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Picture this: Al-Qaeda offers Washington a "provisional" guarantee not to attack the country or seek to target US interests abroad in return for the US dismantling its military. The agreement would depend on the US giving international inspectors access to US military sites and meeting a series of deadlines for disabling and dismantling its military facilities, and then shipping them out of the country.
Would Washington agree?
No country would deliberately leave itself defenseless, simply because an enemy promised not to attack, and then only provisionally.
Yet absurd as the proposal is, this is what Washington is offering North Korea.
Under the plan, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea would furnish the Communist country with heavy fuel oil and Washington would offer a "provisional” commitment not to attack or try to topple the North Korean government, in return for North Korea dismantling its nuclear weapons program, giving international inspectors access to nuclear sites and meeting a series of deadlines for disabling and dismantling its nuclear facilities, and then shipping them out of the country.
But once the North Koreans had irreversibly dismantled their nuclear weapons capability, leaving themselves effectively defenseless, what would stop the US from rescinding its "provisional" agreement not to attack?
And it’s not as if US governments have a great record when its comes to trustworthiness.
Washington has already proved itself perfectly willing to break agreements where North Korea is concerned. Under the 1994 Agreed Framework, negotiated by the Clinton administration, North Korea agreed to shut down its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon in return for fuel oil shipments, the construction of two light-water reactors, and normalization of relations.
The nuclear facilities were closed, fuel oil shipments began, and so did construction of the light-water reactors. But Washington did little to normalize relations and construction of the reactors proceeded at a snail’s pace. By 2003, the scheduled completion date, construction work was still in its preliminary stages.
If the Clinton administration had dragged its heels on holding up its end of the agreement, the Bush administration was openly hostile.
Soon enough, Washington was claiming North Korea had admitted to breaking the agreement by secretly pursuing the development of nuclear weapons, an admission the North Koreans denied they had ever made.
Nevertheless, the Bush administration had its justification for cancelling the agreement, one it seems, it manufactured out of whole cloth — an administration speciality. Fuel oil shipments were halted.
Meanwhile, North Korea was included in the list of axis of evil countries. Bush speech writer David Frum, who boasted he’d coined the phrase, said the Communist country was included because it needed to feel a heavy hand.
How much heavier could it get?
North Korea had already struggled through 50 years of US economic sanctions. Its markets and sources of raw materials had disappeared with the collapse of Communism in Russia and Eastern Europe. And the Korean War — never officially ended, a reality attesting to by the 37,000 US troops that remained in the south — forced the country to divert scarce resources to its military.
It was a miracle a Communist North Korea continued to survive — though barely, mired in poverty, the screws turning tighter.
John R. Bolton, the under secretary of state for arms control, let it be known the US intended to play hardball. Asked to clarify US policy toward North Korea, Bolton "strode over to a bookshelf, pulled off a volume and slapped it on the table. It was called ‘The End of North Korea,’ by an American Enterprise Institute colleague. ‘That,’ he said, ‘is our policy.’" ("Absent from the Korea Talks: Bush’s Hard-Liner," The New York Times, September 2, 2003.)
Critically short of energy, and under a growing threat, North Korea kicked inspectors out of the country, re-opened its nuclear facilities, and withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Soon after, US forces marched on a defenseless Iraq, which had disarmed in compliance with UN — and US — demands. The lesson was clear: Disarm and be invaded.
The lesson wasn’t lost on the North Korean leadership. Nor should it be lost on anyone else. Whoever thinks the US would leave an effectively defenseless North Korea in peace, its Communist system intact, is suffering from a severe delusion.
Washington has never been tolerant of Communist, socialist or economic nationalist regimes, and has always worked to replace them with dependent governments that can guarantee corporate America access to markets, raw materials and low-wage labor. There’s nothing, it seems, more repugnant to Washington policy-makers than a closed economy.
In their book "An End to Evil: How to Win the War of Terror," Frum and Pentagon-advisor Richard Perle argue that a Communist regime in North Korea would be perfectly acceptable, so long as it allowed the country to be integrated into Western capitalism. The duo’s preference seems to be fit perfectly with preferences expressed in decades of US foreign policy.
So it is that it’s a near certainty that if North Korea disarmed (assuming it has nuclear weapons — no one knows for sure, and North Korea denies it has the uranium weapons program the US insists it has), the "provisional" character of Washington’s nonaggression commitment would soon become evident.
At that point, North Korea would be faced with an ultimatum: Become a satellite of the US, open your economy fully to penetration by US capital, or face the same consequences as Iraq.
Either way, the picture isn’t pretty.
STEPHEN GOWANS is a writer and political activist who lives in Ottawa, Canada. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn have stated many times that they favor ousting Bush this election, even if John Kerry is “Bush-lite.” And that stand has been repeatedly used by progressives opposed to Ralph Nader’s campaign.
However, Chomsky and Zinn, both residents of John Kerry’s home state of Massachusetts, say they plan to vote for Ralph Nader.
This may come as a surprise to those who have trotted out Chomsky in an effort to blunt Nader. One example is Jeff Cohen, the founder of the media watch group FAIR (and by way of disclosure, is an author along with both Chomsky and Zinn at Common Courage Press at which this reporter is Publisher). As Cohen stated on Commondreams.org May 7, “Progressives need to be a bridge forward, not an obstruction. Noam Chomsky has described the choice we face: ‘Help elect Bush, or do something to try to prevent it.’”
To cite another example, Doug Henwood, the Publisher of the Left Business Observer wrote in April, “…as Noam Chomsky puts it, to the distress of his many fans, given the magnitude of U.S. power, ‘small differences can translate into large outcomes.’”
But in response to an email query from this reporter, Chomsky wrote,
“Voting for Nader in a safe state is fine. That’s what I’ll do. I don’t see how anyone could read what I wrote and think otherwise, just from the elementary logic of it. Voting for Nader in a safe state is not a vote for Bush. The point I made had to do with (effectively) voting for Bush.”
Chomsky also made clear how he views the election in the context of other efforts for change: "Activist movements, if at all serious, pay virtually no attention to which faction of the business party is in office, but continue with their daily work, from which elections are a diversion — which we cannot ignore, any more than we can ignore the sun rising; they exist."
In another email exchange, Howard Zinn stated, “I will vote for Nader because Mass. is a safe state. And voters in ‘safe states’ should not vote for Kerry.” He also notes, “I don’t have faith in Kerry changing, but with Kerry there is a possibility that a powerful social movement might change him. With Bush, no chance.”
The question of Kerry’s receptivity to social movements deserves serious consideration, discussed further in the book from which this article is adapted. But returning to the issue of voting for Kerry in safe states, the impact of the Electoral College is virtually absent in discussions about Nader’s run.
As BusinessWeek June 14 2004 points out, 75% of voters live in safe states. Voters casting a ballot for Kerry in those states, regardless of the message they intend to send, will be perceived by the Democratic National Committee as endorsing the Kerry platform of war and moving the Democrats to the right. Meanwhile, voters in safe states have the opportunity to send a message that Kerry’s platform is unacceptable, without risking throwing the election to Bush.
GREG BATES is the publisher of Common Courage Press and the author of Ralph’s Revolt: the Case for Joining Nader’s Rebellion, from which this essay has been excerpted. Bates can be reached at: email@example.com