Right-Wing Gen. Pinochet's a Tyrant; Communist Kim Jong-il a "Tyrant"

Foreign policy David Sanger wrote Sunday on the intelligence community's tactical reactions to developments in North Korea involving dictator Kim Jong-il, who apparently suffered a stroke in August that's left him incapacitated and his nuclear arsenal under even more scrutiny ("We May Miss Kim Jong-il (and Maybe Musharraf)."

But why does Sanger put quote marks around "tyrant"? Surely that's an objective description of North Korea's Communist dictator, responsible for the deaths of millions of his own people.

Last week, when the news filtered out of the black hole of North Korea that Kim Jong-il likely suffered a stroke in August, no one in the Bush administration rushed out to buy a get-well-soon card. This is, after all, a man President Bush has described as a "tyrant," a dictator who starves his own people, and, according to some Senators, a "pygmy" - the biggest insult for a guy who keeps a lot of elevator shoes in the presidential closet in Pyongyang.

But whatever names he is called, there was a surprising ambivalence in official Washington about the news - more than a whiff of reluctance, in fact, to lose Mr. Kim at the helm just now.

By contrast, the Times' Simon Romero didn't have any trouble calling Gen. Augusto Pinochet, former right-wing dictator of Chile, a "tyrant" in an April 13 story.