There is no Saddam Hussein. This guy’s name is John Gillnitz, we found him doing dinner theatre in Tulsa. Did a mean “King and I.” Plays good ethnics….I’m saying I invented the guy. We set him up in ’79. He rattles his saber whenever we need a good distraction. Morris Fletcher – The X Files
In truly perverse fashion, the newspapers have all suddenly remembered that Nuclear war is possible, and that it’s probably not a good idea. This is all built on the developing war of words between Trump’s administration and North Korea.
North Korea. Who haven’t successfully launched a missile further than their own backyard. Who have no money and no resources and no international pull. North Korea who are surrounded by larger, more powerful countries easily capable of applying pressure to resolve any situation (in fact just two days ago China, South Korea, Russia and North Korea held joint diplomatic talks. The US was not invited).
North Korea who have been, until very recently, an international punchline.
This whole scenario is simply the next step in evolution in news as theatre, which is to say, theatre as news. These are non-existent worries, concerning a non-problem in a false reality.
The Guardian’s propagandist-in-chief, Jonathan Freedland, is going into frothing panic over the threat, and of course blaming Trump for the whole thing. It’s rather odd really, you would think that someone so scared of Nuclear war would have raised more alarm over the possible Obama-backed conflicts with Russia over both Ukraine and Syria. Freedland evades this prickly contradiction by simply saying that, in all other nuclear near-misses, there were people on both sides who knew “where the lines were”…whatever that means. Comfortably ignoring the fact that, rather more reassuringly, in all previous nuclear near-misses BOTH sides had nukes.
The New York Times has collapsed into brilliant self-parody with the headline: “War With North Korea Not Imminent, Officials Say, but U.S. Would Still Win”. Reflecting a national psyche so incredibly insecure, they can’t even fearmonger without a “My dad could beat up your dad” rider.
The WaPo even went so far as trying to invert North Korea’s aforementioned joke-status. Running the headline: North Korea is a joke. And that’s the problem. In which the author argues that a country full of fanciful self-aggrandizing propaganda could be really dangerous if some of the fanciful self-aggrandizing propaganda turns out to be true. It’s insane.
So where is all this hysteria coming from?
Three places really, the first is a White Paper issued by the Japanese government. Full of nothing but speculation and vague language, such as:
It is conceivable that North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme has already considerably advanced and it is possible that North Korea has already achieved the miniaturization of nuclear weapons into warheads and has acquired nuclear warheads,”
Even the Guardian was forced to admit it was “very vague” in its report on the subject.
The second source of hysteria is Trump’s rhetoric. His now oft-repeated threat to rain “fire and fury” down on North Korea. All aspects have been discussed at length in the press. What he said, whether or not he meant it, whether it was planned or off the cuff. It is meaningless.
Trump has shown himself to be a less charming Reagan (if you can imagine such a thing), simply making grand statements on vaguely topical stories. His “threat” was worth no more than his “lock her up” chants, or Reagan’s “evil empire” speech. With, at least, the added comfort that it’s far safer to antagonise the DPRK than it was the USSR.
The third source of hysteria is this photograph:
Featuring what American experts have called a “miniaturized nuclear warhead, capable of fitting inside the nose cone of a ballistic missile”. They call it the disco-ball, for obvious reasons. It’s easy to imagine that the other side shows the word “ACME” in big red letters. Nevertheless, the experts have decided it’s a “miniaturized” nuclear warhead.
Not “small”, you understand, but “miniaturized”. All told it’s supposedly “about the size of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki”. That, in modern nuke terms, is very small. So even IF North Korea build a missile capable of launching this warhead (they haven’t yet), and even IF they knew how to aim it (they currently don’t), and even IF they had the technology to make it survive re-entry (they are “years away” according to the same American experts)…even then they would be sending one, very small missile into the most well defended air space in the world.
The worst case scenario here is that the American and Japanese experts are all 100% correct: One small, poor country MIGHT have one small nuclear bomb that they can’t aim, can’t shoot, and would burn up in the atmosphere if they tried to use.
The best case scenario is that they have nothing.
So why all the big screamy headlines?
It’s important to realise, if you’re to understand the modern world, that news coverage has virtually nothing to do with reality. Modern news agencies have literally no regard for true or false. They simply exist to serve the agenda. “Facts” are reported and dropped as convenient. Truth is inconsequential. Any resemblance to reality purely coincidental.
In 2014, following the US-backed right-wing coup in Ukraine, the very real threat of a nuclear confrontation with an actual nuclear power – Russia – was completely ignored by the same state-approved stenographers now crying about North Korea’s tiny disco-ball.
In 2015/16 when Turkey shot down a Russian jet over Syria, and America was flying bombing raids against Syrian forces working alongside the Russian military, not one mainstream “journalist” talked about a nuclear war.
Now a completely fictional “nuclear war”, with a totally non-existent nuclear arsenal, is at the heart of international headlines.
You could easily argue that, for years now, North Korea has essentially been allowed to exist for exactly this reason. They’ve been sanctioned, yes, but in terms of opposing the US government – they have definitely got off lightly. Ask Iran. And Chile. And Iraq. And Afghanistan. And Vietnam. And Ukraine. And Guatemala. And El Salvador. And Nicaragua. And the Congo. And Somalia. And Libya. And Yemen. And Iraq again. For all the talk of the “threat” posed by North Korea they have somehow managed to avoid the sharp end of American foreign policy. No wars. No coups.
The DPRK share land borders with China and Russia, so they provide a good “decoy threat” to allow the US to point weapons across the pacific, and heavily fortify the Korean peninsula in general. The massive American military presence in both South Korea and Japan is notionally about North Korea…but is obviously really about Russia and China.
Just as Iran’s fledgling nuclear program was a “reason” to put a missile defense shield in Poland, this North Korean “threat” is a reason to pour American military into the seas off China’s coast (including the hotly disputed areas of the South China Sea).
Japan has been a pacifist nation since the twin war-crimes that officially brought WWII to an end, however the “increased threat” of a North Korean nuclear program has allowed them to begin rearming in recent years, whilst ignoring objections from China. (A move CNN described as “assertive”, whilst ignoring the very real dangers.) They will of course be buying British and American weapons.
With all this talk of nuclear war, panicked Americans will flock to Walmart to buy bottled water and canned food. The Pentagon et al. will announce they need more money to guarantee America’s safety, and get an increased budget for next year. Sooner or later the talk will turn to upgrading America’s nuclear arsenal (ignoring the fact Obama spent $1 trillion upgrading them in his last term). Through all of this shares in Boeing and Lockheed Martin and the other usual suspects will shoot up in value. Newspapers will print scary headlines to sell more copies, and more ad space.
One way or another, a lot of people are going to make a lot more money.
All the while, the real conflict in Syria is ignored because it refuses to follow the Empire’s chosen narrative. The collapse of Ukraine is never mentioned anymore, thanks to Russia’s refusal to take the bait. The freshest testament to America’s trail of international destruction, Yemen, is a slaughterhouse – a very real war fought for dishonest reasons by dishonest people, turning the poorest country in the middle east into a humanitarian catastrophe.
As for avoiding nuclear war, demonizing North Korea and pouring American hardware into the Korean Peninsula increases the risk of an accidental confrontation with China. The increasing anti-Russian paranoia in Washington DC, and ever-Eastward expansion of NATO risks spiralling US-Russia relations to a lower point than ever before. The rearming of Japan will cause (understandable) tremors of worry in Beijing.
IF a nuclear war comes, it will be with a cornered Russia or a threatened China, not North Korea. It will far more likely be the accidental result of arrogance, stupidity and ambition than any malicious tin-pot dictator.
There are no scary headlines about any of that. No headlines at all.
Only non-stories about a puppet-idiot using weapons he doesn’t control to threaten an impotent lunatic with weapons that don’t work. A non story, full of fire and fury and signifying nothing.