Bombing

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Bush Administration, North Korea, Weapons of Mass Destruction

Well, folks, North Korea claims it tested a nuclear weapon last night. Chalk up another achievement for the Bush foreign policy. David Sanger writes in the New York Times:

North Korea said Sunday night that it had set off its first nuclear test, becoming the eighth country in history, and arguably the most unstable and most dangerous, to proclaim that it has joined the club of nuclear weapons states.

Yesterday I dug up a four-year-old news story in which Condi Rice told Wolf Blitzer that the Bush Administration knew just how to handle Ki Jong Il; it was Saddam Hussein people should be worried about.

Rice said Iraq’s history shows the Baghdad regime is harder to contain than North Korea.

“These are not comparable situations,” she said. “They’re dangerous, both of them dangerous. But we believe that we have different methods that will work in North Korea that clearly have not and will not work in Iraq.”

Meanwhile —

The North Korean disclosure comes as the Bush administration faces a possible military confrontation with Iraq over its efforts to develop nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that he considered North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and missile capability a bigger threat to the United States than Iraq.

Graham, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, urged the White House to rethink its priorities.

[Update: Please note that Senator Graham, who is now retired, said this in 2002, while the Bushies were busy whipping up hysteria over Saddam Hussein.]

So far, has the Bush foreign policy team gotten anything right? If they have, I don’t remember what it is.

I’ve already spent considerable blog time and bandwidth explaining why the current, um, challenge posed by North Korea is George W. Bush’s doing, and not Bill Clinton’s and/or Jimmy Carter’s, as righties would have you believe. See this post for the short explanation, and “Rolling Blunder” by Fred Kaplan and the Blame Bush for North Korea’s Nukes page from The Mahablog archives if you want more detail. I’m not going into all that again this morning, except to say that any troll who is dumb enough to repeat the “it’s Clinton’s fault” propaganda here without reading my long and carefully documented proof that it isn’t will be mercilessly ridiculed. Mercilessly, I say.

Here’s something I don’t believe I’ve said before, although others have — at Huffington Post, David Wallechinsky wrote,

The North Koreans and the Iranians looked around the world and saw that countries that had nuclear weapons, like Pakistan and China, were not in danger of being invaded by George Bush, while Saddam Hussein, who didn’t have a nuclear weapons program, was in prison and being tried for war crimes. If you were the leaders of North Korea or Iran, what would you do to ensure that your country would not be invaded by the United States? Easy call: you build nuclear weapons, which is exactly what both of them are doing. Nice going, Mister President.

From the Arms Control Association, in a review of At the Borderline of Armageddon: How American Presidents Managed the Atom Bomb by James E. Goodby.

In an excellent chapter on George W. Bush, Goodby characterizes the current president’s mindset as believing that “the time had finally come to scrap the old order.” To date, he has been quite successful in this objective. Goodby notes that other presidents helped build up the international nonproliferation and arms control regimes that they saw as supporting U.S. national security. Yet, Bush clearly believes that the United States, as the only remaining superpower, should be prepared to shape the international order unilaterally and has rejected treaties that would in any way restrict U.S. freedom of action. To this end, he withdrew from the ABM Treaty, despite strong Russian objections, and replaced the unratified START II with the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT). Also known as the Moscow Treaty, SORT lacks verification provisions, and its limits on future U.S. strategic forces are effectively toothless.

Although Bush has given high priority to preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons to perceived U.S. enemies, his actions have either been ineffectual or counterproductive. At the beginning of his term, he overruled the decision of Secretary of State Colin Powell to continue very promising negotiations that the Clinton administration had begun with North Korea, thus spurring Pyongyang to advance its nuclear weapons program. Disregarding the precedent followed by previous presidents, he initiated a preventive war against Iraq on the false grounds that it was illegally developing nuclear weapons. Most recently, he has agreed to negotiate a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with India, despite long-standing U.S. and Nuclear Suppliers Group policy to deny such aid to Pakistan, India, and Israel because they have not signed the NPT and are known to have nuclear weapons.

Today, confronted with the difficult problem of Iran’s potential nuclear weapons ambitions, Bush has made clear that all options are on the table if Iran refuses to terminate its uranium-enrichment program. Because UN agreement on effective sanctions is unlikely, rumors abound that Bush is seriously considering military actions in another preventive war. Given the international hostility that his policies have created, it is clear that any such action would have to be carried out unilaterally, with disastrous results to long-range U.S. security.

I take it from the review that Goodby approved of policies by Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan (as well as Kennedy and Johnson), but he had a little disagreement with Carter and was downright ambivalent about Clinton. So you can’t say the guy dislikes Bush just because he’s partisan.

(Off topic, but I got a kick out of this bit about LBJ:

President Lyndon B. Johnson, despite his growing preoccupation with Vietnam, rejected out of hand the use of nuclear weapons there. His view of nuclear war was brought home to me by his reaction at the final meeting in 1965 on the military budget to an item listed as DUCCS. In response to his question as to what this was, he was told it stood for Deep Underground Command and Control Site, a facility that would be located several thousand feet underground, between the White House and the Pentagon, designed to survive a ground burst of a 20-megaton bomb and sustain the president and key advisers for several months until it would be safe to exit through tunnels emerging many miles outside Washington. After a brief puzzled expression, Johnson let loose with a string of Johnsonian expletives making clear he thought this was the stupidest idea he had ever heard and that he had no intention of hiding in an expensive hole while the rest of Washington and probably the United States were burned to a crisp. That was the last I ever heard of DUCCS.

What do you want to bet some version of DUCCS has been resurrected by the Bushies?)

Anthony Faiola, Glenn Kessler and Dafna Linzer write for the Washington Post
:

The announcement [by North Korea] brought a hailstorm of swift international denunciations … South Korean officials said they detected a significant man-made explosion in the barren northeast of the peninsula, and were substantiating the Pyongyang government’s claim. The test would make the Stalinist state the world’s eighth proven nuclear power, as well as its most volatile.

Chinese authorities immediately condemned the test. North Korea “has ignored the widespread opposition of the international community and conducted a nuclear test brazenly on October 9,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its Web site. “The Chinese government is firmly opposed to this.”

Yet the reaction from the U.S. was more subdued.

The White House did not immediately confirm the test, but spokesman Tony Snow said in a statement: “U.S. and South Korean intelligence detected a seismic event Sunday at a suspected nuclear test site in North Korea. A North Korean nuclear test would constitute a provocative act, in defiance of the will of the international community and of our calls to refrain from actions that would aggravate tensions in northeast Asia. We expect the Security Council to take immediate actions to respond to this unprovoked act.”

Billmon predicted:

Tony Snow will step out tomorrow to tell us it’s really not such a big deal — the North Koreans and Kim Jong-il being ever so much nicer and more rational than those genocidal Iranians and their power-crazed dictator, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

This is followed by an update — a bit of transcript of Tony Snow tap dancing furiously to distract reporters from White House ineptitude. Pathetic and hilarious at once.

Via Memeorandum, a quickie survey of Right Blogosphere reactions indicates the Official VRWC Spin: It probably didn’t happen; if North Korea keeps testing, it will run out of weapons soon and we won’t have to worry about them; it’s Clinton’s and Carter’s fault.

I like this one:

I claim some credit for calling the timing just before the election [although I don’t claim to have predicted, one way or another, whether they’d go through with this]. I think this was an enormous miscalculation on North Korea’s part. The Republicans will be gleeful that no one will be talking about Mark Foley next week. The national conversation will be back to national security, and the Republicans will have the chance to do what they do best — act tough on such issues.

The operative word is, of course, act. But I’d be very surprised if North Korea’s test registers more than a blip in the national consciousness, and I’d be extremely surprised if it drives the Foley sex scandal off cable news. In the Nooz Biz, the operative word is, of course, sex.

President Bush will probably have no choice but to ignore the counsel of State Department doves who had nearly unopposed control of Bush’s North Korea policy until last August.

Yeah; until last August, he was doing a heck of a job.

Now, he’ll most likely use many of the options he didn’t use after North Korea’s July missile tests. I would expect some very severe sanctions and a move for a U.N. arms embargo.

He’s going to run to the UN for help? My, how the child has fallen.

I’m going to predict that in the next few days the Bush Administration will be taking a back seat to China and other world powers in dealing with North Korea. The Bushies might try some saber-rattling to impress the home folks (and distract reporters from Dennis Hastert), but the world knows Bush is running low on sabers to rattle. In truth, the only options Bush has, other than run to the UN, are embargos and sanctions, which is what Condi was talking about back in 2002. And embargos and sanctions just don’t have the sex appeal that war has.

For a more intelligent analysis of what Bush might do, see emptywheel.

Update:
For a different view, see Bill Scher:

As LiberalOasis has noted several times in the last four years, the Bush Administration never was interested in a negotiated deal to prevent North Korea from getting nukes.

The neocons want regime change in North Korea, in an attempt to constrict the rise of China. And they see any deal as helping the North Korea dictator remain in power.

After initially suspending talks with North Korea, and unraveling the diplomatic progress made by the Clinton Administration, the Bushies then agreed to “six-party” talks.

But the move was not intended to make new diplomatic progress. It was intended to make the Bushies look like they tried diplomatic avenues, when in fact, they made no serious proposals.

We can now see the results of this so-called “hard-line” strategy. A nuclear North Korea. A greater risk of more nuclear proliferation. A more unstable world.

Also, Glenn Kessler’s analysis in the Washington Post is pretty good, although it doesn’t clarify the uranium versus plutonium issue.

Update update: Josh Marshall has a good analysis, too, but the permalink isn’t working. You’ll have to scroll down to “(October 09, 2006 — 02:00 AM EST // link)” to read it.

More updates in the next post.

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14 Comments

9 Comments

  1. k  •  Oct 9, 2006 @10:35 am

    Billmon sums it up best:

    A certain dime-store cowboy has had his bluff called, and everybody around the table can see that all he’s holding is a busted straight (not to mention a busted Army).

    Looks like we’re all going to have to learn how to live with a nuclear North Korea.

  2. ChiTom  •  Oct 9, 2006 @10:42 am

    Any chance that the DUCCS really does exist now? Maybe we could figure out a way to get the Prez, the Veep, Rummy, Condi, and co. into hiding there for a few months, and let some more rational people run the country for a while?

    “Say, aren’t those emergency sirens I hear in DC? Time to duck and cover, boys and girls.”

  3. el kanuckistani  •  Oct 9, 2006 @10:43 am

    Sen. Bob Graham told CBS North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and missle capability are a bigger threat to the U.S. than Iraq!……..
    What a revelation.Then again so is Canada.

  4. maha  •  Oct 9, 2006 @10:48 am

    el kanuckistani — the point is that Senator Graham (who is now retired) said that in 2002 while the Bushies were busy whipping up hysteria over Saddam Hussein. .

  5. Swami  •  Oct 9, 2006 @10:49 am

    Well, the Koreans finally went and did it..I quess its time to show the world that we really mean business and invade Mexico.

  6. maha  •  Oct 9, 2006 @11:04 am

    Any chance that the DUCCS really does exist now?

    I’d like to check it out, because you know the Bushie motto — “The Democrats, yes; other Republicans, maybe; us, never.” (You may have to think about that.) It would be uncharacteristic of them to not provide for saving their own skins in case the nation fries.

  7. el kanuckistani  •  Oct 9, 2006 @11:27 am

    Maha # 6….. So did I (say it in 2002). No one heard me either, and at least 1/3 of Americans still haven’t figured it out.
    Iraq never was a threat to the U.S. (unless you count USrael), was invaded illegally and is now occupied by an army that supposedley protects freedom. I realize I’m preaching to the choir, but how fucked up is that?
    And Swami, I think you’re on to a plan that could take hold in the mind of mairka.

  8. maha  •  Oct 9, 2006 @11:36 am

    el kanuckistani — And so did I, and so did a lot of other people. It’s nice to have it from somebody on record, however, especially juxtaposed with Condi’s blathering.

  9. moonbat  •  Oct 9, 2006 @12:31 pm

    What do you want to bet some version of DUCCS has been resurrected by the Bushies?

    If you recall, when BushCo took over, Cheney immediately began digging a bunker underneath his residence. There were numerous articles about this, but no real explanation as to what it was for. Given the man’s paranoid get-them-first psychology it should be pretty obvious.

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