In February 2003, I wrote a column for the Moscow Times detailing Don Rumsfeld's personal â€“ and profitable â€“ connection with North Korea's nuclear program. Today Greg Saunders at This Modern World notes (from a Guardian story from May 2003),
that the Bush Administration continued to shove money toward Rumsfeld's
corporate cronies, allowing them to help accelerated North Korea's nuke
push â€“ even as the Dear Leader (theirs, not ours) was kicking out
weapons inspectors and withdrawing from the nuclear non-proliferation
What I wrote more than three years ago unfortunately still holds true today. The nuclear blast test that North Korea conducted this week is not only the result of the Bush Administration's incompetent and sinister diplomatic philosophy â€“ which seems to consist solely of provoking unfriendly regimes into countermeasures which can then be used as excuses for war-profiteering "regime change" assaults â€“ but also stems from the overwhelming lust for loot that lies behind the noble rhetoric of the third-rate goons of the Bush Gang.
(Originally published in the Feb. 28, 2003 edition of The Moscow Times; the version here excerpted from the book, Empire Burlesque.)
That's why it came as no surprise to read last week that just before he joined the Regime's crusade against evildoers everywhere (especially rogue states that pursue the development of terrorist-ready weapons of mass destruction), Pentagon warlord Donald Rumsfeld was trousering the proceeds from a $200 million deal to send the latest nuclear technology â€“ including plenty of terrorist-ready "dirty bomb" material â€“ to the rogue state of North Korea, the Swiss paper Neue Zurcher Zeitung reports.
In 1998, Rumsfeld was citizen chairman of the Congressional Ballistic Missile Threat Commission, charged with reducing nuclear proliferation. Rumsfeld and the Republican-heavy commission came down hard on the deal Bill Clinton had brokered with North Korea to avert a war in 1994: Pyongyang would give up its nuclear weapons program in exchange for normalized relations with the United States, plus the construction of two non-weaponized nuclear plants to generate electricity. The plants were to be built by an international consortium of government-backed business interests called KEDO.
Rum deal, said Rummy: those nasty Northies would surely turn the peaceful nukes to nefarious ends. What's more, even the most innocuous nuclear plant generates mounds of radioactive waste that could be made into "dirty bombs" â€“ hand-carried weapons capable of killing thousands of people. The agreement was big bad juju that threatened the whole world, Rumsfeld declared.
Of course, that didn't prevent him from trying to profit from it. Even while he was chairing commission meetings on the "dire threat" posed by the Korean program, Rumsfeld was junketing to Zurich for board meetings of the Swiss-based energy technology giant, ABB, where he was a top director. And what was ABB doing at the time? Why, negotiating that $200 million deal with North Korea to provide equipment and services for the KEDO nuclear reactors, of course!
Yes, nuclear proliferation is ugly stuff â€“ but you might as well squeeze a few dollars from it, right? A smart guy always plays the angles â€“ and, as the hero-worshiping American media never stop telling us, Rumsfeld is one smart guy.
In fact, he's so smart that he's now playing dumb. A Pentagon spokesman says Rumsfeld "can't recall" discussing the Korean deal at ABB board meetings. And his erstwhile ABB corporate colleagues say that it's possible the subject never came up. Of course it didn't; going into the nuclear business with a Communist tyranny that very nearly launched a nuclear war against the West just four years before, in a deal that involved high-level negotiations with the governments of the United States, South Korea, Japan and the European Union â€“ that's certainly the kind of thing that would be handled by a couple of junior executives in a branch office somewhere. Nothing for the bigwigs â€“ especially hard-wired government players like Rumsfeld â€“ to trouble their pretty heads about. A perfectly reasonable explanation.
And so Rumsfeld joins the roster of Bush Regime boardroom honchos who once trumpeted their "business savvy" as selling points for their aspirations to national leadership but now claim to have been "hands-off" figureheads who had no idea what their companies were up to. Bush, in his sinkhole of insider trading and stockholder scamming at Harken; Cheney, making fat deals with Saddam Hussein (yes, after the Gulf War) and muddying up the corporate books at Halliburton; Army Secretary Thomas White, gaming the power grid and stealing millions for Enron in the manufactured California "energy crisis" â€“ all of them went from mighty moguls to mere "front men" the instant their corruption was brought to light. None of it was their fault; nothing ever is.
Whatever happened to Bush's much-trumpeted "era of responsibility?" These guys are not only chiselers, hustlers, hypocrites and war profiteers â€“ they're a bunch of gutless wonders as well. So you'll pardon us if we are just the tiniest bit cynical about the "moral arguments for war" and other such buckets of warm spit this gang is now forcing down the world's throat.
And what became of that 1994 pact with North Korea? UN inspectors entered the country to make sure the weapons program was put on ice. Pyongyang signed a number of lucrative deals with various politically-connected Western firms, like ABB, to build the promised energy plants, while waiting for the normalization of relations with the United States to begin â€“ a move which many thought would set North Korea on a course toward China-style "moderation" of its monolithic regime.
But normalization never came. Clinton, pressured by rightwing forces (such as Rumsfeld's commission) who opposed any truck whatsoever with godless commies, did his usual folding number, with much windy suspiration of forced breath â€“ and no action. The KEDO companies pocketed Pyongyang's cash but dithered about the actual construction. Pyongyang â€“ while not exactly a font of smiling cooperation itself â€“ concluded that the pact was being deep-sixed. This suspicion was confirmed when Bush took office, calling Korean leader Kim Jong Il a "pygmy" and declaring the county part of the "Axis of Evil."
Pyongyang then accelerated its weapons program, kicked out the UN inspectors, and is now threatening to unleash a nuclear war if Bush, a la Iraq, makes a "pre-emptive strike."
A dicey situation, sure â€“ but at least Don Rumsfeld made some money out of it.