Open Sources: October 1, 2012

STEPHAN HAGGARD REVIEWS MELANIE KIRKPATRICK’S “ESCAPE FROM NORTH KOREA:” Haggard’s intellectual honesty holds my respect despite all we disagree about, but when he points out that Kirkpatrick has little “patience for engagement,” and considering the results engagement has achieved over the last two decades, it’s not Kirkpatrick’s views that are really questionable on that point.

My own views on Kirkpatrick’s book ought to be suspect, too: once you’ve read the Title of Chapter 17 you’ll see that how hard it’s going to be for me to stay objective about this book. One point I took from that chapter, however, seems implausible to me — the idea that China can simply be persuaded to comply with its obligations to North Korean refugees under international humanitarian law. My view is that it’s going to take much stronger pressure than that — a combination of the sort of “hole in the fence” subversion that Kirkpatrick advocates, but also sanctions targeted at North Korea’s Chinese investors and credible threats to build, train, and arm a domestic North Korean opposition force that would sow instability along China’s border.


YOU’LL NEVER GUESS WHO’S SUSPECTED OF SELLING WEAPONS TO SYRIA, in violation of at least TWO U.N. Security Council resolutions.


ACCORDING TO THIS REPORT, North Korea’s belligerent behavior has harmed its image among South Korean voters: “The survey, which was carried out in July, asked 1200 adults across the country for their opinion of North Korea. 47.3% of respondents said that North Korea is the most threatening country they face, followed by China with 30.5%. Japan and the United States came far behind.” I have to see a few survey results that say more-or-less the same thing before I believe any of them, and even then, South Koreans’ views of just about anything can shift very suddenly.


HERE’S A DETAILED AND CRITICAL EXAMINATION of the U.N.’s internal investigation of its transfer of computer technology to North Korea.


LIFE IMITATES TEAM AMERICA: “German film takes grand prize at North Korea’s international film festival.” Via the AP, naturally. In a world where the Middle East is radicalizing, Iran is about to get nukes, China is banging the war drums, and the world is completely in the dark about North Korea’s true food, economic, and humanitarian situation, my question is, why is this news again?


I WISH I LIVED IN A PLACE with such fine recreational facilities and public transportation as North Korea! Guttenfelder is obviously a talented photographer — I’ve described his work as “visually striking and ideologically compliant.” On the few occasions when he could get that kind of image past the censors, he has sometimes captured a darker and grittier side of North Korea. The real question is who the censors are — are they North Koreans, within the AP itself, or is Guttenfelder censoring himself to avoid losing the chance to win an award?


KIM KYONG HUI, KIM JONG IL’S SISTER, is said to be seriously ill. Of all the reports from inside North Korea we read, those that I trust the least are the ones reporting on developments inside the ruling power structure.


THE GREATEST OUTRAGE ABOUT THE CONDITIONS OF NAKOULA BASSELEY NAKOULA’S CONFINEMENT must be the general lack of outrage that this man is being held in Supermax-like conditions of “protective” custody for committing an act that used to be protected under the First Amendment. Nakoula, regrettably, has become a test case for the new Islam exception to the First Amendment, and our society is failing that test. Almost no one questions why the heretic is almost completely isolated from communicating with the world, with only a radio to listen to. When will we see Nakoula’s lawyer’s habeas petition?


  1. Joshua, is it possible for you to file a habeas petition as an amicus curiae? It looks to me like Mr. Nakoula flagrantly violated the terms of his probation, but I’m not a lawyer, and you are. By the way, do you also object to dictator Obama’s habit of shooting people in their cars and homes with drone-fired missiles? No trial, no habeas, no amicus, no nothin’.

  2. The content of the video and global Muslim reaction to it put Nakoula Basseley on US law enforcement radar. I wondered if a parolee with a similar parole violation would likewise be locked up, so I did some Googling and came across the above blog post written by someone who makes clear from the blog header that he is not a ‘liberal’ leftie. His post is a reaction to commentary at the blog Popehat, whose “about” page identifies i attorneys among its members. The original Popehat post and a follow-up:

    Careful, rational analysis well worth a read, found on obscure blogs, not the MSM, which , as Joshua noted, have merely reported on the arrest and avoided taking an editorial stance on Basseley’s detention.

  3. Since you veered off topic, I’ll let you go first. Have you ever written any public objection or protest against the use of drone-fired missiles by a President you happen to support? Or does that support extend to overlooking what you’d see as crimes if a president you didn’t support committed them?

  4. Joshua, I never write public objections or protests. The closest I come is writing comments here and at the ROK Drop.

    Obama’s drone campaign is even worse than Bush’s, but I will vote to re-elect Obama, believing that Romney would be worse still. I thought Hillary Clinton did wrong by voting for the Iraq war, but I voted for her in the 2008 primary because I thought she was more qualified than Obama. The political leaders that I support aren’t saints, they have serious flaws. I try to identify the least bad Democrat, because the Republicans are beyond the pale.

    I think you agree with me to this extent: the Obama/Clinton North Korea policy is less bad than their predecessors.

    Veering off topic again, I asked Kathleen Carroll one of your questions. There was a cameraman in the back of the room, who said the video would be posted on the Emory website. I don’t see it there yet, but I’ll look again tomorrow.

  5. 1. Taking us back to what we agree on — yes, agree that Obama’s NK policy is less bad than GW Bush’s, but GW Bush’s was a lot more like WJ Clinton’s than WJ Clinton’s is like Obama’s.

    2. Nice. Which question? Did you get an answer? Please let me know when that video is published.

  6. 1. I meant that the Barack Obama / Hillary Clinton policy is less bad.

    2. I asked: In an April 10, 2012 interview, your Korea Bureau Chief said that the two North Korean KCNA journalists in AP’s bureau have never refused to cover a story. Has AP ever asked them to cover the political prison camps that allegedly hold 200,000 men, women, and children? Can you explain why has the AP’s coverage almost completely stopped mentioning the camps since its bureau opened?

    Ms Carroll thought my question showed that I was knowledgeable, and I didn’t get a chance to credit my ghost-writer. I found her answer unsatisfactory, but I still don’t see the video posted at so I called the institute. A nice young lady said there’s usually a one to two week turnaround. The video will soon appear on YouTube, as well.

  7. So Ms. Carroll was actually hoping that you would ask questions of an unknowledgeable nature? Sounds like she was extremely disappointed that you did not ask about the availability of Coca-Cola in Pyongyang supermarkets.

  8. Spelunker, it’s good to hear from you. Funny you should mention Coca-Cola. The Halle Institute, which presented Ms Carroll’s lecture, was founded by Claus M Halle, a Coca-Cola executive.

  9. Obama has found it easier to kill alleged terrorists than to arrest and try them. Steve Coll makes this point in his NyBooks review of “No Easy Day: the Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden” by Mark Owen (Matt Bissonnette) with Kevin Maurer.

    Is that as bad as arresting a film-maker for allegedly violating the terms of his supervised release?

  10. When the President sends drones to kill terrorists who are planning to kill Americans, he is fulfilling his obligations under the Constitution and the Oath of Office to protect us against foreign and domestic enemies.

    When the President orders the arrest of a man for the nonviolent expression of religious opinions, or tries to have the expression removed from the public’s view, he is violating his obligations under the Constitution and the Oath of Office to protect the rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion.

    I do not see how these acts are remotely comparable to one another.

  11. We know the president has ordered drone attacks, so “when” is an appropriate word choice. We do not know that the president personally ordered or approved a decision to request that Google remove the video or have the filmmaker arrested, so “if”is a more accurate word choice for the second conditional statement.

  12. The man of many names will have a preliminary hearing in a federal court in LA next week. Did he violate the terms of his conditional release? Did Barack Hussein Obama violate his oath of office? The whole world wonders. “Federal authorities have stressed that they are not investigating [Innocence of Muslims] over its content, but Youssef’s arrest has led to some criticism from free speech advocates.” Read the Reuters report.

  13. The guy who made “Innocence of Muslims” had a hearing in LA federal court yesterday. He denied violating the terms of his conditional release, and he denied lying to probation officers. He asked to be taken out of protective custody and moved into the general population of the lockup. His next hearing will be November ninth. This LA Times story includes KTLA video.

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