And Then There Was One

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"Axis of evil" was a term coined by United States President George W. Bush in his State of the Union Address on January 29, 2002 in order to describe governments that he accused of helping terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction. Bush named Iraq, Iran, and North Korea in his speech.

Of course, they weren’t an axis, that is they weren’t an alliance, at all; in fact two of them, Iraq and Iran, had fought a bloody war with the United States supporting Iraq.

Anyhow, it looks like the "axis" is down to one.

The first to go was Iraq, with the United States-led invasion on March 20, 2003 by a multinational coalition composed of U.S. and U.K. troops supported by smaller contingents from Australia, Denmark, Poland, and other nations.

At the start of the war, U.S. officials argued that Iraq and its alleged possession and further pursuit of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) posed an imminent threat to the security and interests of the United States, Europe and the other nations of the Middle East. Also Iraq was linked with terrorism. However the links to terrorism were found to be false, and weapons inspectors found no evidence of WMD.

And then North Korea.

The Agreed Framework signed by the United States and North Korea on October 21, 1994 in Geneva agreed that:

  • North Korea would freeze its existing nuclear program and agree to enhanced International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.
  • Both sides would cooperate to replace the D.P.R.K.’s graphite-moderated reactors for related facilities with light-water (LWR) power plants.
  • Both countries would move toward full normalization of political and economic relations.
  • Both sides will work together for peace and security on a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
  • And that both sides would work to strengthen the international nuclear non-proliferation regime.

Then along came Bush. South Korea was told in March 2001 that President Bush and Secretary Powell would not continue the talks with North Korea representatives on their nuclear program that were begun the year before by President Clinton and Secretary Albright. Next, Bush called the DPRK a part of the axis of evil in his 2002 State of the Union Address.

So, thanks to Bush, North Korea got to work.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee February 4, 2003 that the administration received a National Intelligence Estimate in June 2002 stating that North Korea “had engaged in at least [a research and development] project for highly enriched uranium.” He also stated that intelligence received the next month, however, indicated that North Korea was acquiring “many more [centrifuges] than was originally thought,” adding that a September 2002 intelligence memorandum said that North Korea “had embarked on a production program.”

A November 2002 CIA report to Congress says North Korea “is constructing a [uranium-enrichment] plant that could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for two or more nuclear weapons a year when fully operational.” The Senate Foreign Relations Committee heard testimony that the uranium-enrichment program could produce fissile material in “probably…months and not years.”

This was followed by years of disengagement with North Korea and its nuclear program. In 2003 North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and it subsequently acted belligerently, reactivating its nuclear power facilities and firing a land-to-ship missile into the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. It also conducted an underground nuclear explosive test on October 16, 2006.

Then came a shocker. On June 26th the Bush administration asked Congress" to de-list North Korea from America’s "terrorist watch list, and suspended sanctions on North Korea that are tied to the "Trading with Enemies Act."

This puts US-North Korea relations on a whole new track. Chalk it up as a success for Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian & Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill, who has been attacked by former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton for the last year.

President Bush: "North Korea pledged to declare its nuclear activity. With today’s declaration, North Korea has begun describing its plutonium-related activities. It’s also provided other documents related to its nuclear programs going back to 1986. It has promised access to the reactor core and waste facilities at Yongbyon, as well as personnel related to its nuclear program. All this information will be essential to verifying that North Korea is ending its nuclear programs and activities.

"The six-party talks are based on a principle of ‘action for action.’ So in keeping with the existing six-party agreements, the United States is responding to North Korea’s actions with two actions of our own:

"First, I’m issuing a proclamation that lifts the provisions of the Trading with the Enemy Act with respect to North Korea.

"And secondly, I am notifying Congress of my intent to rescind North Korea’s designation as a state sponsor of terror . . .Multilateral diplomacy is the best way to peacefully solve the nuclear issue with North Korea.

"They said they’re going to destroy parts of their plant in Yongbyon. That’s a very positive step — after all, it’s the plant that made plutonium.

"Now, as I mentioned in my statement, there’s a lot more verification that needs to be done. I mentioned our concerns about [uranium] enrichment. We expect the North Korean regime to be forthcoming about their programs."

Catch the new Bush:

"North Korea has begun describing its plutonium-related activities."
"They said they’re going to destroy parts of their [plutonium] plant in Yongbyon."
"I mentioned our concerns about [uranium] enrichment."
"We expect the North Korean regime to be forthcoming about their programs."

So it looks like two down.

But what about the third and last "Axis" member, Iran?

Do they get the attack like Iraq, or do they get the concern and expectations like North Korea? (Hint: They’ve got oil and gas, like Iraq, and North Korea doesn’t.)

Iran has been subjected to a series of United Nations sanctions for its refusal to cease enriching uranium, as North Korea is doing, and the United States refuses to talk to Iran.

This is despite the fact that Iran, a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Pact signatory, is in full compliance with the NPT which states:
"Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with articles I and II of this Treaty."

In other words, Iran, like any NPT signatory, is not only allowed but encouraged to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Iran is in full compliance with the NPT.

In February of this year, the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) stated:

"The Agency has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran. Iran has provided the Agency with access to declared nuclear material and has provided the required nuclear material accountancy reports in connection with declared nuclear material and activities."

And again in May:

"The Agency has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran."

Despite these affirmations Iran has been threatened with attack by Israel. Iran has said that it would react violently if attacked. As a result, UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon criticized — Iran.

Talk about the double standards at the United Nations, reports Kaveh L Afrasiabi of Asia Times. Whereas UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly condemned Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric against Israel, expressing "shock and dismay," he has remained ominously, and inexcusably, silent about the blatant Israeli threats of military attacks on Iran, thus undermining the world’s confidence in his ability to steer the global community clear of yet another major war in the Middle East caldron.

Afrasiabi continues: Having turned a blind eye to Iran’s formal protest at the UN regarding Israel’s explicit threats, Ban may need to revisit his own statement of June 7, 2007, "The secretary general points out that all members have undertaken to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state."

In light of new media disclosures about Israel’s advanced plans to launch a major air offensive against Iran’s nuclear installations, bound to inflict serious civilian casualties and trigger the volatile region into a "fireball," to paraphrase the reaction of the head of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohammad ElBaradei, who has stated categorically that he would resign immediately if Iran is attacked, Ban is borderline on the verge of skirting his official obligation by refusing to issue a stern statement on this serious matter of war and peace.

And what’s the US up to? Until recently, writes Sarah Van Gelder at Huffington Post, the power struggle within the Bush administration over whether to attack Iran seemed to be going badly for the hawks. Their disastrous record in Iraq coupled with flimsy arguments for attacking Iran meant they were gaining little support. But now it appears congressional Democrats may be riding to the rescue of those pushing for war. Bills have been introduced in both houses that would impose strict inspections on all cargo inbound to Iran.

Imposing "stringent inspection requirements" would amount to a naval blockade, many believe, and thus constitute an act of war. At the very least, it would be perceived by Iranians of all political persuasions as a hostile act, further marginalizing moderate voices, unifying the country behind the most belligerent leaders, and bolstering the argument of those within Iran who are pushing for the rapid development of nuclear weapons as a defense against U.S. attack.

Why are 96 House Democrats (along with 111 House Republicans) co-sponsoring this resolution? Aren’t these the Democrats who rode into majorities in both houses on public revulsion against war in the Middle East?

According to a recent story on CBS News, the answer seems to be a "full-court press" by the government of Israel and the American-Israeli lobby AIPAC. CBS ran the story Tuesday as Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen was on his way to the Middle East to confer with Israeli government officials. "Israelis are uncertain about what would be the policies of the next [U.S.] administration vis–vis Iran," CBS consultant Michael Oren says in the report.

Hence the rush to war?

It sure looks like war, if these bills become law and the UN falls in line.

H. Con. Res 362 (introduced by Democrat Gary Ackerman) and S.Res.580 (by Democrat Evan Bayh) are identical bills which have as their goal "preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability, through all appropriate economic, political, and diplomatic means, is vital to the national security interests of the United States and must be dealt with urgently…." The bill:

"demands that the President initiate an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities by, inter alia, prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran’s nuclear program;"

So the US is concerned about North Korea’s uranium enrichment and, thanks to the Democrats, ready to go to war over Iran’s.

As Edward Abbey said: "As war and government prove, insanity is the most contagious of diseases."

Don Bacon [send him mail] is a retired army officer who founded the Smedley Butler Society several years ago because, as General Butler said, “war is a racket.”

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