Sunday, April 07, 2013

North Korean nukes: A follow-up

In our previous post, we looked at the possibility that the North Korean plan for a "smaller and lighter" nuclear strategy might involve portable weaponry in a cargo container. For over a decade, that possibility has been the nightmare scenario besetting security experts. Even though this country has spent untold amounts of money beefing up the NSA's ability to read your mail and listen to your telephone calls, and even though Bush launched a war which cost us one or two trillion bucks, neither the current administration now the preceding one could scrape together the $16 billion necessary to check all cargo containers for radioactive material.

As we noted in the preceding post, one of the likeliest places to "host" such an attack would be Dundalk, Maryland, location of the closest port to Washington DC. It's also the suburb of a major city (Baltimore) and roughly 16 miles away from NSA headquarters.

I have walked my dog in a park not far from that port.

I was hoping some reader of the previous post would present a persuasive technical argument against the scenario which continues to scare me sleepless. No-one, I'm sorry to say, could come up with a way to me look like a fool. In fact, a few other writers have voiced similar concerns -- this fellow, for example.

Of course, it is fair to presume that every container coming from or passing through North Korea will be checked carefully. But what about cargo from other countries?

There are nations in this world which owe NK big time, because NK has helped "spread the love" when it comes to forbidden nuclear technology, know-how and material. This Telegraph story from 2010 paints a rather disturbing picture:
Experts responsible for the 75-page report found that North Korea provided the expertise for construction of nuclear faility in Syria that Israel bombed in 2007. It also found that a sanctioned North Korean firm had engaged in "suspicious activity" in Burma and supplied a dual use magnet through a trading firm in Tokyo.

The finding that North Korea is involved with "the surreptitious transfer of nuclear-related and ballistic missile-related equipment, know-how and technology" to countries including Iran, Syria and Burma, by the experts from UN Security Council sanctions committee will enhance efforts to intercept and disrupt North Korea overseas.
Pay close attention to this next bit:
The lengths North Korea goes to as it sold banned material were also detailed including hiring private jets through off-shore companies, providing false descriptions and mislabeling of the contents of shipping containers, falsifying the manifest and information about the origin and destination of the goods.
Emphasis added. So we know that North Korea has used mislabeled containers to ship nuclear-related materials.

And now we know how war with Korea (which no American really wants) might segue into war with Iran (which many neocons really really really want). The "helper" nation would face the same ghastly fate that Kimmy seems to long for.

Of course, if a cargo bomb were to go off, pinpointing the exact "culprit container" would be impossible, since the crime erases the evidence. But human or electronic intelligence might be able to reconstruct who helped Kim Jong-Un do his dirty work. And needless to say, conspiracy theorists will presume that said intelligence was cooked.

I've long felt that the easiest way outta here would be to stand near the center point of a nuclear detonation. Absolutely pain-free. One instant, you are -- the next instant, you are not. Even your atoms scatter. Maybe I should take a bus to that port and camp out.

On a perhaps-related note: It seems that a couple of North Korean subs have gone "Red October" on us. Or maybe they're carrying nukes. The ships went missing three days ago -- and they can stay underwater for only three or four days. So where did they go?
I'm guessing companies that have developed the technology to scan shipping containers shorted Obama on their campaign contributions. Too bad for us.
"Of course, if a cargo bomb were to go off, pinpointing the exact "culprit container" would be impossible, since the crime erases the evidence. But human or electronic intelligence might be able to reconstruct who helped Kim Jong-Un do his dirty work. And needless to say, conspiracy theorists will presume that said intelligence was cooked. "

The nuke materials have a signature, I believe, which would assist in finding the original culprit. Even if a nuke was stolen from our stockpile, the fingerprints would still be on it.

"By the time the day arrived, all I really had to do from the bunker downstairs was to make sure there was no interference from the genius at the top," Mr. Cheney said, in an apparent reference to Former President George W. Bush. Chuckling, Cheney added "The boys in the field were magnificent." A second team under separate command had been assigned to assure the destruction of the World Trade Center itself, Mr. Cheney said.

The intent of the action was to blame the resulting carnage on the "false flag" of the shadowy al-Qaeda network, itself originally a construct of Western and allied intelligence services, according to Mr. Cheney. "Our motive was to frighten Americans into supporting a long-planned global war of aggression, which we saw as necessary given geopolitical developments. We also wanted to remove all limits on executive power at home," he said. "The Islamic fundamentalists made for irresistible patsies, really straight out of central casting."

Mr. Cheney then directly addressed the startled press corps: "We knew the operation would leave a lot of loose ends, but we relied on you guys in the media to ignore those and patch up a telegenic narrative. "You came through, and the nation thanks you for it."

Refusing to take questions, Mr. Cheney then announced he was immediately returning to his current, "undisclosed" home location, where he intends to rest up before undertaking the grueling schedule of cross-country personal appearances that will await him when the tour begins May 1st.

Traditional Critics Deliver Swift Riposte

Amidst the current political drive for legalizing gay marriage and banning assault weapons, plus heightened tension between the two Koreas, Mr. Cheney's traditional critics chose to show amazing levels of restraint. Neither current nor retired high-ranking Democrats, when contacted for comment on Mr. Cheney's "joke confession," would respond on the record at all, although several did make off-record comments that were variations on the phrase "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, included the former vice-president."

Virtually all Capitol Hill Republican leaders asked to comment also deferred, the exception being Arizona Senator John McCain. "This important new disclosure, he asserted, should finally spur the Obama administration to hurry up and prosecute a much more focused and vigorous war on terror."

When asked if the Justice Department had any obligation to conduct even the most cursory investigation into the details of Cheney's fantastic, April 1st claim of personal responsibility for the carnage of eleven years ago, McCain angrily shot back: "9/11 was a terrible tragedy for so many hard-working, ordinary people who lost their loved ones on that fateful day. They don't need to have those memories dredged up again by Attorney General Holder and others who have so clearly proven their incompetence elsewhere, from 'Fast and Furious' on down. This is no time to dwell on the past."

Democracy Vibrant As Ever, as Debate Among Sophists Proves

Intellectuals on the right greeted the Cheney jest with a touch of their own humor. "9/11 was a bold, geopolitically savvy move, and I can't wait to see what's coming next, on the Korean Peninsula," William Kristol of the now-disbanded Project for a New American Century said in an appearance on FOX NEWS.

"To save America, our leaders knew they had to go large," Kristol added. "Without 9/11, would people in this country have understood the threat in time? I have no doubt that history will now judge the vice-president as a man of sharp wit, as well as imposing foresight and courage."
(continues below)
On the left, some seemed to miss the calendar date of the Cheney disclosure and proceeded to seriously question the alleged facts proffered. "That's just not how the intelligence world works," said covert operations expert David Corn. "It's ridiculous to see Cheney, who has no formal command over the US military, as some kind of James Bond villain who could pull off an attack on that scale all by himself. He's just a forgotten old man holed up in a cave somewhere, and now he's reaching for the political Viagra."

Chip Berlet, a frequently scathing observer of the "paranoid corrosion" of American politics, stated that "Cheney is a right-wing conspiracy theorist who has lied many times in the past. He lied about weapons of mass destruction and the 9/11 link to Iraq. Why should progressives trust him when he claims something even more outrageous?"

The moderators of, a popular, ultra-liberal internet forum, announced the site would maintain its policy of transferring all threads linking to news of Mr. Cheney's supposed confession to a specialized forum devoted to 9/11-related issues, called the "Conspiracy Dungeon" by many of the members., a website that specializes in debunking urban legends, published a page linking to several videos, allegedly of the late Osama Bin Ladin, in which the former al-Qaeda leader describes his own orchestration of the 9/11 attacks. "Bin Ladin confessed to this crime many years ago," said Barbara Mikkelson, Snopes' veteran editor. "Cheney's belated jump on the bandwagon changes nothing about that."

Mostly, however, the heavyweights of punditry devoted little attention to an issue they privately characterized as "old news."

"Everyone from Bangalore to Silicon Valley knew 9/11 was a smashing success for its instigators," according to Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, who said he had not considered mentioning the matter in his column. "Why chew up crucial mental RAM about it now, when Korea and Iran are on a horse that's gone nuclear, and shiny new smartphones are ka-zapping that news to all five corners of the flat world, a hundred Google-times faster than before?"

Syndicated columnist Maureen Dowd discerned a pattern of fear-mongering by the out-of-power Republicans. "Just when we as a nation had grown comfortable with the idea of an omnipresent, shadowy foreign enemy never resting in its determination to kill us all suddenly, anywhere and by any means, ex-Boss Cheney has to go and tell us the real enemy is inside our own government," Ms. Dowd wrote. "All he ever does is raise new specters to keep us frightened."

Fringe Eccentrics Provide for Additional Rustic Color

Even 9/11 conspiracy buffs sought to downplay the transparent ruse, with many noting that Mr. Cheney had said nothing they have not already claimed for years.


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North Korea: Nuclear genie comes out of the bunker
I think we'll be hearing more about those submarines.

The North Korean government have said they will close Kaesong industrial region, temporarily, pending a decision on whether to reopen or shut it down completely. That will mean withdrawing the 50000 workers from this very important source of hard currency.

Which suggests that from now on, military considerations come first.

Will they leave maintenance staff behind? That might not be easy information to come by!

Shutting the zone might win Pyongyang more friendship in Russia and China...if there's time! :-)

South Korean unification minister Ryoo has had to retract his statement that a 4th North Korean nuclear test is imminent. Notwithstanding the suggestion by 'North Korean exiles' that it was all a linguistic misunderstanding (aficionados of nuke history will pick up an echo here), it looks as though he's had egg smeared on his face. Which hurts much more in East Asia than it does in the west.

The North Korean authorities have said they won't be watching other people's faces.

When the cameras roll, their firing squads are looking at representations of their enemies' mugs, though. So are their nasty attack dogs.

My take, informed by consideration of the symbolism and ideology and the timing of previous testing, is that a 4th test will happen within the next week.

Japan have said they will shoot down any North Korean missile 'headed towards' their territory, which is ambiguous.

Interesting that neither South Korea nor Japan seem to be relying too much on Uncle Sam.

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