Update: In my visitors’ log today:
Original Post: You may recall that a few weeks back, I noted that the Korean press had picked up a story from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one that many of its readers will no doubt be eager to believe. The story reported that North Korean supernotes are actually made by the CIA at an undisclosed location near Washington, D.C. Not being much of a German linguist, I made myself a reminder to find an English translation of the whole piece, since all I had to go on was the second-hand Korean report. Based on what the Dong-A Ilbo printed at the time,
The sole basis for this novel theory, besides the unshakeable conviction that George W. Bush must be responsible for all evil on earth, is that counterfeiting is simply too complex for a poor country like North Korea.
No word on whether North Korea’s nuclear weapons were built at Oak Ridge.
Or, I might have asked, its missiles at White Sands, or its chemical arsenal at Dugway Proving Ground, since any of those programs is more costly and complex, and less profitable, than counterfeiting.
Well, thanks to a site called “Watching America,” we have a translation of the entire piece and can judge its evidentiary merits, and in the process, we also learn why a language barrier can do great things for international relations. The original German is here for you sprechers out there.
The story asks a lot of questions about the high logistical hurdles that the North Koreans would have had to overcome to carry out this counterfeiting scheme. They’re fair enough questions, although this New York Times story (archived) answered almost all of them, a fact that the FAZ might have pointed out and debated. I noted precisely two of these questions that the Times piece did not answer:
South Korean police have stated that indeed, on several occasions in Seoul, considerable quantities of counterfeit dollar notes have been found in the possession of people from Shenyang and Dadong, Chinese cities near the North Korean border. But according to the South Korea police, the last time they detained a North Korean diplomat carrying large quantities of Supernotes occurred many years ago.
My, that’s certainly deceptive. Any casual observer of today’s South Korean politics knows the extraordinary lengths the South Korean government goes to to cover up North Korean misdeeds. In today’s political climate, a North Korean diplomat couldn’t get arrested for abducting schoolgirls off the streets with a meat hook, and what’s more, I’m pretty sure the cops wouldn’t take his meat hook away, either. On the other hand, the Korean National Police recently made a large seizure of counterfeit U.S. dollars in a large market in Seoul, which they sourced to North Korea just as their government was trying to feign agnosticism about the evidence. Don’t forget the T-notes, either. The Koreans weren’t speculating on their origin. Any guesses?
The other difference is a simple logical flaw: Klaus compares the cost of an Intaglio printing press to the value of notes seized by the U.S. goverment, and concludes that it wouldn’t be worth the cost. Like 9/11 the conspiracy nutters, who are also common in Europe, (I prefer “The Soft Reich ©”) Klaus has obviously never worked for the United States government. He presumes that it has vacuumed these excellent fakes off the world’s streets with 100% efficiency, something most of us know it couldn’t even do in six whole blocks of downtown Baltimore. It seems hazardous to assume we’ve been that effective wherever it was they filmed that Russian Roulette scene in “The Deer Hunter.”
The CIA allegation, printed in a major international newspaper, is where we’re in Der Sturmer territory, and I’m about to print that allegation and its evidentiary support in their entirety:
America’s accusations against North Korea are therefore on very shaky ground. And now the pendulum swings back: A rumor has circulated for years among representatives of the security printing industry and counterfeiting investigators that it is the American CIA that prints the Supernotes at a secret printing facility. It is in this facility, thought to be in a city north of Washington D.C., where the printing presses needed to produce the Supernotes is said to be located.
The CIA could use the Supernotes to fund covert operations in international crisis zones, and such funds would not be subject to any control by the American Congress. One could comfortably lay the blame for the counterfeit money operation at the feet of Pyongyang’s arch enemy.
Yes, that is it: a “rumor,” among unidentified representatives of “the security printing industry,” specifying none of the essential “W” questions that would allow me to drive out to
submit a resume take some neat pictures, make some phone calls, or even put up a Google Earth image. The FAZ went to print with a story that any ethical editor would have spiked, written by an author that any competent editor would have fired (as in, with a Luger), unless the editor himself was willing to credit what the report itself calls “a rumor” over layers of evidence, both direct and circumstantial, including sworn testimony in federal court. Compare Klaus’s generous credulity toward such rumors with how he treats reports from high-level North Korean defectors:
[T]he reliability of those statements is open to question.
Well, the sophistication of European logic is simply … incredible. This must be the genetic price of gassing everyone with an I.Q. above room temperature and sending everyone with a full scrotum to get killed at Stalingrad. Yet this rumor ceased to be one for many the minute it hit the news stand.
On the one hand, it’s pretty damned disturbing when this kind of steaming sheisswurst gets wrapped in newspaper and served worldwide, and it sort of puts all of that talk about Iraq having “alienated our European allies” in context. On the other hand, enlightenment is never bad, and in this case, I’ve been enlightened a bit more about how history plays on a continuous loop: dour German intellectuals identify and smear a scapegoat; the smears then spread, fester, and break out into painful sores for next several decades. Today, Americans have become the world’s new Jews, and it’s no point asking why they hate us. What matters is that they’ve made up their minds to.