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Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Devil We Knew - Kim Jong Il Is Dead

Dec 18th, 2011
UPDATE: 12:02 AM CST 12/19/11  The North Korean thugs have, reportedly, just announced the ascension of this guy as the the world's latest trigger-finger-leader in the 'nuclear club.' We'll believe it when there is more substantial confirmation. Again, sleep tight.

Is THIS guy in charge? Image via
This is a dangerous night. Make no mistake. North Korean state media has formally announced that Kim Jong Il, the decadent strongman of that desperate and starving nation and, arguably, the despot of the world's most closed society, is dead.

Reports are available HERE, HERE and HERE.

It is unclear at this time whether or not any formal and stabilizing announcement was made regarding the succession of his third son, Kim Jong-un. This lack of clarity is ominous.

Regarding Kim Jong-un, there is much to be feared. At the time of the official announcement of his appointment as successor last year, the BBC reported:

"The Workers' Party, which had not met for 30 years, convened hours after Kim Jong-un was appointed a general - even though he has no military experience." EMPHASES OURS

This is so ironically imperial and Romanesque that it must give us pause. So much for the popular Marxist axiom regarding "ability" and "need."

"Kim Jong-un is the elder Kim's third son and had already been identified as the most likely successor to the Communist dynasty started by his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, in 1948.

However, until Tuesday, there had been no mention of his name by state media. Little is known of him other than that he was educated in Switzerland and is about 27 years of age.

His elder brother and half-brother appear to have been ruled out of the running for the succession.

Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said Kim Jong-un's promotion to four-star general signified a "clear assertion of intentions."

This man is despised. Following the late Kim Jong Il's announcement, the heir apparent was given free reign to terrorize the northern regions of the country and to begin a purge of experienced military leaders

In April of this year, Donald Kirk wrote:

"Analysts here see a parallel between the current purge and that conducted by Kim Jong-Il after his father’s death on July 8, 1994. "They executed people when Kim Jong-Il took over," said an academic contact here. "They always have to conduct a purge when there’s a change in power.

The extent of the current purge is uncertain, but there have been reports of scores of senior civilian and military officials losing their jobs and facing uncertain fates — some simply to less desirable positions, others to prisons where execution by firing squad is a likely way to get rid of those seen as the least loyal to the Kim dynasty."

It is wantonly stupid to conflate the two; Kim Jong-un is not his father and this is not pre-nuclear North Korea. "Un" is, by all accounts, a sick, murderous and not terribly bright maniac, but, without any knowledge of how to utilize a totalitarian state.

Kim Jong Il, on the other hand, had been groomed for this moment of ascension when his time came. 

As the NY Times noted a short time ago:

"In 2010, the North undertook a series of provocative actions, including the apparent sinking of a South Korean naval vessel and the shelling of a South Korean island outpost. Observers tied the incidents to Mr. Kim’s desire to establish Kim Jong-un’s credibility with the military."

The point is this; The father is suspected to have launched these actions to placate the experienced generals and the power brokers who were so essential they could not be purged. The idea was to hand them proof that his son could, as they say, 'handle it.' But his son's fingerprints are not on these actions.

No one in the international intelligence community associated "Un" with them directly. 

Imagine an actual nuclear-weaponized Iraq with an Uday suddenly in charge. We may be facing just such a scenario now... or, we may be facing a North Korean internal conflagration. Without the expected 'nothing-to see-here' which should have come from DPRK state-controlled television, we do not know.

During the last Stalinist transfer of power, which gave us Kim Jong Il, the world was not awash in cellphones and a ubiquitous internet. More importantly, North Korea did not have the weaponized nuclear and chemical capabilities they do now much less the missiles in which to put them.

It is a different world. This is a different man. We cannot use all of yesterday's assumptions to predict what is happening, on the ground, right now.

Just over a month ago, Sico Van Der Meer, an analyst for the Dutch organization Fair Observerwrote that the North Korean dictatorship was so unstable that most of the world's actors were praying for more time before even the hint that there might be a regime change:

"Some experts argue that North Korea could become an ungoverned territory split up between local warlords – one possibly involving biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. Such a failed state could become an unstable hotbed for crime and terrorism, perhaps comparable to Afghanistan in the period between the Soviet
withdrawal and the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s. Stabilizing North Korea would require much effort, involving the dispatch of military forces, and it would take many years."

Until we do know who's actually in charge, we can be certain of only two things; A North Korean night of "long knives" is almost certainly underway and, for now, the planet is a much, much more dangerous place.

Sleep tight.

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