Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Bush: No capital, no authority, and a nuclear North Korea

Some people may find Robert Parry a little over the top at times but no one can suggest he isn't one of the most diligent investigative reporters of the past 25 years. While working for Associated Press, with his partner Brian Barger, he uncovered the activities of one Oliver North and was the first to make the connection between the Nicaraguan Contras and Latin American cocaine traffickers. Both stories blew the lid off what was to become the Iran-Contra Affair.

Parry has written a detailed account and timeline specifying the events which led to North Korea exploding a nuclear weapon on 9 Oct. He pulls no punches.

Months before 9/11 and the "global war on terror" - and two years before the Iraq War - George W. Bush tested out his tough-talkin' diplomacy on communist North Korea. Bush combined harsh rhetoric and intimidating tactics to demonstrate to Pyongyang that there was a swaggering new sheriff in town.

In his first weeks in office, Bush cast aside the Clinton administration's delicate negotiations that had hemmed in North Korea's nuclear ambitions. The new President then brushed aside worries of Secretary of State Colin Powell and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung about dangerous consequences from a confrontation.

At a March 2001 summit, Bush rejected Kim Dae Jung's détente strategy for dealing with North Korea, a humiliation for both Kim, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Powell, who wanted to continue pursuing the negotiation track. Instead, Bush cut off nuclear talks with North Korea and stepped up spending on a "Star Wars" missile shield.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Bush got tougher still, vowing to "rid the world of evil" and listing North Korea as part of the "axis of evil."

More substantively, Bush sent to Congress a "nuclear posture review," which laid out future U.S. strategy for deploying nuclear weapons. Leaked in 2002, the so-called NPR put North Korea on a list of potential targets for U.S. nuclear weapons.

The Bush administration also discussed lowering the threshold for the use of U.S. nuclear weapons by making low-yield tactical nukes available for some battlefield situations.

By putting North Korea on the nuclear target list, Bush reversed President Clinton's commitment against targeting non-nuclear states with nuclear weapons. Clinton's idea was that a U.S. promise not to nuke non-nuclear states would reduce their incentives for joining the nuclear club.


The North Koreans were telegraphing how they would respond to Bush's nuclear saber-rattling. They would create a nuclear threat of their own.

But Bush was in no mood to seek accommodation with North Korea. During one lectern-pounding tirade before congressional Republicans in May 2002, Bush denounced North Korea's leader Kim Jong Il as a "pygmy" and "a spoiled child at a dinner table," Newsweek magazine reported.
Parry goes on to describe the reaction of the North Koreans to Bush's invasion of Iraq. Rather than cower and respond to US demands, they viewed an eventual US attack as fait d'accompli. They had nothing to lose by developing a nuclear weapon.

As if Parry's analysis isn't stinging enough, The Times, Alice Miles provides her reaction to the US president's response to the North Korean nuclear test. She echoes the thoughts of most people in the world - The president of the United States of America has nothing important to say.

There he was gravely intoning on one or other news channel that this "constitutes a threat to international peace and security", and "Oh sod off" I heard myself muttering, with no desire to hear any more. It was as much ennui as irritatiodidn't didn't believe he would have anything useful to say and found it faintly annoying that he spoke as though the world would care.

One reaction from a completely insignificant voice in the political process. Yet it reveals, I think, a sad truth: the 43rd President of the United States of America has squandered the political authority of a great country. Never mind whether world leaders still feel the need to check in with the US; ordinary people no longer expect from Washington international leadership of any use. So spent is the authority of the United States that even a foreign affairs ingenue such as myself recognises that there is little constructive it can do any more. So it doesn't really matter what the President thinks. (Emphasis mine)
Two years ago, after winning a second term as the most powerful national leader in the world, George W. Bush said:

I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style. That's what happened in the -- after the 2000 election, I earned some capital. I've earned capital in this election -- and I'm going to spend it for what I told the people I'd spend it on, which is -- you've heard the agenda: Social Security and tax reform, moving this economy forward, education, fighting and winning the war on terror.
Nice try.

Capital? More like an allowance, with which he ran down to the candy store and squandered on a fistful sugar-laden junk.

George W. Bush: politically bankrupt, and a disgrace to a once great nation.

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