White House photos taken at critical points in history are worth a thousand words. On May 1, 2011, U.S. dignitaries sat inside the White House Situation Room watching Operation Geronimo, which resulted in the assassination of Osama bin Laden, leader of the al-Qaida terrorist organization. A U.S. military officer was seated in front of the center computer, and President Barack Obama next to him, wearing an outfit that made it look as if he had just walked in. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was caught on camera with her eyes wide open and her hands covering her mouth. Vice President Joe Biden and most of the officials were dressed casually as if this were an emergency. This snapshot of the White House operation was released to a curious public, which asked no further questions. One photo managed to perfectly capture Operation Geronimo and the anxiety of White House officials waiting for the mission report. The effect was intense. The Taliban was no more.
The White House released another photo two days ago, picturing the leadership centered around the Resolute Desk. This desk was built from the timbers of the mid-19th century British Arctic exploration ship HMS Resolute, which was abandoned in pack ice in 1854 during a mission to look for the missing Franklin Expedition. Later recovered by the U.S., it was returned to Queen Victoria, who constructed a desk from its timbers and gifted it back to President Rutherford B. Hayes as a peace offering. President John F. Kennedy later took the desk out from where it was stored in the White House basement and used it for his Oval Office. A famous photograph captured John Kennedy Jr. peeking out from behind one of its panels as his father sat at the desk.
At this very desk, President Donald Trump canceled plans for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to visit North Korea. Seated on the other side of the desk was Pompeo, who had announced such plans just the day before. On his left was Steve Biegun, the new special representative for North Korea policy, and Andrew Kim, head of the CIA's Korea Mission Center. On his right was Sung Kim, the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, and Vice President Mike Pence. The attendees had solemn looks on their faces as they stared at Trump holding his paperwork. Ironically, Trump had invited Kim Yong Chul to this desk in June; Kim, as the vice-chairman of the Party Central Committee of North Korea, hand-delivered a letter from Kim Jong Un. At the time, this desk opened up dialogue with North Korea, but now it seems to be serving an opposite purpose. We just hope that this photo captured at this Resolute Desk is not a harbinger of doom for the Korean Peninsula.