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Monthly Archives: December 2007

North Korea is supposed to come clean about its entire nuclear program by the end of this year, which is now so close that Kim Jong Il would need a direct line to Fedex. To clinch this deal, the U.S. administration has been doing backflips since the spring — arranging the transfer to Kim Jong Il’s government of some $25 million in allegedly crime-tainted funds, agreeing to the shipment of heavy fuel oil to Kim’s regime, hosting bilateral meetings in New York with North Korean officials, and arranging the fictions required to remove North Korea from the list of terrorist nations. In a grand display of happy harmony, arrangements have been made for the New York Philharmonic to perform next year in Pyongyang.

And now — is anyone surprised? — there are somehow “hurdles” to North Korea providing the promised full inventory of its nuclear escapades.

The State Department may regard this farce as clever diplomacy. But in the real world it is called paying nuclear extortion. It amounts to a giant billboard flashing the message to rogue regimes that if you just get your hands on nuclear weapons, America will jump through hoops for you, too. With nuclear Pakistan in tumult, with Iran closing in on the bomb, is that a message the White House ought to be broadcasting?

For a taste of what’s really going on in North Korea, it’s always worth browsing the English language web site of the Pyongyang-run Korean Central News Agency — not because it tells the truth, but because even the lies are interesting. They offer a hint, apparently missed by our nation’s top diplomats, of Pyongyang’s priorities. Below is a classic account from the KCNA’s Dec. 26 roster of stories, which begin with a tale of Kim Jong Il’s on-the-spot guidance to new pig farms, and go on to explain why his attentions would leave anyone (apparently including American negotiators) exalted and a-tremble with the wonder of translating into “brilliant reality” the desires of Kim Jong Il (“Songun,” by the way, means Kim’s policy of putting the military first):

Anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s Work Observed
Pyongyang, December 26 (KCNA) — Rodong Sinmun today says in a signed article that Kim Jong Il’s work “Respecting the Forerunners of the Revolution Is a Noble Moral Obligation of Revolutionaries”, published on Dec. 25, Juche 84 (1995), is an immortal library for establishing revolutionary morality in the present times.
It goes on:
Kim Jong Il is the supreme incarnation of revolutionary moral obligation as no one can match him in this respect and the Korean people deem it immense honor to become his soldiers, attracted by his great personality.
The Korean people’s noble sense of revolutionary moral obligation finds its vivid manifestation in that they are holding President Kim Il Sung in high esteem with intense loyalty.
The slogans “The great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung will always be with us” and “Let us arm ourselves more firmly with the revolutionary ideas of the great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung!” serve as the slogans reflecting faith to be always held aloft by the Korean people and all the struggles of the Korean people are oriented to translating the desire of the President into brilliant reality.
The Korean people’s noble sense of revolutionary moral obligation finds its full expression in that they have steadfastly carried forward the ideological and moral legacies bequeathed to them by the revolutionary forerunners.
The firm faith in the victory of the revolution, the indomitable fighting spirit, revolutionary optimism and the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance, revolutionary comradeship and burning hatred for enemies and transparent revolutionary principle serve as great mental power for the Korean people.
It is in this noble revolutionary spirit that the Korean people weathered out such ordeals as the “Arduous March,” the forced march. They are now dynamically stepping up the general march for the Songun revolution to build a great prosperous powerful nation in the revolutionary soldier spirit based on the above-said spirit.
The Korean people are fully displaying this noble sense of revolutionary moral obligation in devoting themselves to the work to translate the desire of the revolutionary forerunners to see a rich and powerful country into brilliant reality on this land.
The noble spiritual and moral traits of the Korean people making energetic endeavors to win the victory of Korean-style socialism and build a great prosperous powerful nation under the uplifted banner of Songun clearly testify to the truth of history that a great leader makes his people great.

Following Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, the myth-making is heading into overdrive — depicting the late Bhutto as having been a dependable friend to America, a voice of democracy and the face of salvation for Pakistan. I doubt that was ever true. There are many reasons to deplore her murder and mourn her death — but these do not necessarily imply that if she had survived and returned to power, that would have been the beginning of a better era for Pakistan, or a safer era for America. Bhutto was charismatic, determined, and courageous, and I don’t doubt that she wanted to end Islamic terrorism both inside Pakistan and emanating from it. But the gap between her words and her record was disturbing. When she actually held power as prime minister — not once, but twice — her brand of government, fraught with nepotism and corruption scandals, did not do much to help her country, or end the forces fueling terrorism (or stop Pakistan’s nuclear bomb program and network, for that matter). Rather, it was government of the kind that can give democracy a bad name.

Way back in 1988, I interviewed Benazir Bhutto in her hometown of Larkana, Pakistan — where her father is buried. She was then busy with the campaign that led to her first stint as prime minister, and there was plenty to admire in her determination and humor. She had just given birth to her oldest son, she was working 18-hour days, and in answer to a warmup question she confirmed to me with a laugh that she had indeed enjoyed a girlhood passion for romance novels — but had no time anymore for anything but newspapers.

Her politics, and priorities, however, were worrisome. Among her campaign slogans was “Socialism is Our Economy,” and her plans for Pakistan included the tired old brand of patronage and state-planning that had by then beggared the subcontinent for decades — and lends itself, anytime, anywhere, to corruption and the erosion of democratic rule. On questions about then-Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, the complex politics of Pakistan, and the Kabul-based Soviet-backed terrorist activities of her brothers (one already murdered at the time, the other killed since) she ducked and weaved in ways that left me worried enough to write at the time: “Ms. Bhutto leaves it far from clear that a new Bhutto administration would bring better times for Pakistan and its allies.”

It is possible that this third time around, Benazir Bhutto might have risen to the job. That is now moot. In the wake of this hideous assassination the questions facing those who believed in her, and those more skeptical, have become the same. What now?

For Pakistan, there are no simple answers — what was already a volatile and highly dangerous scene has become even less predictable. But there is one glaring message wrapped up in almost every piece of commentary on Bhutto’s murder, and it is this. What happens in the politics of Pakistan today is enormously important to the wider world because Pakistan is a country infested with terrrorists and armed with nuclear weapons. Those bombs are quite a prize for anyone who might seize power. Thus does America now walk a tightrope in its dealings with Pakistan.

Meanwhile, we have the flip side of this horrifying arrangement right next door to Pakistan, in Iran — which already has the kind of terror-dedicated government we fear Pakistan might get. Tehran’s regime is busy providing itself with everything needed to make nuclear weapons. And thanks to America’s latest National Intelligence Estimate, with its myopic conclusions, bizarre wording and patently political agenda, the Bush administration seems to have simply scrapped any serious intention of coming between Iran’s mullahs and the bomb.

That is a terrible mistake. And while we deplore the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, and brace for the aftershocks in Pakistan, and recite the reasons why it matters so much, the deeper message we ought to be taking from all this is that Pakistan has so far been a cakewalk compared to what we will be dealing with if Iran gets the bomb.

America vs the UN Mob

December 23rd, 2007 - 11:51 am

Just in case anyone thinks the folks at the UN don’t work long hours, check out the news on the UN General Assembly budget vote, held at 5:55 A.M. — on Saturday morning, no less — following “marathon talks that lasted through the night.” The result was the adoption of a record-busting $4.17 billion core budget for 2008-2009, passed by a vote of 142 to 1.

And who was that lone dissenting member state? You guessed it: as Mark Steyn has called it, America Alone.

Is that because 142 member states (including Belarus, China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Laos, Libya, Burma, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Venezuela, Vietnam and Zimbabwe) are right? and America is wrong?

Or is it because the UN system is structured to encourage the mob of member states to treat American money as an all-you-can-eat buffet?

American taxpayers bankroll 22%, or $917 million of this whopping biennial core budget — by far the biggest contribution of any one member state — with just a handful of other countries, including Japan and a few from the European Union, accounting for the bulk of the remainder.

This is just the core budget, of course. The UN system-wide budget is about ten times the size (and for that, the U.S. foots an even bigger portion of the bill, or about 25%), thus likely to total well over $40 billion for the same two-year stretch. Though due to a UN system growing like kudzu, and just as impenetrable, the exact numbers are almost impossible to keep up with.

And does all this money go to make a better world? In a statement to the General Assembly, the U.S. ambassador for management reform, Mark Wallace, noted that this budget contains funding for a conference dubbed Durban II, “an event noxious to my country and a disgrace in the International Community.” That funding was approved 141 to one (yep, America alone) by the UN budget committee at 1:05 AM Saturday, just a few hours before the pre-dawn General Assembly vote. Details of that remarkable scene on Inner-City Press. (And then there is the usual roster of high-ticket UN endeavors entwined with the usual UN money and sex scandals, legitimization of tyrants, routine demonization of Israel and the U.S., and failure to stop the genocide of the hour).

Finally, there is the interesting spin in the UN press release headline about this budget vote, which offers no hint that the U.S. had good reasons for its dissent. Instead (also linked at the top of this post), from the UN we get “General Assemby approves nearly $4.2 billion UN budget despite US Opposition,” and from the New York Times (can anyone spot the difference?), we get “Despite U.S. Opposition, United Nations Budget is Approved.”

You Call That a Conference?

December 21st, 2007 - 12:28 pm

About three layers deep inside its vast bureaucracy, the UN is now gestating a repeat performance of its notorious 2001 conference in Durban, South Africa. That was billed as a meeting to fight racism, but — thanks to careful planning sessions in places such as Tehran and under the care of the UN’s former “Human Rights” Commission — it was actually all about vilifying Israel and America. Things got so bad that midway through the conference, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell yanked the U.S. delegation.

All the portents are that the next round, Durban II, will be just as bad, or worse. Libya is chairing the preparatory committee, with Iran, Cuba, Russia, and Pakistan (fronting for the Organization of the Islamic Conference) gathered round the table. The whole thing is being shepherded by the new UN “Human Rights” Council — which really deserves to be called “The UN Chronically-Condemning-Israel Council.” This thing has one outrage slathered on top of the next, more details in my column today on NRO, and more on EYEONTHEUN and more on the entire twisted scene on UNWATCH.

Among the array of perversions involved in the preparations for Durban II, the planners listed above want the UN to pay for it out of core budget funds, for which the U.S. picks up 22% of the tab. And in looking at plans for some of the money (the sum now being discussed is almost $7 million — what would YOU do with that much money?), I have been amazed by the amount of conferencing which the UN now deems normal in order to produce… a conference. They haven’t even picked the actual venue yet for Durban II. But already they have spent days meeting in Geneva this past August. There have been discussions in committees in New York. There is supposed to be a ten-day “preparatory” session in Geneva (10 days! What do they do for 10 days? That needs 10 days of meals and hotels and … maybe some shopping… and… well, whatever, with all those cafes and private banking facilities, Geneva can be nice in the spring). And then there are supposed to be a series of three days of preparatory meetings in each of five different locations around the world… leading to 800 pages of “pre-session” documentation. And that’s just a sample of the plans envisioned for 2008. The conference itself isn’t supposed to take place until 2009.

If America is going to help bankroll this stuff, seems like it would be simpler and much better for the world to just give these delegates from Libya and Russia and Cuba and Pakistan (and Norway… somehow, Norway always seems to be in on these things) a handful of shopping and air travel vouchers, and tell them to take a vacation and let the rest of us worry about fighting racism…and anti-Semitism, and anti-Americanism, and you name it. And for that, do we need the UN at all?

In its efforts this year to appease North Korea, the State Department has already engaged in enough contortions to earn Condoleezza Rice and special envoy Chris Hill top billing at the Cirque du Soleil. This includes State’s finagling toward removing Kim Jong Il’s regime from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Now comes a Congressional Research Service report listing fresh open source news “from reputable sources” of recent North Korean support for terrorist groups, including Hezbollah. Among these items, the CRS report cites a French internet publication, Paris Intelligence Online, as reporting in Sept. 2006 on an “extensive” North Korean program which began in the 1980s with Hezbollah cadres going from Lebanon to North Korea for training, and expanded after 2000 with North Koreans coming to Lebanon “to provide arms and training to Hezbollah.” According to this account, the North Koreans helped Hezbollah develop the underground network of bunkers for storing weapons, food, and so forth, which Hezbollah used in the war it launched on Israel in the summer of 2006.

Such stories are hell to prove. And in the rush to please Pyongyang, our top diplomats seem so lost in fantasy these days that I’m not sure facts would sway them anyway. So let’s engage in a bit of whimsy. Given North Korea’s long record of counterfeiting U.S. currency, that story of North Koreans tutoring Hezbollah sure does call to mind an intriguing scene from one of Hezbollah’s strongholds in southern Lebanon, which flashed through the war news in the summer of 2006. Remember that film clip aired by NBC, meant to focus on the destruction wrought by an Israeli attack on Sidon? — except in panning across the debris, the NBC camera also happened to show what looked like a stack of sheets of uncut $100 bills. Opinionjournal’s James Taranto noted it at the time, and Little Green Footballs put up a post with a still-viable link to the film clip.

Do these dots deserve connecting? I don’t know. But if anyone out there wants to write a thriller about this gang, there are the makings here of a pretty good plot.

Remember that America-bashing Israel-trashing hate-fest held by the United Nations in Durban, South Africa back in 2001, just before the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States? Well, the UN is preparing to do it all over again, and with your tax dollars.

Iran’s Nuclear Chutzpah Goes Ballistic

December 9th, 2007 - 1:02 am

Not content with declaring “victory” for its nuclear program — thanks to the latest U.S. National “Intelligence” Estimate — Iran’s government is now demanding that the U.S. explain the spying that went into producing the NIE.

This item caught my attention courtesy of an email captioned “THIS MUST BE SATIRE,” forwarding an AP story carried in the Jerusalem Post, which goes into some detail about Iranian officials noticing that the NIE’s own text attributed its findings to information gathered about Iran by U.S. agencies via “satellite and espionage activities.” So Ahmadinejad & Co. are delighted by the report, but outraged by the spying. Talk about wanting to have your yellowcake and eat it too — it sure sounds like satire.

But it isn’t. A check of Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency web site turns up a Dec. 9 article saying that Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki “has sent a letter to the Swiss embassy ‘in Tehran, as caretaker of U.S. interests, calling for explanations on the US espionage on Iran’s nuclear issue.’ ”

Sounds to me like Mottaki should be told to take a number and go to the back of the queue. So weird was this NIE that there are a lot of Americans who would also like an explanation of the espionage that went into it. Seems like we deserve first dibs.

Update: According to an article in the Telegraph, there are a number of British intelligence officials now wondering if U.S. spies were hoodwinked by Iranian disinformation. They, too — reasonably enough — would like an explanation of the U.S. spy tactics behind this latest NIE. (Maybe the British should complete the circuit, and demand an explanation not from Washington, but from Iran?).

Even assuming our spooks have it right in the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program (at least until our “intelligence community” reverses itself again… or Iran conducts a nuclear test), then one of the weirdest locutions in this odd public document is the phrase attributing Iran’s alleged halt of its nuclear program in 2003 to some sort of unspecified “international pressure.”

International pressure? Wait a minute here … what happened in 2003 that might have impressed Iran enough to even consider slowing its rush toward the bomb? More in my column today in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Globocrat Paradise on Bali

December 2nd, 2007 - 11:55 pm

On Bali, the UN climatocrats are off and running with their Dec. 3-14 climate conference, under hardship conditions including the requirement that all catering for side events must be ordered at least 48 hours in advance. Further rigors, according to a report from China’s Xinhua News Agency, include the demand that all motor vehicles entering the beach area surrounding Bali’s Nusa Dua conference complex run on biofuels. That sounds problematic, if the Xinhua report is accurate that only a few gas stations in Indonesia routinely sell biofuels, and they not on Bali, but are clustered around the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, on the island of Java, more than 500 miles from the UN conference.

From New York, where it snowed today, it is hard to get instant information on just how the thousands of now-assembling UN conferees on Bali are coping with the local biofuels shortage — whether they are walking to the beach complex, or trucking in biofuels for their motorcades. But one thing you can spot even from the other side of the world is that all this climate conferencing is job-creation paradise for global bureaucrats. Never mind what the oceans might do; if this Bali meeting gets any more traction, we can confidently predict that within the next decade we will see a 4.6 foot rise in the global level of red tape.

How do we know this? It’s not just that at the opening sessions (webcast by the UN) the folks eager to be heard included delegates from Belarus, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Equatorial Guinea — all apparently prepared to help highly productive democracies such as America lead a more virtuous life. No… the real giveaway is a handy guide put out on the UNFCC conference web site, listing and linking to all the official documentation deemed relevant to this conference. It is organized alphabetically, linked here, and as you scroll.. and scroll… and scroll… down the list, you can pick almost any topic and dive into yet more of this ever-expanding universe of UN climate paperwork, privileges, demands, plans, and money money money. Much of this is already the result of previous conferences, reports, air travel, per diems, secretariats, staff jobs, consulting contracts and proliferating agendas for much more of the same — now homing in on ways to plan your life and bill you for the service.

Life’s much too short to read all the documents assembled already (especially when you could be making much better use of your time watching a superb film that did NOT get a Nobel Prize: “The Great Global Warming Swindle“). But just to provide a sample, here’s one of my favorites, found while browsing through so far. It’s an agenda item discussing the ways to ensure UN-style “Privileges and Immunities for individuals serving on constituted bodies under the Kyoto Protocol… .” Translation: They’re looking for a way to ensure that no matter what they do to the rest of us, we can’t do anything about it.