With apologies to my readers, there is no column from me today. I’ve got to go to a Major Medical Appointment — heart stress test, prostate stuff, etc. — and there’s just no way I can continue to avoid and/or delay it, in spite of my strenuous attempts to do so. Yes, old age is catching up with me — alas! — and there’s no two ways about it. So I hope you’ll pardon my absence, just this once — and rest assured, I’ll be back on Monday.
Those North Koreans are so touchy, shooting torpedoes at South Korean ships – or maybe not – and threatening to take on the “Yankee imperialists” at the slightest provocation, either real or imagined. Except, it turns out, that the provocations have been more real than imagined, as the Associated Press reports:
“From the 1950s Pentagon to today’s Obama administration, the United States has repeatedly pondered, planned and threatened use of nuclear weapons against North Korea, according to declassified and other U.S. government documents released in this 60th-anniversary year of the Korean War.
“Air Force bombers flew nuclear rehearsal runs over North Korea’s capital during the war. The U.S. military services later vied for the lead role in any “atomic delivery” over North Korea. In the late 1960s, nuclear-armed U.S. warplanes stood by in South Korea on 15-minute alert to strike the north.
“Just this past April, issuing a U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said ‘all options are on the table'” for dealing with Pyongyang — meaning U.S. nuclear strikes were not ruled out.”
Their trollish Supreme and Glorious Leader, Kim Jong Il, has just appointed his youngest son his official heir, passing over the eldest – a playboy who loves Armani and lives in Macau – and the middle son, who is described as having a “testosterone problem” – not too much, as per usual among North Korean leaders, but too little. But, hey, the North Koreans are communists, after all, who are unlikely to be too punctilious about sticking to the rules to which most monarchies adhere. Of course, we don’t have anything like political dynasties in the land of the once free and the home of the entitled.
Speaking of political dynasties, I love this little bit about Hillary Clinton in Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars. At a meeting of the National Security Council, as the administration was getting ready to roll out its Afghanistan strategy, Hillary spoke up against Joe Biden’s minimalist alternative to escalation:
“Do you understand what the alternative would be if we don’t stick with this? she asked. The gains for women would evaporate and the United Nations would be driven out.”
I thought we were supposed to be fighting al-Qaeda – not for equal pay for equal work in every Afghan harem. Remind me again – why are conservative Republicans so gung ho on “winning” this war?
Speaking of unwinnable wars, the Korean war is still going on – did you know that? No official peace treaty was ever signed. Sixty years is a long time for a conflict to continue, but the US ruling class is confident it has plenty of time. They have the Koreans right where they want them…
While we’re on the subject: The “Korean solution” to our Iraq conundrum is one option that seems to be in the mix, which means we’ll still be bribing Sunni tribesmen not to shoot at us well beyond 2070. Well then, why not a Korean solution to our Afghan problem – a sixty-plus-year occupation and the option to go nuclear?
If Truman gave the green light to nuke the 1951 Chinese offensive – long before China, not to mention Pyongyang, went nuclear – why not put the nuclear option on the table in Afghanistan, or the tribal areas of Pakistan, for that matter? Oh wait, scratch Pakistan – they have nukes, too, so it’s a no go. We only consider nuking countries that can’t nuke us back.
In 1953, with armistice talks deadlocked, the US “pondered launching a new offensive against the north Koreans and Chinese. The Pentagon’s Air Staff recommended using A-bombs to achieve victory ‘in the shortest space of time,’ according to a Feb. 20, 1953, memo from the Air Force director of plans, Maj. Gen. Robert Lee. Added a top-secret CIA Special Estimate, ‘The Communists would recognize the employment of these weapons as indicative of Western determination to carry the Korean war to a successful conclusion.’”
That‘ll show them!
The new documentation reveals Pyongyang, and Beijing, have been threatened with nuclear annihilation by four US Presidents: Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, and Ford. The US stationed nuclear missiles in South Korea until Jimmy Carter pulled them out. Given this, how could the North have refrained from building nukes? The answer is: they couldn’t.
I love how the AP piece ends:
“Korea specialists generally accept Pyongyang’s stated rationale that it sought its own bomb for defensive reasons — ‘as a response to the U.S. deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea,” says author Selig Harrison.
“Yoshiki Mine of Japan’s Canon Institute for Global Studies, who as a diplomat dealt with both disarmament and North Korea, said the northern regime feels its existence as a nation is threatened. The U.S. nuclear option ‘does give the North Koreans an excuse to develop, acquire and own nuclear weapons,’ Mine told the AP. ‘They have indicated many times that as long as this basic security is not secured, they would not abandon nuclear weapons.’”
You might say the North Koreans feel an “existential threat,” a phrase the Israelis are quite fond of using whenever they ramp up the “bomb Iran” rhetoric. But not all feelings of existential dread are equal: some are more dreadful than others.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
Correction: In my last column, I inexplicably wrote: “While Robert Gibbs was still White House press secretary” – but of course he still is the press secretary. While it’s always good to be ahead of the news, in a certain sense, you don’t want to get too far ahead…