Friday, 2 March 2007

It's the intelligence, stupid!

Economic sanctions or trade embargoes against a country for the alleged misdeeds of its government, rarely -- if ever -- have the desired impact.

A European businessman based in Pyongyang recently told me the U.S. economic sanctions against North Korea were having an immediate and seriously negative effect on the people who were the least able to do anything about why the sanctions were imposed in the first place.

"In the case of PyongSu Pharmaceutical, there are now difficulties in transferring money to foreign suppliers which is causing substantial delays in the launch of new and effective medicines that are so badly needed," he told The Korea Herald. And in a statement reminiscent of the situation in Iraq in the 1990's, Abt said, "Thus it is the ordinary and the needy North Korean patients that have to suffer from the consequences of these U.S. sanctions."
(From The Korea Herald, September 18th 2006 -- Businessmen accuse U.S. of indiscriminate sanctions)

In several interviews I conducted over the past year and published in The Korea Herald, it became fairly obvious that the sanctions imposed for alleged collusion between the Macau-based Banco Delta Asia and Pyongyang to launder money from illegal financial activities, were just that, allegations. There was no "smoking gun" proof.

And now, the businessmen and other concerned parties who insisted this was nothing more than a Washington "smear campaign" look like they are on the verge of being vindicated.

"The United States, which used some false and exaggerated intelligence to make its case for invading Iraq, may also have inflated some of its allegations against North Korea to justify a hard-line policy toward the Stalinist regime, according to American news reports.
U.S. President Bush W. Bush claimed in 2002 that North Korea was making highly enriched uranium (HEU) for nuclear weapons when there was no intelligence that it was doing so.
Now there are new questions about the administration's assertions that a bank in Macau knowingly laundered proceedings from North Korean narcotics trafficking, cigarette smuggling and counterfeit American currency, McClatchy Newspapers reported on Thursday.
An audit of the Banco Delta Asia's finances by accounting firm Ernst & Young found no evidence that the bank had facilitated North Korean money-laundering, either by circulating counterfeit U.S. bank notes or by knowingly sheltering illicit earnings of the North Korean government."

(Full report:

Making false accusations is nothing new. And to be completely fair, we can't accuse the Bush administration of inventing this tactic. They just seem to have elevated it to the status of an art. From the archives of American Politics Journal:

"Looks like Tom Clancy is a popular author in Britain -- at least among the editors of the tabloid “The Sun” and spokespeople for the Prime Minister's Office. The recent alleged threat to flood Britain with the deadly anthrax virus is straight out of Clancy's “Executive Orders” -- except in the book the target was America, it was Ebola, and the nogoodniks originated in Iran.
Just when we were thinking Saddam might have been mellowing out by opening up the presidential sites for inspection, there he goes again with some alleged despicable nastiness. When Richard Butler was saying that UNSCOM could possibly wrap up their work by the end of the year, and other folks were worrying that the lifting of sanctions would result in an oil glut triggered by Iraq, there is the world's number one bad guy back on the front page of every newspaper in the free world.
Have you ever noticed that “security” leaks never seem to bring us good news? Wouldn't it be great, for example, to learn via a leaked security document that China has been secretly destroying its nuclear weapons, or that North Korea doesn't actually have any. Nope, these leaks are always bad news for the peace-loving people of the Western democracies, and always point the finger a nation that we all love to hate.
I'm not saying that the anthrax story was planted - but I am seriously suggesting it. True or not, the timing was perfect.
- Chris Gelken
25 March 1998, Hong Kong"

There was no anthrax. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, it appears the Banco Delta Asia was just doing what a bank does, and as for the highly enriched uranium in North Korea and Iran's plans for world nuclear domination, let's not go there right now. Or rather, let's not go to war there right now.

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