Paranoid? North Korea? Oh Surely Not!

Those Inscrutable Orientals

There’s much fluttering among the pundits about the enigmatic North Koreans, much puzzlement about that nation’s motives in withdrawing from the non-proliferation treaty and telling the US it’s pressing forward with nuclear manufactures. Now let’s see. President George W. Bush announces at the start of last year that North Korea is part of the Axis of Evil, and therefore a sworn foe of the US, just like Iraq and Iran. Then President George Bush emphasizes that the United States has reserves the right to “First Use” of its nuclear arsenal. Then President George Bush says the United States will not hesitate to exercise this privilege.

Is the North Korean response so mysterious? It’s not as though North Koreans have listened to some pretty serious nuclear saber rattling before. In the winter of 1950 General Douglas McArthur asked the Joint Chiefs to give the go-ahead to his plan to drop “between thirty and fifty atomic bombs” across the neck of the Korean peninsula. The Joint Chiefs, according to the account given by Jon Halliday and Bruce Cumings in their book Unknown War, came close to giving him the green light. Late in 1951, in Operation Hudson Harbor, a lone B-52 was sent over Pyonyang, as if on a nuclear bombing run.

From 1957 on, as Gavan McCormack reminds us in the current edition of New Left Review, the US kept an intimidating stockpile close to the DMZ, when the North had no nuclear capability. Only pressure from the peace movement in South Korea prompted the US to remove this in 1991. If we are to believe Hans Kristensen in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (Sep-Oct 2002) the US ran rehearsals for a long-range bombing strike on North Korea up to 1998, maybe even to this very day. As McCormack writes, the DPRK does want “an end to the threat of nuclear annihilation under which it has lived for longer than any other nation.

The North Koreans made the usual mistake of believing Bill Clinton, who signed onto a deal brokered by Jimmy Carter in 1994, known as the Geneva “Agreed Framework”. North Korea would drop its plutonium based nuclear program, and would get in return two electricity-generating light-water reactors. The US also pledged tit would move towards normalization of political and economic relations. The US Congress wouldn’t sign on, and so nothing happened. Then President George Bush broke off all discussions. North Korea, with a million or two already starved to death, 200,000 out of a population of 23 million in labor camps, and saddled with terror and leader-worship, started to play their lone nuclear card once more. And one has to say, they’re playing it pretty deftly. The man who seems to have made an utter hash of things is President George Bush.

Cops and Death

Police work continues to be a relatively safe occupation, Associated Press reports that in 2002 147 officers killed in 2002. In the 1970s an average of 220 officers died each year. In the 1980s, 185 officers were killed on average, with the average number dropping to 155.

Craig Floyd, chairman of the memorial fund, commented that “law enforcement remains the most dangerous occupation in America today, and those who serve and make the ultimate sacrifice are true portraits in courage,” Floyd said. This is nonsense. Compared to the perils of being a retail clerk in a 7/11 or toiling on a construction site, let alone working on a trawler in the Gulf of Alaska, logging in the Pacific North West or working in a deep mine, police work is pretty safe.

The public apprehension that cops are often border-line psychotic, hair-trigger ready to open fire on the slightest pretext, virtually immune for serious sanction, is growing apace, fuelled by such incidents as the recent dog slaughter on an interstate in Tennessee. Last week CNN featured a grainy film of the episode taken from one of the police cruisers.

James Smoak plus wife Pamela and son Brandon were traveling from Nashville along Interstate 40 to their Saluda, N.C., home on New Year’s Day when they noticed a trooper following him. In Cookeville, about 90 miles east of Nashville, the Smoaks were pulled over by the trooper and three local police cars. The cops ordered them out of the car, made them kneel, and handcuffed them.

At this point the Smoaks family implored the police to shut the doors of their car so the two family dogs couldn’t jump out. The cops did nothing. Out hopped Patton the bulldog. A cop promptly raised his shotgun and blew its head off, amid the horrified screams of the Smoaks family.

Of course the cops later said Patton was acting in a threatening manner and that the uniformed shotgunner “took the only action he could to protect himself and gain control of the situation,” but the film seems to show Patton wagging his tail the moment before he was blown away.

Why were the Smoaks stopped by the 4-car posse? Mr Smoaks had left his wallet on the roof of his car at the filling station and someone phoned in a report he’d seen their wallet fly out of a car and fall onto the highway with money spilling out. Well, I guess Mr Smoaks won’t make that silly mistake again.

Scroll through some Middle America websites and you’ll find much fury about what happened to Patton, as an episode ripely indicative of how cops carry on these days. Here’s “Police State In Progress” by Dorothy Anne Seese writing in the sparky Sierra Times, which bills itself as “An Internet Publication for Real Americans”, on Thursday January 09, 2003. After relating the death of Patton, Smoaks brought up other recent police rampages:

“A couple of months ago, a woman was shot to death in her car at a drive-through Walgreen’s pharmacy for trying to get Soma by a forged prescription. The officer who shot the woman–who had a 14-month old baby with her in the car–claimed self-defense because the woman was trying to run over him. However, the medical examiner found she had been shot from an angle to the left and rear of her position in the driver’s seat. Self defense? The officer is under investigation for second-degree murder and has been fired from the Chandler police department. However, a child is motherless, a man has been deprived of his wife and companion, the mother of his child, because his wife tried to get a drug with a phony prescription. Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s daughter did the same thing and got a slap on the wrist. It seems the law now considers everyone guilty until proven innocent, with people in high places excepted. The number of horror stories increases daily in Amerika.”

There was a time when “Amerika” was a word solely in left currency. Not any more, if the conservative, populist Sierra Times is any guide. Check out its Whack ‘n Stack feature about killings by cops and you’ll sense the temperature of outrage.

“No to War!” Is Anyone Listening?

Who has not clambered onto a bus, headed off to a protest demonstration and stood amid sparse company in the rain, thinking “What’s the use”. Who has not listened to some plucky orator rasping through a bullhorn, “Let our message go forth” and thought privately, “Forth to whom? Who’s Listening? Who cares?”

These days there’s a spirited movement growing across the US, opposing a war against Iraq. There have been some big events, like the rallies in Washington DC and San Francisco, attended by vast throngs. But there have also been rallies and vigils by the score, in small towns.

Are they making a difference?

Of course they are, just like the demonstrations in Europe, the middle East, Australia and elsewhere. US ambassadors and CIA heads of station may deprecate and downplay the world protests in their reports, but they cannot dismiss them, any more than can the White House. How can you ignore a turnout of 500,000 in Florence?

In short, protests count, just as they did in the very earliest days of organizing against the war in Vietnam. This organizing was undertaken by far-left groups, small Trotskyist and Maoist sects, moving far ahead of the mainstream.

When did these efforts begin? Back in 1963 and even earlier, half a decade before the huge throngs began to muster in Washington DC. In the past few weeks many veterans of these early marches have been pooling their memories. Here’s a recollection to me of one of the earliest, from Lawrence Reichard, who these days works as an organizer in Stockton, California, defending rural workers.

“In the spring of 1962,” Reichard says, ” when I was three years old, my mother dragged me to a demonstration against the U.S. war in Laos in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. There were five people at that demo. My mom, my older brother, me and two others.” Then, “In 1969 I rode in a VW bus from Charlotte, N.C. to Washington, D.C. for an anti-war demo that drew 500,000. According to Daniel Ellsberg that demo made Nixon reconsider the madman recommendation of his joints chiefs of staff to nuke Vietnam within a few miles of the Chinese border.”

That trip was especially memorable for him, Reichard continues, because he made it with the family of Norman Morrison, who immolated himself in front of the Pentagon in protest over the war. Reichard recalls that he read later that LBJ’s aides cut mention of Morrison’s death out of his newspapers so he wouldn’t see it.

“On the rare occasion that I’m asked to speak at a demo, and the turnout is low,” Reichard concludes, ” I speak about the turnout in Cedar Rapids, and the turnout in D.C. years later, as a way to rally the troops and lift spirits. Imperialism and colonialism are not stopped in a day!” He points out that “It is also noteworthy that in 1954 or 1955 the American Friends Service Committee wrote a letter to the Eisenhower administration warning against U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Needless to say, the anti-war movement of today is way ahead of the movement that brought out five demonstrators in Cedar Rapids in the early 60s.”

Reichard ended thus, “The anti-war movement has much to be proud of. To the absolute fury of the right wing, the anti-war movement of yesterday and today still, to this day, shackles this country’s ability to wage unfettered war. Right off the bat they have to forget about any war that might last more than six months or cost more than a few hundred U.S. lives. For this you can thank the peace movement and the Vietnamese, who, at tremendous cost, beat us militarily. The entire world owes a tremendous debt to the Vietnamese.”

Pheasants: The Aftermath

I wrote here about getting some pheasants, and an Indian who works at UIUC/Urbana wrote promptly to the effect that socialist principle required me to send him a brace of pheasants right away. I responded that the 24 were my year’s supply and I also give them to local friends. See what you can find locally , I suggested. Here’s his answer. This guy was hungry for pheasant!

“Dear Mr.Cockburn,

“Thank you for writing, explaining your position (re: pheasants) and providing suggestions.

“I could not wait for your reply (or the pheasants) and so I managed to locate MacPharlane Pheasant Farm in Wisconsin (see I pre-ordered 6 plump fresh pheasants and drove (through snow) to pick them up. Remarkably good birds. Two of them were promptly cooked and eaten.

“Anyway, just for your information, MacPharlane is the largest pheasant farm in the US. Their birds are sort of free-range, reared in large pens in the open that I examined carefully (one can never be too careful in these matters). The people there are also very courteous country folk. All in all, your article made me fiercely determined to get my own birds.”

Meanwhile, CounterPuncher Susan Davis, also at UIUC advised that she’s ordering pheasants one hour north of Urbana/Champaign, from a family operation run by Mrs. Dianne Moore in Watseka. Ms Moore also raises lamb, beef, pork, turkey and chicken, all organic free range plus heritage turkeys.

The man raising my pheasants is Mike Giacomini, forty miles north-east of Petrolia in Rohnerville. Mike used to do butchering in Fernbridge and I had a freezer locker in his establishment. The Eel river ran behind his place and, in the great flood of ’64, came in. They had to evacuate all the freezer lockers In Europe they hang pheasants until they get a bit high, though this is sometimes taken to absurdity. In the days when he was trying to be an Irish country squire Charlie Glass once served pheasant at a dinner outside Lismore, near where I grew up and the birds were so far gone they practically flew off the plate. Best is to hang the pheasant unplucked for three or four days so the meat absorbs the volatile oils from the feathers.

Anyone wanting my photo essays on Petrolia’s local produce can email, credit card in hand. Every penny goes into the CounterPunch treasury. They take the form of eight placemats, with vivid photographs by yours truly and my reflections on the reverse, forming a conversation piece of the most useful kind when chit chat is going poorly and the in-laws seem more than usually ill-at-ease as the crockery flies by the heads and the bairns brawl on the floor. “Oh look, a dead sheep”


Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined!, A Colossal Wreck and An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents are available from CounterPunch.