Sunday, February 27, 2011

The other side of the psychwar against North Korea

GuamDiary has in the last month spoken of Dr. John S Park of the US-funded US Institute of Peace. Harvard trained Park has the singular flair of knowing China and North Korea, and in reading today's online edition of the 'NYT' [New York Times] has his name found its way into the newspaper of note's columns. 'North Koreans Struggle, and Party Keeps Its Grip', written by Mark McDonald, reporting from Seoul.
[see his LinkedIn profile]
First and foremost of all, McDonald has tapped a much used source of North Korea watchers in Seoul, notably Kookmin university professor Andrei Lankov. Lankov, who should and does know better, keeps chanting the mantra of 'reforms mean death' for the rulers of North Korea. Well, it may surprise this Soviet trained Korean specialist, reform has been going on in the North: reform which other Soviet and western trained North Korea scholars have written about in scholarly journals and the popular press. Has Lankov been sleeping at his post?
Listen to Bradley Babson, chairman of the DPRK Economic Forum of the US-Korea Institute, in responding to Park's work on Chinese public and private investment in the rust belt in North Korea's eastern border. 'They've clearly opened up to China in a way that's unprecedent'. Well, Lankov is this not a sign of 'glasnost' and reform?
GuamDiary does suggest reading John S Park, for he, personally, despite institutional corsetting, sees farther than the standard awful dreadful fulminations of the US North Korea clerisy. We wish to point out that North Korea in escaping the
US noose that Washington wishes to choke Pyongyang with, has found in China a way to escape economic encirclement and have access to hard currency and a school of more sophisticated business practices. China, let's recall, during Hu Jintao's visit to the Obama White House, has called for good relations with the US, yet here we are, it has managed to use a parallel track with North Korea, which does not 'violate' the intentions Hu expressed in Washington. In a way, the US is getting a large dollop of the tactics it uses with its cheek to jowl coziness with Israel!
On another level, the US and the EU and Australia are refusing to provide more food aid to a hungry North Korea. In a way, GuamDiary appeals to a historical analogy: these countries want to control the control inside North Korea of food distribution. England and France tried this tack with Egypt's Nasser at the time of his nationalisation of the Suez Canal. Gamal Nasser saw the ploy for what it was, the west's retention of the levers of another country's powers. North Korea sees the US, EU, and Australia's refusal in the same light. They have forgotten Guinee's president Sekou Toure's words when rebuffed deGaulle removed even the light bulbs, after Guinee refused to joint the French Community. Toure famously said: it's better to be free and stand tall than a slave on one's knees.
The US and South Korea and the US North Korea clerisy simply do not get it. They plod along the same well worn path dumbly.
Yet McDonald makes mention of an on going exchange programme with North Korea that Syracuse university has been maintaining for the last decade or so. The old guard of the New York Korea Society helped put that on track. Which means that among the US North Korea watchers there is a splinter of good sense in dealing with North Korea, but they are very much in the minority. It would take political guts and a strong will to go against the hard liners in Washington.
The official line remains as GuamDiary outlined in several blogs highly critical of the CFR [Council on Foreign Relations] patronage of the pamphlet advising US policy towards Korea, which called for regime change in the North, by the obedient and government funded US North Korea clerisy, in early 2010

The US & South Korea continue the psychological warfare against North Korea

Events in the Middle East may have eased so that the US could turn its attention to upping the ante in the psychological warfare Washington and Seoul have been unremittingly waged against North Korea, especially since the sinking of the ROK corvette'Cheonan' in March 2010.
The US and South Korea are again beginning joint military exercises along the NLL[Northern Limit Line]with live ammunition. In November 2010, South Korea's shells landed in North Korea waters. Seoul did not heed the North's warning that should the South violate its water, the North's military would respond. And respond it did to the South's shelling. Its riposte sent shivers throughout the region lest it might reignite the long dormant Korean War in the corridors of the South, the US, and Japan, if not China and Russia.
Now, issuing the North, seeing the same danger signals in the upcoming joint US ROK exercises, has once again put out the same alert. Will Washington and Seoul again be so foolhardy as to not heed Pyongyang's warning?
On the psychop front, the Lee Myung bak regime has accelerated the sending of messages by balloons towards North Korea. Initially, they blackened the name of Kim Jong il and his family. Now, it has raised the stakes by dropping leaflets into the North about the democracy protests in Egypt and their success in toppling Hosni Mubarak. Translation: rise up North Koreans and throw out Kim Jong il & co.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this tactic has not sat well with Kim Jong il & co.
Yet, it has provoked the response Seoul has been waiting for: the threat by the North of military action if it does not cease and desist this practice. Fat chance! In fact South Korea and the US are looking for that chance to go in and reduce North Korea to the rubbles that they did during the active years of fighting of the Korean War 60 years ago.
It is also apparent that no way in hell is the Obama administration willing to negotiate with North Korea. It is sticking to its policy of 'rolling back' the North till Kim Jong il & co. are overthrown. By using the example of Egypt, the psych warriors are trying to cash in on the fact that Egypt and North Korea have over the years sustained military and commerical relations. So although North Koreans may be insulated from what's going on in the wider world, they have heard of Egypt and of Hosni Mubarak.
Will the North put its money where its mouth is remains an open question.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Wisconsin's Scott Walker dons Reagan's mantle

Scott Walker thinks well of himself. He might believe that by donning the dusty cloak of the lionised and 'sainted' Ronald Reagan, he has channeled the snake oil charm of the 40 US president. Wrong! Scott doesn't have the weight nor the wit nor the intelligence to pull it off.
By attacking the rights of public workers unions to bargain and to strike, he's disturbed a hornet's nest. The reactionary Reagan destroyed the air controllers union, which threw its weight behind the 'Gipper' in the 1980 elections. And got away with it. Scott's taking on Wisconsin's public sector unions has awakened the sleeping heads of workers, in the public and private sectors, to defend the rights they 'earned' bargaining collectively.
The attack on public workers represents an assault of a sector which has organised 36.2 per cent of the active working force, compared to the much weakend private sector with its 6.9 per cent.
Scott may crow that 'our time has come', meaning the radical Republicans and mindless ideologues who wanted to sweep away a countervailing force which will and does resist giving away the company store to the plutocrats, the finance capitalists, and the avarious, boulimic rich who never have enough. By smashing public unions or any union allows the class that controls the country's wealth and buys elections, suborns the courts, and steamrolls over the rights of the American people, let alone outrageously exploiting those in Asia and Africa and Latin America, though investments and the like. For this class of the lobotomised rich, the working class earns too much; they demand too much; they don't jump through the hoop of its demands. Meaning they won't work without rules but those set by this band of ogres who hungarily feed on the sweat and labour of the masses. They are no Scrooges who is redeemed by the spirit of Christmas, but the they are the direct descendents of the true Scrooge who shouts, 'are there no poorhouses' to deal with the poor and the wretched?
Well, this is the world Scott Walker lusts for. He is no Mr. Nice. Listen to him: 'I don't bargain'. Alas, this benighted fool believes his own pathetic inner voice: he is a law unto himself. However the workers in Wisconsin do not think so. If anything, the court jester of the billionaire brothers Koch has injected energy into America's unions public and private. And has awakened a spirit of resistance, and a thumbing their collective nose of a class of blood suckers who will sleep with any dictator or engage in illegal practices, in order to pick up another dollar.
So, Scott Walker, collapse under the mantle of Ronald Reagan, for you're out of your depths.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Main Street Media badly serves the people

Main Street Media is the handmaiden of corporate interests. Consider their coverage of the protests in Wisconsin. There the newly elected governor Scott Walker is trying to impose, in a rump parliament or Black Star Chamber fashion, is radical agenda of denying public workers the right to bargain and to strike. Had he run on this plank during the 2010 elections, it is doubtful he would sit in the governor's seat in Madison.
His imperious style of governing -- it's my way or the highway -- has brought tens of thousands into the state capitol, in peaceful, but vocal protest for the last 13 days. Not only that, the Democratic state senator have fled the state to deny Walker is way, thereby condemning the governor's bill to limbo.
The state assembly, however, after the valiant effort of the minority Democratic representatives, who 'parliamented' against the bill for some 60 hours, saw the autocratic hand of the radical Republicans who pushed the vote through. To the credit of four Republicans, who voted 'nay', the party showed a slight crack among its members.
Now, the public workers unions have acceded to Walker's demands on pensions and healthcare contributions, but not to his stripping them of hardwon rights. Walker,who keeps harping on the state's deficit,has himself helped increased it by immediately signing off on big perks to business.
In what was a major scoop, the media buried the story in the inside pages or simply not covered it: a wag posing as one of the Koch brothers, a pair of ultra conservative and right wingers, spoke with Walker on the telephone at a time when the governor was talking to no one. The Kochs have bankrolled Walker through shell PACs and association in which they're funneling a paltry sum of their vast wealth to further an anti working class and middle class agenda. During that call, Walker admitted to having toyed with the idea of sending in goons to break up the protests, but wiser thinking prevailed that this tilt towards violence would boomerang. Furthermore, unwittingly, Walker revealed his true nature of prostituting himself to the needs of the top one per cent of the population whose wealth is equal to those of 127 million Americans. He is at their beck and call, and more than that, willing to cannibalise the public sectors wealth so that the ultra wealthy and authoritarian leaning clique, get away with the plunder this slave of the super rich is handing them on a golden platter.
Did Walker think that he could get away with it? Probably, yes. Voters in 2010 had enough of the lack of jobs and increasing poverty and the loss of living standards. So, they turned to a sorry alternative: the Republicans under the influence of the radical right. Now, in Wisconsin, they know who they put into power. But Walker is not a skilled and even a clever politician, Wisconsinite that he is: he forgot that in the US, it is almost sacred lore that the belief in the right to organise the workplace, to bargain, especially management, in good faith with the workers, and that the law would be there to prevent management from an assault of workers' rights.
Walker's confident arrogance did something that the elite fear and hate most: massive, sustained protests which awake the public at large to the dangers the plutocrats represent for them and their children and their grandchildren. An 'educated worker' is a threat to the moneyed elite for he represents 'en masse' the power of the clench fist which can smash the billionaires' glass jaw.
Poll after poll has shown that public opinion is against Walker, but without continuing and continuous demonstrations, protests, and the like, this little 'il Duce' might prevail.
We are witnessing an assault a la Paul Bremer on the American people with the likes of George Bush & co. furnishing the funds, fooling the dissatisfied Americans who see rightly their way of life diminished and devalued and who turn towards religion and the flag as a safety net. Little do they realise, perhaps until now, how much they are the pawns of the big fish who despise them.
Thanks to Walker, he has set the people's hounds on his scent and they won't let him get his way, it is hoped.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Limits of a free press in the US?

Nothing is more revealing than the acknowledgement by two of America's 'highly regarded' and 'respected' and respectable broadsheets - the 'New York Times' and the 'Washington Post' - that they complied with a demand from the White House to delay a story which had already blazed across the wires, foreign press, internet, and blogs. We're talking of the breaking story that the American Raymond Davis, arrested in Pakistan for the shooting of armed 2 Pakistani whom he alleged had wanted to rob him, was a CIA agent with a diplomatic passport.
Rumours had already floated in the blogsphere that Davis was a US spook working in Pakistan under the cover of his embassy's protection. This veil of diplomatic nicety allowed the Obama administration that Pakistan had to recognise Davis' status, under international protocols, and expel him from the country. Islamabad did not see it in this light, and what's more, the popular anger the shooting provoked, as well as another 'rented vehicle' which rushed to Davis' defence, accidently killed another Pakistani on a motorbike. The Pakistani government already under pressure from the streets, and an increasing chorus of anti American sentiment refused. The quick dispatch of the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Affairs committee John Kerry has so far met with a setback, whilst Davis remains in gaol.
Davis worked for the private security firm Blackwater and is now a 'contractor' for the CIA. We know nothing of what he was doing in Pakistan or whether he 'irked' that country's own spook network 'SIS', which plays a double game with the US and the Taliban. But that's another story.
What concerns us here is the erosion of a free press in the US. Long gone are the heroic days of glory of the NYT and the WP. The giddy moments of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. Today, we have a supine press which works cheek to jowl with the government in vetting stories or delaying them when the technology and the art of reporting rips the veil off government's efforts to gag stories and restrict the press from informing its readers.
Bill Keller, the NYT's executive news editor, in a Sunday Times Magazine wrote a long, self serving article attacking Julian Aussage of Wikileaks fame, and puffing up his own and the NYT's role in 'responsibly' getting the word out on the leaked US diplomatic cables. Aussage on the US radio and television spoke of why he didn't offer to work with the WP. He counted off at least two occasions that top Post reporters or editors removed information from articles which the government did not approve of.
Aussange, at first, worked with the NYT but when he discovered that before they would print any story of diplomatic cable content, they showed the material to the White House who 'instructed' the paper of note what they found troubling in revealing in them.
It's not the first time, the Times' owners have 'co operated' [read co opted] by the White House. Ochs Salzburger jr. in a meeting with Bush just before the November 2006elections agreed to hang fire on a story on torture and secret and 'illegal' machination of his regime in Iraq, which might have cost the sitting president a second term. Ochs Salzburger readily agreed, and were it not for a publisher who was going to release a Times reporter's book in January 2007, did the 'old gray lady' of US journalism push the withheld story to the front page.
Historically speaking, the US press has cooperated with the US government. It has used its press credentials during the Cold War for CIA agents. During the US invasion of the Dominican Republic, Tad Szulc agreed to downplay Johnson's plans to invade that republic to topple a mild Socialist Juan Bosch for the story of his life.
Today the growing control of the press by the US government through the ubiquitous use of technology, mining social networks, and the hard nosed use of the legal systems to prosecute, jail, and fine is eroding the parametres of a free press. On the other hand, the owners of the Times & the Post share the same outlook and corporate standpoint which they do not want to jeopardise, and they are more than willing to self censure and hop to the government's tune.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

US' Israelicentric Middle East policy

The Arab world's going through a political earthquake of great importance. The Arab masses in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Baharain, and Yemen have awakened from a long slumber. Conscious, they no longer fear hatred long lived authorian rulers.
You've thought the US would be swift to profit from the events in that strategic part of the world. Wrong!
The Wikileaks US diplomatic cables reveal that US is not aware of the warts of the Arab governments and regimes it supports. [GuamDiary suggests that its readers in America who are denied ready access to these documents, google the UK paper 'The Guardian'.] Washington, therefore, cannot hide behind the old country boy excuse, 'Aw shucks, had we only known...we wouldn't have been taken by surprise'. The word was out, but was it heard, which we cannot say for sure.
Since the uprising in Egypt a steady stream of talking heads have dominated the media. On one hand, it is refreshing to hear newer voices: voices of Arab intellectuals, activists, businessmen, and politicians in and out of power. On the other, a barrage of old views and faces who, having be caught short, struggle to put a bright face, in order to show they're not as dumb as they look.
Consider the stream of intellectuals from Egypt who came to Washington, at the invitation of the government or government funded think tank. Although it shouldn't have come as a shock, but it did, almost to a man, they simply left shaking their heads, because the US Middle East policy is Israelicentric. These members of the intelligentsia expressed dismay that US policy makers are very far behind the curve of what's happening in the Arab world. And what's more, how wedded they are to a cul de sac diplomacy which will surely put US interests to greater risks than they ought to be. [America's traditional allies, say, in the Gulf and Trucial States and Saudi Arabia, are shaking in their boots. The stakes are high: oil and the financial centre those emirates have become, and of course, the military importance they hold for the US. They are more prone to use brute forces to remain in power; any concessions, they see, will embolden their subjects to want more and ultimately call for their overthrough.]
The Obama administration passed up an opportunity at the UN Security Council; it chose a well worn path on the Israeli Palestine matter. It could have voted with the other 14 members of the Security Council in condemning the Netenyahu regime for illegally building settlements on occupied Palestinian territory. Washington failed to take to heart the rapid changes which are taking place in the Middle East. It vetoed the resolution: a many times used instrument when it comes to protecting its client Israel from sharp criticism in the world forum. By this act, the US has put itself on the wrong side of history. Consequently, it has no reason to wonder when events turn US policy into the endless grains of sand, which offer no hope of a new life. [It would do US policy makers well to revisit the effects of what happened to the US after it withdrew any offer to fund the Aswan Dam.]
The US' excuse for exercisising the right to veto was ingenuous: were the Council to condemn Israel, the peace progress would be put back years or some paltry excuse like that. Hello! On what planet has the US department of state been living on?
America won't regret its torpedoing the resolution, but on the other hand it has not right to cry foul when Arab countries turn away from it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Let North Koreans eat cake!

Western countries have turned a deaf ear to North Korea's appeal for food aid. They suggest that North Korea instead go through the good offices of the United Nations, and with the condition that outside inspectors ensure that the food go to the needy and not to the army.
Although there are dangers in refusing Pyongyang's request, the 'united front' of the US, the EU, and Australia are taking a firm stand. Their refusal to help feed North Koreans who have weathered years of starvation and reduced intake of food is reminiscent of Marie Antoinette's famously saying 'Let them eat cake' to the starving Parisian masses. South Korea, with the arrival of Lee Myung bak at the Blue House, imposed draconian measures to deny the North food and more importantly fertilisers.
Referring North Korea to the UN throws up bureaucratic flags which will delay meeting its request for food, and may very well mean, not getting the tonnage desired to feed its people.
Of course, the western nations will feign sorrow and shed crocodile tears, but won't lift a finger to help. They will talk of the need for stability on the Korean peninsula and the urgency of denuclearising it, yet, here they are throwing up road blocks to thwarts any moves towards dialogue and resolving urgent issues of war and peace.
Of course, too, hypocritically, they will make the same shopworn speeches of care and concern and helping the poor in distress. We've heard these sorry 'humanitarian' screads without any substance other than the ego money and pie in the sky advice they give to the needy.
It is imminently clear, that this 'united front' of the 'generous' and the 'willing' are anything but that. This coalition has one object in mind: to impose regime change in North Korea by driving North Koreans to starvation and even death.
Their motives are obvious and hardly new but the US, EU, and Australia will back up their denial of food in the fancy frocks of the humanitarian and the generous, so on and on. Under this cloud of hypocrisy lies the same ideology and thinking that devised the poor laws in England and the flint heartedness of the well fed.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Would US states turn state militia guns on protesters?

The simple answer is yes. The US is going through a wrenching loss of prestige globally and is experiencing great economic pain, owing to the deep recession its finance capitalists visited not only on the US but the world at large.
The country is running huge deficits from which a military industrial complex draws immense benefits. It imposes on its 50 states a draconian provision that demands balanced budgets whilst Congress has shifted, notably since the presidency of the much hallowed and beatified Reagan, heavy burdens which the federal government should be carrying--all of which benefits a bloated, braindead plutocracy.
Right now, the eyes of the country are focussed on the state of Wisconsin. There, the newly elected Republic governor Scott Walker is proposing to deny state workers to bargain or strike for their rights, and with a dash of radical action, break and abolish employee unions. And what's more, should he force through a law forbidding state workers to protest publicly, he would turn the state militia on them. Wisconsin has a long radical tradition. It is the state of Robert LaFollette, a Republican and a Progressive, as well as a former governor, who opposed trusts, bossism, and America's entry into world war one. It has a strong tradition of industrial action and labour unions. On the other hand, Wisconsin sent 'Machine Gunner' Joseph McCarthy who is former associated with America's witch hunt during the 1950s and attack of constitutional liberties.
The 2010 US mid term elections brought to office on all levels of government -- municipal, state, and federal -- a strong group of Republicans who hidding behind the cover of the need for living within one's means and creating much needed jobs, came into office with a radical agenda favouring the rich and feathering their own nests.
Scott Walker belongs to such a breed of Republicans who attack the middle class, the working poor, and the marginal, in favour of the fat cats. His solution to difficult and almost intractable economic and social programmes is to crush any dissent by the use of force.
States have borrowed beyond their means, and the central government shares much of the blame. They have to cover yawning gaps of us$ billions to balance the budget that is mandated by law. Fellow Republicans who have a strong presence in the lower house of Congress, which hold the purse, won't help governors like Scott Walker. And fiscally conservative, he, might not want them to do so.
Consequently, to slash and burn, Walker is picking a fight with unions and has awakened the old 'progressive' spirit Wisconsin was once famous for. He is counting on pushing his proposal through the state legislature by hell or high water. Should he succeed, there are at least 11 Republican governors who share his views, ready to crush unionised state employees.
Although Walker may be concerned with the state budget, he is ideologically motivated by an extreme right wing ideology which not only deeply mistrusts the people -- and remember the US prides itself on being a government of, by, and for the people -- but who are the lackeys of a crude plutocracy who live high on the public hog whilsts the ratepayers slump into poverty and a Dickens' like existence.
Thus, in grosso modo, what's happening in Wisconsin is crucial to the rights of the workers to bargain collectively for a living wage and a decent standard of living for them and their children, and not to enrich the fat accounts of finance capitalists and their hanger ons.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Something to think about: Is America becoming like Mubark's Egypt?

Something to chew on. Consider the tighting grips of America's plutocrats, the straggling hold of the war state appartchiks, and the brain dead elite on jibing towards the winds of reaction and sugar plum dreams of an America that no longer exists. Consider, too, the growing pauperisation of the American masses and the ready use of the state of its militia to quell any unrest. Consider the growing corruption and criminalisation of the ruling class. Consider the impoverisation of the American people who more and more have to foot the bill for greedy rulers. Consider the greedy bankers who brought the US and world a whopping recession, and who have never been nor ever will be prosecuted, found guility, and thrown into gaol, and who now live better and more lordly than ever before. Consider the growth of polital dynasties and a ruling class which will sell its soul to the almighty dollar, renminbi yuan, or won or euro or ... Whose wealth is made off the backs of a global army of cannon fodder for finance capital. Consider the growing role of Washington as a super nanny snoop on the lives of Americans--by reading their mail on and offline, tapping their telephones, spying on their legal activities--for they can no longer be trusted. Consider the mounting debt of the masses. Consider the rise of infant mortality, homelessness, hunger, lack of proper medical care, and the dumbing down of education, in order to roll out, with Ford like factory precision, of robot performing menial and demeaning tasks. [See, Chaplin's 'Modern Times']. Consider the high and ever increasing education fees that cut the promising sons and daughters of the masses from cracking the glass ceiling to success. Consider that the best places are reserved for the effete sons and daughters of the plutocrats who are as decadent and dumb as the parents that spawned them. Consider the corporatisation of the media turning them into the trained seals of the corporations, their paymasters. Consider the doling out of campaign funds to both parties to fund election campaigns which turns the political process into the narrowness of a chicken's intestine. Consider the increasing use of bread and circuses for the masses who are regaled with more technology which become not a means for education and a door on the wider world but for self indulgence. Consider the growing quietism of the American people who lost their defenders in labour unions, and more progressive spokesmen. Consider the lose of a national identity and values. Consider the rise of mindless religious fundamentalism and reactionary politics that offer pie in the sky comfort, which is the opium of the people. Consider the rise of lawlessness and growing fear for one's own safety, which feeds the insane rush to arm oneself. The end of the rule of law which may retain its formalism but it ain't for you or me. And the list continues in an unbroken litany... You get the idea, when corporations legally have the same rights as a human, money rules supreme!
Of course, there are sparks of resistance, but the one spark which would ignite a prairie fire is lacking for the present. But will it always be? The day of reckoning is ....

Saturday, February 12, 2011

When South Korea danced in the streets

A veteran newspaper man who has been covering things Korean for more than 30 years was elsewhere when the South Koreans poured out into the streets a half century ago. The protesters in the streets of Egypt had nothing over the people of South Korea at that critical moment when after rigged elections, the public anger tossed out the Syngman Rhee dictatorship.
T'was a time of great joy and release and promise of democratic reforms. Alas, under the stewardship of John Chang Myon, the Seoul spring within months turned into a colonels' coup with Park Chung Hee at its head.
And Park lasted almost two decades until his own generals assassinated him.
Nonetheless that moment 50 years ago the South Korean people stood tall and free and nursuing the long desired freedom and democracy and detente with the North.

North & South Korea meet at Panmunjom then disperse

Billed as a low level meeting of military, North and South Korea delegations briefly meet at Panmunjom and then left without setting a date to meet again.
The fact that a meeting of the two Koreas meet is significant, the more especially since the South swore that it would not give face to the North.
South Korea's Lee Myung bak back downed from his high moral horse by sending his colonels to Panmumjom to discuss ways the North and the South could diminish tensions on the Korean peninsula, which in the wake of shelling along the NLL [Northern Limit Line] in November revived fears of renewed warfare. [GuamDiary has long commented on the North's riposte to the South's live shelling along the NLL.]
The North has, for many months, been calling for a meeting with the South since the sinking of the 'Cheonan', but has met a stone cold silence as a response. [GuamDiary suggests reading its postings on the questions the sinking raised and remains unaswered even today.]
Lee Myung bak felt humiliated and insulted by its sunken corvette and the lack of response to its provocative military exercises with live ammo in early December 2010The North kept a cool head in the face of the South's warlike manoeuvres.
Lee's US patron ultimately forced him to send a military delegation to Panmunjom. Seoul, in kneejerk fashion, marched to Obama's tune.
Yet, with bad grace, Lee's agenda was to scupper the talks immediately just after they began. South Korea would not go any further with the North unless it acknowledged its complicity in torpedo[e]ing the 'Cheonan' and shelling Pyonyeong island. Seoul knew that the North disclaimed any responsibility in either case, and by raising these two points deadlock the meeting. Lee's colonels got what they desired. The North left the talks 'sine dia'.
Lee's childish behaviour prolongs tensions in the divided Korean peninsula even though he is calling for stability. He, like his patron the US, really do not want to deal directly with the North; for these two allies simply are looking to 'roll back' the North to collapse. China won't allow them to get away with their dirty tricks, and as such, will back up Kim Jong il. So we've a 'Mexican standoff' which will remain. Events in Egypt and the Arab World and Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan are giving Washington more headaches than it bargained for.
So the hot and sour relations between the two Koreas will obtain.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

North Korea's Egyptian connexion

Egypt has had long 'friendship' with North Korea. If this tidbit of information is hidden from public view, shake that worry out of your sleepy head. If it is a secret, then, it's an 'open secret'. And what's more, in the back pages of the global press, including the American media, and on the internet, news of dealings between Pyongyang and Cairo find their way to the public eye.
Yet, this 'truth' has escaped the notice of the arch North Korea hunter Donald Kirk who loses might sleep at night at the thought that the 'vipers' in Pyongyang are managing to forestall their collapse and may very well thrive and prosper against the high waves of sanctions and the deafening tones of the US' and South Korea's cold war against the North.
Suddenly, Kirk has discovered an 'axis' between North Korea and Egypt. Where has this 'Javert' like journalism who doesn't leave a stone unturned to find some nefarious behaviour or plot that Pyongyang is what time warp has this greybeard among North Korea hunters been snoozing?
Let's consider two things: North Korea has supplied the Egyptians with its sophisticated rocketry throughout the year. On the other hand, Orascam a billion dollar multinational Egyptian telecommunications corporation signed a long term contract with the North to wire the country for wifi interent connexions through all North Korea.
Now, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out, contrary to Kirk's assertion that the US has been caught napping on this Pyongyang Cairo nexus, that as a receipt of 1.3 US$ billion in US military aid every year, Washington does not look at this connexion with a jaundiced eye. In fact, it may even prove an avenue for the US to keep abreast of North Korea's progress in sophicated advanced rocketry. The Egyptians are probably not shy in showing their American 'ally' North Korean hardware. Which brings GuamDairy to question at times, Washington's assertion that advances in North Korea's rocketry in the past, have caught them unawares.
On the non military front, Orascam's representativess may have been invited to tea with US diplomatic personnel who would question them on their observations of talks with leading North Korean officials and query them of what they think is happening in the North. We do know that US intelligence gathering on North Korea is not on a high level, owing to America policy not to truck with Pyongyang unless North Korea bends to Washington's demands.
Additionally, we can posit that Orascam can be used now or later as a back channel of US messages to North Korea.
For this and ideological blindness, the implications for the US and South Korea have escaped Kirk's eagle eye.
Could it have been otherwise? Yes. However, there are hardly any shades of gray in Kirk's reporting. He wrote a book debunking Kim Dae Jung's 'Sunshine Policy'. He is a favourite of Lee Myung bak's Blue House, the Pentagon, and right wing think tanks.
So, we know from what direction, Kirk is coming from.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Wikileaks strikes again!

Recently released US diplomatic cables from 2008 that talks of Israel favouring the newly appointed vice president and former spy chief of Egypt, as Hosni Mubarak's successor. It may very well come to pass if Mubarak and his gerontocratic circle of elders wear the youthful protestors calling for the 'pharaon' ouster.
Like the 'Al Jazeera' leaks of the Palestinian Authority's supine behaviour in negotiating with the Israeli and the US, the public is getting an eyeful of what was, and is, happening behind the scenes.
Omar Suleiman is damaged goods, no doubt about it. If the senior military back him up, it will take some trying to topple him. Seemingly he is conceding ground to a hardly united front in the opposition to Mubarak, but he won't give much, only as much as he can to retain power and keep Egypt Inc. the way it has been for the past 30 year under the steel fist of Mubarak & co.
The US diplomatic cables show once more how Israel and Egypt worked cheek to jowl. The protests all across Egypt - not much discussed by the global mainstreet media - is rocking these pillars of cooperation. Things won't ever be the same again, even though they may be patched together with 'crazy glue'.
What is also missing in looking at what's happening in Egypt is that using the Tunisian 'revolution' as a measure, it took Tunisians a month to boot Ben Ali out of power. It may take longer in Egypt, and that worries the US as it does Israel. Time, for the moment, is not on their side.
Already Israel is moving: to buy off Palestinian unrest in the occupied territories, in spite of illegal seizure of land and building, it is pouring 'guilt money' to keep a very restive population quiet. Israel, armed to the teeth, is showing a fundamental weakness...which is working to its detriment, and it, too, will have to change.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Al Jazeera

Opening yesterday's Sunday edition of 'the New York Times' [NYT], a GuamDiary faithful reader, writes that she found a full page advertisement by 'Al Jazeera', alerting the 'better reading and informed public' that 'Al' is easily accessible to the US public.
Demonised for many years, the broad American citizenry might be more than a little surprised that 'Al Jazeera TV' has been available in their nation's capitol for some years now, as well as to a small group of watchers in New Hampshire and Ohio. [The Pacifica Foundation's radio stations carry 'Al Jazeera' during the small hours of the morning.]
So what's 'haram' [forbidden] to the majority of US citizens is readily available to its elite and law makers and the White House. The idea sounds like something out of Orwell's 'Animal Farms' where the 'pigs' feast and the other barnyard animals labour in ignorance.
Recent events in Tunisia and Egypt have been followed, yes, by president Obama who remains glued to his telly as people power overthrew the dictator Ben Ali in Tunisia and in Egypt where a broad coalition is trying to throw the rascal Mubarak out, without much success so far.
'Al Jazeera' minute by minute coverage has shown the warts of US foreign policy in the Arab World. Although Wikileaks released US diplomatic cables on Tunisia and Egypt which show a high degree of perception as to the venality, corruption, and decay of those countries ruling classes, US policy hardly changed. Thus, when Ben Ali fled and Mubarak remains silent as the Giza Sphinx, the Obama administration, like 'Alice's' Red Queen is running faster and faster to keep in place. Washington is trying to square the circle in Egypt, with one day calling for a smooth transition of power and on the other, backing up Mubarak and his senior military supporters who in the end will remain in power with out Hosni Mubarak. Obama is not smelling sweet success yet but he's hoping and praying that the wisdom of Lampadusa's 'Leopard' will obtain--giving little to retain the levers of power.
Omar Suleiman, according to the leaked cable, is a sure favourite, as former head of the much dreaded and feared secret police, a man trained by the Americans, who helped with the infamous Bush 'rendition programme' of torture of prisoners, and a favourite of the Israelis.
Appointed Mubarak's vice president, Suleiman is the public face of negotiations and dealing with the protesters. He will listen but more likely than not, won't budge hardly a centrimetre of reforms.
'Al Jazeera' has been in the forefront of covering the Arab World and giving a minute by minute blow of what's happening in Egypt. Its full page advertisement, it is hoped, will move the Obama administration to allow it the rights to broadcast like any normal cable news programme in the US. The smokescreen of being the right hand of Islamic terrorist won't wash, for the simple reason high Israeli officials appear on 'Al Jazeera'. If the Israeli don't fear 'Al Jazeera', why should the more powerful Americans?
An informed American public is the best advertisement for democracy and daily participation in the affairs locally and nationally, and that's the last thing the powers that be in America's ruling and corporate classes want. So even though the president gets his news from 'Al Jazeera', the ordinary citizen may still remain in the darkness.
Still...googling 'Al Jazeera English' will bring the curious America to its online website and there he or she will certainly get an education and see examples of journalism like it used to be and at its very best.

Wikileaks' released US diplomatic cables a learning tool? a recruiting poster?

Well what do you know! As the US government thinks of 57 ways ways to try Julian Assange for leaking US diplomatic cables, some of America's colleges and universities have found an educational use for them.
The cable format requires thought, good grammar, good exposition of ideas and expression with sources named or unnamed. Professors find the format of use as a multidiscipline aid in, say, the teaching of English composition, history, political science, sociology, and cultural anthropology.
On the other hand, the cables are a recruiting poster for young men and women who are looking for a career in the diplomatic service. They evoke the 'exciting' world of adventure, foreign intrigue, or advancing not only the goals of America but spreading the glad tidings of US diplomacy, trade, and good will, among other things.
But there's a caveat: the Obama administration has warned that the cables are 'secret' and have not be cleared for release. As such, federal workers as a whole are ordered not to read them, not even in the privacy of their own home, for they run the risk of violating US law and are open to fines and yes, even imprisonment. With the government wrath breathing down the necks of news outlets and online providers, the leaked cables have been removed. US citizens have to look for them online elsewhere as Wikileaks releases them day by day. And remember we're talking about some almost quarter million cables!
US university authorities are handling this 'sticky' issue simply: they view it as a matter of 'academic freedom'. Suddenly the ball is in the individual instructor's or professor's court. In other words, the onus and consequence is on you. Which leads to another questions: will university authorities back their staff up for using uncleared government material or will they cave in to the pressure coming out of the White House?
Retired foreign officers who found a feathered nest by teaching in America's institutions of higher learning on the whole refrain from using the cables as a means of instructions. Well, some say that they won't break the law, but truth be told, they do not want to jeopardise any future opportunity to re enter government service in a new administration offering important positions and attractive perks.
The danger for those who are thinking of entering America's foreign service, and who have 'read' the leaked material, there is the small matter of a 'security clearance'. Without it, hardly any chance of entering the department of state. [Of course there will be exceptions.] So the poor lad or lass is caught in a 'catch 22' situation.
And then there is matter of opening the cables to the broader US public which is grandly and greatly disadvantage in knowing about the greater world and what their government is doing -- good or bad -- in their name and with a generous handout of their taxes. Study after poll will tell you the US is an incurious country. Its children, let alone adults, cannot even find their way in locating American cities on a map. Forget about knowing about the outside world. Relying on an educational system which promotes a touchy feely approach to one's self, what else can you expect. As for monies for schools, well, in hard economic times, the educational budgets are the first ripe for the chopping block. And don't count on the media, they're looking to improve ratings and stockholder returns, so for them, bread & circuses are the main public fare, if not the rantings of lunatic commentators whose ignorance match the generally low general culture which passes as a shining example of the best the world's only super power wears as a badge of honour on its sleeve.
And yet, reading the cables on, say, Tunisia and Egypt, the observations on the ground proved spot on, yet hardly made a dent in a shift or a redirection of policy. Intertia rules, and why upset the applecart of a good thing which is working in your favour.
So although the leaked US cables may make for good instruction materials, and prove a 'boon' in the longer run for the US, the American government sees them as a danger to its own credability and will go to any length to punish Aussage or the poor Bradley Manning held without charges in a Marine prison under conditions equal to those in Guantanamo.
Yet the information contained in the leaked and leaking cables show the clay feet of current US policy in the short and longer term. The data are an embarrassment of riches which will, one way or the other, affect US policy. In that sense they are a good learning experience but hardly an invitation to join the government's dance.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood throws it hat into the ring

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood came late to Tahrir [Freedom or Liberation] Square to call on Hosni Mubarak to step down. Its leader refused, at first, to enter negotiations with Mubarak's newly appoint vice president Omar Suleiman, the former spymaster, unless the 'pharaon' resigned. Today in a stunning reversal, the Brotherhood stands side by side will secular and Christian representatives to talk turkey with Suleiman.
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, speaking in Germany, said that this was welcome news. Israel's Shimon Peres in one of his facile slogans -- there can be no peace without democracy, and no democracy without peace -- hypocritically shuddered at the thought that the Muslim Brotherhood wanted nothing more than to gain power and impose a radical Islamic state, say, on the Irani model. Did he forget that Israel enjoyed a 30 year romp in bed with Mubarak, a 'lover' not known for democratic leanings?
Every talking head you could find on the conventional American media jabbered endlessly on the long shadow of radical Islam that the Brotherhood cast even over Washington. Such nattering simply pointed to the fact that these magpies of the press, and yes in the government, knew next to nothing about what's happening in Egypt, let alone its 20 century history.
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has been in the political wilderness since 1954 when it took on Gamal Nassar who banned it, threw its leaders into prison, or sent them into exile, as the example of the much quoted and very 'respectable' intellectual and author, Tariq Ramadan, the grandson of Al Bana who foundered the movement in the 1920s shows, by settling, for example, seeking asylum and citizenship in Switerland. Others journied elsewhere.
After almost 60 years of internal banishment -- even though it members ran for office as independents, and represent 20 per cent of the voters -- the Brotherhood grasped the opportunity to join the political mainstream by hanging on to the coat tails of the students and secular and smaller religious parties formenting what they call 'revolution', and is a turnaround of Egypt on the scale that would please Muhammed Ali. And although the decision is rightfully viewed as opportunistic by its fellow protesters, the Brotherhood is a tamer avatar of its old self. It wants respectability and recognition and is willing to don, it seems, Turkish apparel to enter as a party into the new Parliament after elections.
The US, the UK, and above all Israel should kiss the ground the Muslim Brotherhood walks on. Its decision to negotiate, among others, with Omar Suleiman gives them, tactically speaking, breathing space. Its leaders may modify relations with Israel, but if they follow the Turkish star they won't abrogate the peace treaty with the Zionist state, but redefine it. For Washington and London, ironically, denouncing it vigorously, the Brotherhood will soon be welcome by the power elite in the US and the UK.
The proof is in the pudding Bin Laden & co's reaction: they violently denounced Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood for the obvious and usual reasons.
It appears at first and second and even third blush, the Brotherhood leaders are willing to play by the rules. They do recognise that the secular forces rose up against Mubarak whilst they hesitated, and that a secular state will remain with the military [which has long found it] support a non religious Egypt. So for the Brotherhood like Henri IV, 'le caire en vaut une messe'!

John Park's talk at the New York Korea Society brings back a taste of what the Society used to be like

GuamDiary encourages its readers to listen to John Park's talk on 'North Korea's leadership transition: the China connexion' on the Korea Society's podcast archives.
Park is a young, attractive Harvard trained Ph.D., now director, Korea working group, at the government founded and funded US institute of peace [USIP]. So, you can say, he deals with the elite and rubs elbows with the chattering classes here and in east Asia, and probably beyond. It does help his profile that he once briefly worked for Goldman Sachs.
Park's presence brought back a whiff of the type of programming the Korea Society once had during the heyday of ambassador Donald Gregg, a man who never shied away from exploring issues which others took to the hills to void out lest careers and reputations of their might suffer.
Since a hot button topic which has raised buzz among the chattering classes, in and out of government, the dumbed down mainstreet media, about the transition of power that has begun in the DPRK [North Korea] and the unknown quantity the 'Dear Leader's' son Kim Jong eun, slated to succeed him, Park brings surprising 'apercus' to the table. Of course, from the word 'go', he emphasised that he is speaking for himself not the USIP. Fair enough!
Park's powerpoint demonstration dwelt on the growing inter party and economic penetration of China into North Korea, especially along the common northeast border the two countries share. It is a region rich in low grade iron ore with port facilities which China is now developing for the simple reason it makes good economic sense and cents in transshiping products from northern China to ports in southern China. Beijing is also building infrastructure and plants and the ancillary support that that means.
Inter party relations has put more energy in the KWP [Korean Workers Party] which has atrophied somewhat during a military first policy of the last years. Such relations which go back 80 years, allows more flexibile economic, diplomatic, and military alignment which has seen its ups and downs over the years.
Park refers to the open door which China is opening North Korea on many levels, not the least in upgrading the finesse needed in dealing with a global capitalist world, in spite of crippling sanctions imposed and jealously watched over by the US.
What did come out of Park's presentation is in steno speak: at a time the US is depending on China to 'muzzle' North Korea and push it on the nuclear issue, Beijing is pursuing a policy which 'disconnects' the nuclear issue from relations with North Korea which has nothing to do with US interests and policy. In other words, China is strengthening ties with the DPRK, not only out of regional stability and having a friendly presence on its borders, but further its own economic interests and development, which in an accelerated 'trickle down' effect will and does benefit
The US, Park posits, looks at the DPRK with the same myopic eye it sees Cuba, and he thinks the US policy will fail in the longer run.
But why give a synopsis...GaumDiary encourages listening to Park's own words and follow his line of thinking. Given the limits of time and topic, broader political and security issues are scanted. But that is to be expected, even though during the Q&A, Park did allude to them briefly.
Also, it is worthwhile to read Park on He knows his China as well as he his Korea. And that is something out of the ordinary given the poverty of thinking among the US North Korea clerisy.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Israel continues to sweat

Israel's right wing premier Netenyahu is sitting on an uneasy chair of power. Events in Egypt have set him to finger nervously his worry beads. Will Egypt reconduct the 30 year old peace treaty with Israel. For 3 decades on the Sinai border, Cairo's presence has lightened Israel's military expenditures. And then there the supply of gas from an Egyptian pipeline, which blew up today.
And in Jordan, the Hashemite king Abdullah is taking measures to quiet the streets and dampen a popular revolt that might mimic Egypt's and Tunisia's. Will the peace deal with Amman continue to obtain. First and foremost in the monarch's mind is the survival of the royal house.
The Palestinian west bank and Gaza strip remain quiet. But for how long? Palestinians of all political stripes have exercised a good dollop of patience. What else could they do faced by an Israeli government ready to set its military on any 'intifida'. Out of fear, the Netenyahu government is opening wider the public purse and pouring a steady flow of shekels on developing Palestinian territory not illegally gobbled up by illegal occupation and settlement. Suddenly, we hear of infrastructure improvement, economic development, improved healthcare and education, so on and on.
Will the wall separating Palestinian and Israeli in the west bank be stopped or torn down? Why cannot Palestinians use the very modern network of roads on which only Israels can travel. And will stolen land be returned?
Israel feels money will satsify discontent Palestinians which from any which you look at the situation, the Zionist state humiliates and even imprisons, wounds, and kills at any turn of the dial on Israeli policy.
Showering the occupied west bank is the surest sign that Israel fears not an 'enslaved' and 'hostage' Arab population. They may very well fear that among the discontent and renewed sense of pride and self of being Arab, a Palestinian Moses arises and anointed by history and the masses to challenge more Gandhi fashion than with guns the Israeli pharaons.
Israel is at a crossroad. Judging by Netenyahu & co's response, it looks as though they are taking the wrong road. Consequently, they will suffer the stress and insecurity of the bully and their inability to change and embrace flexibility and commonsense in their policy towards the Palestinians. And as such, Israel's sweat glands will function abnormally.

Egypt's teapot boils

US president Barack Obama is cautiously pushing Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak to quietly leave the scene. But the old 'pharaon' is not having any of it. Power is shifting to his recently appointment vice president Omar Suleiman, his old intelligence chief. Suleiman is a choice acceptable to the US, UK, the Saudis, and Israel. He is a well known and well read book.
Today two news items set knees knocking. One appeared in the weekend edition of the 'Financial Times of London' reports Wikileaks' release of US diplomatic cables on the Egyptian military. Like their Tunisian cousins, they are revealing about an army purposely 'riven by factionalism'. The wily old sphinx, Mubarak, set up fire walls which favoured him but no one else, thereby keeping the generals eyeing each other so that no one but 'al Rais' [Mubuark] remains not 'primus inter pares' but supreme in command and obedience.
The army will assure Egypt's transition towards a new future of sorts, yet the seeds of rivalry and discontent are deeply sown and will flower under the joggling for power and position among the senior and junior officer class.
The other news release, out of New York by Fox News, is a banner headline of an assassination attempt on Suleiman's life. It failed but his two bodyguards perished.
Fox sticks by its guns, saying the story is true and confirmed by the White House which won't comment. A German diplomat named as the source of the rumour, back tracked on the story's truth, saying the evidence was too sketchy to back it up.
Even if the 'assassination attempt' is not true, it makes one aware that the Egyptian street hasn't the arms and access to Suleiman. So if the bullet had his name on it, the assassin may very well come from the vice president's military caste.
Is it too early to speculate on 'un reglement de comptes' among the constellation of army factions who would welcome the opportunity to take Mubarak's place? Perhaps.
[The conspiracy theorist will seek the plotters among Hamas or Al Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood or Iran or any 57 varieties of Islamist extremists, no doubt.]
And, yes, there is a third item: the blowing up of the gas line supplying Syria, Jordan, and Israel with Egyptian gas. No name is yet pinned to who did this act. Consider the consequences, relatively speaking, of a break in energy supplies to these countries. Think of Russia's interruption of gas supplies to eastern and western Europe! and what that meant.
Any which way we look at Egypt, the future is fraught with uncertainty and the army will try to write the narrative of the country's future: it may be a blood soaked tapestry or it may be woven with dull threads, the more especially since Mubarak's 30year hold on power, he has deliberately weakend it so that no one could become his rival. A more probable scenario will include a marriage of the military for stability and a growing and thriving business class who will favour social improvement for Egypt's growing huddled masses.
Ask the Sybil what the future holds! She will say nothing. So the Egyptian teapot continues to become more agitated and hotter...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Will Lee Myung bak meet Kim Jong il?

As the lumbersome machinery of setting up a meeting of military leaders representing North and South Korea falls into gear, rumour has it that, in spite of his 'repugnance', South Korea's president may meet North Korea's Kim Jong il.
The forthcoming meeting of military leaders varies in value: some say, it is low keyed, others, of medium importance, and still others put a high level spin to it. We will know what's what when North and South meet.
Last week Admiral Mullen flew to Seoul carrying the news that China is leveraging pressure on Pyongyang. However, what the media conveniently omits is the strong arm of the US on Lee's aggressive policy towards the North which tripped a wire of war in late November 2010.
Washington keeps talking of Kim Jong il's bad behaviour. But what about its own client Lee Myung bak's? Lee has still to account for his determination to 'teach the North a serious lesson' from the first day he assumed the presidency. He has waged a cold war against the North until it turned hot two months ago.
The US publicly stood by his side but in the corridors of power, the message got out to Lee that he better retract his claws of war.
As a result, the man who swore on a stack of bibles he would not truck with Kim Jong il, may in the end eat his words and like Henry V go to his Canossa in Pyongyang.
Will he realise his political error in having scuppered the 'Sunshine Policy" or abrogated the 24 agreements signed by Roh Moo hyun his predecessor and Kim Jong il?
Hardly. Still, it is time for him to 'repent' and deliver on measures will return an uneasy Korean peninsula to stability.