Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Career State Department Officer Rages: 5 Media Myths Of Trump-Kim Summit


In the midst of Tuesday's historic Trump-Kim summit and accompanying myriad pundits giving their hot takes on mainstream news networks, 24-year State Department veteran and geopolitics expert Peter Van Buren began an epic rant on twitter with the following: "If you're keeping score at home, every pundit and MSM head who claimed the summit would never happen, or Trump would blow up, is now 100% and forever wrong. Still watching CNN????"

Van Buren is best known as a whistleblower who was ousted from a successful career as a foreign service officer after he chronicled the astronomical amount of US government waste, fraud, criminality and abuse in post-Saddam Iraq based on his experience leading two reconstruction teams for the State Department. 

His 2011 book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, which precipitated a lengthy legal battle with the US government as he stood accused of leaking allegedly sensitive and classified information in the book, initially earned him the ire of beltway bureaucrats, mainstream pundits, fanatical neocons, and liberal interventionists alike. But he was proven right

Career State Department officer and U.S. Envoy to Iraq Peter Van Buren. Image source: We Meant Well

During and after the Trump-Kim meeting Van Buren live tweeted in reaction to the cable news shows repeatedly slamming the whole event as a charade merely meant to score domestic propaganda victories for both leaders.

Here are 5 media myths which persisted throughout the day's wall-to-wall mainstream coverage based on career State Department expert Peter Van Buren's analysis...

* * *

Myth #1: Trump "betrayed" US ally South Korea

The idea that Trump "betrayed" South Korea is limited to the American MSM. Here's the president of South Korea's own positive statement about SIngapore:

— Peter Van Buren (@WeMeantWell) June 12, 2018

No, the South Korean's were not "betrayed" or "abandoned" as Vox , MSNBC, and many others claim — the reality is opposite: the peace efforts are being led by the South Koreans, as President Moon Jae-in's own unambiguous words indicate, saying he was very happy with the meeting. 

"I offer my heartfelt congratulations and welcome the success of the historic North Korea-United States summit," Moon's statement begins.

The fact remains that 81% of South Koreans supported the summit, and 88% supported the prior Kim-Moon summit. Moon also has an 86% approval rating. 70% of Americans support the meeting.

The pundits now claiming "betrayal" of South Korea have no clue what they're talking about.

Myth #2: Trump "empowered" and "legitimized" Kim

Keep in mind it was the earlier failures in Korea by the former government officials on TV today criticising the #TrumpKimSummit who made the summit necessary. They're the last people anyone should be listening to at this point.

— Peter Van Buren (@WeMeantWell) June 12, 2018

Most government pundits still making the rounds on the cable news shows are either former Obama-era officials or raving necons: as Van Buren points out they were part of the problem to begin with, creating a constant haze of impressions that Washington and Pyongyang must of necessity be on a permanent war footing.

As Van Buren writes in his new Reuters op-ed piece"Trump did not empower Kim. Meeting with one’s enemies is not a concession. Diplomacy is not a magic legitimacy powder the United States can choose to sprinkle on a world leader. The summit acknowledges the like-it-or-not reality of seven decades of Kim-family rule over a country armed with nuclear weapons."

US foreign policy elites have invented a whole slew of meaningless phrases to justify a state of permanent militarism & aggression in the world, then trained people to recite them. That US should avoid negotiating with Bad Guys because it gives them "legitimacy" in a good example

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) June 12, 2018

Van Buren outlines the failures of those who previously revolted at the State Department due to a claimed "void" at the center of the Trump White House's Korea policy and diplomacy:

Only a few months ago State Department North Korean expert Joseph Yun's retirement triggered a round of dire claims of "a void at [the] head of Trump's Korea diplomacy". Similar predictions were made over the lack of an American ambassador in Seoul. The State Department was decimated. ("The Trump administration has lost the capacity to negotiate with other countries," wrote one journalist.) The Council on Foreign Relations assessed the chances of war on the peninsula at 50 percent.

"They're the last people anyone should be listening to at this point" as it was their "earlier failures" in diplomacy that "made the summit necessary," Van Buren concludes.

Myth #3: The summit marks a "propaganda victory" for North Korea

So anyone please tell me what a "propaganda coup" for Kim entails. Is he running for something? Will his salary increase, get more TV bookings? Party with Beyonce? World leaders who hate him will say, golly, what a nice guy? EXACTLY what does "propaganda coup" mean?

— Peter Van Buren (@WeMeantWell) June 11, 2018

Media commentators throughout the day were outraged to see the American and North Korean flags displayed on equal footing.

Van Buren responds by pointing out what is obvious and common protocol for all such historic summits, even the potentially contentious ones, including Obama's trip to Havana to mend US-Cuban relations in 2016:

How freaking stupid are you? Flags are displayed as a symbol of diplomacy, and the side-by-side style is used everywhere in every setting, including during the Cold War (and Obama in Cuba!) So just STFU.

— Peter Van Buren (@WeMeantWell) June 12, 2018

FWIW, I think the North Korean flag is a piece of vile filth that stands for the dynastic rule of a racist cult that subjugates, tortures and enslaves it's own people. Ideally it would spontaneously combust when it even touches our flag. But nfw should it stand equal to ours.

— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) June 12, 2018

The Cuban and American flags together: President Obama and President of Cuba Raúl Castro at their joint press conference in Havana, Cuba, March 21, 2016. Image source: Flickr

Finally, he notes that the US MSM has finally found a new friend: the North Korean propaganda machine.

The MSM has finally found a friend: North Korea's propaganda. MSM outlets are now repeating any NK claims of success as "proof" of Trump's failure. When you're left to RT and Like the NK press you've run out of friends in America. #TrumpKimSummit

— Peter Van Buren (@WeMeantWell) June 13, 2018

Myth #4: Trump "gave away the store" with "too many concessions"

Concessions? Kim's ongoing moratorium on nuclear and ballistic missile testing, the return of American prisoners, the closing of a ballistic missile test site, and the shutting down of nuclear test facility without opening a new one.

— Peter Van Buren (@WeMeantWell) June 12, 2018

Reminder major US military exercises in Korea have been suspended/postponed before, as far back as Team Spirit in 1990s and recently as January for the Olympics. Can be restarted anytime. Not much of a "concession." Meanwhile, the actual deterrent remains offshore, planes & subs

— Peter Van Buren (@WeMeantWell) June 12, 2018

The ink was barely dry on the Trump-Kim signed agreement when Bloomberg ran this headline: "Trump Gives Away the Store in Singapore".

Nope, says Van Buren. He responds: "What didn’t happen in Singapore is also important. Trump did not give away 'the store.' In fact, there is no store Trump could have given away. The United States agreed to suspend military exercises which have been strategically canceled in the past, and which can be restarted anytime. The real deterrent is off-peninsula anyway: B-2s flying from Missouri, and missile-armed subs forever hidden under the Pacific."

Myth #5: The agreement will fail for lack of details and its vagueness

The more Trump talks about the deal, the worse it sounds. U.S. stops exercises, pledges to remove troops, no new sanctions, all in exchange for vague promises of denuclearization. #trumpkim

— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) June 12, 2018

Stopping exercises, removing troops, and no more sanctions? The horror! The horror!

— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) June 12, 2018

Van Buren writes: "It is easy to announce a morning-after defeat for Trump: to criticize the agreement as vague and lacking in specific commitments regarding denuclearization. But those critics ignore Kim's moratorium on nuclear and ballistic missile testing, the return of American prisoners, the closing of a ballistic missile test site, and the shutting down of a major nuclear test facility without opening a new one."

And he points out just how close the world was to major war a mere months ago: "It is easy to forget that a few months ago North Korea was still testing nuclear devices to spark fears of a dark war. Calling the Singapore summit a failure in light of more detailed agreements and different efforts from the past ignores the reality that all of those past agreements failed."

And finally, Van Buren says there's reason to be cautiously optimistic after Tuesday's summit:

Success on the Korean peninsula, as in the Cold War, will be measured by the continued sense that war is increasingly unlikely.

...The summit created the platform. The key to what happens next is how Trump, Moon and Kim work to resolve that issue.

#BREAKING Kim accepts Trump's invitation to visit US, says KCNA

— AFP news agency (@AFP) June 12, 2018

We wholeheartedly agree: this week has brought many reasons to be hopeful for the future of US-North Korean relations.