Cheonan Incident Fiskings Useful Idiocy

On Second Thought, Don’t Keep Your Day Job, Either.

feffer1.jpgAs a public service to OFK readers, I’d like to remind you that on Day Two of the Cheonan crisis, Noam Chomsky’s favorite Korea analyst and military expert, John Feffer, was quoted thusly:

“I doubt that North Korea was involved in the incident,” said John Feffer, co-director of the Foreign Policy in Focus program at the Institute for Policy Studies. “It didn’t seem to involve any artillery fire from the North.

Feffer disagreed with the assumption that North Korea attacked the South Korean naval vessel, noting this incident is different from the previous clashes that involved fishing boats of the two Koreas crossing their sea border.

“There have been naval clashes between North and South in the past, but these have usually involved rising tensions, warnings, fishing boats crossing the NLL,” he said. “But this was, as far as we know, a surprise. And there was no larger reason why the North might engage in such a surprise attack. [Yonhap]

Today, readers (thank you) point me to Feffer’s return from seclusion. He now concedes the North Korean culpability that he’d initially denied, and even admits that President Lee was “reluctant to point the finger at North Korea in the first place.” This might have been a good beginning to an honest admission that he’d erred before a global audience because of his lack of objectivity, and his general ignorance of North Korea and military matters in general. Lacking this capacity, Feffer asks us to join him in seeing the humor in his complete, verifiable, and irreversible discrediting. There are two main problems with this. First, Feffer isn’t funny. Second, Feffer’s attempt at humor is tasteless:

Kim Jong Il must work for the American Enterprise Institute. Or maybe it’s the Heritage Foundation. The North Korean dictator doesn’t talk much about his non-resident fellowship at a right-wing U.S. think tank. It might not go over well with the Politburo in Pyongyang. [….]

North Korea’s sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean ship that went down in March in the Yellow Sea near the maritime border between the two countries, is just what the right-wing doctors have ordered. Japan was looking a little squishy on the Okinawa base issue. China needed some reminders about just how rogue its erstwhile ally really is. And South Korea’s conservative President Lee Myung Bak wanted confirmation that his containment approach to the north was justified. [….]

If the Dear Leader didn’t receive under-the-table payments from John Bolton and friends, what on earth motivated such a self-destructive act?

Ordinarily, I would say, “Keep your day job.”

Still, it’s funny — not because Feffer’s evocation of Heritage scholars toasting the drowning of the Cheonan crew members induces peals of laughter, but because I couldn’t help thinking that John Feffer must work for Kim Jong Il, only he doesn’t talk about it much because it might cause him to be dismissed as a fascist tool and purged from journalists’ blackberries everywhere. And if you think about it, that would mean that John Feffer actually works for the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, and how the hell would he ever live with that kind of moral stain on his soul karma?

North Korea’s sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean ship that went down in March in the Yellow Sea near the maritime border between the two countries, is just what the right-wing doctors have ordered. Japan was looking a little squishy on the Okinawa base issue. China needed some reminders about just how rogue its erstwhile ally really is. And South Korea’s conservative President Lee Myung Bak wanted confirmation that his containment approach to the north was justified.

There is an alternative theory: North Korea’s sinking of the Cheonan has exposed John Feffer’s delusions about North Korea to sensible people all over the world. Because in the end, most people don’t really think this is all about John Feffer, or how sorry we should all feel for him because Kim Jong Il makes him look st00pid. They think this is about how to deter the sort of sociopath who, without provocation and with malice aforethought, pins 46 young sailors inside the twisted wreckage of a ship sinking in a cold, dark sea, or the grief-stricken loved ones they thought of as they took their last breaths on this earth.

But then, you can only judge that sort of thing if you hate peace.

10 Comments

  1. North Korea’s ability to make even its most ardent supports look like total playdoh-munching, mouth-breathing morons is absolutely incredible. Eg, Bruce Cumings and all those “economic paradise” books hitting the publishers just as news about the famines come out.

    Maybe all these ‘journalists’ are just punch drunk people in abusive relationships with Pyongyang …




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  2. Surely John Feffer’s skepticism that North Korea was responsible for the sinking of the Cheonan was a healthy attitude of ‘innocent until proven guilty’. The fact that, following the official announcement of the investigation, he acknowledges guilt is evidence of that. I wouldn’t call that ‘denial’. I also think that ‘just what the doctor ordered’ in terms of policy shifts toward North Korea is not the same as ‘toasting the drowning of the Cheonan crew members’. Your dislike of John makes your analysis of his writing shoddy.




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  3. Who quotes Feffer beside fellow travelers or South Korean media who like to stick it to the Lee government.

    Kathreb, I’d say you’re off-base here. Feffer’s consistent tone is more “See no evil” or “see no evildoer”.




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  4. I wonder what Mr. Feffer would make of the inquiry results at the moment.
    I’ve read some fanciful conspiracy theories about how the Norks could not have developed the technology to do the torpedo Air-bubbleâ„¢ thingy. I am also reminded how the same supposedly “incapable” Norks can print one-hundred dollar bills better than the treasury in DC can.




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  5. Subject of article illustrates a Forrest Gumpism: “Stupid is as stupid does.” Is he for real? And all those KJI apologists too? Hope they get first tours of the Nork gulags after the rotten regime goes away, like the German locals did of the neighborhood concentration camps they knew nothing about. Pathetic…




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  6. Feffer’s actual piece is measured by his standards, although he doesn’t concede how grossly wrong he was earlier, and he approvingly quotes others who have similarly floundered in analyzing the Cheonan issue.

    With so much good material out there now, who has the luxury of time to read Feffer, Selig Harrison, or Chinoy?




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  7. To his credit, Feffer discounts the conspiracy theories. And frankly, the tone of the article suggests that he’s trying his damnedest to fight off an unwanted epiphany about the North Koreans. It’s just that he chose a tasteless way to do it, and in the end, he still reverts back to the same tired insistence that the sanctions we put in place a year ago haven’t made the North Koreans nicer yet. To echo Bruce Klingner here, we never saw the same impatience from the likes of Feffer or Mike Chinoy during two decades of negotiations and concessions. And truthfully, sanctions probably won’t make the North Koreans nicer. Nothing but the overthrow of the regime will, and the currency fiasco suggests that sanctions are gradually advancing us toward that objective.




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  8. Chomsky has been half senile at least ten years, forgetting what he has said himself and often arguing with himself, but he always was an opportunistic nihilist who latched onto the popular opposition to US involvement in Vietnam (which wasn’t difficult) and went crashing over to active rhetorical support for Ho Chi Minh et al.

    In 1979, when Joan Baez spoke out against the NVC’s crimes, he joined the likes of John Pilger (whose support for the North during the War came to an end in 1975 when he found the nearest helicopter out of Saigon) and Jane Fonda in her defenestration.

    After he realized he could no longer go on denying or excusing the dark mayhem in Cambodia, he started suggesting it was a mass psychosis brought on by Nixon’s bombing of the country.

    He elided the insurgency and Pyongyang/Moscow directed mayhem in South Korea during the 1940s, and laid all responsibility on a US-led murder spree. Merrill dealt quite well with this.

    If ever I see Chomsky endorsing someone, my first thought is what nonsense is this person peddling? Tu quoque, I know, but it works.




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  9. OK, what gets me is I click on the link to read the “critical praise for North Korea/ South Korea,” and here’s Selig Harrison:

    Rather than a bargaining chip, normalized relations thus become a framework for addressing all outstanding U.S.-North Korean issues.’ My own visits to North Korea, eight since 1972, support his view that ‘North Korea will not likely feel secure enough to relinquish its nuclear deterrent if it forever remains an outlier…

    For the love of Christ, can that man write anything WITHOUT mentioning the fact that he’s been to Pyongyang?




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