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Wednesday, August 04, 2004

The Cost of Doing Business 

Here's a Story Everyone Has Linked To Already (Cursor, Atrios, and Tapped, to name but a few), but bear with us for a moment; we can steer it back to one of our longstanding hobbyhorses; all roads lead to Zembla. Reuters reports that, according to Jane's Defense Weekly, our friends the North Koreans have just deployed submarine-launched ballistic missiles that may have sufficient range to strike the west coast of the U.S.:
In an article due to appear Wednesday, Jane's said the two new systems appeared to be based on a decommissioned Soviet submarine-launched ballistic missile, the R-27.

It said communist North Korea had acquired the know-how during the 1990s from Russian missile specialists and by buying 12 former Soviet submarines which had been sold for scrap metal but retained key elements of their missile launch systems.

"It would fundamentally alter the missile threat posed by the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) and could finally provide its leadership with something that it has long sought to obtain -- the ability to directly threaten the continental U.S.," the weekly said.

Apart from targeting the United States, South Korea or Japan, cash-strapped North Korea might seek to sell the technology to countries that have bought its missiles in the past, with Iran a prime candidate, the article added.

Ian Kemp, news editor of Jane's Defense Weekly, said North Korea would only spend the money and effort on developing such missiles if it intended to fit them with nuclear warheads . . . .

North Korea pulled out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in January 2003 and is locked in long-running crisis talks with the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea over terms for scrapping its atomic weapons program . . . .

[Jane's] said Pyongyang was also helped by the purchase, through a Japanese trading company, of 12 decommissioned Russian Foxtrot-class and Golf II-class submarines which were sold for scrap in 1993.
Here's where it starts to get interesting. Our eternally vigilant colleague John Gorenfeld is on top of all things Moonie, and has just posted excerpts from DIA documents revealing that
In Jan94 a Japanese trading company "Touen Hoji" in Suginami-Ku, Tokyo, purchased 12 F and G class submarines from the Russian Pacific Fleet Headquarters. These submarines were then sold to a Kn trading company. Although this transaction garnered a great deal of coverage in the Japanese press, it was not disclosed at the time that Touen Hoji is an affiliate of the Unification Church.
The DIA analysis goes on to speculate that North Korea would try to use the Unification Church to rehabilitate its image, and would further utilize Moon-owned media organs such as the Washington Times to influence not only public opinion, but U.S. foreign policy as well.

Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder and fetish-object of the Unification Church, is of course the fellow who had himself proclaimed "humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent" at a ceremony in the Dirksen Senate Office last March -- a ceremony sponsored by John Warner, the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The Reverend is a heavy contributor to right-wing causes --and, as Robert Parry of Consortium News reported in 1997, the current President's father spent several lucrative years on his payroll:
By last fall, Bush and Moon had been working in political tandem for at least a decade and a half. The ex-president also had been moonlighting as a front man for Moon for more than a year.

In September 1995, Bush and his wife, Barbara, gave six speeches in Asia for the Women's Federation for World Peace, a group led by Moon's wife, Hak Ja Han Moon. In one speech on Sept. 14 to 50,000 Moon supporters in Tokyo, Bush insisted that "what really counts is faith, family and friends." Mrs. Moon followed the ex-president to the podium and announced that "it has to be Reverend Moon to save the United States, which is in decline because of the destruction of the family and moral decay." [Washington Post, Sept. 15, 1995]

In summer 1996, Bush was lending his prestige to Moon again. Bush addressed the Moon-connected Family Federation for World Peace in Washington, an event that gained notoriety when comedian Bill Cosby tried to back out of his contract after learning of Moon's connection. Bush had no such qualms. [WP, July 30, 1996]

Throughout these public appearances, Bush's office has refused to divulge how much Moon-affiliated organizations have paid the ex-president. But estimates of Bush's fee for the Buenos Aires appearance alone ran between $100,000 and $500,000. Sources close to the Unification Church have put the total Bush-Moon package in the millions, with one source telling The Consortium that Bush stood to make as much as $10 million . . . .

With unintended irony, Moon's Washington Times repeatedly has featured stories about secret Asian money going to Democrats. "More than a million dollars of this foreign money is believed to have been contributed to the Democrats, putting the election up for auction," charged Times' editor Wesley Pruden in a typical column. [Oct. 18, 1996] The blind spot on Moon is especially curious since there have been U.S. government allegations dating back to the 1970s that Moon's organization fronted for the South Korean CIA and funnelled money to Washington for right-wing Japanese industrialists.
Nick Confessore wonders why "this nutcase [is] even allowed to travel to the United States without being thrown in jail, let alone own a newspaper here, let alone be feted by Republicans at the Capitol." But Moon at least has the excuse of being insane, which may give him a moral edge on the venal hypocrites who indulge him. Check out this Parry article from 2001, entitled "Rev. Moon, the Bushes, and Donald Rumsfeld":
George W. Bush’s choice of Donald Rumsfeld to be U.S. defense secretary could put an unintended spotlight on the role of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon – a Bush family benefactor – in funneling millions of dollars to communist North Korea in the 1990s as it was developing a missile and nuclear weapons program.

In 1998, Rumsfeld headed a special commission, appointed by the Republican-controlled Congress, that warned that North Korea had made substantial progress during the decade in building missiles that could pose a potential nuclear threat to Japan and parts of the United States . . . .

Rumsfeld’s alarming assessment of North Korea’s war-making capabilities now is being cited by Republicans as a justification for investing billions of taxpayer dollars in an anti-missile defense system favored by Bush and Rumsfeld.

Yet, during the early-to-mid 1990s, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency was monitoring a series of clandestine payments from Sun Myung Moon's organization to the North Korean communist leaders who were overseeing the country's military strategies.

According to DIA documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, Moon’s payments to North Korean leaders included a $3 million “birthday present” to current communist leader Kim Jong Il and offshore payments amounting to “several tens of million dollars” to the previous communist dictator, Kim Il Sung.

The alleged payments – and broader Moon-North Korean business deals reported by the DIA – came at a time of a strict U.S. government ban on financial transactions between North Korea and any U.S. person or entity, to keep hard currency out of North Korea's hands . . . .

Ironically, Moon's newspaper joined in laying the blame for North Korea's progress at the feet of the Clinton-Gore administration.

"To its list of missed opportunities, the Clinton-Gore administration can now add the abdication of responsibility for national security," a Washington Times editorial stated on Sept. 5, 2000.

Not surprisingly the Times did not mention that its founder and financial backer, Sun Myung Moon, had lent a hand to North Korea by agreeing to multi-million-dollar business deals and allegedly putting millions of dollars in the personal accounts of the leaders masterminding the strategic weapons development.

Those questions also aren't likely to come up at the confirmation hearings for Donald Rumsfeld, who believes that the United States must now pursue an expensive missile shield to counter the threat posed by North Korea.
Are you keeping all of the above in mind? Good; we're almost done. Let's return to a story that we like to flog because nobody else (with the exception of an obscure French documentarian) wants to. From the BBC, April 2002:
The US Government has announced that it will release $95m to North Korea as part of an agreement to replace the Stalinist country's own nuclear programme, which the US suspected was being misused.

Under the 1994 Agreed Framework an international consortium is building two proliferation-proof nuclear reactors and providing fuel oil for North Korea while the reactors are being built.

In releasing the funding, President George W Bush waived the Framework's requirement that North Korea allow inspectors to ensure it has not hidden away any weapons-grade plutonium from the original reactors.

President Bush argued that the decision was "vital to the national security interests of the United States" . . . .

The head of the Non-proliferation Policy Education Centre in Washington, a critic of the Agreed Framework, has warned that even when the new reactors are completed they may not be tamper-proof.

"These reactors are like all reactors, They have the potential to make weapons. So you might end up supplying the worst nuclear violator with the means to acquire the very weapons we're trying to prevent it acquiring," Henry Sokolski told the Far Eastern Economic Review.
According to this January 2000 press release, the Swiss technology group ABB had won a $200 million contract to supply North Korea with equipment and services for the new reactors. Now have a look at another ABB press release from March of that year:
Shareholders approved the proposal of the Board of Directors to increase the dividend per share to Sfr. 3.00 from Sfr. 2.47 the year before, payable as of March 23, 2000. Re-elected to the Board were Percy Barnevik, Gerhard Cromme, Jürgen Dormann, Martin Ebner, Robert Jeker, Göran Lindahl, Agostino Rocca, Donald Rumsfeld, Edwin Somm, Peter Sutherland and Jacob Wallenberg.
Let's walk through it one more time: our current Secretary of Defense, who had spent the last couple of years hyping the North Korean nuclear threat, sat on the board of (and presumably drew a paycheck from) a company that was helping North Korea to build two "proliferation-proof" reactors, and had licensed the design for eight others. To protect the deal, President Bush -- who had already labeled Pyongyang part of the "Axis of Evil" -- waived existing inspection requirements that might have turned up hidden stashes of weapons-grade plutonium.

So when you read a mind-boggling story like this, just remember: it's really not atypical. It just means that someone, somewhere, is making a profit that needs to be protected more than you or your friends or your family do.

And if you're driving along the west coast, and you happen to notice a mushroom cloud over, say, Los Angeles, or San Francisco, or Portland or Seattle, just remember: with this administration, it's never personal.

It's strictly business.

It's always business.

It's only business.

UPDATE: It never stops. From the August Progressive comes news that the Bush administration plans to relax fire-safety regulations at nuclear power plants, described in the 9/11 report as a prime Al Qaeda target:
Instead of insisting that the plants have heat-protected mechanical systems in place that will shut down reactors automatically in case of fire, which is the current standard, the Bush Administration would actually let the power companies rely on workers to run through the plants and try to turn off the reactors by hand while parts of the facilities are engulfed in flames . . . .

So why is the NRC proposing to relax the fire safety standard? Amazingly, because many nuclear power plants have not been abiding by current regulations to put up proven fire barriers. Rather than demanding better fire safeguards or insisting that nuclear power companies at least abide by the current ones, the NRC wants to let them off the hook. It's as if car drivers were regularly going 90 mph, so the government raised the speed limit to 90.

"It appears that after discovering that many reactor licensees were out of compliance with the automatic safe-shutdown fire regulations, the commission has decided to gut these regulations rather than force nuclear power plant operators to comply with them," says the Markey and Dingell letter. The NRC made its decision, according to Markey, "at the behest of the nuclear industry."

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