Coming Under ‘Fire’ at Korea’s DMZ

If you try to address controversial foreign policy issues these days without chest-pounding belligerence  you can expect to be denounced by a well-funded cottage industry of “human rights activists” and “citizen journalists,” a phenomenon that Ann Wright confronted when crossing from South to North Korea.

By Ann Wright

When we began our project “Women Cross the DMZ,” we knew the landmines in the DMZ would be nothing compared to the explosions of anger, vitriol and hate from those who oppose any contact with North Korea.

Some U.S. and South Korean government officials, academics, media talking heads and paid bloggers would have their knives out for any group that dared challenge the dangerous status quo on the Korean peninsula. No surprise that the knives have been attempting to slice away at the remarkable worldwide publicity our trip to both North and South Korea created.

 Women Cross DMZ walk in Pyongyang, North Korea at the Monument of Reunification  (Photo by Niana Liu)


Women Cross DMZ walk in Pyongyang, North Korea, at the Monument of Reunification (Photo by Niana Liu)

The latest slice and dice article , “How North Korea’s Marchers for Peace Became Fellow Travelers,” by Thor Halvorssen and Alex Gladstein of the “Human Rights Foundation,” was published July 7 in Foreign Policy . Halvorssen and the “Human Rights Foundation” are reportedly associated with an Islamophobic and anti-LGBT agenda.

The authors’ goal seems to be to intimidate any group working for peace and reconciliation in Korea by using the issue of North Korean human rights violations to scare off groups from contact with North Korea. For these detractors, peace and reconciliation in various parts of the world might mean they will be out of issues and jobs as their livelihood quite possibly is made from undercutting attempts to resolve contentious and dangerous issues.

In the lengthy article, their fixation on virtually every word, written or spoken, made by members of the delegation, centered on two themes: the only possible result of visiting North Korea is to give legitimacy to the government, and if you don’t hammer the North Korean government on human rights issues on your first visit, you have lost all credibility.

It seems apparent that the authors have never been involved in the delicate art of diplomacy. As a diplomat in the State Department for 16 years, I learned that if your goal is to foster dialogue you must first build some level of familiarity and trust before you can go on to difficult issues.

Of course, Halvorssen’s and Gladstein’s commentary is not unique. In every international challenge, whether it deals with Iran, Cuba or North Korea, a cottage industry of writers emerges to make their fame and fortune on a confrontational approach to the governments. Some of the “think tanks” and organizations they represent are bankrolled by a handful of ideological billionaires or corporations in the weapons industry that benefit from fueling the status quo, continued sanctions, and a military approach to problems that only have political solutions.

From the beginning our mission was clear: to bring international attention to the unresolved issues created 70 years ago by the division of Korea in 1945 by the United States and Russia. We call for all parties to implement the agreements agreed to 63 years ago in the July 27, 1953 Armistice. We firmly believe that the unresolved Korean conflict gives all governments in the region, including Japan, China and Russia, justification to further militarize and prepare for war, diverting funds from schools, hospitals and the welfare of the people and the environment.

Of course, this justification also is used by U.S. policy makers in their latest strategy, the U.S. “pivot” to Asia and the Pacific.  We call for an end to that very profitable war footing, which is why the knives are out for us.

Without a doubt, North and South Koreans have much to resolve in the process of reconciliation and perhaps eventual reunification, including economic, political, nuclear issues, human rights and many, many others.

Our mission was not to tackle those inter-Korean issues ourselves but to bring international attention to the unresolved international conflict that is very dangerous for us all and to encourage dialogue to begin again, particularly among the United States, North Korea and South Korea.

That’s why our group went to both North and South Korea. That’s why we called for reunification of families and women’s leadership in peace building. That’s why we walked in North Korea and South Korea, and crossed the DMZ, calling for an end of the state of war on the Korean peninsula with a peace treaty to finally end the 63-year old Korean War.

And that’s why we will remain engaged no matter what the pundits write, because in the end, if groups like ours don’t push for peace, our governments are prone to go to war.

Ann Wright served 29 years in the U.S. Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. She also served as a U.S. diplomat in U.S. Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. She resigned from the U.S. government in March 2003 in opposition to President George W. Bush’s war on Iraq. In her letter of resignation, she mentioned her concerns about the Bush administration’s refusal to engage/dialogue with North Korea to resolve issues of concern.

13 comments for “Coming Under ‘Fire’ at Korea’s DMZ

  1. Hank
    July 16, 2015 at 15:56

    Ann Wright is an idiot and it’s not a surprise she reacts by attacking the writers of the Foreign Policy piece. She fails to understand that the North Korean regime exists only to keep the regime in power, and these useful idiot women coming to North Korea was like an early Christmas gift and super lotto jackpot rolled into one, for the regime. Not a single North Korean defector supports the WomenCrossDMZ marchers, and if these women really cared about peace, they would have marched to China instead of South Korea, considering how severely North Korean refugee women’s rights are violated in China.

    • Abe
      July 16, 2015 at 18:37

      You’ve obviously been very busy, Hank, interviewing all those North Korean defectors.

      It is true that their are significant human rights issues in Asia and elsewhere in the world.

      However, Human Rights Watch and other human rights NGOs have consistently demonstrated a predictable, general conformity with U.S. interests.

      Their deep ties to U.S. corporate and state sectors should disqualify these institutions from any public pretense of independence.

      Given their history of bias, sources such as Human Rights Watch cannot be trusted to conduct impartial investigations and draw conclusions based on verifiable facts.

      In any case, China is the real target of U.S. criticism of North Korea.

      Women Cross the DMZ is an effort to defuse the Korean peninsula as a flashpoint for war. Apparently that sets them in opposition to U.S. interests in the region.

    • Abe
      July 16, 2015 at 18:44

      The North Korean regime exists only to keep the regime in power.
      The South Korean regime exists only to keep the regime in power.
      The American regime exists only to keep the regime in power.
      The Chinese regime exists only to keep the regime in power.
      The Russian regime exists only to keep the regime in power.
      The British regime exists only to keep the regime in power.
      The Ukrainian regime exists only to keep the regime in power.
      The Israeli regime exists only to keep the regime in power.
      The Saudi regime exists only to keep the regime in power.
      The Syrian regime exists only to keep the regime in power.
      The Iranian regime exists only to keep the regime in power.
      The Turkish regime exists only to keep the regime in power.
      The Mexican exists only to keep the regime in power.

      Et cetera ad nauseum.

      Got rhetoric?

    • dahoit
      July 17, 2015 at 11:57

      Mass lobotomization victim.A common disease in the modern world.Hank needs help,but he’s not alone.

    • dahoit
      July 17, 2015 at 11:55

      Another clothesline towel flapping in the wind of ziopoop,and neocon propaganda.

  2. Abe
    July 15, 2015 at 18:12

    Ann Wright observes:

    “In every international challenge, whether it deals with Iran, Cuba or North Korea, a cottage industry of writers emerges to make their fame and fortune on a confrontational approach to the governments. Some of the “think tanks” and organizations they represent are bankrolled by a handful of ideological billionaires or corporations in the weapons industry that benefit from fueling the status quo, continued sanctions, and a military approach to problems that only have political solutions.”

    Nowehere has this propaganda “cottage industry” been more active than the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

    A expanding enterprise of faux “citizen journalists” like British blogger Elliot and Bellingcat are funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

    Already discredited for his debunked “It was Assad” claims about the 2013 chemical attack in Syria, Higgins continues to peddle false “It was Putin” claims about the 2014 crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-17 in Ukraine.

    The Atlantic Council, a “regime change” think tank, recently released a report co-authored by Higgins and his crew of faux “independent investigators” at Bellingcat.

    The Atlantic Council is managed by Western “policy makers”, military leaders, and senior intelligence officials, including four heads of the Central Intelligence Agency.

    The Atlantic Council uses video of Higgins and Michael Usher from the Australian “60 Minutes” program “MH-17: An Investigation” to promote the report:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eU0kuHI6lNg
    (video minutes 36:00-36:55)

    The Atlantic Council lavishly praises Higgins and Bellingcat for providing “undeniable proof” in support of US and EU governments accusations against Russia.

    Damon Wilson, Executive Vice President of Programs and Strategy at the Atlantic Council, is a co-author with Higgins of the Atlantic Council report, “Hiding in Plain Sight: Putin’s War in Ukraine”

    Wilson highlights Higgins’ effort to bolster Western accusations against Russia:

    “We make this case using only open source, all unclassified material. And none of it provided by government sources.

    “And it’s thanks to works, the work that’s been pioneered by human rights defenders and our partner Eliot Higgins, uh, we’ve been able to use social media forensics and geolocation to back this up.” (video minutes 35:10-36:30)

    However, the Atlantic Council claim that “none” of Higgins’ material was provided by government sources is an obvious lie.

    Higgins’ primary “pieces of evidence” — a video depicting a Buk missile launcher and a set of geolocation coordinates — were supplied by the SBU (Security Service of Ukraine) and the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior via the Facebook page of senior-level Ukrainian government official Arsen Avakov, the Minister of Internal Affairs.

    Higgins and the Atlantic Council are working in support of the Pentagon and Western intelligence’s “hybrid war” against Russia.

  3. Abe
    July 15, 2015 at 15:52

    Ann Wright accurately observes:

    “In every international challenge, whether it deals with Iran, Cuba or North Korea, a cottage industry of writers emerges to make their fame and fortune on a confrontational approach to the governments. Some of the “think tanks” and organizations they represent are bankrolled by a handful of ideological billionaires or corporations in the weapons industry that benefit from fueling the status quo, continued sanctions, and a military approach to problems that only have political solutions.”

    Nowehere has this propaganda “cottage industry” been more active than the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

    A expanding enterprise of faux “citizen journalists” like British blogger Elliot and Bellingcat are funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

    Already discredited for his debunked “It was Assad” claims about the 2013 chemical attack in Syria, Higgins continues to peddle false “It was Putin” claims about the 2014 crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-17 in Ukraine.

    The Atlantic Council, a “regime change” think tank, recently released a report co-authored by Higgins and his crew of faux “independent investigators” at Bellingcat.

    The Atlantic Council is managed by Western “policy makers”, military leaders, and senior intelligence officials, including four heads of the Central Intelligence Agency.

    The Atlantic Council uses video of Higgins and Michael Usher from the Australian “60 Minutes” program “MH-17: An Investigation”(see video minutes 36:00-36:55) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eU0kuHI6lNg to promote the report.

    It praises Higgins and Bellingcat for providing “undeniable proof” in support of US and EU governments accusations against Russia.

    Damon Wilson, Executive Vice President of Programs and Strategy at the Atlantic Council, is a co-author with Higgins of the Atlantic Council report, “Hiding in Plain Sight: Putin’s War in Ukraine”

    Wilson highlights Higgins’ effort to bolster Western accusations against Russia:

    “We make this case using only open source, all unclassified material. And none of it provided by government sources.

    “And it’s thanks to works, the work that’s been pioneered by human rights defenders and our partner Eliot Higgins, uh, we’ve been able to use social media forensics and geolocation to back this up.” (see video minutes 35:10-36:30)

    However, the Atlantic Council claim that “none” of Higgins’ material was provided by government sources is an obvious lie.

    Higgins’ primary “pieces of evidence” — a video depicting a Buk missile launcher and a set of geolocation coordinates — were supplied by the SBU (Security Service of Ukraine) and the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior via the Facebook page of senior-level Ukrainian government official Arsen Avakov, the Minister of Internal Affairs.

    Higgins and the Atlantic Council are working in support of the Pentagon and Western intelligence’s “hybrid war” against Russia.

    • dahoit
      July 17, 2015 at 11:52

      And every one is a zionist or one of their dupes.

  4. John G
    July 15, 2015 at 15:12

    Astonishing that Ann Wright can write 13 paragraphs about North Korea without mentioning that it is a totalitarian police state that the UN has compared to the Nazi regime because of the things they do to their own people. I read the article by Gladstein/Halvorssen and am very glad I did–Ann Wright is embarrassed that someone has turned the lights on and she was caught–the Foreign Policy article has a link to a picture of Ann Wright bowing her head and placing flowers at a memorial for Kim il-Sung. Has she no shame?

    • Abe
      July 15, 2015 at 16:54

      The Gladstein and Halvorssen article claimed “North Korea faces […] external pressure from the United Nations, which compared Pyongyang’s crimes to those committed by the Nazis”.

      In fact, neither the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) 2014 Report of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (A/HRC/25/63, 36 pages) nor the Report of the detailed findings of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (A/HRC/25/CRP.1, 372 pages) “compared Pyongyang’s crimes to those committed by the Nazis”.

      At a press conference to launch the report, on 17 February 2014, Australian jurist Michael Kirby, the appointed leader of the commission of inquiry, stated his opinion that there were “many parallels” between the evidence he had heard and crimes committed by the Nazis.

      Kirby’s personal remark was immediately spun by Western media as an official comparison of the UNHRC report.

      Gladstein and Halvorssen attempted to falsely depict Women Cross the DMZ as laying a wreath at the tomb of Hitler.

    • D5-5
      July 15, 2015 at 18:06

      The Gladstein/Halvorssen article contains this sub-heading:

      “The Nobel laureates and prominent activists who recently crossed into North Korea showed a shocking lack of interest for the North Korean people.”

      How they showed this “shocking lack of interest” is not demonstrated in this piece. It would be possible to argue that their peace-mission, in contrast, showed a great deal of interewst in the North Korean people, in the interests of less tension and better living through elimination of sanctions. By inference from this Gladstein/Halverson piece, we might conclude their shocking disregard was by not mounting the customary attacks on North Korean leadership as a totalitarian system.

      Again the demonizing takes charge to color the entire piece with emotionalism. Note that we never hear such commentary about totalitarianism and brutality regarding Saudi Arabia, with whom the US has a cozy military relationship.

      The women’s march does not indicate their intent was to support a brutal dictatorship, but to move toward less tension, more peace. They are then smeared, and a commentator says they should be “ashamed.” Who deserves the shame here? The peacemakers or the warmakers?

    • dahoit
      July 17, 2015 at 11:51

      Brainwashed and blow dried;If The NKs were so bad,why would they let these women cross the border?It’s up to the NKs to decide their future way of life,and living in modern America one would think possibly their way of life,minding their own business,is way better and more sane than ours.

  5. John B
    July 15, 2015 at 11:56

    A very sensible article, and good to hear from a US Colonel on the counterproductive effects of a militarized foreign policy. That will be tough one to resolve, with two million NK deaths by US firebombing, and frequent US military provocation “exercises” forgotten by the US oligarchy media, so that they can pretend concern with rights violations.

    Removing the right-wing provocations is the major task, where the right wing in opposing states prop each other up by creating the mutual illusion of foreign threats, so that they can each demand domestic power by posing as protectors, while accusing their far more civilized opponents of disloyalty. Small countries like NK have much stronger reasons to disempower their right wing “protectors” than large ones like the US, so the real problem is dumping the right wing in the US. That would solve most US foreign policy problems, except for fixing the inevitable hatred of the US for past right-sing military adventurism.

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