Singapore Handshake Deal
Donald Trump arrived in Singapore on Monday, leaving the wreckage of our relations with America’s closest and most important allies in his wake.
Going into the meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong un, there was no shortage of extravagant and perfunctory reporting that emphasized the ‘historic’ nature of the stage managed encounter – which, ironically, pre-empted ABC’s regularly scheduled broadcast of “The Bachelorette”.
The focus was on the pomp and circumstance as if this was some sort of event of general curiosity like a royal wedding, rather than something that had pregnant national and world security implications. Emphasis was placed on this meeting being the first between an American president and any North Korean dictator. The optics delivered one message, but that nasty devil in the details betrayed the desired effect of the staged illusion.
Sean Hannity cheers the deal
Fox News, network wide – was effusive. Sean Hannity, who functions as Trump’s unofficial press agent, told viewers in his opening monologue that the meeting between Trump and Kim was reminiscent of the landmark summit between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986.
He noted that Reagan said of the Soviets, “They preach the supremacy of the state. [They] declare its omnipotence over the individual.” Hannity claimed that Trump’s rhetoric was of the same caliber as Reagan’s. Ironically, Hannity has been a persistent critic of the Iran Nuclear agreement – an agreement that was actually accompanied by a rigorous inspection and verification regimen.
Is there actually any basis for this claim? You be the judge. Trump told Hannity that, “He’s got a very good personality, he’s funny, and he’s very, very smart. He’s a great negotiator, and he’s a very strategic kind of a guy.” Trump, in Singapore, doubled down on his homage and accolades to Kim.
“Great personality and very smart—good combination. I learned that he’s a very talented man. I also learned that he loves his country very much.”
Seems like a far cry from Reagan’s sober and measured approach to Gorbachev and the Soviets.
The agreement is only as reliable as the parties involved – Trump and Kim
But let’s be frank here. If there is no indication that there is going to any more nuts and bolts to this process of denuclearization; if it is mainly going to be a ‘handshake’ deal with no legal framework, then it all hinges on the character and reputation of the parties shaking hands. Who are these individuals?
We know Donald Trump a fair bit more, because he is the president of a country that has an active, vigorous media and he provides a great deal of grist for the mill. He is a committed and dedicated media whore partially because he is a narcissist, but also because his presidency is predicated on the constant tarting up of themes and narratives that keep his rabid core base foaming at the mouth.
The minute these followers become lethargic and sleepy, if they aren’t shocked and stimulated into attention, Trump’s goose is cooked. It (his goose) may be in any event, but every effort must be made to keep the pot boiling. Trump’s brand and that of the media sycophants depends upon it.
Americans and international news consumers know less about Kim Jong un. Most of that has to do with the nature of North Korea being insulated and isolated – by deliberate intention of the Kim dynasty – hence its nickname, the “Hermit Kingdom”. We won’t dig into the weeds of Kim’s personal background here, but just establish that he is a mass murderer and the spawn of a line of mass murderers.
Kim Jong un – North Korea’s national prison warden
That fact is not in dispute. Kim presides over a nation wide system of brutal and deadly political detention camps, fully fitting the classification as gulags. Kim Jong un’s grandfather, Kim Il sung implemented these Stalin inspired districts of pain and psychological torment, having learned of their value, their design and operation during his grooming by the Soviet Union in the mid to late 1940’s.
Details of the nearly unimaginable inhumanity have come to us from not only those fortunate enough to have escaped to South Korea – but by prison guards at these outposts of Hell. Although, it is beyond the scope of this article, we will provide a few examples of the sort of harrowing atrocities that Kim is responsible for.
The Daily Mail UK interviewed a woman, Lim Hye-jin, who worked as a guard at what is known to western observers as “Camp 12”. Lim herself, at one point ran afoul of prison authorities and for a time became an inmate, during which, in one episode, she was ordered to parade naked in front of the male guards.
Kang Chol Hwan – a captive of the Yodok concentration camp, relates that:
“When I arrived it was like a scene from a horror movie. I once watched a film about Auschwitz and I could relate so much to the situation.’ He was always hungry during a decade in the camp. Many inmates die from malnutrition in the first few months. ‘We were never given protein so we would catch snakes, rats, even insects.”
A resident of North Korea, whether they be a rank civilian or a government official, can be arrested peremptorily without charges and without a hearing and taken to one of the camps. Reasons behind arrests, range from lack of proper adoration of Kim, suspicion of sedition or subversion. A detention can also be prompted by a perception the individual might have religious sentiments that do not include worship of Kim, a government enforced pseudo religious icon in the country.
Human Rights atrocities
Christians are as much an object of contempt as political prisoners are and if one is merely suspected of being a Christian, they are in deep trouble as will be their friends and family members. North Korea ranks number one in the World Watch List, which assesses the degree of persecution Christians suffer from national governments.
If a person is arrested, many times the entire family will be incarcerated. Everything Kim’s government apparatus does has a facet of terrorizing the populace by making examples of accused individuals.
Ian Birell, writing for the Daily Mail, was told by a defector that,
he was the only one of 5,000 children to escape his camp, which held close to 50,000 people. Many prisoners are stunted and deformed by hunger and back-breaking labour in freezing forests and deep mines. Former inmates told me of living in fear of constant beatings, of injured people dumped to die in the snow, of hundreds sealed beneath ground after mining accidents, of rotting corpses piled beside huts, of catching snakes to survive deadly starvation.
A person, if they are inclined to apply some critical thinking to Trump’s assessment of Kim, has to reflect whether any of his perceptions of Kim are reality based – especially given that we know that Kim presides over a network of concentration and detention camps that, according to information gathered through satellite, humint and U.N. human rights officials, hold captive up to a quarter of a million North Koreans.
The inmates are being held by Kim in (kwan-li-so) political prison camps; Labor re-education camps, or (kyo-hwa-so) – and “labor training centers” intended for those suspected of economic crimes. Under Kim and his father, close to 500,000 have died at the hands of their network of gulags.
What is it about dictators that Donald Trump identifies with and relates to? Trump observers believe Trump finds the sort of absolute life and death control over a civilian population and ability to direct military and security forces without restraint, to be very attractive to his worldview and personal philosophy.
Trump chafes at the limitations of the office of President and his inability to silence critics and the media, who he dubs, “the enemy of the American people”. Trump sees these iron fisted men’s despotic behavior as accomplishments and respects them.
Kim is a “talented guy”
“Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, with tough people, and you take it over from your father, I don’t care who you are, what you are, how much of an advantage you have,” Trump said in the interview. “If you can do that at 27 years old, I mean that’s one in 10,000 that could do that.”
In a bizarre, but not particularly surprising resemblance to Trump’s equivocation about white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, when he stated that there were “good people on both sides”, Trump refused to morally condemn Kim Jong un’s track record of human rights violations. “Yeah, but so have a lot of other people done some really bad things,” Trump said. “I mean, I could go through a lot of nations where a lot of bad things were done.”
Incredibly, Trump said of Kim, in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, that “His country does love him”, and that “you see the fervor” that Kim’s countryman have regarding Kim.
If he doesn’t know better – that every public spectacle staged in North Korea is born of abject terror of being suspected of disloyalty and consequential to mass indoctrination – shame on him. If he does in fact, know better and is choosing to leave human rights out of this process, shame on him. Trump inconceivably referred to Kim as “courageous”
Trump has no excuse for not confronting the fact that he has legitimized a leader of a small, isolated nation whose only leverage for international attention is a stockpile of nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles capable of targeting our allies in the region. Trump has provided validation to a man who, if not clinically a psychopath, is at the very least, an amoral and ruthless killer – even recently having family members assassinated.
Trump is outmatched by an actual Chess player
Trump admitted that – as is customary for him, he did not do any homework for his engagement with Kim. If he had reviewed intelligence briefings, he would have learned, although perhaps not comprehended, that Kim is, unlike Trump, a very shrewd, calculating, hands on administrator who maintains acute situational awareness of every aspect of his and his countries interactions with foreign governments.
Kim governs the minute details of potential diplomatic negotiations. And he has been trained to exploit his opposite numbers in these negotiations by experts in deception and manipulation as were his father and grandfather. We can see that in the history of North Korea maneuvering into and out of agreements – agreements that are a great deal more specific than the flimsy and Singapore Summit agreement exchanged between Trump and Kim in Singapore.
A risky deal with the highest of stakes
Increasing the risk for America, is the fact that Trump will provide authorization to any sort of a pact that enables him to kick the can further down the road, while positioning himself for a coveted Nobel Peace Prize – in whose name, two white nationalist lawmakers in Norway just submitted a nomination.
Should you trust this process which began with no details about whether denuclearization will be verifiable, irreversible or concrete? Take your cue from Trump and Kim themselves.
“I may be wrong,” Trump told reporters after the meeting. “I may stand before you in six months and say, ‘Hey, I was wrong.’ I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of an excuse.”
It might have been an unconsidered revelation, a gaffe or a punchline, but you should take him seriously. As for Kim Jong un? He said, through a translator, “Many people in the world will think of this as a form of fantasy from a science fiction movie.”
President Trump says “we can sleep well” because of his meeting with Kim. Maybe Dennis Rodman will, but I’d keep at least one eye open, thank you very much.