North Korea’s decision to expel UN nuclear inspectors and its declaration that they intend to reopen a laboratory where plutonium can be reprocessed in use of weapons indicates that this is a direct and deadly serious threat for making the nuclear weapons which in current term, ‘Weapons of the mass destruction‘. Therefore the crisis on the Korean peninsula is far more threatening and urgent then anything else including the US-declared threats of Saddam Hussain. According to the forward-thinking and energetic policy-oriented think tank of the Shanghai Institute of International Studies (SIIS) China, North Korea’s nuclear program is a greater danger to world stability than the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. Let’s analyse and compare the possible threats and stockpile of weapons of mass destruction by North Korea and Iraq.
North Korea already primed or near to devise nuclear weapons. It continues to strengthen its 1.1million of huge army personnel. Its newly fielded batteries of long-range artillery, rockets, and tactical missiles, mainly improved scud missiles can deliver nuclear, conventional, chemical, and biological weapons onto Seoul, locations of the US 2nd Infantry Division, and US airbases further in South. It has repeatedly threatened to strike Seoul and annihilate the 37,000 US troops in South Korea. Its 100,000-man commando force, the world’s largest, is tasked with attacking US bases in South Korea, Japan, Okinawa and even Guam. More critically as North Korea has direct confrontation with the great powers China, Japan, and United States, what happens in North Korea would quickly reverberate not only in the region, but around the world. Therefore, North Korea is a direct threat to US defence and its mainland.
Conversely, Iraq threatens no one since it invaded Kuwait for which it already paid enough in the last 10 years or so. 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 or communicate effectively due to already imposed no-fly zone by US-led air force. Iraq has perhaps five or so inaccurate scud missiles hidden away and no nuclear weapons. As for Iraq’s much ballyhooed 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 has become chemically inert; according to former UN inspector Scott Ritter, the shelf life of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons is only 3-5 years. Nobody ever stresses that the Security Council resolutions adopted after the Gulf War are the most punitive collection of measures imposed on a country in peacetime since the Versailles Treaty. The economies of Germany and Japan were rebuilt after World War II, and both countries soon came back to the concert of nations. Iraq, on the other hand, has been devastated. All these years, Security Council members have been approving sanctions against Iraq so inhumane that two highly respected UN officials, Denis Hallyday and Hans von Sponeck, in charge of humanitarian aid to Iraq, resigned because they did not want to be accomplices to a policy described by both of them as ‘genocidal‘.
In the recent search by UN inspectors; not single evidence has been found yet of building of nuclear weapons after searching more than 150 sites (in Iraq) by more than one hundred UN weapons inspectors. Yet, US’s highly influential Israeli lobby and its partisans in the Pentagon, the Vice President’s office, and media are straining every sinew to press the US administration to attack Iraq. According to Asia Times, an Islamic scholar born in Egypt said that as soon as US Secretary of State Colin Powell pronounced the deadly magic words ‘material breach’; the Arab world had to swallow its bitter impotence and admit that war against Iraq was practically inevitable.
So, Why Bush and his mates are so frantic to invade Iraq while seeking inattentiveness in taking any action against North Korea?
Bush story is identical to Roman Empire Cato. Cato in Imperial Rome used to conclude all his speeches with the catch phrase ‘Carthago delenda est‘ (Carthage must be destroyed). Practically harmless in fact, Rome’s old enemy was blocking the construction of the empire and was also an unwanted competitor in the export of oil and grain. Then one day the Carthaginians violated their “exclusion zone” to pursue a bunch of robbers. This was the pretext Rome was waiting for, and it smashed Carthage into oblivion. Carthage had to die for the Roman Empire to live.
Just like Cato, George W Bush doesn’t mince words as far as his new world order is concerned. Critics of the war all agree that Bush may not know much about the world outside Texas, but who can understand more value of oil than him; his family has been in this business for two generations. He also knows the war will mobilize more than 100,000 troops, will cost between US$100 billion and $200 billion, depending on the scenario, and afterwards will require maintaining 50,000 troops in Iraq, at a cost of $18 billion a year, perhaps for decades. In exchange, the Bush administration may control the production and pricing system of oil in the world market. Iraq, which was producing no more than 1.6 million barrels a day until a few months ago, and now is barely producing 500,000, could produce 3 million, 5 million or even 10 million barrels a day. Bush has a dream of a world where the prices of oil and gas would be explicitly guaranteed by the US.
Coming back to North Korea; US only fights countries it can slaughter them with no counter resistance. Unlike Iraq; North Korea can fight back. The Pentagon estimates a major war with the North would cost 250,000 US 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.
A British newspaper Sunday Express in its recent publication of 29th of December claimed that US-led war on Iraq would start on Feb 21 ‘at midnight’. The Newspaper wrote that the date and time was given by US President George Bush to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in a telephone call over Christmas.
On the other hand, despite of the fact that North Korea ratcheted up nuclear fears by removing UN seals from spent nuclear fuel rods that could be used to make weapons-grade plutonium; the US Secretary of State Colin Powell said that US was seeking communication with North Korea and that military action against North Korea was not contemplated.
The writer is a Sydney-based freelance journalist and a political analyst.