A cooling tower is demolished at a North Korean nuclear plant Friday. North Korea toppled the cooling tower at its plutonium-producing reactor in a symbolic move to show its commitment to a disarmament deal that comes a day after it submitted an inventory of its nuclear program.
As part of North Korea’s reward last week for blowing up the cooling tower of its nuclear plant and complying with various other U.S. demands about allowing inspections, President Bush announced that North Korea would be removed from the official U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Under U.S. law, states on the official terror-sponsor list are automatically subjected to a list of economic sanctions. The United States won’t sell them any weapons, for example, and opposes any World Bank loans to countries on the list.
Offering carrots and threatening (non-military) sticks to get North Korea to back off its nuclear ambitions is absolutely OK with me. Fine with me if it works with Iran, too, although it would be nice if Washington occasionally acknowledged that under international law, it has no authority to decree who can (Israel, India, Pakistan) join the nuclear club and who cannot. But carrots and (non-military) sticks: fine. That’s diplomacy.
I just think it may be worth noting in passing that building a nuclear bomb is not a terrorist act (or else we and several of our closest allies are terror-sponsors). Nor is being a Communist dictatorship (whatever being Communist means at this point in history), being disrespectful toward and downright uncooperative with the United States or even having a mighty eccentric Dear Leader.
Likewise, or contrariwise, blowing up a cooling tower, agreeing to inspections or doing something else the United States wants you to do is not a, what shall we call it, an act of non-terrorism sponsorship.
Even the most recent (2007) State Department paper on why North Korea was still on the list said that the DPRK (that’s Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and how’s that for a bunch of words that don’t describe that particular nation) hadn’t been linked to an act of terrorism in 20 years and yet has remained on the list since first added in 1988.
The point of this (parenthetical-laden) ramble (assuming it has one) is that this whole exercise of listing the state sponsors of terrorism is problematic given the obvious temptation (and more than temptation) to use it instead as a list of the countries at which the current administration is currently most peeved.
If you need any further evidence of this tendency, please note that Iraq was a charter member of the first list compiled by the Carter administration in 1979, then, with Saddam Hussein still very much in charge, was removed from the list in 1982 because the Reagan administration wanted to befriend and sell weapons to Saddam because he had started a war against Iran, then added back in 1991 by the first Bush administration (because Saddam had wiped his neighbor, Kuwait, off the map, a very nasty and unneighborly thing to do but not precisely a sponsorship of terrorism), then removed from the list in 2003 by the second Bush administration (because, well that one is pretty obvious).
Please just bear that in mind the next time someone cites the State Department’s official list as if that’s the final fact-based arbiter of which countries aid terrorism (however that word is being defined at the time).