For years, one of my ongoing beefs on this site has been that the U.S. State Department's List of States Supporting Terrorism is a total sham. So naturally I have to fire up the old rant now that President Trump has announced that North Korea will be added back to the list.
This is a perfect example of how the list has nothing to do with terrorism. North Korea has a terrible government, possibly the worst government in the world. But it is not being added to this list because it sponsored any particular act of terrorism. It is being added back to the list because it has nuclear weapons which the U.S. does not like and it won't give them up.
Sure, the Trump Administration can point to various bad acts NoKo has done over the past few years, but they aren't "terrorism." For example, for this listing, the Trump Administration points to the assassination of the Kim Jong-Un's half brother in the Kuala Lampur Airport. A political assassination, however, is not terrorism. Terrorism is an attack on the general public by non-state actors to advance a political or religious goal. Terrorism uses terror. If al Qaeda had set off a bomb in the airport that would have been terrorism. The attack would cause other people to be scared to go to that airport, or maybe other airports around the world, for fear they might be victim of a future attack. But no one was scared away from any airports because the the Kim assassination. That was clearly an attack directed against a particular person. I'm not afraid that North Korean agents might poison me if I go to the airport. I'm not a member of the North Korean ruling family. There is no reason to believe I'm in any danger of an attack like that. Without that attempt to spread generalized terror, it's not terrorism. If political assassinations were terrorism, then what does that make the CIA? (Okay, the CIA claims it doesn't assassinate people anymore. But it did during the cold war. Was it a terrorist group then?)
Similarly, the various bad things that the North Korean military has done over the years does not make it a terrorist group, because militaries of formally recognized foreign countries are not terrorist organizations, they are arms of the state. If a military attacks civilians it is a war crime, not terrorism. If militaries could be terrorist organizations then what does that make the U.S. military when it has attacked civilians (whether at My Lai or Mosul)?
As bad as North Korea is, the bad stuff it does is not terrorism. This is just another example that the list of state supporters of terrorism is little more than an American shit-list. It is just a list of the countries whose governments we don't like. Period. We might as well just call it The American Shit List. At least that would be more honest.
And it is nothing more than a shit list, countries that get added are usually already on the U.S.'s bad side before it gets so bad that they make it on the list. Officially a listing means that the U.S. is barred from selling that country weapons--something that probably has already happened long before it reaches the shit list threshold. Thus, North Korea's addition to the list this week will affect exactly zero arms sales. America already doesn't sell NoKo any arms. It hasn't for decades (if it ever did). All the shit list does is give the Administration a chance to make a purely symbolic gesture to tell the world that it thinks North Korea sucks.