About Obama on North Korea and Iran
President Obama: North Korea broke the rules once again by testing a rocket that could be used for long-range missiles. This provocation underscores the need for action, not just this afternoon at the U.N. Security Council, but in our determination to prevent the spread of these weapons. Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something. The world must stand together to prevent the spread of these weapons. Now is the time for a strong international response.
JF: That’s another clip from President Obama, this time, speaking over the weekend in Prague on the rocket launch that actually failed but was attempted by North Korea. Noam Chomsky, those words of President Obama’s, strong words.NC: Not really. That’s…He proposed those strong actions. There are also many questions that one might ask. Maybe North Korea is the worst place in the world; you could make a case from that. But, is sending a rocket a violation of law? I mean just a week before, a couple of weeks before, the US had launched a much more powerful rocket to carry a satellite far more powerful. Is that following the rules?
Yeah, we think so. In fact, the world thinks so. Does North Korea have a right to try to duplicate that? I mean according to US analysts, it was a failed satellite launch. Nobody wants them to do it, who has their brains functioning, because it’s true that could be used as a missile for nuclear weapons.
But under what circumstance would North Korea fire a nuclear-tipped missile? Well, there are only two possibilities. One is that they have a wish for self-vaporization. If they even so much as mounted a nuclear-tipped missile, the country would be vaporized. So, either it’s that or else it’s a deterrent. They would like a deterrent against US attack.
In fact, if you look back at the negotiations over the past years, during the Clinton years, there were negotiations. And they were more or less successful. So it ended with North Korea not having nuclear weapons capacity.
JF: And that was in return for the promise of aid.
NC: It was the promise of aid and it was also the promise―unclear promise of withdrawing the threats, the constant threats; they want security naturally. Well, when Bush came in, he just undermined all of that, took a very hostile stance. And they immediately started nuclear weapons development. So it ended up with supply of nuclear weapons and missile development.
Well, there was an agreement in September 2005 that North Korea would stop all of its nuclear weapons development. In return, the United States would take them off the list of states supporting terrorism---well, that’s a list that says we can attack you if we feel like it---and would give some kind of security guaranties and would allow them to enter into the world with economic relations and so on. Within weeks, the Bush administration undermined that, blocked economic transfers and so on. And they went back to missile development.
JF: Isn’t the same thing true of Iran?
NC: Iran is a slightly different case. And Obama position is interesting. There was a national intelligence estimate, highest level US intelligence estimate in November 2007, which concluded with pretty high confidence that Iran is not following weapons development program and hasn’t been for several years.
JF: Uranium enrichment for energy purposes.
NC: That’s what the US intelligence concluded and [Iran] had been doing so for years. That’s within their rights, most of the world agrees to that.
Now, Obama, when he came in, his administration said, well, we reject this intelligence analysis. They said, we have no new evidence but we just reject it. Now therefore they talk about what they call Iran’s “illicit weapons program.” They don’t tell us why it’s a weapons program, they just say it’s an illicit program. And they state―what you quoted states correctly―that states ought to follow the rules and not develop nuclear weapons. Well, there are some states that have developed nuclear weapons. In the region, the one that’s far ahead than anyone else, is Israel.
JF: And also Pakistan.
NC: Pakistan has developed nuclear weapons on the background that is interesting.
JF: Ronald Reagan.
NC: That was Ronald Reagan, who knew, I don’t know what he knew but his administration certainly knew that Pakistan was developing nuclear weapons but he regularly denied it so that the US could continue providing massive military aid to the Zia Al Huq dictatorship, which was imposing radical Islamization on Pakistan and also developing nuclear weapons. So, yeah, they have them, too.
And there’s another one: India. India developed nuclear weapons in violation of its international obligations. And the US did have sanctions for a while but they were removed by George Bush, who said OK, you can have nuclear weapons and you are now our partner, we’ll allow you to get nuclear technology and so on. So, sure, it’d be nice if nations followed the rules.
And there are in fact rules that apply to us. So, the signers of the Non Proliferation Treaty pledged themselves to move to take good faith efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons. A large majority of Americans think the US ought to do that.
JF: Who’s above the rules?
NC: Anyone with power. It’s not pleasant but there’s a statement by Thucydides, which more or less describes the world, which says “the powerful do what they want and the weak do what they must."