Monday, November 15, 2004

Behind the iron curtain

It probably won't come as a great surprise to people that I have a few bones to pick with President Bush (that's that he won a fair and square victory I have to call him what he is...I won't promise never to call him El Presidente again, but...) and his administration's North Korea policy. While we got into a quagmire and mess in Iraq, fighting someone who (while admitedly was a horrible person and needed to go) had no nukes, no WMDs, not even working programs...we have allowed a much greater evil to survive and prosper - one who not only admits to programs, but we actually believe he has actual weapons and has been able to expand his arsenal during this administration. A nation which poses an incredible and real risk to the stability and safety of an entire region of the world and whom none in the world would be sorry to see gone. A nation and leader which constantly threatens both ourselves and our allies in Asia. While we for years refused to even speak one-on-one with them, instead insisting on multination talks but not even getting down to that.

Unfortunately for the neocons, who would probably like to go after Kim Jong Il, Iraq has so diminished our combat strength elsewhere that making a move against North Korea would be difficult if not impossible at this point. Not until Iraq settles down, at a minimum. Maybe not even then - I'm not convinced that we didn't take on Iraq simply because we knew that militarily, it would be a cakewalk (or at least assumed it would be). North Korea would be a tougher nut to crack (pun intentional).

That said, in the last few years we have seen more and more "insiders reports" on what's going on inside North Korea. New documentaries, containing smuggled out pictures and the testimonies of defectors, books, and the like have all done a great deal to expose what's going on in the most secretive society on the planet. We're seeing details of what life is like there - at least, as many details as can be slipped out - and what we're seeing is frightening and perhaps even a little heartening.

All of this as prelude to this short little article from the German newsweekly Der Spiegel (sort of the German version of Time/Newsweek, crossed with The Economist and The New Yorker). Don't worry - it's been translated into english. The details appear to be from a forthcoming book by journalist Jasper Becker, which appears to contain reports that perhaps the North Korean people have not been as docile under Kim Jong Il as the "Dear Leader" would like the world to think.
In the bitter years of the mid-1990s, when the regime allowed up to three million people to die from malnutrition and weakness, demonstrations repeatedly flared up against the country's bizarre ruler who, with his blow-dried hair and eccentric uniforms, is partial to preaching to his exhausted citizens in so-called spontaneous lectures. Slogans against the dictator ("Down with Kim Jong Il") appeared on railroad cars, overpasses and factory walls. Flyers condemning the dynasty's unbelievable ostentation were even posted outside the Kumsusan Mausoleum in Pyongyang, where the elder Kim's embalmed body lies in state.
Now...some of these new revelations appear to come from the reports of defectors and refugees from North Korea, and as we've learned in Iraq...those aren't always the most reliable source in the world. Others come from South Korean intelligence sources, who might have their own motivations. That said, however...if true, it would appear that the population isn't nearly as fanatically loyal to the Dear Leader as Kim would have us all believe. One has to wonder what would happen if the North was truly made to fear an actual war with the United States and it's allies - a war the North could not hope to win. Would they get rid of him? An interesting question.

I'm not one to rattle the sabres, cases where there is a clear and present danger...I'm not opposed to using our military. I'm not a pacifist. I simply believe that Iraq was the wrong war against the wrong nation at the wrong time, and I believe subsequent events and news have validated me on that front. I wonder...with four more years...will the neocons start druming up the PNK problem?


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