Tag Archives: Kim Jong-un

Inside the Dictator’s Suite

Apparently afflicted with a bizarre determination to disbelieve everyone else, the United States refused to believe Saddam Hussein when he said he didn’t have weapons of mass destruction. Which he didn’t. Now Kim Jong-un says he does have a hydrogen bomb, and the United States refuses to beleve him.

Breaking Modern Essay: Sony Hackers: Hollywood Crossed the Line

Originally published at Breaking Modern:

The as yet unidentified hackers who broke into Sony Entertainment’s incompetently protected servers have provoked a lawsuit filed by former employees angered by the company’s lack of security, a cluster of gossipy news stories about the quality of the next James Bond film and Angelina Jolie’s professional relationships, and a media ethics debate over whether publishing emails, salary information, movie scripts and other leaked material is effectively aiding and abetting the cyber thieves.

Now a New York movie theater has canceled a showing of Sony’s newest movie in response to a terrorist threat issued by the hackers.

What nobody’s talking about seems like the biggest story of all: the possible motivation of the self-styled “Guardians of Peace.”

Suspicion immediately fell upon North Korea due to the hackers’ complaints about an upcoming film, “The Interview,” which stars James Franco and Seth Rogan. “How bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to,” one communiqué declared, referring to the movie’s plot, about assassinating North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un.

For what it’s worth, the government of North Korea has officially denied involvement. Seth Rogan believes them. “There’s no way it’s them’ because it seems too savvy of Hollywood politics.”

Regardless of the identity of the hackers, one question worth exploring is: has Hollywood crossed the line?

Political assassination plots are nothing new for American films. Based on the Frederick Forsyth spy novel, the 1973 thriller “The Day of the Jackal” showcased the scheming of a man who tried to kill French president Charles de Gaulle during the 1960s. But the movie came out after de Gaulle had already died of old age.

inglorious-basterdsThe Quentin Tarantino revenge fantasy “Inglorious Basterds” depicts something that plainly didn’t happen, the arson and machine-gun killing of Adolf Hitler in a French movie theater. And anyway, that was Hitler, only the worst guy ever.

“The gory killing of a sitting foreign leader is new territory for a big studio movie,” Jeanine Basinger, professor of film studies at Wesleyan University, told the New York Times.

It’s kind of fascinating that the American press hasn’t been able to put itself in the shoes of North Koreans, enough of whom obviously support their leader to the extent that he continues to enjoy the tacit consent of the governed.

Imagine, if you can, how Americans would respond – even conservative Republicans – if, say, Iran, Russia, or some other political rival of the United States were to produce a motion picture depicting the violent assassination of President Obama. Many Americans would view such a film, even if it was marketed as a comedy as “The Interview” is, as something just short of an act of war.

Here in the United States, threatening the life of the president is a serious felony punishable by up to five years in federal prison. Why wouldn’t we expect other countries to take the threat against their leaders seriously too?

Americans don’t get that the citizens of other countries are just as patriotic as we are. Just like us, people in other nations don’t like it when we disrespect their leaders.

Not long ago, everyone, including the United States government, understood that treating heads of state disrespectfully exposed everyone’s leaders to the same treatment. Under international law and tradition heads of state have been considered immune from prosecution. Even when the US deposed an unfriendly leader in a coup d’état, such as when Jean-Claude Duvalier fled Haiti in 1986, they facilitated his comfortable exile in places like the French Riviera.

It was the United States that broke this understanding between nations.

It began in 1989, with George Herbert Walker Bush’s overthrow of Panamanian President Manuel Noriega. The first Bush administration treated Noriega like a common criminal, trumping up dubious drug possession charges (a “110-pound” stash of cocaine found in his compound turned out to be tamales wrapped in banana leaves), kidnapping him to face charges in the United States on barely discernible legal grounds, and then sentencing him to two decades in a federal prison.

More recently, Bush the second boxed in former US client dictator Saddam Hussein, refusing to fly him out of Iraq, signed off on a ridiculous show trial conducted by his political enemies and then delivered him from U.S. custody to be unceremoniously hanged to death – while cell phone video cameras rolled – in 2006. Saddam went out looking classy – “Down with the invaders!” he shouted repeatedly before his death — the U.S., not so much.

Then there was the 2011 killing of Colonel Moammar Qaddafi. Again, the United States didn’t leave the Libyan dictator a way out. Instead, NATO fighter jets and an American drone bombed his convoy, causing him to fall into the hands of opposition forces, who killed him.

Given this recent history, it isn’t surprising that Americans don’t see the big deal about a silly comedy movie fantasizing about killing a man they see as a silly neo-Stalinist dictator. But isn’t this just another case of American exceptionalism?

We see the world one way.

No one else agrees with us.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Presidential Tokenism, Part 2

Hillary Clinton’s One-Woman Affirmative Action Program

The last few weeks have seen a full-court press by MSNBC and other Democratic media organs to either — one can’t be sure which, but it’s definitely one or the other – promote Hillary Clinton as the Party’s 2016 standard bearer or run her up the flagpole to see if anybody salutes.

Another Clinton? Sounds pretty boring to me. But no, proto-pro-Hillary forces assure us that promoting Madame Secretary to First-Ever Female President is an inherently exciting prospect, a history-making thrillapalooza that would smash glass ceilings, change everything in Washington, and remove waxy buildup.

“The enthusiasm and hunger for a Hillary Clinton presidency is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” enthuses strategist/pundit James Carville, who just slapped together a Hillary PAC to raise cash for 2016.

I don’t know about you, but the fact that the female One owes her political career entirely to having been married – and not particularly well married – to a president doesn’t exactly strike me as a glorious victory for feminism. Again, Carville and the gang, most irritatingly and recently centered around Tina Brown (another supposedly successful woman who married her way into prosperity), are sure sure sure that installing a commander-in-chief with XX chromosomes represents a magic game changer.

Or that we’ll think that it does.

“Even more than her husband, Hillary has become a symbol of something larger than herself,” one of Brown’s Daily Beast house web “reporters” swooned in a bit of puff that Kim Jong-un would deem too over-the-top. “[Hillary Clinton] is an embodiment of baby-boom second-wave feminists who see her elevation to the pinnacle of world affairs as their own story writ large. Now, they want to see her in the White House so they can die happy.”

Maybe we should let them die alone and in pain.

We have four-plus years of this guy from Chicago with a big shit-eating grin to prove that demographic novelty hardly guarantees ideological progress. (Sorry, long-term unemployed. You’re welcome, Wall Street.) And the passing of former Margaret “1,000,000 fired miners” Thatcher reminds us that estrogen isn’t enough if you’re a liberal, much less a progressive, hoping to reform capitalism into something slightly less heartless.

We’ve traveled down Clinton Inevitability Road before.

Democrats took a long, hard look at her in 2008 and in the words of one of the most tasteless T-shirts I have ever seen, consciously and decisively chose “bros before hos.” Voters asked to reconsider the current Secretary of State are being asked to forget that they rejected her.

They’re also being asked to forget her awful record: botching healthcare reform in 1993 by ginning up a convoluted system designed to line the pockets of the big insurance companies in Hartford, voting not just for the disastrous lost war against Afghanistan but the Iraq fiasco, and the minor detail that when it comes to affirmative, actual accomplishment as a US Senator and now Secretary of State, there isn’t a lot to look at.

Yeah, yeah, we’ve all heard the MSNBC talking point. Hillary has done an amazing job as Secretary of State, she’s so competent, she’s worked so hard. “She traveled tirelessly, visiting more countries than any of her predecessors did and cementing her reputation as a serious and inspirational figure in her own right,” says Tina’s Beast. But really, so what? So she logged a bunch of frequent flyer miles. And?

Where’s her signature achievement as a diplomat, the big peace agreement, the disarmament success, the new detente? Why isn’t she taking up Iran on its offers to reestablish diplomatic relations? Why has she made no progress on the Israel-Palestinian conflict? Henry Kissinger had the Paris peace talks, SALT and opening ties with communist China, yet he was still a monstrous war criminal who deserves to be retroactively executed – and yeah, he’s a giant next to Hillary.

The Hillary for President bandwagon looks and feels an awful lot like the Obama campaign while it was revving up in 2006. Once again, we’re seeing an attempt to seduce voters with politically-correct tokenism.

We were supposed to overlook Obama’s inexperience (oh the irony, Hillary warned us about that during the 2008 primaries, and on that she was so so right) and brazen hypocrisy (his entire candidacy was predicated on his “opposition” to the Iraq war, which he repeatedly voted to fund, never voting no once) because he was, you know, black. That, and youngish. I had the same argument with so many of my liberal friends back in 2008, and they all told me the same thing: Obama looks different, so he feels different, thus he will be different.

My liberal friends are sad now. And many, many Afghans, Iraqis, Yemenis, Pakistanis – there are so many of them – are as dead as the American economy.

This time Democrats are being asked to overlook Hillary’s – not inexperience, she’s definitely been around Washington –lack of accomplishment. They want us to forget that, far from undermining patriarchy, a vote for Hillary Clinton would reinforce it by passing over millions of brilliant women who really did make it on their own. Once again, not being an old white Ivy-educated Protestant male is supposed to masquerade as inherently imminent change, a radically safe affirmative-action program for the benefit of a single individual substituting for actual policies.

Haven’t we learned anything from Condi Rice or Colin Powell? Let’s stop judging politicians by the color of their skin — or the curve of their breasts — but by their lack of character.

This ridiculous system, presided over by out-of-touch hacks, keeps trotting out the transparently absurd argument that being a white Ivy-educated Protestant female guarantees something awesome. What and how, no one can say. Just vote for her. Hope for the best. Shut up.

What’s disturbing about the Rise of Hillary Part 2 is that it’s all personality, no politics. Economy? No comment. Environment? Nothing to say. Secretary is a celebrity, all image, no vision for where she wants to lead us. And the media thinks it’s peachy.

The days when politicians broke promises are long gone; betrayal of principles seems quaint now that there are no principles on offer to sell out. Now there are no promises during campaign season, only platitudes. There are no policies, only avatars.

Look! She’s a woman!

The pre-race for the 2016 Democratic nomination is being promoted not as a clash between visions, as we saw in 1980 between Jimmy Carter’s Southern centrism and Ted Kennedy’s classic New England liberalism, but as a friendly rivalry.

The nomination is Hillary’s if she wants it, so much so that Joe Biden won’t run if she does. How would a second President Clinton be different from a first President Biden? Does either one have a jobs program? No one’s asking.

The race for Leader of the Free World has been reduced to jostling between two suits in the executive suite, girls against boys, angling for a CEO slot scheduled to open up. Which is fine. What I don’t get is: why are we supposed to pay attention?

(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. His book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan” will be released in November by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.)

COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL