Democrats' stupidly rigid, soulless partisanship is worse than Trump
Massive American war crimes, incessant firebombing of North Korean cities full of civilians, helped bring about a formal ceasefire on July 27, 1953. That armistice did not end the Korean War, which is not over yet. American hostility to North Korea has continued unabated, overtly and covertly, for the past 65 years. The American position has never included good faith. The US position has never embraced a rational view of complex realities. The US has demanded surrender, in effect, as the precondition of any normalization. The US has continued to wage economic, diplomatic, psychological, and other forms of warfare relentlessly since 1953. And then the US was shocked -- shocked! -- to find North Korea building a nuclear weapons deterrent.
The collectively delusional American foreign policy establishment has bleated with one long, dishonest bipartisan whine about the sins of North Korea without so much as an honest whimper about American war crimes or later economic crimes that helped starve North Koreans. Well, the US deceitfully said of the dead and dying, that famine was North Korea's fault, they can't feed their own people. Funny how that's very like current US policy in Yemen, where the US enables Saudi Arabia to wage a genocidal war and at the same time ineffectively wrings its hands over the world's most serious humanitarian crisis as if the US were helpless to make a difference.
Now we have the widely-derided President Trump actually contributing to a new peace process nursed into being by the leaders of the two Koreas. Instead of threatening nuclear war, the US is suddenly -- at least for the moment -- threatening Trump hotels on North Korean beaches. How is this not a better circumstance, no matter how preliminary and tentative? How is this not a peace process that we should want to see reach fruition, if that's possible? Given the uncertain, possibly fragile quality of current US-Korean relations, one might expect any sensible person to take a wait-and-see position on what is clearly a peace process only at the beginning of negotiations that might lead to a settlement of the longest war in US history.
Realistically, nothing has yet happened in Korea. And the cold war robots are doing their best to make sure nothing does happen. But for the moment, Trump has put forward reality-based ambitions. He has, in effect, observed that the Empire has no clothes:
"We have right now 32,000 [officially 28,500] soldiers in South Korea. And I'd like to be able to bring them back home. But that's not part of the equation right now...
"We will be stopping the war games, which will save us a tremendous amount of money, unless and until we see that the future negotiation is not going along like it should. But we'll be saving a tremendous amount of money. Plus I think it's very provocative... And we call them war games, and I call them war games, and they're tremendously expensive. The amount of money that we spend on that is incredible."
This is all reasonable. It is all conditional. The surprise is that a US president actually said any of it out loud. After 45 years of open hostility to North Korea, the US has close to zero credibility in North Korea. That's abidingly real. If there's to be any chance of a peaceful Korea emerging from this peace process, the US must make more than a token effort to establish its good faith. This is a start, but it's an easy start, with almost no cost to the US strategically.
Given an opportunity to display statesmanship and patience, Democratic leaders chose to play petty politics and display a foreign policy vision wedded to militarism and bluster (which was one of the factors that cost Hillary Clinton the presidency). Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York made the absurd claim that, by meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong Un, Trump had given "a brutal and repressive dictatorship the international legitimacy it has long craved." This is cant. This is the rhetoric of decades of reflexive hostility, barren of insight and absent any recognition that reality has shifted in the year since the South Korean election. Schumer's prim, fake morality notwithstanding, the US does daily business with just about every "brutal and repressive dictatorship" it can find, most notably Saudi Arabia and its allies waging a criminal war on Yemen.
The idea that Trump meeting with Kim gives either government any greater "international legitimacy" is a simpleton's fiction long winked at in diplomacy. In the real world, legitimacy derives from behavior, and anyone who looks can legitimately wonder whether North Korea currently treats its citizens any worse than the US treats its Puerto Rican citizens.
Schumer's empty posturing went further than the traditional hypocrisy of American exceptionalism, rooted in denial of American genocide and enslavement. Schumer also felt the need to add nasty little lies to his absurd performance:
"President Trump agreed to freeze joint military exercises with South Korea. And he called them 'provocations' -- right out of the North Korean propaganda playbook -- without the knowledge of South Korea or our own military. I guarantee you, our military men and women were squirming when President Trump called our joint military exercises 'provocations.'"
The president did not "freeze joint military exercises," as the Trump statement above makes clear enough for even Schumer to see. Trump called them "war games" and "provocations" because that's what they have always been. Schumer may be right about US military "squirming" when they heard the truth spoken aloud, but that squirming would most likely be because the military has always known their war games were provocations. That's why the US military wages war games year in and year out, in Europe and the South China Sea and elsewhere, to see what they can provoke. That's the world we've lived in for decades, and to pretend otherwise, as Schumer does, is merely to perpetuate it.
Instead of thoughtless, kneejerk anti-Trumpery, serious leadership in an opposition party would acknowledge the promise inherent in the Korean peace process. It would also acknowledge that the process has just begun, that it will take a long time to complete, and that calling names does nothing to improve the prospect for success. Principled leadership in an opposition party would offer good faith support for a process that moves the world away from a nuclear confrontation. Or do Democrats not think of a denuclearized, secure Korea as a success?
While Democratic Party "leaders" are playing a worn-out cold war script to the cameras, they are also distracting from -- and thereby complicit in -- a host of US crimes against humanity and crimes against the Constitution. Democrats have long been limp on voting rights, the core of our democratic system. Democrats have long been limp on dark money in politics. Democrats have long been limp on immigration, perhaps never more so than now.
The Democracy NOW edition of June 14 covers the US perpetuation of crime and suffering in agonizing detail which shocks the conscience even now. Human rights attorney Jennifer Harbury sums up decades of US brutalism in this hemisphere: