Home/Daniel Larison/Pompeo’s Insulting North Korea Spin

Pompeo’s Insulting North Korea Spin

Mike Pompeo, CIA director (Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons)

Mike Pompeo doesn’t like people questioning the toothless statement produced by the Singapore summit:

Questions about perceived gaps in the joint statement signed by President Trump and Kim Jong Un are “insulting and ridiculous and frankly ludicrous,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters Wednesday in Seoul, where he is briefing South Korea on Tuesday’s U.S.-North Korean summit in Singapore.

Asked specifically about verification of Pyongyang’s denuclearization and whether it will be irreversible — objectives outlined by Trump but unmentioned in the statement — Pompeo said: “The modalities are beginning to develop. There will be a great deal of work to do. There’s a long way to go. There’s much to think about.”

“But don’t say silly things,” he said. “No, don’t. It’s not productive.”

It is appropriate and indeed necessary for people to raise questions about what the government is doing, and it is not “silly” to point out flaws and omissions when they actually exist. If most observers are emphasizing that the statement released after Tuesday’s summit was weak and lacking in specifics, that is because the administration is trying to sell it as a major success. It is the job of journalists and experts to question official claims and to challenge them when they are false. If Pompeo doesn’t like “insulting and ridiculous” questions, perhaps he and the president should not say ridiculous things that insult the intelligence of informed people.

Pompeo is the last person who should be complaining about criticizing the results of diplomacy with adversaries. He was a leading critic of the JCPOA and made any number of spurious, false claims about what the deal did and was supposed to do. He defended U.S. withdrawal because the deal supposedly “put the world at risk because of its fatal flaws,” but every single one of the “flaws” he described was either made up or not part of the agreement. The Singapore summit statement is being judged against what the administration promised and according to what the text actually says and leaves out, and it has been found wanting. If we judged it by the unfair, ever-changing standards that Iran hawks used for the JCPOA, the assessment would be even harsher.

Pompeo and other Iran hawks routinely held the JCPOA up to an impossible standard that no agreement could ever reach, and now that they have cobbled together a much weaker understanding with North Korea Pompeo can’t handle the slightest pushback. He approved of reneging on a completely successful nonproliferation agreement for bogus reasons after railing against the diplomacy that produced that agreement, and now wants this administration’s critics to show a degree of deference that he and his colleagues in Congress never showed during the negotiations with Iran. Whining about fair criticism of a weak statement after lying about a successful agreement for years takes hypocrisy to new lows.

Pompeo is reduced to claiming that the summit statement secretly contains things that not present in the text:

Pompeo said the statement’s reference to “complete” denuclearization “encompasses verifiable and irreversible.”

This is a risible defense, and it reflects the extent to which the administration is willing to make things up out of thin air to square their previous maximalist rhetoric with what they were able to get. The administration is trying to spin their unsuccessful effort as a triumph in a deliberate effort to mislead the public about what they have done, but it isn’t going to work.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

leave a comment

Latest Articles