No, Fareed Zakaria, We Should NOT Hope That Trump's Nuclear Blackmail Works!

August 16, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |

Donald Trump and his regime have let loose an unprecedented stream of genocidal threats of a nuclear holocaust against North Korea—“fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Trump warned.  “The end of its regime and the destruction of its people, [emphasis added]" Defense Secretary General “Mad Dog” Mattis declared.  And all this, Trump bellowed, wasn’t “tough enough”!

In response, a host of government officials, ex-officials, and media talking heads criticized this blood-curdling nuclear blackmail.  Why?  Because they didn’t think it would work to force North Korea to give up its nukes and could end up weakening the U.S.    

In interviews and on his CNN show GPS, Fareed Zakaria argued that the U.S. “appeared to be on the brink of war” because the situation “has been exaggerated and mishandled by the Trump administration.”  According to Zakaria, Trump’s threats of preemptive war, possibly nuclear war, in response not to a North Korean attack but its rhetoric, was not “credible” and this was damaging the U.S.  “Empty threats and loose rhetoric only cheapen American prestige and power, boxing in the administration,” he said, criticizing Trump’s bellicose language as “the art of the bluff.”

Zakaria Sounds “Sensible”... But What's the Logic of His Logic?

To many, this may sound like a sensible, even anti-war position.  Leaving aside whether Trump is just bluffing, let’s examine Zakaria’s underlying framework and assumptions, and where they lead.  What we’ll find is something extremely reactionary and dangerous. 

Zakaria does not question America’s “legitimate right” to force North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons—and more generally to try and dictate who has, and who doesn’t have these genocidal weapons around the world.  Why?  The underlying presumption, constantly reinforced in the system’s media, is that the U.S. may have its problems, but it’s still a force for good in the world, and isn’t a reckless power with no scruples about wholesale human destruction—as North Korea and other U.S. adversaries are portrayed.  Zakaria’s problem is just that Trump is going about it the wrong way.

How Many People Has the “Peace-Loving U.S.” Already Killed in North Korea?

North Korea’s is an oppressive regime.  But just taking the Korean Peninsula, who has been the reckless power with no regard for human life or the staggering horror of nuclear conflict?  America!  It mass murdered over three million North Koreans—one third of its population—during the 1950-53 Korean War literally leveling North Korea through massive bombing. 

During the war, according to historian, Bruce Cumings, the U.S. “dropped dummy atomic bombs on North Korea to see whether they might be useful against troop concentrations and cities,” and tested a massive atomic bomb as a threat.  It was the U.S. that first introduced nuclear weapons to Korea in 1958 (only removing them in 1991 when the military developed what they believed would be more useful, accurate non-nuclear weapons). 

Why did the U.S. rulers inflict such terrible violence on Korea (and so many other places around the world)?  They did so to attack the Chinese revolution led by Mao ZeDong and the socialist camp (of China and the Soviet Union) and the powerful national liberation struggles that emerged in the aftermath of World War 2, in order to establish American imperialist dominance over a world locked in the chains of capitalist exploitation and age-old forms of oppression.

Cumings notes that North Korea is a “small country, and the largest power in the world is constantly threatening it with nuclear annihilation. President Obama did this too. He routinely sent nuclear-capable B-1 and B-2 bombers over South Korea for exercises.”  All this is the main reason North Korea has even developed nuclear weapons—for deterrence.

If the U.S. Has Thousands of Nukes, Routinely Uses Them for Threats, and Actually Has Used Them in the Past... Then Why, Exactly, Does It Want to Eliminate North Korean Nukes?

The U.S. is not demanding North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons program as a step toward eliminating all nuclear weapons in the world (or even mainly to protect the U.S. from attack).  It’s doing so to rob North Korea of any serious defense to strengthen America’s ability to bully North Korea—and China—including by maximizing its freedom to use its own nuclear arsenal if need bean arsenal which remains at the core of U.S. military and global power!  (See, “Behind the Madness of Trump’s Threats of “Fire and Fury” in Korea,” Revolution/, August 10, 2017)


Basics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian

The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism. What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.

Bob Avakian, BAsics 1:3

Mushroom cloud over Hiroshima, August 6, 1945

If the U.S. successfully nuclear blackmailed North Korea it would normalize and encourage more threats of nuclear obliteration leveled against other U.S. rivals and opponents, escalate tensions and the danger of war across Asia and the world, give wind to Trump's whole “America First… Make America Great Again” approach, and strengthen, embolden and in some ways legitimize this fascist regime and this imperialist system.  How is any of that any good? 

And who does Zakaria’s underlying logic lead him to choose as a model when it comes to “credible” threats?  Harry Truman!  Trump drew from Truman’s apocalyptic threats against Japan in August 1945 after dropping the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima: “If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.” 

Zakaria: I Prefer Reasonable Genocidal Maniacs to Clearly Demonic Ones Like Donald Trump

“But of course,” Zakaria claimed, repeating the lie that Japan was hell-bent on continuing the war, “that was at the end of a carefully thought-through strategy designed to force Japan to surrender at the end of World War 2.  And when they didn’t, when Japan in a sense called his bluff, he dropped two atomic bombs on Japan.”  In reality, Japan had been suing for peace, not calling American bluffs.1

So there you have it!  According to Zakaria and the rest of the “reasonable” imperialists, using nuclear weapons, instantly incinerating tens of thousands and mass murdering over 200,000 people, overwhelmingly civilians, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki (when Truman knew the Japanese were preparing to surrender) is OK—as long as you do it “credibly,” as part of a “careful strategy!!” 

The “Sensible” Lindsay Graham's Logic: Who Cares If a Lot of People Die, So Long as They're Not Americans

And speaking of wanton, barbaric disregard for human life and “off-the-cuff” threats, neither Zakaria nor any of the rest of Trump’s establishment critics have framed their objections to his reckless brinksmanship in what it would mean for North Korea’s 25 million people (and the millions more in the region whose lives would be snuffed out or devastated in the event of war). 

Why?  Because threats, whether “reckless” like Trump’s or “careful” like Truman’s, are part of preparing the ground for towering crimes should the rulers decide to carry them out, and training people to accept these crimes as normal or just.  And they’re training people in this country that American lives are more important than others—in fact they’re the only ones that count. And if this wasn’t already clear, Senator Lindsay Graham spelled it out explicitly recently:  “If there’s going to be a war to stop [Kim Jong-un], it will be over there. If thousands die, they’re going to die over there. They’re not going to die here. And [Trump] has told me that to my face.”

What kind of system promotes, and what kind of a country, promotes that kind of putrid, barbaric outlook—really no different than Hitler and the Nazis?  A capitalist-imperialist system based on the ruthless exploitation of billions all over the world, carried out through savage oppression and environmental devastation, and enforced by violence on a scale unimagined in past history. 

The Logic of Empire

All of this country’s bullying, disarming, and wars—whether carefully thought out or not —are unjust wars of empire, aimed at maintaining and strengthening a system of global exploitation, oppression and endless misery.  They bring nothing good for humanity. 

What makes them even more intolerable is that they’re unnecessary.  A core assumption promoted by Zakaria and other defenders of this system is that in a world of horrible regimes and forces—from ISIS to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un—America is the “good guy,” or at least better than the rest.  And these are the only choices humanity has.

That is not true.  There’s a real basis today in the way the world has developed for a radically different and far better, emancipating way humanity can not just survive but flourish—socialist societies based on the new communism brought forward by Bob Avakian, here and elsewhere, moving towards a world where exploitation, oppression, and war will be a thing of the past. As the accompanying excerpt makes clear, there will be no nuclear weapons in the Socialist Republic in North America. (See side panel.) But getting there will take an actual revolution to overthrow the power most responsible for the unending horrors crushing billions and threatening humanity’s future—U.S. capitalism-imperialism!  And that revolution must be the first great step toward a communist world free of any form of exploitation, oppression, or environmental despoliation. 

A crucial strategic component of working toward such a communist revolution is internationalism and revolutionary defeatism: putting humanity and the world first—not America! —and welcoming the defeats and difficulties our rulers suffer to hasten and prepare for the moment when this monster and greatest nuclear threat to the entire planet can be overthrown through revolution. 


1. The claim that Japan was “called Truman’s bluff” is a lie.  The U.S. knew Japan wasn’t “calling” any bluffs—they were suing for peace weeks before Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On July 12, 1945, Truman admitted in his private diary that the U.S. had received a “telegram from [the] Jap Emperor asking for peace.”  Two weeks later, on July 26, 1945, the U.S. and its allies called for Japan’s unconditional surrender—but gave no hint they’d developed a devastating new weapon.  Proposals by a number of scientists for a demonstration test of the atomic bomb to shock Japan into immediate surrender were rejected.  Then Truman issued his “rain of ruin” threat after atomic bombing Hiroshima.  He then quickly dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki 3 days later—probably before Japan understood what had hit them according to researchers.  America’s real motive in nuking Japan was not simply ending the war or “saving lives”—it was to threaten the then-socialist Soviet Union and dominate the post-World War 2 global order, including Japan—by forcing its immediate, unconditional surrender on U.S. terms.  (See “American Crime Case #97: August 6 and 9, 1945—The Nuclear Incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,”, May 23, 2016.) ; [back]


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