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The Evil of Sanctions

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Last Friday the New York Times carried an article entitled “A Hole in North Korean Sanctions Big Enough for Coal, Oil and Used Pianos,” which pointed out that North Koreans are circumventing U.S. and UN sanctions through illegal trade with China.

This is something that U.S. officials, as well as many in the mainstream press, have lamented and complained about for years. Apparently it’s not enough that the North Korean people already suffer from extreme poverty, as a result of both their socialist economic system and decades of brutal sanctions. If those horrible Chinese would only cooperate, the North Koreans could be squeezed even more, perhaps even with mass starvation.

Let’s get one thing straight: The UN is just a cover. The sanctions are orchestrated, engineered, and enforced by the U.S. government. The idea of using the UN for cover is so that it will appear like it’s an international act, rather than an act of the U.S. government. Everyone knows that any member of the United Nations that refuses to vote with the Empire will suffer the wrath of the Empire, either with a cutoff of U.S. foreign aid or even a regime-change operation against it.

Let’s get another thing straight: The sanctions are directed at the Korean citizenry. Their purpose is to squeeze them economically — even if that means starving them to death — until regime change in North Korea is finally accomplished.

Thus, for decades the North Korean people have been squeezed between a vise, with one side being their socialist economic system and the others side being U.S. sanctions, which are a variation of economic fascism.

There is little doubt that when the U.S. government enforces sanctions against a country, everyone, including government officials, pays the price in terms of economic well-being. But it goes without saying that government officials are the ones who suffer least, owing to their political power. It’s the people at the bottom of the economic ladder who pay the biggest price. They are the ones who verge on starvation.

That doesn’t bother U.S. officials one whit. Their mindset is the same as it was during the Korean War and the Vietnam War — that all these people are nothing more than “gooks” and, therefore, it doesn’t really matter how much they suffer or die.

Anyway, the U.S. mindset goes, they bear the responsibility for their own plight because they have insisted on keeping a communist regime in power for some 70 years. If the North Korean people themselves had brought about a regime change — say, through a violent coup, a revolution, or assassination — the sanctions could have been lifted a long time ago.

Ever since the North Korean regime began testing nuclear weapons, the U.S. has done everything it could to squeeze the North Korean people even more. Apparently the idea is that if enough North Korean peasants are starving to death, their communist rulers will have a crisis of conscience that will cause them to cease and desist from their nuclear testing.

That’s not likely to happen. North Korea views its nuclear weapons as a deterrent against a U.S. regime-change operation, including through a military invasion, as the U.S. did with Iraq. It’s not likely to give up the one weapon that really might deter U.S. officials from invading North Korea or provoking North Korea into attacking the U.S., much like President Franklin Roosevelt did with Japan prior to its attack on Pearl Harbor.

According to the New York Times article, China takes a different approach to the sanctions. It is worried about “the possibility that economic deprivation could send millions of North Koreans fleeing into China.”

To get a picture of why China is concerned about the U.S. wish to squeeze the North Korean people even more, think about the massive refugee crisis that the U.S. government’s regime-change operations in the Middle East have produced in Europe. That’s what China fears the U.S. sanctions on North Korea will produce in China.

So, “China insisted on an exemption to the sanctions stipulating that the ‘livelihood’ of ordinary North Koreans must not suffer.”

According to the Times, the exemption is “a loophole that sanctions experts say is big enough to drive an 18-wheeler through.”

“Sanctions experts”? That is undoubtedly a euphemism for U.S. officials.

Notice how the “sanctions experts” lament this big “loophole” — one that enables a relatively small amount of trade at the North Korean-China border to take place. In their ideal world, there would be a total and complete economic embargo on the North Korean people. New York Times headlines would instead read: “No More Holes in North Korean Sanctions. Millions starving to death.”

Just like the U.S. government did with its sanctions against Iraq. Those sanctions, which again used the UN as cover, were about as complete as possible. Almost immediately, the Iraqi people began feeling the brunt of the sanctions through a rapid decline in their standard of living. But it was the poor who suffered the most, especially through the deaths, year after year, of their children as a direct consequence of the sanctions.

The U.S. sanctions against Iraq served as model of the “banality of evil” that sometimes strikes public officials. (See “Cool War: Economic Sanctions as a Weapon of Mass Destruction” by Joy Gordon.) The deaths of all those Iraqi children just didn’t matter to U.S. officials. Like with the North Koreans, the Iraqi people were considered scum. So what if hundreds of thousands of innocent children died? It’s not like they were Americans or Europeans. Anyway, very one of them was sacrificed for a worthy cause: regime change, just like with North Korea. In fact, in a moment of brutal honesty and candor, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright expressed the official position of the U.S. government when she publicly declared that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were “worth it.” Sometimes I wonder whether the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 agree with her.

It has been no different with the decades-old economic embargo against Cuba. Squeeze the Cuban people to death until they finally get rid of their communist regime and reinstall a regime that is subservient to the U.S. Empire, as the crooked, corrupt, and tyrannical dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, which Castro overthrew, was.

Same with Iran. Who cares if the Iranian people are suffering from the U.S. and UN sanctions against them? After all, in the minds of U.S. officials, it’s the Iranian people who bear the responsibility for reversing the U.S. government’s 1953 regime change operation in Iran with their 1979 revolution. All the Iranian people have to do is reinstall a pro-U.S. dictatorship, similar to the one that the CIA installed in 1953, and all sanctions will be immediately lifted.

Meanwhile, the American people, including the religious ones, just keep maintaining their nice, little, passive, and subservient attitude toward sanctions and regime-change operations, including the ones that are rooted in the U.S. national security state’s Cold War against communism, which obviously has never ended, at least not for the U.S. national-security state. To paraphrase Edmund Burke, the evil of U.S. sanctions has been permitted to flourish because good American citizens have chosen to do remain silent and deferential or, even worse, supportive, toward them.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.


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