Pyongyang’s dress rehearsal for the apocalypse

Posted on

Yesterday, referring to Saddam Hussein, President Bush declared, “The game is over,” an apt image indeed, directly from childhood, for our RISK-taking “senior official.” And the New York Times in its editorial today proclaimed the “endgame” at hand, a phrase that falls somewhere between Sherlock Holmes and an apocalyptic endtime.

But here we are, two days after Colin Powell’s speech at the UN, and the games seem to be ongoing. Already a key British intelligence dossier praised by Colin Powell (“I would call my colleagues’ attention to the fine paper that the United Kingdom distributed… which describes in exquisite detail Iraqi deception activities.”) turns out, reports the Guardian, to be largely plagiarized from an obscure student paper published in an obscure journal and two pieces from Jane’s Intelligence Review, one from 1997 and the other from last November. No credit given, but maybe that’s par for the course with “intelligence” work. As Dr. Glen Rangwala, the scholar who first noticed this commented: “Apart from passing this off as the work of its intelligence services, it indicates that the UK really does not have any independent sources of information on Iraq’s internal policies. It just draws upon publicly available data.” To read this Guardian piece click here

But the truth is, none of this matters. Within the last days, Turkish governmental opposition to an American invasion from its soil has collapsed amid major wheeling, dealing, and threatening. Can various European governments be far behind? A “coalition of the willing” is certainly forming — if you can call pressured vassals and bribed “allies” (or those at least wishing for future benefits), the willing. Fear of the greatest power on Earth turns out to be a great motivator.

In the meantime, elsewhere on the planet — if there is any place other than Iraq — this administration’s principle of force winds its way toward hell. Yesterday, for instance, the North Koreans pointed out the obvious to the British Guardian, “The United States says that after Iraq, we are next,” said the deputy director [of the North Korean foreign ministry] Ri Pyong-gap, “but we have our own countermeasures. Pre-emptive attacks are not the exclusive right of the US.” To read this Guardian piece picked up off commondreams.org click here

This was, of course, not the preemptive principle the Bush administration had proposed. Their principle went something like: We alone reserve the right to preemptive attack. For you, the other nations of the world, we reserve the right to side with us or be preempted. The North Koreans, knowing they sit somewhere just down the list of preemptees from Iraq, have clearly decided not to wait. The American response was not to talk, but to move more bombers into the region, to send the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk Korea-wards and, as reported in the Los Angeles Times today (“U.S.Tells N. Korea It Can Wage 2 Wars”), to respond with bluster of our own: “The Bush administration warned North Korea on Thursday that it had ‘robust plans for any contingencies’ and though it has no intention of invading, the U.S. is capable of simultaneous military action there and in Iraq.” To read this LA Times piece click here

Unfortunately, words in this world sometimes carry weight. Wars have been started over less. And in the case of both Iraq and North Korea, we now know that, should things spin out of control, weapons of mass destruction might well be brought into play on all sides (on which more in a subsequent dispatch).

Meanwhile, elsewhere on our beleaguered earth, the Washington Post (vigorously banging the drums for an Iraqi war on its editorial pages) reports that in Colombia, US special forces trainers and US helicopters are moving into the front lines of guerrilla warfare as part of our ever more warlike war on terror there. Shades of Vietnam, can it be long before helicopters are shot down, special forces soldiers begin to die, and we all begin to think “Vietnam”? Here’s a small passage from the Post piece:

“The 70 U.S. trainers in Arauca — more than half here, the rest on nearby bases in Cano Limon and Arauca city to the east — are a useful propaganda symbol for the guerrillas, who have long warned of U.S. economic designs on Colombia’s natural wealth. The message has resonated all the more as the United States prepares for a possible war in Iraq that could disrupt world oil supplies.

“In the coming weeks, U.S. officials say, at least five UH-1H Huey II helicopters will be sent from the south to support counterinsurgency here. Those helicopters, funded under a $1.3 billion U.S. anti-drug package, were restricted to anti-drug operations until the Bush administration received congressional approval last year to allow their use in counterinsurgency.”

To read more of the Washington Post piece click here

Finally, in the more general assault on the planet, according to the New York Times today, “The Bush administration is requesting exemptions for 54 companies and trade groups that want to continue using a pesticide scheduled to be phased out by 2005 under a treaty to protect the ozone layer, officials said today.” The Ozone what?

For whatever reason, as I considered this day, I remembered a TV show from my childhood, much beloved by me. It was called “You Are There,” and it recreated historic events — the conquest of the Aztecs, the Boston Tea Party, the Burning of Joan of Arc — but with reporters present. (“General Lee, General Lee, there’s a rumor you’re going to Appomattox Courthouse to surrender!” “No comment.”) It always ended with one of those deep male over-voices of that era intoning: “What sort of a day was it? A day like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate our times… and you were there.”

Here’s a report from today’s Guardian on one of the darkest — no electricity, a regime from the deeper circles of hell — lands of our planet as it goes through constant “dress rehearsals for the apocalypse.” I’m referring to North Korea — and we’re all lucky not to be there. Tom

Daily drills, nightly blackouts: North Korea is certain it’s next on the US list
In Pyongyang people wake to martial music and go to bed hungry

By Jonathan Watts in Pyongyang
February 7, 2003
The Guardian

The dress rehearsal for the apocalypse begins at 10am sharp in Kim il-sung Square with a terrifying wail of sirens. As a cacophony of loudspeaker warnings of enemy attack echoes from revolutionary war murals, Pyongyang citizens flee for cover.

Fraught-looking women and cloth-capped workers break into a run as they head across the broad square, down misty streets and into the bowels of the earth. Once the citizens are huddled in the cavernous subway platforms more than 100 metres underground, the warnings are replaced by the rousing strains of martial music assuring them of the ultimate victory of the motherland.

This has become a daily routine in North Korea, along with nightly blackout drills that plunge this city of millions into an eerie darkness through which even the trams ghost along without lights.

To read more of the Guardian piece click here