Pundits Slam Trump’s Biblical Language on North Korea, But Praise His Defense Secretary’s Genocidal Threats – AlterNet

North Korean soldiers placard at the military parade in Pyongyang. Pyongyang, North Korea, July 2013. Photo Credit: Astrelok

President Donald Trumps pledge to punish North Korea with fire, fury and frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before triggered outrage from pundits and lawmakers across the political spectrum. The outrage over his apparent threat to annihilate North Korea, possibly with nuclear arms, prompted his advisors to insist that Trumps comments wereimprovised.

When Defense Secretary James Mattis followed up with another belligerent statement, warning of “the end of [North Koreas] regime and the destruction of its people, the reaction from Washingtons political class was entirely different.

Though Mattis was nicknamed Mad Dog for his role in razing thecity of Fallujah during the U.S. occupation of Iraq in 2004, pundits have rebranded him one of the “adults in the White House part of a class of sober-minded ex-generals appointed to rein in Trumps divisive America First agenda.

CNN correspondent Dan Merica cast Mattis warning to oversee the mass slaughter of North Koreas civilian population as a tough statement. This framing was echoed by Barbara Starr, the CNN Pentagon correspondent who serves as an enthusiastic stenographer for the Defense Department. Starr called Mattis rhetoric very tough talk and a dire warning to North Korea.

Self-described GOP media guy Rick Wilson, a veteran Republican consultant popular among liberals for his vehement criticism of Trump, applauded Mattis language, tweeting, This is how you phrase it, not biblical-level chest beating.

Perhaps the most bizarre response to Mattis statement came Washington Post national security reporter Dan Lamothe, who described it as a call for de-escalation.

The leak that triggered the threats

Both genocidal threats from Trump and Mattis were triggered by a confidential Defense Intelligence Agency assessment leaked to the Washington Post claiming that North Korea has “cross[ed] a key threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power.” The unverified analysis claimed that 60 nuclear weapons are now controlled by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Tim Shorrock, a veteran investigative journalist who has focused on Korean issues for several decades, was skeptical about the DIA leak. Im a little surprised by this report because for one thing its clearly not the collective conclusion of the intelligence community. Its someone in the DIA and theres no real analysis of what it is They just say it has this miniature warhead and they can now put on an ICBM, he saidto Aaron Mate of the Real News Network.

Shorrock also questioned the timing of the leak: Well, theyve said that before in years past, it hasnt been proven to be true, and Im wondering why this is coming out right now. That seems very dangerous on the face of it. Someone within the intelligence community is pushing for a military response by leaking this report.

Turning the aggressor into the victim

The Trump administration’s threats were most immediately prompted by the DIAs leak, but were also an undeniable response to a months-long campaign by corporate media to drum up fears of a North Korean attack on the American homeland.

On August 2, CNNs Jake Tapper hypedunfounded fears that North Korean missile tests threatened passenger planes from the West. Every day were getting starting details about North Koreas military ambitions which seem to be proceeding at an increasingly rapid clip. Its unclear with the Trump administrations strategy is to stop the Kim Jong Un regime, Tapper declared as he introduced a segment on the supposed threat to civilian airliners.

The segment featured special graphics created by CNN that showed an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launched from North Korea striking California.

While CNN correspondent Barbara Starr acknowledged that no North Korean missile test came anywhere close to downing a passenger plane, CNNs chyron read: North Korea missile tests could endanger passenger planes.”

Since Trump threatened fire and fury on North Korea, mainstream media has portrayed the government of DPRK as the sole aggressor. The August 9front page of theWall Street Journalframed the presidents warning with the headline, “Trump Warns North Korea: Stop Threats.”

Though Trumps choice of language might have been alarming, his threats were part of a grand bipartisan tradition. Former President Barack Obama threatened the DPRK with destruction in 2016. We could, obviously, destroy North Korea with our arsenals, Obama said, while conceding that the DPRK posed relatively low level threats.

What is rarely acknowledged is that North Korea’s weapons production is strictly defensive, not offensive. North Korean spokespeople have expressly pointed to countries that have been destroyed in U.S. military attacks, noting, Nothing will be more foolish if the United States thinks it can deal with us the way it treated Iraq and Libya, miserable victims of its aggression, and Syria, which did not respond immediately even after it was attacked.

Even Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, has acknowledged that Kim is a rational actor. Coat conceded that Kims decision-making process was influenced by watching Muammar Gaddafi be butchered by U.S.-led forces after willingly ending his nuclear ambitions. The lessons that we learned out of Libya giving up its nukesis, unfortunately, if you had nukes, never give them up. If you dont have them, get them, Coats said at the Aspen Security Forum this year.

Coats concluded that for Kim, there is some rationale backing his actions which are survival, survival for his regime, survival for his country, and he has watched I think what has happened around the world relative to nations that possess nuclear capabilities and the leverage they have and seen that having the nuclear card in your pocket results in a lot of deterrence capability.

The U.S. is the only country in the world that has ever dropped a nuclear bomb on a civilian population (twice). The U.S. War DepartmentsStrategic Bombing Survey acknowledged, “Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.” Some historians note that the U.S. nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which incinerated hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians, was not necessary to end the war, but rather was a warning sign to the Soviet Unionand could be seen as the first act of the Cold War.

Fake news on North Korea

The Western media is notorious for spreading ridiculous myths about North Korea; among them, that the country discovered evidence of unicorns, that all North Koreans are forced to get the same haircut, and that leader Kim Jong-un killed his uncle by feeding him to a pack of dogs.

The former Washington Post pundit Max Fisher, now at the New York Times, falsely reported that the DPRK distributed copies of Adolf Hitlers manifesto Mein Kampf to leaders. And former Wired reporter Spencer Ackerman, now a national security reporter at the Daily Beast, wrongly portrayed an obvious spoof video made by a Westerner as official North Korean propaganda.

Accompanying much of the distortion-laden discussion of North Korea is an extreme dehumanization of the more than 25 million people who live there, who are often portrayed as mindlessly following the orders of their cartoon villain leaders.

U.S. crimes against humanity

Also conspicuously absent from media reports is any context or history for North Koreas actions. Just over 60 years ago, the U.S. waged what was essentially a genocidal war against Korea, in which it murdered millions of people.

As the Intercepts Mehdi Hasannoted, The madman with nuclear weapons is Donald Trump, not Kim Jong-un.

While some Western media reports and intelligence officials may acknowledge that North Korea does indeed act rationally and that Donald Trump is personally erratic to a dangerous degree they still gloss over the impact of U.S. atrocities committed during the Korean War.

Over a period of three years or so, we killed off what 20 percent of the population, said Air Force General Curtis LeMay, who led the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War. Journalist Blaine Harden reported this in a Washington Post op-ed titled The U.S. war crime North Korea wont forget.

Harden explained, Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later Secretary of State, said the United States bombed everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another. After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops.

In its three-year war on Korea, the U.S. is estimated to have killed 3 million people, approximately half of them civilians.

The Korean War is sometimes called the “forgotten war” in the U.S., but it is hard to imagine that North Koreas leadership has forgotten this calamity, or that it would allow it to happen again without a response.

Ben Norton is a reporter for AlterNet’s Grayzone Project. You can follow him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

Max Blumenthal is a senior editor of the Grayzone Project atAlterNet, and the award-winning author of Goliath andRepublican Gomorrah. His most recent book isThe 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza.Follow him on Twitter at @MaxBlumenthal.

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Pundits Slam Trump’s Biblical Language on North Korea, But Praise His Defense Secretary’s Genocidal Threats – AlterNet

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