should be respected. Therefore, de-nuclearization should not be the focus—self-determination of the Korean peoples must be the center of our discussions. On that issue, it is time for activists in the United States to demand the United States get out of Korea. The peace and anti-war movement must support a process that will lead to the closure of U.S. military bases, the withdrawal of U.S. troops and the elimination of the nuclear threat.

In short, U.S. based activists must support an end to the Korean war and the start of the de-colonization of South Korea.

Meeting on the Island of Death From Behind: The Kim-Trump Summit

Everything about this summit is in the showy warm-up run.  “I am on my way to Singapore,” tweets US President Donald J. Trump, “where we have a chance to achieve a truly wonderful result for North Korea and the World.”  Such descriptions from America’s ever hustling television president tend to become child like, whether glowingly or indignantly. On this occasion, he was glowing.  “It will be certainly an exciting day and I know that Kim Jong-un will work very hard to do something that has rarely been done before”.

Detractors and sceptics were fretting in the woodwork.  Former US Representative from Florida David Jolly was one: “Under scrutiny from loyal allies, Trump chooses to strengthen his alliance with Putin and Kim Jong Un.”  The slip into psychobabble becomes easy: “Notwithstanding geopolitical consequences, it demonstrates a grown man unable to hold his own among peers, so instead seek affirmation among adversaries willing to provide it.”

Holding the summit on Sentosa Island suggested a deliciously disturbing twist. Now a resort destination drawing some 20 million visitors a year dotted by theme parks, beaches and Singaporean state propaganda, it had been known as Pulau Belakang Mati, “island of death from behind.”  During the Second World War, summary executions of members of the Singaporean Chinese population were common on the island, as were instances of brutality towards British and Australian servicemen after their surrender to the Japanese in 1942.

This past did not distract. The two hefty figures approached before their flags.  Pressed the flesh.  Exchanged remarks.  Before them stood two flags displayed with equal relevance (the free world types would have quaked), and a display that preceded an initial discussion between the two leaders.  Importantly, that discussion was unencumbered by the machinery that has historically done as much to scupper smooth sailing than anything else.  Only the two interpreters accompanying them at the initial stage will ever know.

The horror that this television, social media tart of a figure might pull off a durable peace venture is not something that is missed by journalists and pundits.  The press conference was filled with baffled queries:  What about Kim’s appalling human rights record? What of the actual details, the sort usually left for the mechanists to worry about after the photo snaps are taken.

This did not bother Trump. He had a show to perform, and accordingly ran it.  “There is no limit to what North Korea can achieve when it gives up its nuclear weapons and embraces commerce and engages with the rest of the world.”

For Trump, reminders were important, and praise directed when required: the Chairman “has before him an opportunity like no other to be remembered as the leader who ushered in a glorious new era of security and prosperity for his people.

Then came that other horror: one of legitimacy.  Both men, meeting alone, initially unencumbered by their advisors and policy staff; both, shaking hands and standing in front of their respective flags, levelling, legitimising, making those present complicit.  This very fact would have made those familiar with the cultic regime padded by its ideological doctrine of Juche uncomfortable.  It also showed the DPRK chairman that he had scored what was, some months ago, the unthinkable, and, more to the point, the unfathomable.

A curious perversion was effectively at play.  To have reached this point necessitated a nuclear program that effectively terrified and tormented US strategists with sufficient bite to take Kim seriously.  To bargain it away in the absence of various onerous security guarantees supplies the greatest talking point of all.  The White House mythology is to see different triggers: crippling sanctions, maximum, pig-headed pressure, the indignation of the “Little Rocket Man” school of rhetoric.

Details of the Sentosa agreement have been sparse; the fastidious bookish types will be left disappointed.  “President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK,” went the salient part of the joint statement, “and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

Much of the previous work done to get the two leaders to Singapore was simply reiterated.  The Panmunjom Declaration, signed by South Korea and the DPRK after the April 27 meeting committing both states to the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, was reaffirmed.

If words are weapons to be forged, then some were sufficiently sharp to draw some attention.  “Mutual confidence-building” measures were deemed essential to promote the goal of denuclearisation.  Both states committed “to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.”  A “lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula” would be worked towards.  Then, something for the populist metre was also inserted for the voters back home: a commitment to recover US “POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.”

No timetable could be ventured on denuclearisation, the word that is keeping the astrological fraternity in international relations teased, but this did not stop Trump from insistent vagueness (“very soon” he hazarded and “as fast as it can mechanically and physically be done”).  Sanctions, Trump observed, would “come off when we are sure that the nukes are no longer a factor.”

For one thing, both men insisted that what was signed did not necessarily incorporate what was said.  Matters were tagged on, as if in a fit of absentmindedness.  At stages during a press conference that resounded of Dada experimentation, Trump would tantalise journalists with remarks about record keeping – or its lack of. “We have notes or something,” he claimed offhandedly about the discussions.

As ever, Twitter, with its brevity and short bursts of attention was a source to return to. “Great progress was made on the denuclearization of North Korea.  Hostages are back home, will be getting the remains of our great heroes back to their families, no missiles shot, no research happening, sites closing”.  The end, perhaps, of a certain beginning, done from behind.

The Democrats Out-Right the Right on North Korean Summit

If more proof was needed to persuade anyone that the Democrats are indeed a war party, it was provided when Senator Chuck Schumer and other Democrat leaders in the Senate engaged in a cynical stunt to stake out a position to the right of John Bolton on the summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un.

The Democrats asserted that the planned summit could only be judged successful if the North Koreans agreed to dismantle and remove all their nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, end all production and enrichment of uranium, dismantle its nuclear weapons infrastructure, and suspend ballistic missile tests.

Those demands would constitute an unconditional surrender on the part of the North Korean leadership and will not happen, and the Democrats know it.

But as problematic as those demands are, here is the real problem that again demonstrates the bi-partisan commitment to war that has been at the center of U.S. imperial policies: If these are the outcomes that must be achieved for the meeting to be judged a success, not only does it raise the bar beyond the level any serious person believes possible, it gives the Trump administration the ideological cover to move toward war. The inevitable failure to force the North Koreans to surrender essentially forecloses all other options other than military conflict.

This is a reckless and cynical game that provides more proof that neither party has the maturity and foresight to lead.

Both capitalist parties support the use and deployment of militarism, repression and war, but somehow – even though the historic record reveals the opposite – the Democratic party has managed to be perceived as less likely to support the war agenda than Republicans. That perception must be challenged directly.

The Democrats have had a long and sordid history connected to North Korea, and every other imperialist war that the U.S. has waged since the end of the Second World War. It was the policies of Democrat president Truman that divided the Korean peninsula and led to the brutal colonial war waged by U.S. forces. Conflict with Korea was valuable for Truman and his party advisors who were committed to re-militarizing the U.S. economy, and they needed the justification that the Korean war gave them. Truman tripled the military budget and established the framework for the network of U.S foreign bases that would eventually cover the world over the next few decades.

The bipartisan commitment to full spectrum dominance continues with no real opposition from the Democratic party-connected “resistance.” Even the Poor Peoples’ Campaign (PPC) that was launched in May and purports to be an independent moral movement still dances around the issue of naming the parties and interests responsible for the “moral failures” of the U.S.

On the other hand, the Revolutionary Action Committee, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, the student- and youth-led anti-war movement and eventually Dr. King clearly identified the bi-partisan commitment to the Vietnam war. What Dr. King and the activists in the 1960s understood was that in order to be politically and morally consistent, it was necessary to name the culprits and identify the concrete geopolitical and economic interests driving the issue of war and militarism.

Appeals to morality as an element for popular mobilization against war can be useful. But such appeals have little more impact than an online petition if they substitute vague platitudes for substance and specificity.

So it was with the PPC’s week of actions against war. Just a few days before the week began, a vote took place in the House of Representatives to support yet another increase to the military budget. In a vote of 351 to 66, the House of Representatives authorized a significant hike to an incredible $717 billion a year.

And then just a few days after the PPC’s week of action on militarism and war, the Democrats delivered their reckless and opportunistic ultimatum to the Trump administration on North Korea that could very conceivably lead to another illegal and immoral U.S. war.

Not calling the Democrats out on their warmongering is itself immoral.

It is also quite clear that vague moral appeals are not enough to delineate the interests of the capitalist elites and their commitment to war as oppositional to those of working people and the poor, who in the U.S. serve the moneyed interests as enlisted cannon fodder.

The positions staked out by the leadership of the Democratic party just confirmed what was already commonly understood as the hegemonic positions among the majority in the foreign policy establishment.

Objectively, there was never much ideological space between the right-wing policies of Dick Cheney or John Bolton and the neoliberal right-wing policies of Democratic party policy-makers. The differences were always merely tactical and not strategic in the sense that they all want the North Koreans to be supplicants.

Unfortunately, the general public is the only sector confused about the intentions and interests of elitist policy-makers, especially those elements of the public conditioned to believe that the Democratic party is less belligerent and less committed to militarism than the Republicans.

The fact is that the Democratic party establishment is also firmly entrenched on the right. Defeating the bi-partisan right must be the task for ourselves and for the world.

That is why the peace, anti-war and anti-imperialist forces must do the work to clear up that confusion. The movement must declare without equivocation the position of the Black Alliance for Peace: Not one drop of blood from the working class and poor to defend the capitalist oligarchy.

G7 vs. G6+1: The War of Words

Background

The war of words has intensified between the U-S and G-7 allies after President Donald Trump retracted his endorsement of the communiqué of the once-united group.

The German chancellor called Trump’s abrupt revocation of support for a joint communiqué sobering and depressing. Angela Merkel, however, said that’s not the end. France also accused Trump of destroying trust and acting inconsistently. Trump pulled the U-S out of the group’s summit statement after Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the imposition of retaliatory tariffs on the U-S.  The White House said Canada risked making the U-S president look weak ahead of his summit with the North Korean leader. But, Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland later reiterated that her country will retaliate against U-S tariffs in a measured and reciprocal way.

*****

PressTV: What do you make of Mr. Trump’s decision to renege on the G7’s final statement?

Peter Koenig: Trump pulling out from the final G7 statement is just show; the usual Trump show. He signed it, then he pulled out. We have seen it with the Iran Nuclear Deal, with the North Korea meeting, on and off, with the tariffs first. About two months ago the tariffs were on for Europe, Mexico and Canada, as well as China. Then they were off for all of them, and now they are on again…

How serious can that be? Trump just wants to make sure that he calls the shots. And he does. As everybody gets nervous and talks about retaliation instead of practicing the “politics of silence” strategy.

In the case of Europe, the tariffs, or the equivalent of sanctions, as Mr. Putin recently so aptly put it, may well serve as a means of blackmailing Europe, for example, to disregard as Trump did, the Iran Nuclear Deal, “step out of it – and we will relieve you from the tariffs.”

In the case of Canada and Mexico, it’s to make sure Americans realize that he, Mr. Trump, wants to make America Great again and provide jobs for Americans. These tariffs alone will not create one single job. But they create an illusion and that, he thinks, will help Republicans in the up-coming Mid-term Elections.

In China tariffs are perhaps thought as punishment for President Xi’s advising President Kim Jong-Un ahead of the June 12 summit and probably and more likely to discredit the Yuan as a world reserve currency, since the Chinese currency is gradually replacing the dollar in the world’s reserve coffers. But Trump knows that these tariffs are meaningless for China, as China has a huge trade surplus with the US and an easy replacement market like all of Asia.

PressTV:  How could the silence strategy by the 6 G7 partners have any impact on Trump’s decision on tariffs?

Peter Koenig: Well, the G6 – they are already now considered the G6+1, since Trump at the very onset of the summit announced that he was considering pulling out of the G7- so, the remaining 6 partners could get together alone and decide quietly what counter measures they want to take, then announce it in a joint communiqué to the media.

It does not have to be retaliation with reciprocal tariffs.  It could, for example, be pulling out of NATO.  Would they dare? That would get the world’s attention. That might be a much smarter chess move than copying the draw of one peon with the draw of another one. Because we are actually talking here about a mega-geopolitical chess game.

What we are actually witnessing is a slow but rapidly increasing disintegration of the West.

Let’s not forget, the G7 is a self-appointed Group of the “so-called” world’s greatest powers. How can that be when the only “eastern power”, Russia, and for that much more powerful than, for example, Canada or Italy, has been excluded in 2014 from the then G8?

And when the world’s largest economic power – measured by the real economic indicator, namely, purchasing power parity – China has never been considered being part of the G-Group of the greatest?

It is obvious that this Group is not sustainable.

We have to see whatever Trump does, as the result of some invisible forces behind the scene that direct him. Trump is a convenient patsy for them, and he plays his role quite well. He confuses, creates chaos, and on top of it, he, so far single-handedly wants to re-integrate Russia in the G-7; i.e., the remaking of the G-8.

So far the G6’s are all against it. Oddly, because it’s precisely the European Union that is now seeking closer ties with Russia. Maybe because they want to have Russia all for themselves?

If that is Trump’s strategy to pull Europe and Russia together, and thereby create a chasm between Russia and China, then he may succeed. Because the final prize of this Trump-directed mega political chess game is China.

Trump, or his handlers, know very well that they cannot conquer China as a close ally of Russia. So, the separation is one of the chess moves towards check-mate. But probably both Presidents Putin and Xi are well aware of it.

In fact, the SCO just finished their summit in China’s Qingdao on 9 June, about at the same time as the G7 in Canada’s Charlevoix, Quebec Province, and it was once more very clear that this alliance of the 8 SCO members is getting stronger, and Iran is going to be part of it. Therefore, a separation of Russia from the Association is virtually impossible. We are talking about half the world’s population and an economic strength of about one third of the world’s GDP, way exceeding the one of the G7 in terms of purchasing power.

This, I think is the Big Picture we have to see in these glorious G7 summits.

Coherence in Trump’s Iran and North Korea Policy?

What’s at work in Donald Trump’s reneging on the Iran Deal and his cancelling/tentative rescheduling of the June Singapore summit to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un? Is there any coherence in these policies? Does his blunderous waffling on the Singapore summit reflect the spinelessness of an empty corpse that’s been infested with parasites? Or, simply put, does it reflect someone who is morbidly indecisive and gutless, and is unduly influenced by the new war-loving National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo?

In a Truthout interview with Noam Chomsky, Chomsky maintains that both cancelling the summit (though its status is now up in the air) and leaving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) benefits Trump’s “actual constituency,” consisting of  “corporate power” and “private wealth.”

Prior to canceling the Singapore summit, Lawrence Wilkerson cited internal U.S. politics as the motivator for Trump’s “Libya model” threat against the Kim Jong-Un regime and for pulling out of the JCPOA. He argues that, since World War II, no other U.S. president has been driven so significantly by domestic politics.

These are both interesting, albeit, unsurprising conclusions. The mid-terms are coming up and Trump seems to be too lazy to go on the campaign trail for Republicans. An easier way to campaign is to manufacture news that rallies the base and, consequently, gets them to turn out in large numbers for his Republican allies…as most of Trump’s base salivates on a ‘tough’, hardline policy towards perceived foreign adversaries.

The corporate power and wealth that Chomsky cites are certainly part of the equation. The stocks of military industrial companies have soared to record highs under Trump. The perpetual threat of war drives the military industry to continuously fill new orders, thus satisfying stockholders. One slight anomaly occurred when the summit with North Korea was planned in early May; this briefly had caused military industrial stocks to plummet. Perhaps, as a response to Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Boeing’s fears of a long-term peace with North Korea, Trump and his team reacted appropriately: with belligerent U.S.-South Korea military drills and warning that Kim Jong-Un’s overthrow would be something akin to the disastrous regime change of Gaddafi if the talks don’t work out. And who to help ensure military industrial stocks would rise back up, other than pro-war advocate John Bolton?

This was all after North Korea dismantled its nuclear weapons testing site. Such a major concession, prior to an important diplomatic conference, was met with antagonism from the Trump administration. Reacting to intense hostility, a North Korean government statement was issued critical of Mike Pence. And then, unsurprisingly, Trump cancelled the meeting.

We can only assume that if the Singapore conference ever happens, Trump’s complete lack of diplomatic skills will prevent the U.S. from successfully negotiating a peace agreement with North Korea. Even if the parasitic moneyed interests in Trump’s empty corpse, now dominated by neoconservatives, pushed him towards diplomacy, he lacks the ability, patience and intelligence that is necessary to broker a complex peace treaty.

Canceling the North Korea summit, reneging on the JCPOA and threatening the ‘strongest sanctions in history’ against Iran has crystalized the Trump administration’s overall strategy: provocation.

On a school bus, the bigger kid taunts and pushes the smaller one around every day. Eventually, the bullied child finds an opportunity to retaliate.

In the sphere of international relations, this equates with pushing an adversary towards first strike, whether on U.S. forces in Syria, Guam or South Korea, or a strong retaliatory strike against Israel by Iran. When this happens, the mainstream media will play along, as it usually does. Their framing will implicitly go something like: ‘Innocent’ U.S. forces in Syria were attacked or ‘irreproachable’ Israel was attacked by Iranian forces. This occurred a couple weeks ago when Iranian forces struck Israel after over 250 Israeli attacks on Iran’s forces in Syria. In short, the Trumpian goal may be to push the adversary to take ‘preemptive’ military action and, thereby, contrive justification for commencing full-scale war and regime change.

If Trump’s belligerence towards Iran and North Korea is largely theatrics for a domestic audience, then the war-potential consequence may come as a rude awakening. But, if the Trump administration has a more coherent policy of conning either North Korea or Iran into war, then it appears of Machiavellian design.

Yet, we should not really blame Niccolò Machiavelli for superpower machinations of goading smaller states into war. Not only was Machiavelli a tireless advocate for warding off the Florentine city state’s behemoth neighbors, including the Holy Roman Empire, France and Spain, from subjugation, but he sought to preserve Florence’s autonomy to develop a more democratic republic. According to German historian Friedrich Meinecke, Machiavelli’s ragione di stato or raison d’état helped implement the power of the state (which inevitability has its own problems) against the “corporate state of Ancient Régime” to change the law on behalf of the public good (p. 126-127). Ultimately, this allowed for creation of the modern state, which, in theory, holds the state to be responsible to its citizens, rather than the other way around.

It is difficult to discern to what degree there is coherence in Trump’s bellicose policies towards Iran and North Korea. Both policies serve military industrial stocks, as did April’s airstrikes on Syria – in this, there is clear consistency. However, what is not clear, is if the Trump administration is trying to goad North Korea and/or Iran into ‘preemptive’ attack, so it can justify an all-out war. For John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, it would seem that the sooner war occurs, the better. But for Trump, a war now may be too early – it may only benefit his Republican allies up for reelection in November. Meanwhile, any increased popularity Trump would gain from a war now would invariably diminish by the time he’s up for reelection. Thus, for Trump, commencing war two years later, just before the presidential election, would make far more sense. Republicans, independents and even some Democrats would rally to the flag and be more likely to vote him back into office.

This may be why we see Trump floundering, like a befuddled invertebrate, on the Singapore summit. He may have acquiesced to Bolton and Pompeo on cancelling the summit and leaving the JCPOA, but realizes that the timing is not right for the acquisition of political capital that would derive from a new war. However, as Wilkerson noted, Trump’s hostile actions play to domestic politics by firing up his base – but perhaps Trump fears that this could go too far, at least right now. Hence, the summit with Kim Jong-Un still remains up in the air.

Ultimately, a search for full coherence and intelligent life in Trump’s foreign policy may simply be an act of futility. Instead, Trump’s Iran and North Korea policy is reminiscent of a scene from the 1990 movie Ghost. In this scene, various spirits struggle within Whoopi Goldberg’s psychic character ‘Old Mae Brown’ to gain control of the character’s body and will.

In Trump’s case, his reality tv star empty corpse is where moneyed interests fight it out. Inevitably, the result will be antithetical to the public good. And, consequently, war with Iran and/or North Korea looms as a future likelihood.

Pompeo Challenged at Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Newly appointed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had every reason to expect that his first official appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would be the usual slam-dunk as mostly obedient, respectful Senators aligned with his testimony.

Instead of the typically gratuitous compliments and undeserved deference, there was a display (albeit a minority) of some moral courage with a rare slice of truth on Capitol Hill, epitomizing the real-time requirements of a Senator’s job: to be skeptical, provide oversight and demand accountability from every Federal government witness, no matter the rank – once referred to as ‘grilling the witness.”

Besides fraternizing with America’s most privileged citizens, endless rounds of lavish Capitol Hill receptions, wide ranging international travel opportunities (aka junkets), a liberal vacation  policy and exorbitant benefits out of step for the minimal accomplishments actually achieved, the current Senate paradigm has allowed too many Members to degenerate into a protuberance of greedy, sniveling, weak-minded buffoons with no genuine regard for their constituents or what was once the greatest democracy on the planet.

Days earlier, as the nation’s top diplomat, Pompeo delivered the Trump Administration’s controversial “After the Deal: A New Iran Strategy” in a decidedly undiplomatic speech to a less than enthusiastic audience at the Heritage Foundation.  That aggressive strategy included a dozen doomed-to-fail, untenable demands that were little more than a precursor for military intervention and regime change.

Before the hearing began, Pompeo unexpectedly read a crude letter from President Trump to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un cancelling the June 12th summit citing “tremendous anger and open hostility” and concluded with the moronic “If you change your mind …, please do not hesitate to call or write me.”  To date, Trump has softened his stance against a meeting and hints the June summit may occur on schedule.

As the hearing began, most Senators expended their allotted time by steadfastly avoiding the massive foreign policy blunder that had just been dropped in their laps.  The following excerpts focus on two Members, Sen. Rand Paul (R-SC) (1:58) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass) (2:19/3:27) since they had the most extensive dialogue with Pompeo and because they gave Pompeo the most grief.  Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Or) (3:34) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) (3:15) questioned implications of the upcoming Authority for Use of Military Force (AUMF).

Sen. Paul launched into a rapid-fire critique exposing the inadequacies of Pompeo’s Iran Plan with a much needed dose of reality as he methodically decimated the strategy, beginning with the requirement that Iran reveal the ‘military dimensions’ of its nuclear program:

Let’s substitute Israel for Iran. Does anyone believe that Israel is going to reveal the military dimensions of their nuclear program? ” Paul inquired whether the Saudi’s would be willing to discuss “anything they’ve done to develop nuclear weapons or reveal the military dimensions of their nuclear program. So really what you’re asking for is something they (Iranians) are never going to agree to.”

Regarding the requirement that Iran end its proliferation of ballistic missiles, Paul explained that:

… when we supply weapons, the Saudis buy weapons, the Saudis have a ballistic weapon program, they (Iran) respond to that. The Saudis and their allies …spend more than eight times Iran so when you tell Iran that you have to give up your ballistic missile program but you don’t say anything to the Saudis, you think they are ever going to sign?

If you leave Saudi Arabia and Israel out of it and look at Iran in isolation, that’s not how they (Iran) perceive it. We want Iran to do things that we’re not willing to ask anybody else to do and that we would never do.

Regarding Pompeo’s demand to end military support for the Houthi rebels:

Once again, you’re asking them to end it but you’re not asking the Saudis to end their bombardment of Yemen.  If you look at the humanitarian disaster that is Yemen, it is squarely on the shoulders of the Saudis.

Paul then drew attention to the demand for Iran to withdraw all its forces from Syria noting that:

ISIS is getting weapons from Qatar and Saudi Arabia and that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are ten times the problem. The people who attacked us came from Saudi Arabia. We ignore all that and lavish them with bombs.

It was naïve to pull out of the Iran Agreement and in the end, we’ll be worse off for it.

Pompeo was Stunned and the Silence was Deafening.  Pompeo had absolutely no reaction to Paul’s devastating analysis of US foreign policy in the Middle East, offering no explanation, no excuse, no correction or thoughtful response; nor did any other Senator present dare step into the swamp.

Next up was Sen. Markey citing Trump’s reference to North Korea’s ‘tremendous anger and open hostility” and inquiring:

How did you expect North Korea to react to comparisons between Libya and North Korea, between the fates of Kim Jong Un and Qaddafi? Why would you expect anything other than anger and hostility in reaction to these comparisons?

Markey was referring to Vice President Mike Pence’s  comment that “Kim Jong Un will end up like Qaddafi if he does not make a deal” and National Security Advisor John Bolton’s  “we have very much in mind the Libya model of 2003-2004.”

As background, in 2003 Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi relinquished his nuclear, biological and chemical weapons allowing inspectors to oversee and verify the process.  By 2011, with US and NATO instigation, Libya experienced a violent overthrow of its government with Qaddafi brutally murdered.  And who can ever forget former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s macabre glee “we came, we saw, he died“.

Pompeo expressed “misunderstanding taking place with this idea of a Libya model” and that he “hadn’t done the work to find out what that was…when Libyans chose to give up their nuclear weapons in 2003.  That’s the Libya model.”

Markey explained:

The Libya model, as Kim Jong Un has been interpreting it, is that the leader of the country surrenders their nuclear capability only to then be overthrown and killed.  Why would you not think that Kim would not interpret it that way as it continued to escalate with Bolton and Vice President talking about the Qaddafi model? .…why would you think there would be any other interpretation at what happened to Qaddafi at the end of his denuclearization which is that he wound up dead?  Why would that not elicit hostility from a negotiating partner three weeks prior to sitting down..

From there Markey and Pompeo bantered back and forth with Pompeo consistently failing to grasp the connection between Qaddafi’s 2003 disarmament agreement and US military interference in Libya in 2011 that resulted in Qaddafi’s death as sufficient reason for North Korea to feel threatened.  No matter how precise the clarification, Pompeo continued to respond as a dense, one-dimensional thinker unable to wrap his mind around logic that challenged his view of a simulated reality, as if looking at the same object through a different lens.

Committee chair Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn) agreed with Markey.

I opposed so strongly what the Obama administration did in Libya was exactly the argument you are laying out right now…to have someone like Qaddafi who gave up their nuclear weapons and then go kill him to me sent exactly the signal that you are laying out right now.

Corker then announced that he ‘just had discussion with Secretary’s staff and he is now 15 minutes late for a meeting.  I’m going to allow a couple of comments but going to stop it in five minutes.”

Markey immediately inquired:

Who is the meeting with Mr. Secretary.. if you are not going to stay here and answer questions from us.. can you not push that meeting back another 15 minutes…

Corker:

This is getting a little bit, this type of discourse, I’m sorry, I’m the one doing this. I’ve been very generous.

Markey:

…but we agreed to two seven- minute question periods and it is being ended here for two members..

Markey continued until Sen. Corker gavelled his time had expired.

As the Foreign Relations Committee contemplates an upcoming markup and vote on a Forever AUMF next week, it will be a time for other Committee Senators to step outside the Matrix and dig deep to find their own moral fortitude.

Disrespecting Allies: A Presidential Tradition

Both North and South Korean government officials were reportedly shocked by Trump’s sudden cancellation of the Singapore summit. The South Korean president was taken by surprise. It makes me recall this historical incident.

In July 1971 Richard Nixon announced that he would visit the People’s Republic of China the following year, signalling a major shift in U.S. foreign policy. Japanese Prime Minister Sato Eisaku was not pleased; he’d been informed only hours before the announcement. Japan had been the U.S.’s closest ally in Asia since 1945, hosting tens of thousands of U.S. troops and supporting virtually every U.S. action on the world stage. It had offered material support to the U.S. wars in Korea and Vietnam; indeed the payments for “special procurements” were significantly responsible for Japan’s postwar recovery. This was a very special bond. That Sato had not been consulted about the sudden U.S. move was surprising if not insulting,

In February 1972 Nixon visited China, opening a process that would result in the opening of diplomatic relations only seven years before. Meanwhile in September the Japanese new Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei visited China in September, just seven months after Nixon, and immediately reestablished diplomatic relations with China. It was one of the rare instances of a Japanese initiative at variance with U.S. policy (which was to still recognize Taiwan as the “legitimate” government of China). It was also a statement to the U.S. that where East Asia is concerned, Japan has its own interests. Japanese corporations immediately began to invest in China’s restored capitalism, years before U.S. companies.

(The only other significant policy divergence I can think of in the postwar period is Japan’s continuing purchase of Iranian oil.)

South Korean President Moon Jae-in reportedly learned on TV of Trump’s decision. After all the effort the South Koreans had put into the preparations! And given the fact that South Korea like Japan hosts tens of thousands of U.S. troops. You’d think it would be shown more respect from the U.S. president.

Trump’s terrifying threats had already driven the Koreas together, producing an extraordinary statement ending the state of war between them. Trump’s erratic behavior will likely draw the Koreas further together, in self-defense, and bring both closer to China. The North’s proposal for a confederation of two states is looking increasingly feasible.

Nixon was a mass-murderer with a keen strategic mind. Trump is an impetuous narcissistic man-child with no strategy. Nixon surely factored in Tokyo’s hurt feelings at his abrupt announcement of the China opening, but felt them of minor significance. Trump quite likely did not even think about Seoul’s reaction to his letter cancelling the summit.

The decision to cancel the summit was one thing, the failure to consult with ally Seoul is another. It’s another expression of U.S. imperialist arrogance and the facile assumption that U.S. satrapies will meekly accept Washington’s decisions. But it seems to have produced an immediate coordinated effort by Pyongyang and Seoul to keep summit plans on track, the possible alternative being war.  Trump was pleased by a message to him last night praising him for his boldness in engaging with Pyongyang so far. So we learn from Trump today (Friday) that well, maybe it will happen, and maybe even on June 12.

The Koreans (like Xi, Abe, Prince Muhammed bin Salmon, Macron) know how to stoke Trump’s ego in efforts to sway him from what they perceive as disastrous decisions. But so far they’ve had mixed success. He’s acquired a record of shocking allies by sudden announcements, so many that he risks significantly weakening the Atlantic Alliance, and ties with Japan and Korea. By all means let him continue to alienate allies, in his clueless way, producing if inadvertently a more multilateral world. If he doesn’t destroy it the world might praise him for this feat and award him the Nobel Peace Prize for diminishing U.S. power and influence in the world.

Donald Trump, Summits and Cancellations

It was the sort of party you would be reluctant to turn up to, and its cancellation would have caused a sigh of relief. But when the US president replicates the feigned hurt of a guest who has been impugned, the puzzlement deepens.  A mix of crankiness and promise, Trump’s letter announcing the cancellation of the Singapore meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un was another etching on what is becoming an increasingly scrawled tablet of unpredictable manoeuvres. More importantly, it shows a sense that Kim is ahead of the game, cunning beyond capture, difficult to box.

It is instructive to see how blame was attributed in this latest act of diplomatic befuddlement.  Everything is, of course, saddled on the North Korean leader.  But the feeling that Trump has somehow been left out is unmistakable.  Whether it is the babble of the usual chicken hawks or not is hard to say, any peace treaty and durable arrangement on the Korean peninsula will and can never be attributed to the pioneering efforts of the North Korean regime.  Should they win this, the US will be left out to dry by yet another inscrutable power, outwitted and, even worse, seduced.

“Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting.  Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place.”

The letter shows traditional Trumpist dysfunction, a mix of fulmination, regret and tempered promise.  Predictably, the issue of this abrupt act is not considered his doing, but that of his counterpart.  He wants to be ascendant, and to that end, demands a degree of self-accepted inferiority on the part of his opponent.

That Kim spoke about the DPRK’s nuclear capability was taken as a slight, suggesting that Little Rocket Man was getting a bit ahead of himself.  “You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.”

The disparity of positions there is evident: the US nuclear stockpile is neutralised by its sheer enormity.  To have such weapons on such a scale suggests redundancy rather than value. North Korea, in contrast, need only possess a few murderous weapons for political insurance.

Hawkish North Korea watchers long sceptical of any bona fide considerations that might accompany such talks suggest that Trump was ambushed.  He was, ventured The Economist, unaware “of North Korea’s long history of seeking direct talks with America, or of its past promises to abandon its nuclear weapons, or the bad faith and broken promises that have at all times characterised its nuclear diplomacy.”

Such a position remains traditionally constipated, one keen to keep up the squeeze in an effort to extract reliable concessions.  It also ignores the dogma of US policy towards the DPRK, refusing to accede to the regime’s desire to obtain a non-aggression guarantee and, to that end, seek ultimate denuclearisation only if and when its own security can be assured.

The Economist could still admit, despite the prospect of a “bad deal”, or “narrow agreement to protect America” made in exchange for retaining nuclear weapons, “the summit still seemed like a gamble worth taking.”

A day before the cancellation letter was issued, Pyongyang invited a gaggle of international journalists to Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site to note the destruction of tunnels and buildings at the facility.  Instead of seeing this as a gesture to allay mistrust and build confidence for negotiations with Seoul and Washington, fears abound that this is nothing more than an act of wilful destruction of valuable evidence and site sanitisation.

Frank V. Pabian, Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., and Jack Liu offer a different take on this for 38 North: “forensic evidence will outlast any explosions that may be used to collapse or seal the test tunnels.”  Besides, deeming such an exercise a wanton act of destroying evidence suggests that “Pyongyang is under some kind of obligation to open its doors to foreign investigators looking into its nuclear program.  Unfortunately, it is not.”

The response from Pyongyang was far from blood curdling.  In a statement from the first vice minister of foreign affairs, Kim Kye Gwan, delivered via the Korean Central News Agency, “We have inwardly highly appreciated President Trump for having made the bold decision, which any other US president dared not, and made effort for such a crucial event at the summit.”

Giving the appropriate signals and touching the right buttons, the statement seemed to capture Trump expertly: speak to ego and laud current and future effort.  “We would like make known to the US side once again that we have the intent to sit with the US side to solve problem regardless of ways at any time.”

The statement had its wanted effect, stirring the president like a well planted caress and tickle.  “Very good news to receive the warm and productive statement from North Korea,” he cooed on Twitter.  “We will soon see where it will lead, hopefully to a long and enduring prosperity and peace.  Only time (and talent) will tell!”

All this goes to show that Kim has had a good run thus far, dragging Trump to near historic proportions in seeking dialogue.  The US president has been shown up out witted, and, even with egg on his face, he can only offer a hope that his opponent might change course.  “If you change your mind having to do this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write.”