If Pentagon chief James Mattis was seeking to reassure the world of American restraint in the North Korea crisis, he clumsily did the opposite. The US Defense Secretary was speaking after intense discussions with President Trump and other senior military officials in the White House Situation Room following the sixth nuclear test carried out by North Korea on Sunday.
Mattis emerged from the meeting to say that any threat from North Korea to the United States and its allies would be met with an «overwhelming military response». He then added – with a weirdly presumed ethical tone – that the US «was not looking to the total annihilation of North Korea».
That was supposed to mean that the US military would exercise restraint – by not obliterating a country with a population of 25 million. Well, we should be so grateful. That’s so goddamn generous of the Americans!
How reassuring that the United States with a nuclear arsenal of 5,000 warheads should express an apparent reluctance to annihilate. So, US rulers are bragging about hitting North Korea with overwhelming military power, but at the same time Washington expects to be given moral credit for stating that it is not looking to annihilate a whole country.
The implicit logic here articulated by Mattis shows how depraved American leadership is.
In any case, the words of «reassurance» from the Pentagon chief do little to assuage fears that the US will indeed recklessly incite a war with North Korea involving weapons of mass destruction.
Trump, Mattis and other senior White House officials have repeatedly threatened over the past two months to carry out a pre-emptive military strike on North Korea, including the deployment of nuclear weapons.
Recall last month the casual way that Trump – while having lunch at his private golf resort – warned he would unleash «fire and fury on North Korea like the world has never seen before». And those words were uttered on the 72nd anniversary of the American atomic holocaust of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
On Sunday, following news reports that North Korea had conducted a sixth underground nuclear test, Trump reportedly «reaffirmed the commitment of the United States to defending our homeland, territories, and allies using the full range of diplomatic, conventional and nuclear capabilities at our disposal». In other words, again, the nuclear option is very much on the American table, as if it’s as mundane a thing as a bottle of ketchup.
Trump also remarked: «North Korea’s words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States».
What is acutely worrying is that the US leaders have now set a highly dangerous subjective threshold of «perceived threat» from North Korea as a criterion for unleashing military force. And as we have heard repeatedly, that US force will undoubtedly include the use of nuclear weapons.
Trump and his generals seem to have lost all reasonable cognitive connection with the world.
We see ample evidence of this disconnect with regard to the rapid breakdown in bilateral relations with Russia. The American authorities keep pushing the envelope of provocation toward Russia with sanctions and the unprecedented seizure of diplomatic properties – all on the spurious grounds of alleged Russian election meddling or alleged Russian threats to NATO allies.
That is just one sign of how divorced from reality the US leadership has become. They seem to have become a victim of their own sensationalist, unhinged propaganda.
With regard to North Korea, similar to Russia, the Americans are infused with a mentality of demonization. They seem to read everyone else and every situation in debased terms of racial prejudice, existential threat, and paranoia. Thus, Vladimir Putin is the alleged «new Hitler» with designs of conquering Europe; North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is viewed as a «nutcase» who wants to «nuke us».
The Trump administration has also the added volatility of incoherent policy. Last week when North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile over Japanese territory, Trump blurted menacingly that «talking was not the answer». That could have been taken as meaning imminent military action. Then Trump’s Defense Secretary James Mattis moved to calm the rhetoric by saying that «there was still room for diplomacy».
Trump has declared that he will not give notice of any military action. That puts the situation on a hair-trigger. What is North Korea to think when the US and its South Korean ally are carrying out massive war drills off the Korean Peninsula premised on a decapitation strike against Kim Jong-un?
It’s not just North Korea that is second-guessing Washington. Trump’s latest rebuke to South Korea for «appeasing» North Korea has unnerved the government of President Moon Jae-in, fearing that the US might be willing to sacrifice its supposed ally by starting a pre-emptive war.
Moon has previously said that he received assurance from the Trump administration that it will not take military action without consulting Seoul. The Trump administration has not publicly confirmed that. South Korea is fearful that the Americans would sacrifice large numbers of its people in a reckless act of trying to destroy North Korea.
Washington’s psychopathic mentality is encapsulated in the Pentagon chief saying that his country «was not looking to annihilate North Korea». To even utter such barbarity as being a possibility shows how degenerate official American thinking is.
Such psychopathic thinking, however, is fully consistent with how American military force has laid waste to countless countries and their civilian populations down through the decades, from Hiroshima to Raqqa in present day Syria.
After all, Marine General James Mattis earned his nickname «Mad Dog» from overseeing the destruction of the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004, with the use of white phosphorus incendiary bombs.
The height of American criminal insanity is its insistence that the Korean crisis must be dealt with by either economic warfare through strangulating sanctions on North Korea and freezing and starving its people – or by overwhelming military force.
Grotesquely, the Americans talk about the world standing together against North Korea. More to the point, the world must stand together and insist that Washington takes the only morally viable option of conducting diplomacy for a peaceful resolution.
As Russia and China have both urged, the US has to talk with North Korea without preconditions. Given the decades of American militarism on the Korean Peninsula and threats of nuclear annihilation, North Korea has legitimate concerns about its security. North Korea needs and deserves security guarantees and economic cooperation, not deepening isolation. Its weapons program is its only leverage.
To portray North Korea as being an irrational threat to world peace is to succumb to American demonizing propaganda.
The world must explore the diplomatic, legal, civilized option. It must totally reject the American diktat for conflict.
There is a viable peaceful way to resolve the Korean crisis. But it requires all sides to abide by diplomacy and international law. America’s self-proclaimed prerogative of waging war and destruction on other nations is central to the problem, and must be repudiated by the international community.
But the profoundly disturbing thing is that there appears to be no-one in the American leadership that can even vaguely conceive of the obligation for committing to peace, diplomacy and civility.
The world is being railroaded by a violent tyranny – and it’s not in Pyongyang, it’s in Washington.
FINIAN CUNNINGHAM | SCF