World War 3 – will it start over North Korea?

April 25, 2017

Since the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House the world appears to be moving closer to a catastrophic military conflict that threatens nuclear Armageddon. In this first in a series, political editor Dr Martin Hirst assesses the possibility that we’re already fighting World War Three.

‘The fear of war hangs over society. This is almost literally true, for it is not the invader in the streets but the warhead exploding on us which dominates our nightmares.’

~ Martin Shaw, Dialectics of War, 1988

(Image via @BlackJesuscom)

THIS IS A SERIES that looks at global flashpoints and their potential to blast the world into a nuclear nightmare. It was once unthinkable that strategic nuclear weapons might be used in a world-wide war, but now we need to start thinking it is more likely than not.

And just this month, Donald J Trump caused the “Mother of all bombs” to be dropped in Afghanistan to explode over… we may never know what exactly.

Are we already inside World War Three?

In this series, I will look at Asia, the Middle East and Europe as places where potential nuclear trigger points might occur and then, on a brighter note, I’ll offer some suggestions about how we might stop it.

Let’s begin on our own doorstep.

We are not neutral

We are not neutral and we never have been. Australia is a willing and active partner in many of today’s global conflicts. Despite contrary propaganda, this does not make us safer, it increases the risk that we will be a target too.

Pine Gap makes us a target for Chinese and possibly North Korean and Russian nukes. I’m more worried about China and Russia because they both have nuclear-capable submarines that can reach us almost undetected.

When 1,250 US marines flew into Darwin this week, the NewsCorpse rag that dominates Northern Territory journalism, the NT News, could hardly contain its jingoistic excitement, declaring on page one that they are “ready to fight” against “our” common enemies.

We should be under no illusion or misapprehension about their intent:

Lieut. Colonel Middleton said when US Marines were in forward deployment they were ready for battle.

“I think that the commitment that we’ve taken to put a task force here with a conversation to get larger over the years says that we do think this is an important region,” Lieut. Colonel Middleton said.

When asked about the North Korea stand-off he said: “We stand ready to fight.”

I can only hope that this made the good souls of Darwin feel a lot safer, knowing that they are potentially within range of North Korean rockets.

We all have “potential”

It’s important to focus on this word “potentially”, because it is a crucial qualifier.

Our foreign minister, Julie Bishop, has used the threat of a DPRK nuclear strike on Australia as one reason for enthusiastically welcoming over 1,000 marines to northern Australia, but the threat is not imminent, or even realistic today.

Weapons experts agree that North Korea is at least four years away from developing a ballistic missile capable of a) carrying a nuclear warhead and b) travelling as far as Australia without blowing up mid-flight.

Speaking on the ABC’s AM program earlier this week Bishop was keen to talk up the North Korean “threat”.

[North Korea] is on a path to achieving nuclear weapons capability and we believe Kim Jong-un has a clear ambition to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear payload as far as the US.”

But what Bishop ignores here – and she hopes you will too – is that while North Korea’s nuclear threat is only “potential”, the United States has a proven nuclear capability and a proven propensity to use atomic weapons.

Not only that, hawkish American analysts are now insisting that the U.S. must strike first and this first strike should happen sooner rather than later.

…the United States must plan to destroy North Korea’s nuclear and long-range missile sites sometime in the next several years — and perhaps within the next two.

At the same time, it must be expected that the American action would trigger the North Korean military to instinctively launch a full-scale retaliatory strike against the Republic of Korea (ROK) along the armistice line of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), whether or not Mr. Kim remains alive. With that as a given, the United States must prevent such an event by launching, simultaneously with the initial attack on the North Korean nuclear and ICBM facilities, a full-scale offensive against the North’s positions along the DMZ. There can be no delay in this U.S.-ROK offense, for it is essential to preclude North Korea’s own counteroffensive against the South.

This is a clear statement of aggression from the American side.

The argument for a pre-emptive strike against North Korea is that its patron-state, China, is incapable of stopping Pyongyang through purely diplomatic efforts.

So is China an ally or an enemy?

This piece first published on Independent Australia as Are we already fighting World War 3?

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What’s wrong with this picture: One plucky demonstrator, two an anarchist criminal

March 27, 2011

Protesters against the government of Syria set fire to offices of the ruling party today while hundreds of political prisoners were released in a bid to appease the rioters.

Syrian protestors torch officesThe Independent, 26 March 2011

Commander Bob Broadhurst, who led the police operation, said: “I wouldn’t call them protesters. They are engaging in criminal activities for their own ends.”

Activists attempt to hijack anti-cuts demoThe Independent, 26 March 2011

An interesting contrast in the way that anti-government protests are reported in the news media. Half a million demonstrate in London and the media focus is on a small group of anarchists (as identified by the media, btw); but in the Middle East the same small groups of militants are cheered and championed in the British press.

The top example here relates to those plucky, angry and totally-justified protestors who set fire to a building in Damascus – surely a criminal action

The second is how the UK’s top riot police officer describes British protestors who vent their anger by occupying an upmarket dairy (Fortnum and Mason) and smashing a few windows.

It’s OK for the British press to champion the cause of the Syrians because that doesn’t threaten privilege at home. But, of course, any action that does challenge the comfortable lives of the British ruling class is instantly dismissed as criminal behaviour.

Even the Guardian takes up this trope:

The generally good-natured mood was soured by violent and destructive attacks on symbols of wealth including the Ritz, banks and a luxury car dealer, and an occupation of the upmarket food store Fortnum & Mason.

Anti-cuts march  draws hundreds of thousansds as police battle rioters, The Guardian, 26 March 2011

Contrast this with the coverage of similar violent riots in Yemen and Bahrain which have left hundreds dead. The Independent and The Guardian can afford to be on the side of the Arab protestors and condemn the violent way that police handled those demonstrations.

Serried ranks of riot police advancing behind a cloud of tear gas and backed by armoured vehicles and helicopters cleared protesters from Pearl Square, which has been the gathering point for protesters.

Bahrain and Yemen declare war on protestors, The Independent, 20 March 2011

Wow, “serried ranks of riot police advancing behind a cloud of tear gas”, isn’t that exactly what’s just today happened in London too?

One Guardian columnist does make the explicit link between London and Cairo, and this is the real point that the news media can’t grasp.

Western elites are, instead, stressing the differences between east and west as they scramble to morph their longstanding support of north African dictatorships into sudden solidarity with rebels. This revisionist view holds that the uprisings are mainly about the desire of young people in the Middle East to live in western-style democracies.

Priyamvada Gopal, Trafalgar has much in common with Tahir, The Guardian, 25 March, 2011

Not only are ruling elites scrabbling to cover their burning arses on this one, they are also having to struggle with locals making the same connection between Trafalgar Square and Tahir Square. The news media – often a faithful mouthpiece for elite opinion – is also struggling with the complexity and contradictions in their position.

On one hand, supporting the dangerous, violent and often bloody protests in the souk and the Arab street is good for business, ‘we’ want these dictators to fall:

In eerie succession, one after another, autocrats and despots across the region are coming down with freedom flu.

Simon Tisdall, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad has been struck by freedom flu, The Guardian, 25 March, 2011

But they can’t help the knee-jerk reaction that condemns angry protestors who take matters into their own hands – at home; while simultaneously cheering the exact same actions in foreign lands.

Hey, guys, wake up and smell the revolution – this is global capitalism after all.

It’s not that hard to think clearly about this dialectic of the front-page,  as Priyamvada Gopal shows us:

It is simplistic to assume that protests in the west and the Middle East are fundamentally different because “they” are fighting “blood-soaked” despots while “we”, after all, live in liberal democracies…

Both capitalist democracies and dictatorships use political means to concentrate wealth, power and privilege. In Britain and the US, the right to fight corporate power collectively – and effectively – through unions is under ongoing attack. In Britain, the state uses demonisation, brute force and disproportionate punishment to contain mass demonstrations and talks of making some peaceful means illegal. In the US, Democratic legislators resisting anti-union measures, which were then forced through anyway, were threatened with arrest. Britain has seen policies destroying public services hastily enacted without a clear mandate while civil liberties are constantly eroded and inequalities expand. If Gaddafi screams “imperialism” when things get sticky, our politicians find it convenient to denounce “multiculturalism”. What unites the interdependent ruling elites of Britain and Bahrain is the priority they give to the entitlement of the few at the expense of the many, often embodied by dodgy business deals.

Thanks Priya, you show these numbnucks how it is done. Dodgy business deals are universal and the occupation of Fortnum and Mason is because the business owner, Lord Green, is a tax criminal. No, he’s not Mubarak, but I bet they exchange cards at Christmas, and that dear Hosni likes F&M tea very very much.