Tuesday, June 12, 2018

You’ve Been Lied To About North Korea

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The power of America’s North Korea war propaganda comes simply from how big the lie involved is. During the U.S./North Korea cold war escalations in the last year-and-a-half, I’ve seen Americans who otherwise disbelieve war narratives insist that Kim Jong Un is a “madman” who might strike the U.S. without provocation. The enormity of this perceived North Korea “threat,” coupled with how American politicians and media have talked about North Korea along the lines of this narrative for generations, has made the menace of the “irrational” nuclear rogue state an undeniable fact in many people’s minds.

The falseness of this narrative is clear as soon as one looks behind the hyperbolic language and implausible ideas that are hammered into mainstream conversations about North Korea. The pundits and political figures who make these statements, interestingly, also largely oppose attempts at peace with the North. While 88% of the South Korean public have supported the North Korea peace talks of the last several months, columnists from the Washington Post and other U.S. outlets have responded with near-unanimous negativity and cynicism. The consensus is that no matter what the U.S. does, the mad Kim Jong will not give up his nukes.
If it isn’t enough that the language of these pundits has mirrored the views of North Korea from the open advocates of war, the mainstream media overwhelmingly sources its foreign policy stories from the Atlantic Council and other neoconservative think tanks. The trillions of dollars in minerals that North Korea has, along with the policy of military aggression and brutal economic war that Washington has had towards North Korea for six decades, explains why these figures seem to want to keep open the possibility for an invasion.
The globally destructive “solution” of an attack on North Korea has been accepted in our discourse as not just a legitimate option, but as potentially the only way to stop the Kim’s cartoonishly portrayed “suicide mission.” And the moderates who don’t necessarily want war give the warmongers legitimacy by acting like North Korea is a complete puzzle, like when Trevor Noah said to his liberal audience last year that “no one has figured out” how to solve this problem. People like Tulsi Gabbard, though, have pointed out how we can stop North Korea from attacking us, which is simply to not attack them first.
There is nothing irrational about North Korea's nuclear weapons pursuits, nor even about their threatening statements. Even CIA officials have assessed that Kim Jong Un is of sound mind, and that he’s making all of his moves as a “rational actor.” His actions have fit this description; every missile test and statement about North Korea’s nuclear capabilities has been an attempt to deter a U.S. military attack on the country.
The goal of the Kim regime is to survive, not to create a war that would destroy it. They’ve shown this by consistently stating that they won’t strike the U.S. unless the U.S. strikes first, a pledge that they codified by entering into the no use first agreement on their nuclear weapons in 2016. This is how North Korea has acted since the start of its existence, when the U.S. began preparing for another Korean war by keeping troops on the peninsula. As The Intercept’s Peter Maas observes, “North Korea is the most predictable regime on earth. The real threat is the erratic U.S. government.”
While I was writing this, the U.S. entered into a deal with North Korea that may stop the tensions. President Trump promises that the U.S. “will be stopping the war games” that have been recklessly going on at North Korea’s border, in exchange for North Korea’s apparent plan to denuclearize. Immediately, Democratic leaders have condemned the deal, like with Senator Chris Murphy’s tweet that insinuates stopping the war games will have no benefit.
This has gone along with an explosion of misleading comments from the corporate media about the supposed hopelessness of this deal’s success. These statements, it seems, already make North Korea less likely to fulfill its promise to denuclearize, given the hints within the statements that future U.S. presidents will bring back the aggressions against the North. This continuation of the tensions is of course just what the U.S. empire wants.
Yet many Americans who genuinely want peace are agreeing with these statements, because they’ve been persuaded to agree with them by the distorted picture of North Korea that politicians and the media have created. This picture makes it look like North Korea will only respond to threats of violence, not assurances of peace.
In other words, it’s the same kind of picture we were given of Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, and the other leaders of past countries that the U.S. has had supposedly no choice but to destroy. It doesn’t look like this picture has become any less believable to Americans over the decades.

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