The Perils of Military Engagement Against North Korea

Jonathan Augustine

The $20 million we spend daily maintaining the US nuclear arsenal could instead be used to provide $1,000 per day for every one of the twenty thousand children who die from hunger. – J. Philip Newell (A New Harmony)

Faced now with the possibility of nuclear war in East Asia, I often wonder what civilians annihilated in the heartless campaigns of modern warfare might have said about their untimely deaths that were ordered by tyrants and presidents far removed from the scenes of devastation.

So many innocent lives have been lost to conventional bombs, atomic weapons and in recent years, drones. Have democratically elected leaders searched their souls and come to terms with what really occurred in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Technology has made warfare impersonal and cruel, yet it seems that the heads of nations are willing to discard their highest principles in exchange for the latest war technologies and weapons of mass destruction.

In the present confrontation with North Korea, the foremost consideration of the U.S. government is whether an attack on North Korea will endanger the American homeland. In theory, the United States is supposed to defend its allies, South Korea and Japan. However, if the authorities are truly concerned with the safety of their allies, provoking a desperate dictatorship that has openly declared its intent to launch missiles against South Korea and Japan is extremely problematic, both strategically and from a humanitarian point of view.

The U.S. military routinely advertises the pinpoint devastation that can be wrought by its ‘bunker-busting’ weapons, with the clear aim to ‘decapitate’ the North Korean regime. Military experts argue that 300 Tomahawk missiles are sufficient to disable North Korea’s military, but this does not guarantee that they can destroy all existing missiles and nuclear weapons, were these to be simultaneously launched from hidden bases, mobile launchers and nuclear-submarines.


It seems that the Pyongyang regime has been forced into a siege mentality—a rational fear that the U.S. will use its conventional forces to eradicate them at any moment. Ironically, however, the world now faces the troubling predicament that the current U.S. administration is itself caught in a similar psychological trap. While Pyongyang pushes ahead with the deployment of nuclear-tipped ICBMs, the Trump administration may conclude that its only recourse is to launch an immediate attack, in spite of expected collateral damage to its allies.


It is unnerving that presidents, prime ministers and dictators alike have the power to detonate weapons of mass destruction. The citizenry of these military powers has not officially sanctioned or granted them this authority through referenda or other democratic means. When one looks back at the Manhattan Project, it becomes painfully apparent how General Groves, the project’s director, swayed President Truman to authorize the dropping of the atomic bombs.

In the decades that followed, few checks were placed on the chain of command to prevent emotionally unstable presidents from acting impulsively on their animosity and fear. Simply put, both Trump and Kim Jong-Un have dangerous degrees of authority that neither the American Founding Fathers nor Marx and Engels could have envisioned.

It is surprising that the South Korean and Japanese heads of state are not more insistent in their opposition to a U.S. offensive against North Korea. Koreans above the age of 70 remember in graphic detail the devastating carpet bombing that wiped out Pyongyang, and are aware that Kim Jong-Un’s army will attempt to wipe out Seoul with equal fury. The Japanese position has remained the same since current Prime Minister Abe has ascended to power. Pledging unquestioning support to Trump’s foreign policies, Abe has repeatedly declared that Japan will soon try to amend the Constitution to allow for its own military to “defend the country”—a development that undoubtedly would destabilize East Asia even further. Instead of trying to seek mutual understanding of the past, Abe and his team of nationalist historians have promoted a revisionist view of the Second World War which denies the coercion of the so-called “comfort women” and downplays the conscripted labor of 600,000 Koreans under brutal conditions. In fact, in both North and South Korea, politicians and diplomats have long felt humiliated by the Japanese government’s lack of sincerity and contrition.

Any country that considers an attack on North Korea must confront the question of who turned the DPRK into such a defiant rogue nation. As much as Kim Jong-Un’s regime is to be blamed for the plight of the country, the three decades of brutal Japanese colonial occupation and the firebombing of North Korea—which exceeded the damage done to German or Japanese cities during World War II—bear partial responsibility for creating this vindictive military regime.

Resolving nuclear confrontation requires self-reflection and relativistic thinking. Looking back a few decades, it’s not difficult to find examples of national leaders who were willing to dispense with bombast to avoid disaster. Notably President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev, who responded rationally to the prospect of a nuclear holocaust by meeting to address their political and strategic differences in the Reykjavík Summit of 1986, which led to a de-escalation of tensions.

To serve one’s nation can also mean to enter into dialogue with the citizens of every nation, and between individuals there is always a hope for healing and transformation. So why should it be impossible to alter the relationships between antagonistic nations?



The complete statement : Foreign language Oscar nominees blame ‘leading politicians’ for inciting fear and bigotry across the world

The six directors in the running for this year’s foreign language Oscar have issued a joint statement blaming “leading politicians” for the fear they feel is creating “divisive walls”.

These filmmakers have condemned “the climate of fanaticism and nationalism we see today in the US and in so many other countries, in parts of the population and, most unfortunately of all, among leading politicians”.

The statement is signed by Asghar Farhadi, the director of Iran’s The Salesman, Martin Zandvliet, director of Denmark’s Land of Mine, Hannes Holm, director of Sweden’s A Man Called Ove, Maren Ade, director of Germany’s Toni Erdmann and Martin Butler and Bentley Dean, joint directors of Australia’s Tanna.

On behalf of all nominees, we would like to express our unanimous and emphatic disapproval of the climate of fanaticism and nationalism we see today in the U.S. and in so many other countries, in parts of the population and, most unfortunately of all, among leading politicians.

The fear generated by dividing us into genders, colors, religions and sexualities as a means to justify violence destroys the things that we depend on – not only as artists but as humans: the diversity of cultures, the chance to be enriched by something seemingly “foreign” and the belief that human encounters can change us for the better. These divisive walls prevent people from experiencing something simple but fundamental: from discovering that we are all not so different.

So we’ve asked ourselves: What can cinema do? Although we don`t want to overestimate the power of movies, we do believe that no other medium can offer such deep insight into other people’s circumstances and transform feelings of unfamiliarity into curiosity, empathy and compassion – even for those we have been told are our enemies.

Regardless of who wins the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film on Sunday, we refuse to think in terms of borders. We believe there is no best country, best gender, best religion or best color. We want this award to stand as a symbol of the unity between nations and the freedom of the arts.

Human rights are not something you have to apply for. They simply exist – for everybody. For this reason, we dedicate this award to all the people, artists, journalists and activists who are working to foster unity and understanding, and who uphold freedom of expression and human dignity – values whose protection is now more important than ever. By dedicating the Oscar to them, we wish to express to them our deep respect and solidarity.


क्या इज़रायल को ट्रंप का अंध-समर्थन अस्थिरता को बढ़ावा देगा?

प्रकाश के रे बरगद के संपादक हैं.

अमेरिकी राष्ट्रपति के चुनाव के दौरान डोनाल्ड ट्रंप और हिलेरी क्लिंटन में इस बात की होड़ लगी थी कि कौन इज़रायल का सबसे बड़ा पैरोकार है. इसका तात्कालिक कारण कट्टर अमेरिकी-यहूदियों का वोट और चंदा था, पर इसके दीर्घकालिक कारण अमेरिका का स्थायी इजरायल प्रेम है जो अरब के देशों पर दबाव की राजनीति का एक हथियार भी है.

ट्रंप और नेतन्याहू (फोटोः ट्रंप के फेसबुक पेज से)

बहरहाल, बुधवार को राष्ट्रपति ट्रंप और प्रधानमंत्री नेतन्याहू की बीच बातचीत से यह बात स्पष्ट हो गयी कि ट्रंप को अलग फिलिस्तीनी राज्य से परहेज है, उन्हें वेस्ट बैंक में जबरन बनायी जा रही कॉलोनियों से कोई परेशानी नहीं है तथा वे अमेरिकी दूतावास को तेलअवीव से जेरूसलेम स्थानांतरित करने की प्रक्रिया में हैं.

हालांकि उन्होंने यह जरूर कहा कि दोनों पक्ष ‘शांति’ के लिए जो तय करेंगे, उन्हें मंजूर होगा. वहीं इजरायली प्रधानमंत्री ने कहा कि अगर दो अलग राज्य बनते हैं, तो पूरे इलाके की सुरक्षा का जिम्मा इज़रायल के हाथों में होगी.

मतलब यह कि आधिकारिक रूप से अमेरिकी की दो-राज्य नीति को खारिज तो नहीं किया गया, पर विवरण से साफ है कि फिलस्तीन को अलग करने में ट्रंप की कोई दिलचस्पी नहीं है.

ट्रंप के निर्वाचन के साथ ही इजरायल का धुर-दक्षिणपंथी तबका जोश में है और कब्ज़ा की गयी जमीन पर यहूदियों को बसाने का काम तेज कर दिया गया है. नेतन्याहू अपनी आक्रामक नीति पर ट्रंप की मुहर लेकर वाशिंगटन से लौटेंगे.

पूरा लेख द वायर पर पढ़ें.

An Open Letter to Meryl Streep

Dear Ma’am,

I heard and read your speech at the Golden Globes. Any decent person on this planet cannot disagree with any single word in your speech. And, you are certainly not an overrated actress. You have rightly highlighted the bullying habit of American corporate and political elite. I like to quote a special paragraph from your speech:

c1sr2bxviaao00i‘This instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everyone’s life because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.’

While stressing this, you gave one example of horrendous bullying by a person who was then aspiring for the highest office in your country, and now about to sit in the Oval Office in few days. When I read your speech, I thought that you should have given some more examples of bullying, particularly by those who are/were in power, and they have abused or continuously abusing that status. Let me add some to that. You may not like those examples because they are related to some of the powerful who you love, like and have campaigned for.

Last year, when you along with President Obama were asking votes for Secretary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for the post of POTUS, the current POTUS Obama was dropping thousands of bombs across the world, bombing those countries where majority of people cannot even spell the word- the United States of America. Consider these facts and figures:

– America dropped 26,171 bombs in 2016.
– This means that every day last year, the US military blasted combatants or civilians overseas with 72 bombs; that’s three bombs every hour, 24 hours a day.
– In 2016, US special operators could be found in 70% of the world’s nations, 138 countries – a staggering jump of 130% since the days of the Bush administration.
– President Obama has claimed that his overseas military adventures are legal under the 2001 and 2003 authorizations for the use of military force passed by Congress to go after al-Qaida. But today’s wars have little or nothing to do with those who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.
(Read more here:

Ms Streep, please refer to the last ‘State of the Nation’ address of President Obama. Please refer to the campaign interaction of Secretary Clinton at the Council of Foreign Relations. Please refer to her reaction when she was watching the video of Libyan leader Gaddafi being dragged, lynched and murdered.

I can go on and on. Ma’am, my point is simple. Trump is not an American exception. He is actually a perfect realization of the nightmarish American Dream. He is the Uncle Sam. He is the Yankee.

And bullying is at the core of American value championed by your politicians and persons in business suits. Hope one day you ask: ‘Why they hate us?’

And, yes, you are absolutely right that ‘Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.

Your fan
Prakash K Ray

ट्रंप का न्यूक्लियर ट्वीट

प्रकाश के रे बरगद के संपादक हैं.

Donald J. Trump अंकल ने ट्वीट किया है कि अमेरिका को अपनी परमाणु क्षमता तब तक मज़बूत करनी चाहिए, जब तक कि परमाणु हथियारों के मामले में दुनिया की अक्ल ठिकाने न आ जाये. इस पर बावेला मचना स्वाभाविक ही है. अमेरिकी लिबरल कॉरपोरेट अख़बारों का कहना है कि यह एक बड़े नीतिगत परिवर्तन का संकेत है क्योंकि ओबामा प्रशासन परमाणु हथियारों में कटौती के लिए प्रयासरत है. लेकिन, इसे थोड़ा समझने की ज़रूरत है.

obama-trump-smileराष्ट्रपति Barack Obama कुछ महीनों पहले जब हिरोशिमा गये थे, तो उन्होंने परमाणु हथियारों से मुक्त दुनिया की बात कही थी. तब यह भी चर्चा थी कि ऐसे हथियारों के आधुनिकीकरण और प्रबंधन में अगले एक दशक में 350 बिलियन डॉलर ख़र्च करने की अमेरिका की योजना है. अन्य रिपोर्ट बताते हैं कि मौज़ूदा हिसाब-किताब से तीन दशकों में एक ट्रिलियन डॉलर ख़र्च होगा. तब उम्मीद की गयी थी कि जाते-जाते ओबामा इस ख़र्च में कमी करने के लिए ठोस योजना बनायेंगे. लेकिन अमेरिकी इतिहास में सबसे अधिक ख़तरनाक हथियार बेचनेवाले राष्ट्रपति से की गयी यह उम्मीद भी बेकार गयी, और घूम-घूम कर परमाणु ऊर्जा और स्वच्छ ऊर्जा के नाम पर परमाणु तकनीक और तबाही के अन्य सौदे बेचते रहे. अब कहने के लिए रूस से उनकी ‘न्यू स्टार्ट’ संधि, परमाणु सुरक्षा सम्मेलन, ईरान समझौता आदि को गिनाया जा सकता है, पर इन मामलों में कटौती या कमी जैसी कोई बात नहीं थी, बस आर्थिक कमाई और साम्राज्यवादी वर्चस्व की चिंताएं थीं.

आप याद कर सकते हैं, जब मशहूर व्हाइट हाउस पत्रकार मरहूम Helen Thomas ने एक सवाल ओबामा से उनके पहले व्हाइट हाउस प्रेस कॉन्फ़्रेंस में पूछा था- ‘मध्य-पूर्व में किस देश के पास परमाणु हथियार हैं?’ ओबामा सीधे-सीधे न कह कर परमाणु हथियारों पर रोक और रूस के सहयोग की चलताऊ बातें कह कर कट लिये थे. यह स्वाभाविक ही था क्योंकि उन्हें ताक़तवर इज़रायली लॉबी की परवाह थी. थॉमस ने बहुत बाद में कहा था कि ओबामा में साहस की कमी है और वे लिबरल नहीं हैं.

बहरहाल, इस साल मार्च में ओबामा ने वाशिंग्टन पोस्ट में एक लेख लिख कर दावा किया था कि 2018 तक दुनिया में रूसी और अमेरिकी परमाणु वारहेड्स की संख्या 1950 के दशक के बाद सबसे निचले स्तर पर पहुंच जायेगी. ऐसे हथियारों की संख्या 1980 के दशक में 23 हज़ार से ऊपर पहुंच गयी थी. लेकिन, इस कमी में ओबामा प्रशासन का कोई ख़ास योगदान नहीं है. वर्ष 2010 में जब उन्होंने रूस से संधि की थी, तब ऐसे वार हेड्स की संख्या 4,950 थी, जो 2015 में 4,700 हो गयी यानी मात्र पांच फ़ीसदी कम. हालांकि जानकार बताते हैं कि दुनियाभर में तैनात अमेरिकी वार हेड्स की असली संख्या सात से आठ हज़ार है. ख़ैर, 4,700 से भी आप दुनिया को कई बार तबाह कर सकते हैं.

यह उल्लेख ज़रूरी है कि कटौती के मामले में George W. Bush का रिकॉर्ड ओबामा से बहुत अच्छा है. बर्ष 2000 में अमेरिका के पास 10 हज़ार से अधिक ऐसे हथियार थे, जो बुश के जाते-जाते पांच हज़ार से कुछ ज़्यादा रह गये थे. ध्यान रहे, तकनीक में बेहतरी के साथ कम हथियार अधिक प्रभावी और कम ख़र्चीले हो रहे हैं. कटौती की चर्चा के साथ इसका संज्ञान रखना ज़रूरी है.

आंकड़े और विश्लेषण और भी हैं. अभी तो बस यह कि ट्रंप बड़बोले हैं, और ओबामा के शातिरपने से उनका अंदाज़ अलहदा है. चीज़े वैसे ही चलती रहेंगी. और हां, भारत की न्यूक्लियर लॉबी बुश और ओबामा से ख़ुब ख़ुश रही है, ट्रंप के साथ भी मज़ा करेगी, और आप और हम क्लिन एनर्जी के झांसे में फंसाये जाते रहेंगे.

दवा से फ़ायदा मक़्सूद था ही कब कि फ़क़त
दवा के शौक़ में सेहत तबाह की मैं ने

– जौन एलिया

Prof Chomsky & Halle, please do not confuse the Left

Sako Sefiani is a commentator on the international affairs. He blogs at

Sako Sefiani

John Halle and Professor Noam Chomsky wrote a piece which they posted on Halle’s blog, in defense of Lesser Evil Voting (LEV), where they urged the left to vote for Hillary Clinton in swing states to make sure Trump does not win the presidency in the general elections. The following is my rebuttal to that piece. You can read their piece here:

They begin by the lament that: “presidential elections continue to pose a dilemma for the left”. As I will show, they’re only a “dilemma” for liberals, who lack class perspective, and who seem to believe in the overall legitimacy of the electoral process and that they must vote for one of the two candidates, presented by the two major parties, even if they disagree with their policies. “Disagree” is the right word here, because that’s how they seem to view their differences with the politicians of the two parties, rather than conflicting interests of warring classes, trying to defeat each other.220px-noam_chomsky_portrait_2015

They warn that if we hold that “Clinton’s foreign policy could pose a more serious menace than that of Trump”, which they acknowledge many on the left rightly do, then it follows that we would have to vote for him: “insofar as this is the fact of the matter following the logic through seems to require a vote for Trump”. So, they take the idea of lesser evil voting for granted and assume its correctness – that it’s the only natural thing to do – before even setting out to prove it. It’s hard to take their reasoning seriously after that, if they assume at the outset that that’s the natural thing to do.

They say LEV is only “tactical” and “provisional”, so not to worry. First of all, what is “provisional”, by definition, must have some kind of ending provision; i.e.: a condition or a date for ending it. For example, a provisional government may be formed to govern until an election is held. If it’s permanent, then it’s not provisional. Since there is no stipulation of any specific conditions or circumstances for ending the LEV, it cannot be considered provisional.

trump-vs-clinton-slide-1Secondly, speaking of “tactical”, what the authors don’t make clear is what our strategy should be. The strategy of the ruling 1% is clear: maintain the power structure and the exploitative economic system. Ours should be the opposite: to grab the power from them and change the system. What the authors call “tactical” for the left – meaning the LEV – is actually what the 1% relies on to maintain their rule. In other words, the ruling class relies on the very “tactical” behavior of the liberal “opposition” to maintain their rule. Our tactics should be in line and geared towards OUR strategy, not what makes THEIR strategy possible. The quadrennial elections and our willingness to go along with them by voting for the lesser evil is exactly how the ruling class neutralizes liberals and maintains the status quo and the power structure. How can that, which is THEIR strategy (as well as tactic) and which, as part of that strategy, relies on our participation through LEV, and which is clearly NOT provisional, be our tactic?

LEV has been exercised for over 40 years with the result of keeping the 1% in power and making it more and more entrenched and powerful. If it is a “tactic” then, obviously, it’s not working. If it is “provisional”, then how long are we supposed to continue it?

The authors are therefore wrong to call LEV a “tactic” since it coincides with and fits into the ruling class strategy of holding on to power and they’re wrong to consider it “provisional” since it has no condition or timing to end it.

The authors add – as an afterthought – that “the left should devote the minimum of time necessary to exercise the LEV choice then immediately return to pursuing goals which are not timed to the national electoral cycle”. They should do that after having already endorsed and voted for the establishment? The authors don’t see a contradiction here because the thinking is that we vote for the lesser evil (such as for Hillary) and then ask her to make reforms and hope that she’ll listen to us, instead of corporate lobbyists. If on the other hand, the thinking were that the candidate represents the 1% and will not change her allegiance, then our approach would be to oppose and expose her, rather than tell people to vote for her.

But, does opposing and exposing a Wall Street shill and war monger begin after November, after you’ve voted for her, or while she’s telling lies to people to get their votes? Do we remain silent before the general elections as she tells lies and makes false promises, because we don’t want to lessen her chances and give the advantage to her “more evil” opponent? Won’t we look like hypocrites if we do that? How do you build a movement to oppose her policies after having already endorsed her? Does the movement have to wait until after the elections? If not, then there is a clear contradiction between the objectives and tenets of such a movement and endorsing the candidate, who is the representative of the power structure that the movement is supposed to be against.

The authors admonish us in a condescending manner that “the consequences of our actions for others are a far more important consideration than feeling good about ourselves”. Though it may sound too harsh, they say, not voting for the lesser evil, “can become indistinguishable from narcissistic self-aggrandizement”. So, if we don’t vote for Clinton, it’ll be because we want to feel good about ourselves for not voting for her. They advise us to mind “the consequences of our actions for others”, which begs the question: is LEV a new idea? Do we not know what its consequences have been? Have we not over 40 years of experience with it? Did liberals like Halle and Chomsky think of its consequences for others as they ask us to consider? The consequences of more than 40 years of LEV speak for themselves and are in fact the strongest argument against LEV that has resulted in nothing but increasingly tighter grip and entrenchment of the levers of power by the 1%, increasing income gap and the defeat of the working class.

“A Trump presidency, should it materialize”, warn the authors, “will undermine the burgeoning movement centered around the Sanders campaign”. The truth is just the opposite. It is the Clinton presidency that will undermine and already has undermined the Sanders campaign. Sanders endorsing Clinton has already acted as a brake on the advancement of that movement. In fact, it’s a hallmark of Democrats to undermine and derail progressive movements by drawing its supporters into the ranks of the Democratic Party and extinguishing its momentum. That is exactly what the Democratic Party officials hoped would happen to Sanders and that’s exactly what they encouraged him to do: to channel the energy and frustration of his supporters into voting for the lesser evil Clinton. That’s what the Democratic Party has tried to do with past progressive movements, too, including the Occupy movement. And, knowingly or not, that’s what LEV advocates do, too.

“Those on the left who ignore or dismiss as irrelevant” their “cost/benefit analysis”, as the authors see it, “are engaging in political fantasy and are an obstacle to, rather than ally of, the movement which now seems to be materializing”. Again, the truth is the opposite: Sanders himself took the wind out of his movement by endorsing the lesser evil. His endorsement of Clinton did not continue the movement. It disillusioned his supporters and drove many to realize the system is rigged and unfair, unlike the authors who still maintain their illusion but the majority into the corrupt pro-imperialist Democratic Party.

How is prodding Sanders supporters to vote for Clinton, who is everything they don’t want in a candidate, going to “materialize” the movement? Wouldn’t the movement have had a better chance of developing into a viable third party opposition had Sanders not endorsed Clinton and disillusioned his supporters? Isn’t the creation of such a progressive third party what the authors would consider the way out of the LEV routine? They call the lesser evil voting “provisional” and yet don’t seem to mind that what they call a movement just got swallowed up and dissipated by the Democratic Party, which has for decades been the graveyard of progressive movements.473px-bernie_sanders

Liberals like Mr. Halle and unfortunately even Professor Chomsky, who has contributed much to the political education of progressives in this country and beyond, don’t feel any urgency to see fundamental change in this country. They don’t seem to hunger for real change. It’s easy for them to suggest staying in holding position and wait until some day a movement can develop, so we don’t have to choose one of two evils, anymore. But alternatives to corporate oligarchies don’t appear by themselves. They are developed by teaching not just about the crimes of US empire around the world, but by also raising awareness about the two war criminal, imperialist and pro-Wall Street parties, and help organize against them towards building a movement that can take power away from them, not join them, endorse them or vote for them. Understanding this requires and is predicated upon having a class awareness, with implications on state power and what it takes to grab it from the 1% and have it serve the masses. And that’s what separates liberals from the revolutionary left.