The earth continues its rotation on its axis and moves along its orbit around the Sun, suffering in silence and not knowing what poisonous attack it will suffer next. Most of the Earth’s inhabitants go about with their daily chores without pausing for a moment to take a look at the danger lurking in the shadows. They apparently know not that tomorrow will not be like today, if war erupts in the Korean peninsula.
Driven by excessive greed, man has made the Earth, which we fondly referred to as Mother Earth, increasingly an unlivable place. The world temperature is rising, glaciers are melting and the sea water level is increasing as we produce more and more greenhouse gases that damage the protective ozone layer. On top of this environmental damage, wars aggravate the woes of the Earth.
Two weeks ago, the United States’ President, Donald Trump, who believes that climate change is a hoax, dropped a vicious bomb ostensibly on a terrorist target in Afghanistan. But hardly a major news outlet raised the environmental impact of the 9,800 kg bomb dropped by Trump on a village where some 150,000 people live. The media merely parroted the generals’ count: One horrible, two horrible, three horrible Afghans and the count went up to 92. It was history in the making. For the media, the dropping of GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), dubbed the Mother of All Bombs -- the world’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb -- was, news-wise, more important than any adverse impact the bomb would have on the unfortunate people. When they heard the blast from the bomb, which is said to be as powerful as a tactical nuclear weapon or an earthquake measuring 6.0, the villagers thought the sky had fallen. For obvious reasons, the Nangarhar Province bomb site was declared a no-go zone by the US troops.
How many children would have suffered internal injuries such as eardrum ruptures because of the sheer sound of the blast when the Mother of All Bombs exploded?
Mother epitomizes compassion, love and care. Using the word mother to describe a destructive weapon that kills mothers and children or make them to suffer from its effects for years only shows the appalling degeneration of civility.
No wonder, most world leaders today fail to see that war is an environmental issue and a health issue that affects us all. No saner person will deny that wars and explosives pollute the environment. Although the United Nations General Assembly in 2011 declared November 6 of each year as the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, and the world has seen the horrors of the atomic bomb attacks in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, very little attention is paid to the environmental and health cost of wars by nations engaged in wars. During the Gulf War and the US invasion of Iraq, the black smoke from burning oil wells turned the day into night. The air of Iraq and Afghanistan, being two of the most bombed countries, is saturated by toxins produced by millions of tons of explosives. It is said quite a number of US veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from various pulmonary disorders. Every war will make the condition of our ailing common mother worse, the air we breathe more polluted and the people more unhealthy.
But the Earth is not threatened by conventional wars alone. The danger of a nuclear war is more than a possibility now, with the rhetoric of the United States and North Korea pointing to a do-or-die showdown which is very well explained in terms of the Game of Chicken. This dangerous game is played by two speeding drivers on a collision course. One must swerve, or both will die in the crash. The one who swerved will be called a “chicken,” meaning a coward.
In the game being played in the Korean peninsula, the two players are driving vehicles loaded with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. One false move will start a war that will see tens of thousands of deaths in the first hour alone. Yet, President Trump and his military advisors feel that the time has come to disarm North Korea. They believe that if Pyongyang is not stopped now, it will soon develop weapons deadlier than what it has now to attack not only US allies in the region but also the US mainland itself. True, the US is also vulnerable to attacks from other nuclear powered nations such as Russia and China. But the peace of the graveyard is assured by the fact that these countries are headed by supposedly rational leaders who understand that nuclear wars only lead to Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).
North Korea is, however, different. Even China, North Korea’s only ally, is apprehensive about North Korea’s next move. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is not the person to swerve and to be called chicken. With little or no action being taken to deescalate the crisis, Kim Jong-un may misread even a routine US move such as the current military exercise between the US and South Korea – and launch a preemptive nuclear strike. When supposedly rational British and Indian leaders say they have no qualms about declaring that they would not hesitate to launch a nuclear first strike, it is naïve to assume that maverick Kim Jung-un would act charitably.
Given the military imbalance between North Korea and the United States, Kim Jong-un is more likely to launch a preemptive strike at a US target in the region. On the other hand, military wisdom may prompt the US to launch the first strike with the aim of severely weakening North Korea’s ability to strike back. Trump could fire Tomahawks or drop the so called Mother of All Bombs on North Korean nuclear weapon dumps or even fire a nuclear missile. Whatever the weapon is, the consequence will be unprecedented devastation, whichever party makes the first strike.
Remember, North Korea also has deadly chemical and biological weapons. In February, Kim Jong-un’s half-brother and critic Kim Jong-nam died at the Kuala Lumpur airport minutes after two women allegedly working for North Korea flashed a few drops of nerve agent VX on his face. Trump will be completing his first one hundred days in office tomorrow. To make his record card good, he has apparently resorted to militarism, firing Tomahawk missiles at Syria and dropping the Big Bomb on Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, Trump invited all one hundred senators to the White House to explain to them his North Korea response. The policy is: The United States will seek stability and the peaceful denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
We welcome this stance, if it is not a strategic retreat aimed at a surprise attack on North Korea later. The North Korean issue requires delicate handling. The best option would be engaging North Korea and resuming the dialogue that collapsed in 2009. The US and China should try to bring North Korea out of its self-imposed isolation and make it a partner in the search for peace in the Korean peninsula.