by Eric Margolis
NEW YORK -- Name a `rogue nation,' part of President George Bush's `axis of
evil,' run by a megalomaniac dictator who threatens his neighbors and America
with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. If you said Iraq, wrong.
The correct answer: North Korea. So is Washington planning to invade North
Korea and overthrow Kim Jong-il's Stalinist regime? Absolutely not. While the
war-infatuated Bush Administration insists full-scale invasion of Iraq is the
only way to deal with wicked Saddam Hussein, its policy toward far more
dangerous North Korea is radically different.
Last Wednesday, a high-profile ceremony was held in Kumho, North Korea,
attended by 100 US, Korean and Japanese officials, complete with fireworks,
flowery speeches, and a brass band, to lay the foundation of two nuclear power
plants for `axis of evil' North Korea. The plants are being given to North Korea
by a US-led consortium as a part of a US $4.6 billion package signed in 1994 to
get the north to end its nuclear weapons program and not invade South Korea.
Rather than fight a major war, the Clinton Administration decided to bribe North
Korea to behave with cash, food, oil and nuclear plants. The Bush Administration
has reaffirmed this policy, albeit reluctantly.
CIA estimates North Korea has at least 2-3 nuclear devices and a
intermediate range missiles capable of delivering nuclear, chemical or
biological warheads to all of Asia, Hawaii, and Alaska. North Korea is expected
to have ICBM's capable of striking the American mainland in 2-3 years. North
Korea refuses to admit UN nuclear inspectors. But this is apparently acceptable
to the US.
North Korea also continues to strengthen its already huge, 1.1-million man
army. Newly fielded batteries of long-range artillery, rockets, and tactical
missiles, mainly improved Scuds, can deliver a storm of nuclear, conventional,
chemical, and biological weapons onto Seoul, all positions of the US 2nd
Infantry Division, and US airbases further south. North Korea has repeatedly
threatened to `burn' Seoul and `annihilate' the 37,000 US troops in South Korea.
In addition, its 100,000-man commando force, the world's largest, is tasked with
attacking US bases in South Korea, Japan, Okinawa and even Guam.
Recent naval clashes with South Korea clearly show that while occasionally
talking peace as a means of getting handouts of more cash, oil and food to feed
its starving people, the North remains a dangerous, totally unpredictable nation
led by a regime every bit as sinister and brutal as Saddam's, perhaps even more
Iraq threatens no one, save its own people. Iraq has less than 100,000
effective troops and an inoperative air force. Only 40% of its antiquated tanks
and guns are operational. Its armed forces cannot move, fight, see, or
communicate effectively. Iraq has perhaps five or so inaccurate Scud missiles
hidden away and no nuclear weapons.
As for Iraq's much balyhooed weapons of mass destruction - mustard and nerve
gas, anthrax, and botulism - nearly all were destroyed during seven years of
intrusive UN inspections. Whatever small amounts were hidden away by Iraq have
became chemically inert, according to former UN inspector Scott Ritter, who
points out the shelf life of chemical and biological weapons is only 3-5 years.
By contrast, North Korea actively, directly threatens US troops and - one
day soon - the US mainland. So why doesn't Bush go after North Korea, which is
really a danger to Americans, instead of Iraq, which is not?
Two reasons: first, unlike Iraq, North Korea can fight back. The Pentagon
estimates a major war with the North would cost 250,000 American casualties. War
against Iraq would be a breeze by comparison. US military strategy calls for
wars only against small nations that cannot well defend themselves. And, of
course, North Korea has no oil.
Second, there is no US domestic lobby for war against North Korea. The US
media has downplayed the threat of North Korea while exaggerating that of Iraq.
America's highly influential Israel lobby and its partisans in the Pentagon, the
Vice President's office, and media are straining every sinew to press the US to
attack Iraq. The lobby's next target is Iran. This week, Vice President Dick
Cheney said that even a return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq will not deter
an invasion. From Israel's friends in the Pentagon came threats that Saudi
Arabia might be next.
But if Washington is content to bribe truly menacing North Korea to be
quiescent, why not do the same with Saddam Hussein, who was, after all, a former
close US ally? If Saddam was America's friend and regional bullyboy up to 1991,
why not again? Iraq was even flirting with Israel in the late 1980's. Saddam is
no fool and would leap at a diplomatic, face-saving way of averting invasion and
his own demise.
Bribery is always 90% cheaper than war. Bush's proposed crusade against Iraq
will cost a minimum US $120 billion. It will sharply worsen the growing deficits
Bush created, and trigger inflation. Why should America risk its soldiers in a
trumped up, unnecessary war that the rest of the world will denounce as naked
aggression and imperialism, when all Baghdad wants is to be pampered into
goodness like `evil' North Korea?
[Eric Margolis is a syndicated foreign affairs columnist and broadcaster, and
author of War at the Top of
the World - The Struggle for Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Tibet which was reviewed in
The Economist, May 13, 2000]
Copyright © 2002 Eric Margolis - All Rights