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Does the US have a double standard with regards to North Korea and Iraq?

By David T. Pyne
web posted January 27, 2003

The Bush administration has increasingly come under attack from both the left and the right for exercising what appears to be a double standard in its policy towards Iraq and its policy towards North Korea. For a time, it looked like the administration was moving in a more prudent direction on North Korean policy. Following the North Korean declaration that they had restarted their nuclear weapons program, the Bush administration appeared to abandon the discredited Clinton-era Agreed Framework and declared that it had no plans to resume talks with North Korea until Pyongyang froze its nuclear weapons program. However, in recent weeks, the administration has begun to backpedal.

As predicted by this author late last month, the more blustering and threats we have heard from North Korea, the more rapidly the administration has backtracked from its earlier tough rhetoric condemning the resumption of North Korean nuclear weapons production. Most recently, the administration has offered a resumption of large-scale energy aid, increased food and agricultural aid to North Korea, and a renegotiation of the Agreed Framework if it verifiably dismantles its nuclear weapons program.

One of North Korea's Taepodong missiles
One of North Korea's Taepodong missiles

UN weapons inspectors persist in their fishing expedition for the few of Iraq's rusting short-range chemical artillery shells that managed to survive the Gulf War and seven to eight years of UN weapons inspections have methodically destroyed every weapon of mass destruction found in Iraq. Meanwhile, North Korea is known to maintain a much larger arsenal consisting of 5,000 tons of chemical weapons in addition to their nuclear arsenal with many "No Dong" MRBMs and a few "Taepodong" IRBMs and ICBMs to boot with sufficient range to strike US cities. One is left to wonder how it is that the administration can persist in seeing Iraq as a greater threat because it might be developing nukes but not long-range missiles, while it is well-known that North Korea continues to threaten the US with nuclear obliteration and has both nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them to US cities.

North Korea has expelled UN/IAEA weapons inspectors in contrast to Iraq, which, following the UN Security Council vote a couple of months ago, has welcomed them in. The Bush administration has sought to portray Iraq as the greater and more immediate threat based on the possibility that Saddam ‘might' have restarted the nuclear weapons program that was declared dismantled by UN weapons inspectors in 1998. However, after two months of searching, the inspectors have been unable to find any evidence to support the administration's contention of a continuing WMD program. Saddam has done everything short of presenting the US with his remaining arsenal of chemical and biological weapons to avert war with the US, while North Korea has been openly and publicly goading the US into what it claims would amount to World War Three. While Saddam has declared that Iraq would defend itself against an unprovoked attack by the US and would inflict many casualties against invading troops if the US were to invade, North Korea has threatened to annihilate millions of American civilians with the nuclear missiles it has in place today.

While North Korea has long maintained links to terrorist groups like the Japanese Red Army faction and various Middle Eastern terror groups, Iraq's reported ties to terrorism are much more murky, limited to providing a safe haven for a few terrorists over the years and to providing death benefits for the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. In point of fact, British intelligence reportedly concluded that Saddam does not care much for Islamist radicals and terrorists who would pose a threat to his largely secular regime. His historical disliking for them was strong enough to cause him to invade Iran with US support shortly after the Islamist revolutionaries took power in Tehran, but that is the subject for a different article.

Fifty years ago, North Korean forces, fighting alongside their Chinese Communist benefactors, killed 37,000 American soldiers in the Korean War. This war technically has never ended due to North Korea's refusal to sign a peace agreement while US troops remain stationed on the peninsula. North Korea is known to have slaughtered scores of American soldiers since the armistice in 1953, whereas Iraq has not been linked to the killing of any Americans outside of fighting US troops during Operation Desert Storm. Nor has Iraq been positively linked to any actual or attempted terrorist attacks on US soil.

In fact, North Korea has itself committed several terrorist acts over the years. In the late 1960s, it shot down a US military aircraft, killing 25 US soldiers. It captured the USS Pueblo and held her crew prisoner, submitting them to torture for 14 months before they were finally released. North Korea succeeded in killing nearly half of the South Korean cabinet in a brutal bombing in Rangoon during the 1970s and has attempted to assassinate various presidents of South Korea. Then, in the 1980s, North Korean citizens ax-murdered two American soldiers guarding the DMZ.

No American president since Eisenhower has ever done anything to retaliate against North Korea for its killings or torture of American soldiers, in part because the US was bogged down for many years in Vietnam and did not want to be distracted from pursuing that war. That remains the case today as the president tries to play down the North Korean crisis as an unwanted distraction from its planned invasion of Iraq.

The administration continues to use the clear and present nuclear danger posed by North Korea against the US as a pretext to justify what it has described as a preventive war against Iraq, claiming that invasion would be justified in order to ensure that Iraq does not become the next North Korea. This is despite the fact that according to recently issued unclassified CIA reports, Iraq, even if left unrestrained, is "several years" away from obtaining the nuclear material to construct an atomic bomb to say nothing of developing the expertise necessary to do so.

The renowned Prussian statesman, Otto von Bismarck, aptly characterized preventive war as "suicide from fear of death." The overwhelming nuclear and conventional superiority possessed by the US over Iraq has allowed it to bomb Iraq at will without fear of US casualties or Iraqi attempts at retaliation. The very fact that Iraq has been completely powerless to retaliate against the US for its incessant bombing and cruise missile attacks seems to contradict the administration's overreaching arguments that Iraq somehow poses a threat to a country widely assumed to be the most powerful military power on the planet. Given such massive US military superiority over Iraq, the only scenario that one could foresee in which Saddam would strike out at Americans with CBR weapons is in retaliation for a US invasion of Iraq. Paradoxically this is the very course of action the Bush administration appears determined to undertake. The administration has declared its intention to kill Saddam or otherwise oust him from power, so he will have nothing left to lose from a resort to use of these powerful weapons.

Those who argue that there is a double standard in US policy towards Iraq and North Korea appear to have a point. The administration should pursue a dual-policy of robust deterrence and containment in the cases of both countries. There is no need to resort to extreme or self-defeating measures like invasion or appeasement to resolve its legitimate concerns regarding these rogue nations.

David T. Pyne, Esq. is a national security expert who serves as President of the Center for the National Security Interest, a pro-defense, national security think-tank based in Arlington, VA. He has worked both as a defense contractor and International Programs Manager responsible for the countries of the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and Latin America. He has traveled as a member of Department of Defense-led delegations to Canada, South Africa, Israel, Brazil and Argentina. Mr. Pyne is a licensed attorney and former United States Army Officer. He holds an MA in National Security Studies from Georgetown University. Mr. Pyne also serves as Executive Vice President of the Virginia Republican Assembly. He has been published on WorldNetDaily.com and other conservative opinion websites. Mr. Pyne has been invited to appear on CNBC and one other television program to express his views on both political and national security issues. He has also been interviewed on assorted radio shows. © 2003 David T. Pyne

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