by Bob Kosuth
Published in the Reader Weekly 6/18/09
The Reader's May 28 article on North Korea's nuclear ambitions immediately reminded me of a 1981 collection of essays entitled Protest and Survive (Monthly Review Press), in which Daniel Ellsberg makes the point that the US has in fact used nuclear weapons repeatedly since 1945 just as one uses a gun pointed at someone's head regardless of whether the trigger is pulled or not. Since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the utility of nuclear weapons is not in the application but the threat.
Obviously, this is what the North Koreans are trying to accomplish as well. What has made it so sensitive and unacceptable is that the nuclear prerogative is one that the US wants to preserve only for itself and its intimate friends.
One of the best buddies of the US in the nuclear club is the state of Israel, which is in possession of a sizeable number of nuclear weapons. Unlike North Korea, Israel has never opened itself up to international inspections or signed any non-proliferation agreements.
The North Koreans have stated publicly that their intention in developing nuclear weapons is to call attention to US/Western/Israeli hypocrisy on nuclear weapons issues and demand direct state to state talks and full diplomatic relations with the US.
The situation with Iran is similar. It's ok for the US and Israel to be able to threaten Iran with nuclear weapons but the reverse is not acceptable. It's encouraging that many young Iranians have rejected the idea of being pawns in this game as evidenced in the recent election even though their voices are now being stifled. Similarly, both in Israel and around the world many Jews have begun to separate their Jewish identities from Zionist colonialism in Palestine. Unfortunately, in both places there still exist powerful elites who manipulate fear and nationalism to stay in power.
The North Korean situation brings all of this to the fore. The media pundits and academics are having a field day debating who's on first in Pyongyang and why, calibrating whether North Korean missiles can reach Sara Palin in Alaska (Can US missiles reach North Korea? Can Israel bomb Iran? Duh!), and whether or not North Korea can eventually become another China, quietly buying US debt and supplying cheap goods to Walmart.
All of this frenetic media and State Department bluster is, of course, intended to drown out any honest examination of who wrote and continues to enforce the nuclear weapons game rules in the first place. Any re-evaluation of these issues will have to start on Main Street because it will surely not be forthcoming from any addresses on Pennsylvania Avenue.