Imposing Sanctions is a Declaration of War

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | MARCH 8, 2013

If one looks through the list of events that can unleash military conflict between two or more nations, short of an unexpected military attack, sanctions is probably one of the top triggers for aggression. In a world as interconnected as the one we live today, sanctions are not only ineffective in curbing a country’s intention to achieve a goal, as recent history shows, but it is also a dangerous precedent that directly harms the prospect of international diplomacy.

It does not matter whether it is Diplomatic, Economic, Military, Trade or Sports sanctions, countries will always find a way to move around the limitations imposed by say, the United Nations, to get access to raw materials, money, equipment or to form strategic alliances. The only sure outcome that the imposition of sanctions brings is conflict. If anyone believes that Iran’s or North Korea’s threats to attack neighboring nations or western countries is exaggerated and dangerous, it is necessary to ask why would so-called non-aligned nations threaten with nuclear attacks or other forms of retaliation.

Under international law –something western countries love to cite when their interests are at stake, but now when they intend to harm non-aligned nations– sanctions are not only illegal, but also a provocateur action. As established by a 1996 report issued by the International Progress Organization, sanctions of any type, but especially those of the economic type, are “an illegitimate form of collective punishment of the weakest and poorest members of society, the infants, the children, the chronically ill, and the elderly.”

Governments punished with sanctions do not actually suffer any harm. The oligarchical or political classes in a country that is punished with sanctions do not suffer any harm, either. In fact, despite imposing sanctions, many supporters of such a tool of aggression continue to trade raw materials, military equipment and other products with sanctioned nations.

Although aggressor nations such as the United States, France, Germany, Italy and other that support sanctions on non-aligned countries claim that sanctions are the only way to stop a country from doing something they do not agree with, the truth is that as it is shown with every new round of sanctions, the next step is usually more conflict, more isolation and more suffering for the poorest people. Thus, sanctions are a step towards war, not towards peaceful solutions to bilateral or multilateral conflict.

The first step that needs to be taken to diplomatically solve a bilateral or multilateral problem is to avoid imposing sanctions or to remove all sanctions that already exist. This is so not only because punishment is not a positive incentive to negotiate, but also because no smart leader will seat to debate what to do about any issue with most of his or her people dying of hunger, disease or with an economy that is in the hole due to limitations imposed by aggressors. Of course, it is also possible that dictatorial regimes use sanctions and aggression from outside to manipulate the population in order to amass power, as it happens in North Korea, for example.

So what to make of North Korea’s latest threats towards the United States and its allies, after they met and voted in favor of imposing even more sanctions on that country? North Korea responded to the latest round of sanctions from the U.N. Security Council, which attempts to hurt the regime so it stops working on its nuclear program by directly threatening the United States with a preemptive nuclear attack if it continues to push for more aggression. Pyongyang also threatened South Korea in the last few days by saying it will abolish the armistice agreement that stopped the Korean War in 1953.

The latest round of sanctions imposed on North Korea, the U.N. Security Council says, is a response to Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test, which incidentally were a reaction to the joint military drills conducted by the United States and South Korea. These drills occur every year and Kim Jong Un has cataloged them as a direct threat to his country.

An interesting premise for a complete analysis of this situation would be to invert reality and suppose that Cuba agrees to carry out military drills together with Iran or Venezuela somewhere in the Caribbean or a few hundred miles off the coast of Florida. How comfortable would the United States be? How would Washington react if one of its dearest enemies comes by to run drills with nations located close to its coast?

If sanctions imposed on Iraq, Syria and Libya did not yield positive results –the final outcome was war, which is what they are supposed to avoid–, if sanctions have not worked against Iran and certainly have not worked against North Korea, why are imperialist western powers still imposing more sanctions on third world nations? Is it not abundantly clear that sanctions is not one of the best tools to curb a country’s appetite for whatever western powers dislike? The answer is, conflict is everything that those who control western nations want to have, because it furthers their agenda to divide and conquer, to balkanize and bring unrest to nations that, just as they do, have the natural right to defend themselves if directly or indirectly threatened.

Having said that, it is clear that power drunk men such as Kim Jong Un, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Barack Obama should not be simply left alone or much less encouraged to do what they please with their war toys. If dictators are taken down in the East, they should also be removed in the West. Or is that the threat posed by a dictator in the West is less dangerous just because he is a western educated ‘sane’ man?

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Secret talks between U.S. and North Korea

American military planes carried Americans officials and equipment to the Asian country. Officials spoke about the country’s affairs post Kim Jong Il’s death.

By YOSHIHIRO MAKINO | ASAHI SHIMBUN | FEBRUARY 20, 2013

Senior U.S. administration officials held secret talks in North Korea on at least three occasions in 2011 and 2012, The Asahi Shimbun has learned.

Although the visits had potential implications for Japan, Washington did not inform its security partner at the time and only informally confirmed one of them when the Japanese side pressed, government and other sources in Japan, South Korea and the United States said.

The U.S. State Department even warned the Foreign Ministry against making further inquiries, saying they would harm bilateral relations, the sources said.

U.S. military planes flew from an air base in Guam to Pyongyang and back on April 7, 2012, and again on a longer visit lasting from Aug. 18-20, the sources said.

It is believed that those aboard included Sydney Seiler, director for Korea at the U.S. National Security Council, and Joseph DeTrani, who headed the North Korea desk at the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence. DeTrani left the post in May.

They met with North Korean officials and discussed policies following the death of leader Kim Jong Il in December 2011.

The North Korean delegation included Jang Song Thaek, vice chairman of the National Defense Commission and husband of Kim Jong Il’s sister. Jang is widely considered to serve as a mentor for Kim Jong Un, who succeeded his father as his nation’s leader.

The Japanese government only learned about the flights after receiving reports from hobbyists monitoring activity at military bases and also analyzing air traffic flight plans.

When the Japanese side submitted an official inquiry, U.S. officials expressed frustration that the request had been made, citing the subject’s confidential nature. The State Department warned Japan against inquiring further, saying Washington-Tokyo ties could be damaged.

The third visit that The Asahi Shimbun has confirmed is one that took place in November 2011. Sources said at least one military aircraft from the Guam air base loaded heavy equipment, including bulldozers, at Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo and flew to Pyongyang.

It is believed that the delegation included officials from the U.S. Pacific Command. They met with North Korean officials and discussed efforts to recover the remains of U.S. soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War, the sources said.

When Japan inquired about this visit, U.S. officials unofficially confirmed that it had taken place, the sources said.

Please check a related article at (http://ajw.asahi.com/article/asia/korean_peninsula/AJ201302150084).

Barack Obama incites the world to declare war on North Korea

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | FEBRUARY 13, 2013

If anyone doubts whether the nuclear test carried out by North Korea is real, simply look at the reaction from Western nuclear powers, such as the United States and several European nations.

The nuclear test that North Korea conducted on Tuesday resulted in many reactions in the international community, which showed its concern by the new challenge of the Pyongyang regime.

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that the “provocation” carried out by North Korea needed an immediate international response that was “fast” and “credible” to the North Korean regime. “The United States will continue to take the necessary steps to defend itself and its allies,” he said in a statement. Although this is clear recognition that the test was real and that the United States is worried about it, it is difficult to remember such a weak answer from a U.S. president. Besides inciting conflict, Obama has no idea how to deal with North Korea, Iran or any other non-aligned nation.

China, Pyongyang’s historical ally, expressed its “firm opposition” to the nuclear test. Last week, Beijing warned the regime of Kim Jong-un, through official media, that if it carried out a new test the country would “pay the consequences”, and even managed to utter the taboo word “break” and mentioned a possible reduction in aid to North Korea. The survival of the North Korean nation depends largely on the support of the Asian giant, especially in terms of energy. Strangely enough, the United States and China are commercial partners and many of the goods the U.S. sells to China, end up in the hands of the North Koreans.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, condemned the nuclear test describing it as “very unfortunate”. The defense minister said that Tokyo will review the sanctions imposed on Pyongyang. Besides punitive measures promoted by the UN, Japan, which has no diplomatic relations with North Korea since making its first nuclear test in 2006, applies a full trade embargo on the regime of Kim Jong-un, denying visas to North Koreans and limited financial transfers between his country and its Asian neighbor. As readers may have already noticed, the supposed opposition to North Korea’s tests and the so-called sanctions are simply window-dressing practices.

The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon has said it is a “clear and serious violation of Security Council resolutions.” He also said he was confident that its 15 members would take “appropriate action” in the meeting convened for Tuesday. But the U.N. has done nothing about the 2053 nuclear explosions conducted by the United States or the continuous leakage of nuclear radiation in Fukushima. Neither does the U.N. say anything about the tons of nuclear waste dumped in Italy or the thousands of tons of electronic waste dumped in Africa.

Russia has also condemned “firmly” the nuclear test, saying it is a violation of U.N. resolutions. “We condemn these actions and, along with the launch of a ballistic missile performed earlier (December), we believe they are in violation of Security Council resolutions,” said a source at the Ministry of Foreign News Agency Interfax. This is the type of hypocrisy that turns any negotiation sour. It is a violation of U.N. resolutions when North Korea does it, but not when China, Russia and the United States do it.

The British Foreign Minister, William Hague, said that the development of nuclear weapons by North Korea “is a threat to regional and international security” and that “it hinders the prospects for lasting peace on the Korean peninsula “.

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The Immorality Crisis not lack of Transparency caused the Financial Collapse

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | DECEMBER 5, 2012

The European Union countries most affected by the global economic and financial collapse are also some of the most corrupt. But the highest levels of immorality and corruption are not seen at the national level, but on the international stage.

A recent publication by Transparency International which assesses the perception of corruption through a well established index, calls the results “disappointing” in the sense that countries, especially those hit the hardest by the current financial collapse, are corrupt at heart, indeed.

The Index 2012 Corruption Perceptions from Transparency International shows that Greece obtained the worst result of all the European Union with a score of 36 out of 100, in 94th place out of 174 countries in the table. The Hellenic country is below Bulgaria and Romania.

Among the members of the European Union, Spain is in 13th place, after Denmark, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, Belgium, UK, France, Austria, Ireland and Cyprus. The report from TI shows the stagnation of Spain, the second country in Europe on its way down the cliff. Spain shares the 30th position with Botswana in the latest report of the corruption index.

“Among the countries hardest hit by the crisis are Italy and Greece — both join Spain on their way to total collapse — as corruption in the public sector is a major problem,” said Corbus de Swardt, spokesman for the NGO. He then added that “the fight against corruption is one of the keys so that Greece can emerge from the crisis. True point, although the type of corruption that pulled Greece down to the abyss, did not necessarily originate inside the  country. As it happens in most nations, the bureaucrats who manage the destiny of countries and their people are front men and women whose work is to be ‘YES MEN’ and who represent the interests of the European oligarchy; where the highest levels of corruption emanate from.

In Germany and France, De Swardt believes that “one of the main problems is the relationship between politics and business.” The report reveals the existence of interest groups and a culture of secrecy. He is particularly concerned about the funding of political parties in Germany. Interest groups of course are not limited to women’s rights groups or unions, but to large conglomerates of companies that operate locally and outside the countries and who dictate the policies that the governments follow.

At a press conference Wednesday in Madrid, the President of Transparency International Spain, Jesús Lizcano, innocently advocated for giving good training to staff. He also called for issuing punishments to institutions that do not comply with transparency.

In this context, Antonio Garrigues Walker, executive committee member of IT, reminded people that in the past 18 years, corruption has increased gradually but forcefully mainly because, he said, that most countries do not have transparency laws in place. But reality shows otherwise. Countries with significant rules and regulations about transparency also suffer the consequences of corruption mainly because the rules on transparency are written for the people, not for the corrupt politicians in government and the corporations, who always manage to find back doors and legal windows to get away with cheating the system. Therefore, the crisis is not one of corruption, but of morality. Corruption is just the direct result of a society whose morality has been removed.

“Transparency is an absolute obligation of institutions and an absolute right of citizenship,” said the lawyer, who also lamented that countries like Spain have a civil society that is “weak and dependent.” In his opinion, corruption is “a true leukemia” especially in the economic system and transparency is the instrument to combat it.”

The agreement among most of the attendees is the “truly alarming” intensification of corruption worldwide. The highest levels of corruption speakers said have been seen during the current global financial collapse caused by the corrupt financial system upon which the world functions and which is managed by a few powerful elites.

Since the first Corruption Perceptions Index was published in 1995, both Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian countries remain at the top of the corruption ladder, even though the index does not always shows it. That is not a surprise as many of the oligopolies that are the source of corruption are established there. Outside Europe, countries such as Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia are three of the most corrupt in the world.

Although the Transparency International Index is just a main stream kind of thermometer which superficially gauges the levels of corruption around the world, it is a good starting point. Its results however contrasts with the reality of corruption and transparency. It is important to remember that in the case of the TI Index, it only reports the “perception” of corruption and not the real, factual levels in a country. That is why in its 2012 edition, countries like the United States, Uruguay and Germany hold distinctive positions, despite the fact these countries are submerged deeply into a sea of corruption. Another caveat is that the TI Index only includes the perception of corruption in the public sector and leaves out its twin out-of-control unregulated corporations.

Do we need a global index to know how bad corruption is in a determined country? Not likely. A more faithful gauge would be an honest look around the city and country where we live.

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US Special Forces Invade North Korea says Senior US Officer

UK TELEGRAPH | MAY 29, 2012

Army Brigadier General Neil Tolley, commander of US special forces in South   Korea, told a conference held in Florida last week that Pyongyang   had built thousands of tunnels since the Korean war, The Diplomat reported.

“The entire tunnel infrastructure is hidden from our satellites,” Gen Tolley   said. “So we send (South Korean) soldiers and US soldiers to the North to do   special reconnaissance.”

“After 50 years, we still don’t know much about the capability and full   extent” of the underground facilities,” he said, in comments reported by the   National Defense Industrial Association’s magazine on its website.

Gen Tolley said the commandos were sent in with minimal equipment to   facilitate their movements and minimize the risk of detection by North   Korean forces. At least four of the tunnels built by Pyongyang go under the Demilitarized   Zone separating North and South Korea, Tolley said.

“We don’t know how many we don’t know about,” he admitted.

Among the facilities identified are 20 air fields that are partially   underground, and thousands of artillery positions.

In February, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that had built at least   two new tunnels at a nuclear testing site, likely in preparation for a new   test.