On Tuesday, President Donald Trump delivered his first address to the United Nations. As we all know, the 42-minute speech included an unprecedented denunciation of North Korea. The president’s words were clearly aimed at intimidating not only the leadership of that country, but its impoverished population as well.
Besides blatant terrorism, there are other descriptions for such intimidation: absolute lunacy and shameless hypocrisy.
But take terrorism, first and foremost.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s definition terrorism is a federal crime embracing any act “calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct.” By his own admission, that was the very raison d’etre of Trump’s threats: to get North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons program and to retaliate for its weapons’ testing.
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In his diatribe, the president claimed the right to “completely destroy” North Korea, a tiny country of 25 million on the edge of starvation. Such genocide would accomplish in an instant a holocaust at least six times as great as that perpetrated by Adolf Hitler.
Imagine being a citizen of North Korea and hearing the U.S. president’s bombast. Would you be terrified? Imagine if you were living in South Korea, as 35,000 U.S. military personnel do. Imagine if you were living in nearby Japan, where more than 40,000 U.S troops and their families are stationed. You’d be terrified.
And none of this is to mention Japanese and South Korean populations, who happen to live in a region that is home to half the world’s population, as well as to its largest militaries and most prosperous economies. The entire world should be petrified.
However, from the North Korean perspective, the speech represents only the latest in an endless line of such provocations long resisted by Pyongyang. The first, of course, was the Korean War itself which between 1950 and 1953 flattened the country and took nearly 2 million Korean lives. After that, North Korea has been the subject of endless sanctions and the target of annual war games that rehearse the country’s invasion, the decapitation of its leadership, and that actually drop dummy nuclear bombs.
Nevertheless, the Kim Jong Un regime has gone through the process of nonviolent resistance. It has repeatedly presented its case to the U.N., but to no avail. Moreover, the country’s leadership has expressed a willingness to consider freezing its nuclear weapons program in exchange for a freeze on such military maneuvers on its border. The response of the United States has been complete rebuff.
No wonder Kim has defaulted to developing his nuclear-weapons program. He needs no reminder of the fate of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi who terminated their similar projects under U.S. threat.
In other words, though claiming that “all options are on the table,” dialogue about Kim’s non-violent alternatives to nuclear war apparently is not. Rather than talk, Trump evidently prefers bombing — even nuclear bombing –— in an area of the world that hosts 83 U.S. bases, and where authorities estimate that even a conventional artillery barrage from the North would kill 64,000 in the first three hours.
The absolute lunacy of this situation is easy to see, and needs no elaboration. The evidence increasingly shows that we are currently governed by a madman. There is no other description for someone willing to kill 25 million people rather than dialogue or compromise.
As for the hypocrisy, how can the only country ever to use nuclear weapons, and which is in the process of completely modernizing its nuclear arsenal, demand that another country discontinue its nuclear program? Even a child can understand the contradiction of demanding that others do what the demanders themselves refuse to accomplish.
Reach Mike Rivage-Seul, retired Berea College professor, at Mike_Rivage-Seul @berea.edu.