News Release

Bush and “Diplomacy”: Korea and the Record with Iraq


At his news conference today, President Bush made repeated use of the word “diplomacy” with reference to both the decision to invade Iraq and relations with North Korea.

Bush said: “My point was: Bilateral negotiations [with North Korea] didn’t work. You know, I appreciate the efforts of previous administrations. It just didn’t work. … It’s important for the president to say to the American people: Diplomacy was what is our first choice. … And I believe the diplomacy is, you know, we’re making progress when we’ve got others at the table, you know? I will ask myself a follow-up: If that’s the case, why did you use military action in Iraq? And the reason why is because we tried the diplomacy. Remember it? We tried resolution after resolution after resolution.”

Kiesling resigned in protest from the U.S. Foreign Service in February 2003, just before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, after almost 20 years in the State Department. He is author of the just-released book Diplomacy Lessons: Realism for an Unloved Superpower. He said today: “Bush’s description of what happened with Iraq is ludicrous. Diplomacy was used during the buildup to the Iraq invasion only to reduce the cost to U.S. national interests of a war the president had decided on well before. The UN resolutions had been completely effective in disarming Iraq, but the U.S. had used the sanctions for regime change rather than disarmament. After the inspectors returned [in 2002], they found no evidence of violations by Saddam — because there was no evidence to find. If the U.S. government were serious about diplomacy, we would never have gone to war in Iraq.”
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Wright is a retired Army Colonel and former State Department diplomat. She resigned in protest in March of 2003. She said today: “In 2003 the Bush administration preempted the weapons inspectors’ work in Iraq and quickly moved to unilateral military action. Real diplomacy was nowhere in sight on Iraq. And it’s similar to the Bush administration’s policy toward North Korea. While the North Koreans were appealing for international dialogue for years the Bush administration for a long time avoided even engaging in multilateral talks — and would not give a commitment of nonaggression toward North Korea. I am not surprised the North Koreans detonated some type of explosion — if you have a bomb, the U.S. may leave you alone; if you don’t have one, watch out for U.S. military action!”
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Executive director of the Korea Policy Institute and professor of politics and international relations at Scripps College, Kim said today: “Those who claim that North Korea’s nuclear test is the result of a failure of U.S. diplomacy are wrong because this claim presupposes that the Bush administration has actually engaged in good-faith efforts to negotiate with North Korea. On the contrary, ever since it came into office, the administration has avoided being drawn into meaningful negotiations with North Korea. …

“In September 2005, the United States, North Korea, China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia agreed on a basic trade: North Korean denuclearization in return for something approaching normal relations between the U.S. and North Korea. The latter agreed to ‘abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs’ on the grounds that both countries would ‘respect each other’s sovereignty, exist peacefully together and take steps to normalize relations.’ However, four days after the agreement was signed, the U.S. virtually declared economic war on North Korea by imposing new financial sanctions with the goal of cutting off North Korean access to the international banking system. …

“Faced with a Bush administration that has never committed itself to genuine diplomacy — not only in North Korea but virtually everywhere else in the world — the North Koreans are deeply skeptical that talking with a U.S. government unwilling to negotiate in good faith can lead to real progress. If the U.S. truly wants North Korea to come to the table, it must treat diplomatic negotiation as a starting point for dialogue, rather than as a reward for unilateral concessions.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167