The Corner

‘Never Again,’ Again

No matter where you are in America, no matter how bad your day, your month, your life is going: if you read the new U.N. report on North Korea, you will feel lucky and blessed not to be a North Korean.

For years, I’ve argued that future generations will have utter contempt for our collective tolerance of the horror in North Korea. People still debate why FDR didn’t bomb the train lines to the German death camps. One can only imagine what the debate over our half century of inaction will look like. From a 2009 column:

In his recent visit to Buchenwald, the Nazi death camp, President Obama insisted that we must “bear witness” to the evil of the Holocaust. Such platitudes are the stuff of every president and potentate who visits such places. And that’s fine. It’s what we are supposed to say. But we are also supposed to mean it. After all, it’s easy to say we must bear witness to things that have already happened and promise to “never forget” the sins of others and our own good deeds.

But what of things figuratively happening under our noses and literally transpiring a click away on our computer screens? You can see the slave camps in North Korea — not quite live via satellite, but close enough — where the machinery of suffering chugs along 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Ask yourself: What if Buchenwald were a mouse click away?

Our collective, bipartisan failure to deal with the human suffering in North Korea is chalked up to the fact that Kim Jong Il’s nuclear program is a far more pressing concern than is the brutalization and murder of North Korean citizens.

That is hardly a trivial argument. But it’s looking less compelling every day. Republican and Democratic presidents alike have failed to disarm North Korea because it does not wish to be disarmed; it is a true extortion regime. Its existence is owed entirely to the fact that it has mastered geopolitical blackmail. In exchange for promises to do things it will never do, we give it aid along with as many second chances as it can carry.

Meanwhile, North Korean nuclear brinkmanship and ballistic saber rattling guarantee that outside governments will not exert an ounce of effort on the ongoing humanitarian crisis. “Talking to them about the camps is something that has not been possible,” David Straub, a senior State Department official under presidents George W. Bush and Clinton, told the Post. “They go nuts when you talk about it.” And so, we pretend it’s not happening.

Well, if a bunch of mass murderers take offense, by all means lets drop it. No one really means “never again” anyway.

Speaking of “never again,” my AEI colleague Nick Eberstadt, when not being one of country’s foremost demographers spends much of his free time being one of the country’s foremost experts on North Korea. He has an excellent piece in today’s Wall Street Journal.  He concludes:

Given the bombshell report, democratic governments and independent organizations can no longer act as if they did not know. Their dealings with Pyongyang must always be considered in light of this damning document. Now is the time for the never agains:

Never again should Western humanitarian aid be given to North Korea to hand out at its own discretion, as if Pyongyang were a government like any other.

Never again must Beijing—which like Pyongyang refused to cooperate with the U.N. investigation—be given a free pass for financing, enabling and protecting this most odious of all regimes. Challenge China to veto the referral for crimes against humanity on the U.N. Security Council, and let Beijing go on record defending state-sponsored mass murder. Make the Chinese veto it 20 times if they dare. Beijing is highly sensitive to public shaming, and it must be shamed and penalized for its indefensible support of Pyongyang until it cuts its client-state loose.

Never again must South Koreans avert their eyes from the catastrophe that is befalling their compatriots across the demilitarized zone. And never again must Seoul forget that it is legally bound to grant citizenship to refugees from the nightmare to the North.

Never again must the rest of us live comfortably with the knowledge of what is happening right now to ordinary people in North Korea.

I have a few other never agains.

Never again should Dennis Rodman be treated as anything other than a useful idiot apologist for mass murder and torture.

Never again should people say “we should have done more to stop the Holocaust” while insisting we have no right to do interfere in North Korea.

Never again should we take seriously people who bang the table about Israel’s “oppression” and “genocide” while shrugging at the horrors of North Korea.

Never again should people use the phrase “never again” is they are complicit in sweeping Pyonyang’s barbarity under the rug. 

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