Winner 2013 Webby Awards for Best Political Website
Top Banner, Site wide
Apr 21, 2014

 Choose a size
Text Size

Top Leaderboard, Site wide

Knowledge Is Crime
The Rhetoric of Violence
First Solar Bread Oven Takes a Bow

The Divide

Truthdig Bazaar
The John Lennon Letters

The John Lennon Letters

Edited by Hunter Davies

more items


Going Back to North Korea, Hat in Hand

Email this item Email    Print this item Print    Share this item... Share

Posted on Feb 27, 2007
Kim Kye Gwan
AP Photo / Greg Baker

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan stands below portraits of the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung, left, and his son and the current leader, Kim Jong Il, at a press conference in the North Korean Embassy in Beijing in 2005.

By Robert Scheer

So now it’s North Korea’s turn to feed at the trough of U.S. economic aid, as if exploding a nuclear weapon is all that’s needed to prove a nation’s peaceful intentions. Of course, there is nothing wrong with negotiating with our enemies rather than weakly blustering at cartoon images of them—I wish we would do the same in our dealings with Iran—but it would be nice if we would stop shooting ourselves in the foot first.

Five years and an outlaw nuke test after President Bush blew up the peace process with Pyongyang so he could look tougher than his predecessor, he capitulated completely earlier this month in accepting a negotiating framework that tacitly accepts the huge surge in the communist state’s estimated nuclear arsenal. Bush blinked big-time. The carrot replaced the stick, and that is a good thing, carrying the hope that through diplomacy North Korea will end its isolation and follow the modernizing path of communist China. But six years of presidential haranguing about rogue regimes derailed previous efforts at arms control, allowing the dangerously unstable North Korea to join the nuclear club.

In particular, Bush’s rejection of the Clinton administration’s alleged pandering to North Korea gave that country’s erratic rulers a believable rationale to cut the international monitoring seals on their super-dangerous plutonium stores. Now Bush has had to go back, hat and heating oil in hand, to beg for a restart to negotiations with a nuked-up Pyongyang, which now is in an exponentially better bargaining position.

Distracted by the occupation of Iraq, a country that had no functioning nuclear weapons program or stockpiles of plutonium, and obsessed with regime change in Iran, a country with a very primitive nuclear program, the Bush team has decided to live with the North Korean bomb. Indeed, Bush has agreed to remove North Korea from the list of nations sponsoring terrorism—not because North Korea’s dictator abandoned his nuclear ambitions but rather because he achieved them.

The deal with Korea, involving massive economic aid and political legitimacy, is basically the one negotiated by the Clinton administration back in 1994 that was shrilly derided by the Bushites until last week. It is also probably a smart move, a la Richard Nixon’s historic trip to Beijing, to attempt to end North Korea’s dangerous isolation.


Square, Site wide
What was not smart was jettisoning the agreement Clinton’s secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, had worked out to prevent North Korea from developing and testing a bomb in the first place. By that standard, we will only have peace with Iran, or Cuba, after it possesses the ability to kill lots and lots and lots of us—a lesson not likely to be ignored by other “rogue nations.”

After all, this is an administration that lifted the sanctions on Pakistan the U.S. imposed after that nation developed a nuclear arsenal. Why? Ostensibly because we needed Pakistan’s support in “the war on terror” after 9/11. But aid in that war has not been forthcoming, as Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have just conceded in rare condemnations of Pakistan. Taliban supporters are thriving in the Pakistan-Afghan border region that Pakistan’s dictator abandoned to local tribal chiefs sympathetic to the militants.

Similarly, Pakistan has never been held to account for allowing its “father of the Islamic bomb,” A.Q. Khan, to spread nuclear bomb technology and expertise to rogue regimes—including North Korea and Iran. Khan remains protected under house arrest, off-limits to U.S. intelligence agents seeking to interview him. No water-boarding for him, unlike the thousands of never-charged prisoners that the United States has ordered tortured around the world who couldn’t tell the interrogator the difference between uranium and plutonium.

The proliferation of nuclear weapons is, far and away, the main threat to the survival of the human species on this planet, and yet President Bush has treated the problem not as a real scourge but rather a wonderful opportunity to pursue a totally unrelated agenda. Whether that agenda centers on his own political ambitions, the stated neoconservative fantasy of securing the Mideast for Israel or a bizarre interest in coaxing the biblical prophecy of Armageddon is a subject for debate.

What is not debatable is the recklessness of a policy that trivializes the danger of nuclear annihilation. Foreign policy hawks love to talk about “punishing” North Korea, but really the only measure of success in our dealings with that economic basket case of a nation is simple: Does it make the United States and the world safer? On this front, negotiating rather than bullying is the sensible course, and such a strategy must now be applied to Iran as well.

Click here to check out Robert Scheer’s book,
“The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street.”

Keep up with Robert Scheer’s latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at

Get truth delivered to
your inbox every week.

Previous item: The Ghost of Giuliani’s Political Past

Next item: We’ll Lock Up Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses Yearning to Breathe Free

New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

By Jeff Badura, March 6, 2007 at 1:57 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

in regards to the Comment #56596 by Mike Kaybal

Mike Kaybal-  I’m sure you think its fine and dandy for a elected government to be overthrown by a dictatorship and its people subjugated ?? But your history is flawed !!  here is the official history of the early North and South Korea

“South Korea came into being after World War II, the result of a 1945 agreement reached by the Allies at the Potsdam Conference, making the 38th parallel the boundary between a northern zone of the Korean peninsula to be occupied by the USSR and southern zone to be controlled by U.S. forces. Elections were held in the U.S. zone in 1948 for a national assembly, which adopted a republican constitution and elected Syngman Rhee as the nation’s president. The new republic was proclaimed on Aug. 15 and was recognized as the legal government of Korea by the UN on Dec. 12, 1948. On June 25, 1950, North Korean Communist forces launched a massive surprise attack on South Korea, quickly overrunning the capital, Seoul. U.S. armed intervention was ordered on June 27 by President Harry S. Truman, and on the same day the UN invoked military sanctions against North Korea.”

Hence we had the beginning of the Korean war and the mess we are still in today !! -illgramaticus knee o’kaun

Report this

By This Old Brit, March 5, 2007 at 10:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

How close is Korea to Australia.  Eh?

Report this

By 127001, March 4, 2007 at 9:08 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I confess I ignored many of the details of North Korea’s nuclear issue when it happened. I was too busy looking for anything regarding China’s reactions. I still am.

Y’all might want to take a look at this article from reporting “China boosts defence budget” (;={4C4E2FEE-84AC-4EDE-9351-9999698EDC61}&NRORIGINALURL;=/NR/exeres/4C4E2FEE-84AC-4EDE-9351-9999698EDC61.htm&NRCACHEHINT=NoModifyGuest)

I commented in Powell’s cartoon “We’ve Got ’Em by the Tail” showing China’s global position.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are talking. Would you doubt that ALL of the Asian countries are talking ... about the Twig and what he’s doing and possibly “might” do? And particularly the Americans’ reaction to their own government?

Read Thick Face, Black Heart by Chin-ning Chu, and The Art of War by Sun Tzu.

Look at the one country who has been MOST powerful for the past three decades at least. Not because they went out and absorbed or conquered anything ... but because they did the one thing no other country has managed to do ... they kept EVERYONE OUT! of their borders.

When China’s borders “opened” it wasn’t because China needed us; it was because we needed China. Wanted China. And they knew it then and they know it now.

I perceive China as the parent with children fighting on the playground. Watching, waiting, preparing. And when the time comes, when they choose, they will step in and exert their power, control, influence, and everyone will stand around shocked, wondering how and when did that happen?

There’s far too much to say in a comment, but for the record, wait another 10-30 years (if we last that long), then see who is pulling what strings and where.

IMHO, what we need to do is stop spreading ourselves globally and get back to taking care of business inside the U.S. where so many “branches” of government are broken that any efforts by any “foreign power” (including terrorism) such as China to assimilate (they would assimilate, not destroy, based on Chinese philosophy), would have no effect. That goes back to America’s basic Constitutional rights and the checks/balance system of government. We are no longer a “Democracy” so we are no longer a world power because that was the core principle that made us one.

Report this

By Mike Kaybal, March 3, 2007 at 9:28 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Just to set Mr. O’kaun straight. North Korea couldn’t have “invaded” South Korea since South Korea didn’t yeat exist. It was in fact, a product of the U.S. (U.N.) invasion of KOREA as part of its failed strategy of containing communism militarily. What the U.S. actually got involved in was a civil war. I know that’s hard to believe but…

Report this

By Jeff Badura, March 2, 2007 at 4:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Comment #56195 by Julian Gorfian says When was the last time N. Korea invaded other country? U.S. is bigger threat to world peace than N. Korea because it invades other countries that do not threaten U.S. just so some segments of the U.S. military/industrial complex can benefit from the war and post war contracts while the rest of us bear the risk of further terrorism.

knee o’kaun says- try the Korean War ??? the North invaded the South in a war of aggression to enslave the South in the same manner the North is enslaved and only the heroic acts of the US military/industrial complex has kept the South free since then !!! Learn your history!!! and then maybe your views just might change !!! the USA invades countries to free it peoples, not to enslave them !!! the people of N.Korea are kept in horrible bondage all for the wishes of the four foot tyrant and the rest of the world including the USA is to blame too for allowing this continue !!!

illgramaticus knee o’kaun

Report this

By TAO Walker, March 1, 2007 at 8:56 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

And the rule of fear rides again.  Nuclear weapons might indeed bring THE END of this would-be Earth-destroying “process” its victim/perps like to call civilization….and a lot of them are likely to go down the tubes with it, too, whichever way it ends.  It seems never to occur, however, to such otherwise seemingly smart people as Mr. Scheer that there are predatory types loose in the feedlot where he lives who are constantly sniffing-out the things that make their fellah and gal dogies most afraid.  They then proceed to acquire and brandish (and, if necessary to prove their “commitment,” to stage a demonstration of) whatever instruments or methods thus discovered promise to cow the weaker breeds into even more-abject servility.  Atomic weaponry is just one latter day example of a very long line of these bogies.

The real “....main threat to the survival of the (domesticated members of the) human species….” is their own self-administered drug-induced stupidity coupled with the utter corruption of their mostly self-appointed elites.  Maybe the final fatal blow will come in the form of nuclear mass suicide.  It is sure as hell coming in some self-inflicted form or other….and much sooner than later….if y’all don’t change your foolish ways pretty damn quick.

The relatively tolerable usages of the everyday rule of fear inevitably degenerate, as they lose their effectiveness, into the terminal atrocities characteristic of outright reigns of terror.  This transmogrification has to all intents and purposes already taken place here at the end of days….with its customarily stunning impact on the already scattered wits of its slap-happy subjects.  The merely annoyingly eccentric “king” is dead.  Long live the monstrously MAD “king”!

Well, it won’t be all that long really….but it’s going to seem like forever for those caught in it.  Running scared will only make things a lot worse.


Report this

By Julian Gorfian, March 1, 2007 at 4:15 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

When was the last time N. Korea invaded other country? U.S. is bigger threat to world peace than N. Korea because it invades other countries that do not threaten U.S. just so some segments of the U.S. military/industrial complex can benefit from the war and post war contracts while the rest of us bear the risk of further terrorism.

Report this

By slb, March 1, 2007 at 3:40 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Remember Iraq’s slam-dunk WMD that turned out not to be there after all?  Looks like it might be “deja vu all over again” regarding North Korea.  Bush broke off the 1994 agreement and imposed various sanctions claiming that the North Koreans were violating the agreement by engaging in uranium enrichment. And in response the North Koreans opened up the plutonium stocks that had been under IAEA seal and used them to develop their first atomic weapon.

Only now intelligence officials are admitting that the North Koreans may not have been pursuing an enrichment program after all, and even if they were, it wasn’t very far advanced:

Ooops, there goes another megaton,
Ooops, there goes another megaton blast…

Report this

By Jeff Badura, March 1, 2007 at 9:22 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

some info for all you Bush &USA; haters?? and all those on these posts who love to call the USA Nazis or Fascists!!  if any of us were in N. Korea, and dared to write the stuff we write here? we would be rounded up and shot on the spot, and our family members and friends and associates would be sent off to a concentration camp in the North for torture, rape and re-education !!! even reading the stuff on these posts is a capitol offense in N.Korea, and punishable by death !! so all you left wingers out there who love to hate “our” greatest of all lands (USA) just put that bit of info in your pipes, and smoke it !!! cause if your looking for real Fascists and tyrants to be against (like us neocons are) then “little” Kim is the real deal !!! not Bush !!!

illgramaticus knee o’kaun

Report this

By Martin, March 1, 2007 at 5:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I suspect that this North Korea deal is utilitarian.  It will keep our back free when we start war with Iran. Similar to the Hitler-Stalin non-aggression pact of August 1939 that gave Hitler the breathing room to attack Poland and therewith start the war with France and England.
The Pentagon strategists concluded that war with Iran and an opportunistic entry into the war by North Korea would be very costly and dangerous for the US. In order to satisfy the top brass, Bush had to do a quick and dirty non-aggression deal. It will not be worth much more than the paper that it is written on as far as the agreements in the six country contact as concerned, but as a non-aggression pact, it might do just fine.
Fasten your seat-belts.

Report this

By nimbu, February 28, 2007 at 11:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If Robert Scheer so glibly asserts that “the main threat to the survival of the human species on this planet” are nukes, why doesn’t he ask his own government to do something about it? Like giving up nukes or at least agreeing to a dis-armament regime that is fair and just. I guess as a white citizen of a western christain country that is beyond him.

Report this

By Dan Noel, February 28, 2007 at 10:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Actually, North Korea’s discreet and successful nuclear program is a blessing to neocons: it provides a new enemy for a few years, perhaps decades, at a time where the pressure to end the Iraq war is getting higher and higher.

Remember Michael Moore: the war is not meant to be won, but to be permanent.

Remember Robert Greenwald: the war serves to siphon federal money towards well-connected and unscrupulous contractors.

The one thing the president and his aides have to be very careful at is keeping “us the people” believe that whatever mistakes they may make are innocent and that we just need to focus on their vision of the USA as a fortress under siege.

Report this

By Robert Murtha, February 28, 2007 at 2:30 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

My best guess, based on past performance, is that the Bush administration will violate the deal
and cheat the Koreans out of whatever benefit they thought they might get from this agreement. Then the lap dog press will print their lies and spin blaming it all on the North Koreans.  Can anyone seriously believe that the Bush administration is capable of good faith?

Report this

By Jeff Badura, February 28, 2007 at 12:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

a few unmentioned points about the above mentioned story !! first, yes the deal is basically the same as the one with Clinton but the big difference is, its also with Japan and China and Russia and S.Korea !!! that’s the point !! the point is that if it was the same deal they made with the Clinton administration, done over again with the Bush team?? after Kim just broke the Clinton deal, then N.Korea would just break the deal again, and blame the US again??? now when they break the deal (and they will ) it will be broken with all four other members too !!!  that’s the point guys !! that’s what the holdup was !!! and all you in the lib-press and the ultra-lib blog-la-land just miss it entirely !! for this neocon is concerned??  this is a rotten deal!!! i wouldn’t agree to anything with that murdering tyrant in N.Korea except a hangman’s noose like the one Saddam got !!! how can we trust this piece of human fecal matter??? who starves his own people, kidnaps Japanese citizens into slave labor, kidnaps S.Korean actresses who he’s got a crush on, sells weapons to the highest bidder, regardless of who it is or what they are going to use them for!!  he keeps his people in horrible poverty and slavery, and even runs concentration camps for all who he perceives might decent??? even talking to this guy is a crime and I’m totally disappointed in the Bush team for this deal!!! Bolton is 100% right!!!  and i guarantee he will go back on his word, like all criminals do !!! the war in Iraq has weakened our stance !! and the upcoming attacks on Iran made Bush blink and agree to this deal, that will only be broken in the future!!! next time i hope the next president (McCain) gets the drift? and drops a smart bomb right between Little Kim’s evil eyes !! for that’s the only deal he deserves!!!  any of you full of yourself, western democratic citizens, who say the rest of the world just isn’t ready for our democracy??? so we have no right to force it or expect it from others in or around the third world!!  need only to look at South Korea and North Korea to see the difference in the same people!!! one with a legal government who answers to its people, and one with a criminal dictator who hold a gun to the head of his countries populace!! to see what the world can look like as us neocons get our way,(and in time we will)  and we keep taking these mini-Hitlers out, one at a time!! the Korean peninsula is a perfect example of whats wrong with coddling dictators!! shame on us all, we are all to blame !!! for allowing such horrors to be committed in the 21st century !!! shame on us all, for our indifference to the suffering of our fellow man, and shame on Bush for making this deal with the devil!!!  I’m personally disgusted in it all!!............illgramaticus knee o’kaun

Report this

By Quy Tran, February 28, 2007 at 12:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Don’t be over optimistic ! The playing cards aren’t turned over yet !

Report this

By felicity, February 28, 2007 at 10:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sounds simplistic, but is this yet again really about oil - to hell with the bomb.  North Korea has the bomb but no oil:  Iran has no bomb but it has oil.  Who are we hell-bent on attacking, the guy with the oil.  The bomb?  No big deal.

Reading the foreign policy moves of the Bush administration is like listening to someone suffering from a severe case of schizophrenia combined with an equally severe case of ADD with perhaps a trace of imbecility.

Perhaps it’s catching - in my case anyway. Let’s blame Reagan for the weaponry that Iran has and is supposedly smuggling into Iraq and killing Americans.  Afterall, were it not for Iran/Contra (with Israel the middleman) the Iran arsenals might not be so full.  And, afterall, it’s the old and very tired Republican game of blaming past administrations for its present disasters so it should have no objections to our attacking its sainted president.

Report this

By jerry reyes, February 28, 2007 at 10:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The next step should be to allow both Koreas to pursue their ” Sunhine Policy” which seeks to unify Korea.South Korea suspended pursuit of this policy after Bush dismissed it as pure nonsense. Maybe we should think about withdrawing
our troops from Korea and bring them back home.
North Korea has the nuke and we are good at threatening only the weak and defenseless

Report this

sign up to get updates

Right 1, Site wide - BlogAds Premium
Right 2, Site wide - Blogads
Join the Liberal Blog Advertising Network
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
Join the Liberal Blog Advertising Network

A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion   Publisher, Zuade Kaufman   Editor, Robert Scheer
© 2014 Truthdig, LLC. All rights reserved.

Like Truthdig on Facebook