There's something very strange and disturbing about the hype around the White House and US media's latest obsession with North Korea. It's not just the usual war-mongering and hot air though. We've seen all that before. This goes beyond sabre-rattling. There's something uncomfortably bipartisan about this new appetite for war.
Watching CNN this week, you got the impression we've entered a new comic book phase in the American experiment, driven by an 24 hour media environment where facts and analysis seem like a distant nostalgic hallucination. I asked myself, is it real? Where does the show finally end, and the war begin?
We're told that North Korea has now defied recent threats of "fire and fury" from US President Donald Trump, and that the regime has announced its plan to launch missiles at the nearest US territory, the island of Guam in the Pacific. So that's it. It's war then, right?
Trump's generals wasted no time throwing petrol on the fire, led by Defense Secretary Gen. James 'Mad Dog' Mattis who warned Kim Jung-Un that the US military "possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth."
Whatever your views might be of Trump, North Korea, US foreign policy, or "global security," at this point we'd all do well to hit the breaks.
When one considers that North Korea has been making noises about the American devil and its puppet state South Korea, for the last 18 years – having done absolutely nothing about it during that time, then it's logical, at least for now, to conclude that Pyongyang either doesn't want to do anything about it, or more likely, simply cannot do anything about it. Unless of course, you buy into the US mythology about unstable rogue regimes and the constant reincarnation of the Hitler avatar. Saddam should have taught us that lesson already, but apparently not.
Is North Korea a threat to the United States and its allies? This is not the conclusion to which many sober foreign policy analysts have come. Unfortunately, sober analysis is in short supply in Washington DC, but also in London and Down Under too. Emboldened by a media that is desperate for ad-generating eye balls (and the best way to generate ratings is by broadcasting a crisis, or fear-based narrative) you then see wild statements like the one made by the Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull this week assuring the US that he would invoke the "longstanding military alliance" with America in the event the North Korean regime attacked the US.
What's most dangerous about all of this is that no one is asking any questions.
The first question that needs to be answered in any intelligence briefing is: what is the nature of the threat?
Conveniently ignored by the entire US media and swamp alpha dogs, is the fact that there is no evidence to date that North Korea has an actual operational military ballistic missile program. No evidence suggests their test modules are capable of medium range strikes, let alone any intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capability. In terms of ICBM capability – the ability to launch a missile into the outer atmosphere with a 10,000 km range – there exists no real indication that North Korea will have this ability in the near future. A series of recent botched tests (celebrated as ground-breaking by DPRK state media) of relatively short-range Hwasong-12 rockets (glorified Scud missiles) means North Korea cannot yet pose a physical threat to the US, unless of course, you are going by the colorful war graphics plastered all over Wolf Blitzer's ridiculous Situation Room, airing daily on the military industrial promotional network CNN.
Still, US military officials are lining-up to confirm that the Kim regime can deliver on his threats, issuing a series of Orwellian statements along the way. Vice-Admiral James Syring, head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, primed the media pump back in May, stating, "It is incumbent on us to assume that North Korea today can range the United States with an ICBM carrying a nuclear warhead."
In other words, if the threat is not yet there, we need to make sure you think it is.
In typical dramatic style, Pyongyang claimed on July 4th (US Independence Day, no less) that it had conducted its first ICBM test, and that the test had been a resounding success. The missile was capable of reaching "anywhere in the world," they said on state TV. The amazing thing is that the US media willingly bought it. To borrow a turn from Donald Trump, the media were suddenly "locked and loaded."
Now for an example of just how mindless (or controlled) western journalism has become, rather than challenge the wild propaganda claim, The Guardian's man in Osaka, Justin McCurry, axiomatically validated it:
The claim was verified by the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who described the test as 'a new escalation of the threat to the United States, our allies and partners, the region and the world.'