Tag Archives: Korean War

The Korean War’s Forgotten Lessons on the Evil of Intervention, by James Bovard

The Korean War may not have been quite as ugly as the Vietnam War, but it was pretty ugly. From James Bovard at fff.org:

This year is the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, a conflict from which Washington policymakers learned nothing. Almost 40,000 American soldiers died in that conflict that should have permanently vaccinated the nation against the folly and evil of foreign intervention. Instead, the war was retroactively redefined. As Barack Obama declared in 2013, “That war was no tie. Korea was a victory.”

The war began with what Harry Truman claimed was a surprise invasion on June 25, 1950, by the North Korean army across the dividing line with South Korea that was devised after World War Two. But the U.S. government had ample warnings of the pending invasion. According to the late Justin Raimondo, founder of antiwar.com, the conflict actually started with a series of attacks by South Korean forces, aided by the U.S. military: “From 1945-1948, American forces aided [South Korean President Syngman] Rhee in a killing spree that claimed tens of thousands of victims: the counterinsurgency campaign took a high toll in Kwangju, and on the island of Cheju-do — where as many as 60,000 people were murdered by Rhee’s US-backed forces.”

The North Korean army quickly routed both South Korean and U.S. forces. A complete debacle was averted after Gen. Douglas MacArthur masterminded a landing of U.S. troops at Inchon. After he routed the North Korean forces, MacArthur was determined to continue pushing northward regardless of the danger of provoking a much broader war.

By the time the U.S. forces drove the North Korean army back across the border between the two Koreas, roughly 5,000 American troops had been killed. The Pentagon had plenty of warning that the Chinese would intervene if the U.S. Army pushed too close to the Chinese border. But the euphoria that erupted after Inchon blew away all common sense and drowned out the military voices who warned of a catastrophe. One U.S. Army colonel responded to a briefing on the Korea situation in Tokyo in 1950 by storming out and declaring, “They’re living in a goddamn dream land.”

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The Korean War and US ‘Total Destruction’ Began 70 Years Ago, by Brett Wilkins

Most Americans don’t know much about the Korean War, but it was an important chapter in US history and remains important today. From Brett Wilkins at antiwar.com:

For a brief moment in the summer of 1945 there was joy in Korea. Koreans, who had suffered tremendously during half a century of brutal Japanese occupation and World War II, celebrated what they believed was their liberation by victorious US and Soviet forces. Full of hope for a future free of foreign rule, they proudly declared their independence; however, Supreme Allied Commander Douglas MacArthur announced that the US and the USSR would be occupying – and dividing – the entire Korean peninsula. Adding insult to injury, vanquished but no less vicious Japanese forces would be employed to violently repress dissent.

Like so many other imperial endeavors, the division of Korea along the 38th parallel was an exercise in arbitrariness and utter disregard for the wishes of the people it affected. The United States, which claimed to champion freedom, denied it to the people of Korea, who very quickly realized that they were merely trading one occupying empire for another. A survey of Koreans in the summer of 1946 found that 77 percent preferred socialism or communism while only 14 percent favored capitalism. However, the US backed the right-wing dictatorship of Syngman Rhee, a conservative Christian and staunch anti-communist who ruled the South with an iron fist. By early 1950 there were more than 100,000 political prisoners in the South. Summary executionsof leftists, both real and imagined, claimed tens of thousands of lives as the South’s police state reign of terror rivaled the worst outrages of the communist North, which was unifying under the former anti-Japanese guerrilla leader Kim Il-sung.

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American Warfare’s Giant Open Secret, by Danny Sjursen

Congress has shirked all of the war-making responsibilities given it in the Constitution. From Danny Sjursen at thenation.com:

All of the wars waged by the United States in the last 70 years have had one thing in common.

Common Sense and North Korea, by Winslow Myers

Then it’s agreed by everyone on the planet with a functioning brain: negotiations with North Korea would be better than a nuclear war. From Winslow Myers at antiwar.com:

The phrase “common sense” implies practical and prudent good judgment, with a further implication that the obviousness of common sense is “common” because it is shared by many or even all. For example, 122 nations just signed a Treaty on Nuclear Prohibition, confirming a majority planetary common sense that these weapons have become dangerously obsolete as a foundation for international security.

North Korea and the United States do not appear to share much of a common sense about anything with each other. Evan Osnos of the New Yorker has written a concise and intelligent summation of our mutual bewilderment and paranoia that should be required reading for the U.S. military-diplomatic-political leadership.

Given that the Korean War was never genuinely resolved so long ago, substantive reasons for conflict remain. But the destruction of both Koreas by further war would be all the more tragic and absurd if it happened less from misguided attempts at resolution by military means than from the present complete lack of communication, a lack that includes ignorance and puzzlement in North Korea about US politics, historical amnesia in the US (“the forgotten war”), and destabilizing brinksmanship bluster on both sides.

It is no harder to grasp the historical causes of North Korea’s paranoia than it is to understand our own fears: Korea was invaded and brutally colonized by the Japanese from 1910 to 1945.

At the end of World War II, the victorious Americans and Soviets divided the country into two separate zones of occupation. No agreement ever ensued as to where the capital of a unified Korea should be. When the North attacked the South in 1950 in a forced attempt at reunification, the Americans came in one side and the Chinese on the other.

Military stalemate followed three years of a war that included the deaths of a million Chinese soldiers, more than 400,000 North Korean soldiers and 600,000 civilians, and almost 100,000 Americans. Our air force bombed and napalmed the North until there was no intact target left, a shattering level of devastation not forgotten by North Koreans to this day. The aim of the North ever since has been to avoid a repeat of such helplessness, and the major means of avoidance became the acquisition of a credible nuclear deterrent – ironically ensuring that war in Korea today would be far worse than in 1950.

To continue reading: Common Sense and North Korea

Why Do North Koreans Hate Us? One Reason — They Remember the Korean War. by Mehdi Hasan

It’s easy to live and let live when you’re not on the receiving end of the bombs. From Mehdi Hasan at the intercept.com:

“WHY DO THEY hate us?”

It’s a question that has bewildered Americans again and again in the wake of 9/11, in reference to the Arab and Muslim worlds. These days, however, it’s a question increasingly asked about the reclusive North Koreans.

Let’s be clear: There is no doubt that the citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea both fear and loathe the United States. Paranoia, resentment, and a crude anti-Americanism have been nurtured inside the Hermit Kingdom for decades. Children are taught to hate Americans in school while adults mark a “Struggle Against U.S. Imperialism Month” every year (it’s in June, in case you were wondering).

North Korean officials make wild threats against the United States while the regime, led by the brutal and sadistic Kim Jong-un, pumps out fake news in the form of self-serving propaganda, on an industrial scale. In the DPRK, anti-American hatred is a commodity never in short supply.

“The hate, though,” as longtime North Korea watcher Blaine Harden observed in the Washington Post, “is not all manufactured.” Some of it, he wrote, “is rooted in a fact-based narrative, one that North Korea obsessively remembers and the United States blithely forgets.”

Forgets as in the “forgotten war.” Yes, the Korean War. Remember that? The one wedged between World War II and the Vietnam War? The first “hot” war of the Cold War, which took place between 1950 and 1953, and which has since been conveniently airbrushed from most discussions and debates about the “crazy” and “insane” regime in Pyongyang? Forgotten despite the fact that this particular war isn’t even over — it was halted by an armistice agreement, not a peace treaty — and despite the fact that the conflict saw the United States engage in numerous war crimes, which, perhaps unsurprisingly, continue to shape the way North Koreans view the United States, even if the residents of the United States remain blissfully ignorant of their country’s belligerent past.

To continue reading: Why Do North Koreans Hate Us? One Reason — They Remember the Korean War.

 

Who Really Started the Korean War? by Justin Raimondo

Who started the Korean War should be of limited contemporary relevance. The fighting stopped in 1953, but a peace treaty was never signed, the US stations over 20,000 troops in South Korea and guarantees its safety, and North Korea has nuclear bombs and a leader with a tenous grasp on power. To understand the current situation, it’s necessary to understand the history of the Korean Peninsula, which includes who started the Korean War. From Justin Raimondo at antiwar.com:

Forget the Trumanite mythology

Originally published July 28, 2013

The sixtieth anniversary of the “end” of the Korean war saw President Obama attempt to rescue that classic example of interventionist failure from history’s dustbin. Addressing veterans of that conflict, he declared:

“That war was no tie. Korea was a victory. When 50 million South Koreans live in freedom, a vibrant democracy…a stark contrast to the repression and poverty of the North, that is a victory and that is your legacy.”

This is a fairytale: it wasn’t a victory, or even a tie: the US public was disenchanted with the war long before the armistice, and Truman was under considerable pressure at home to conclude an increasingly unpopular conflict. As for this guff about “democracy”: whatever the US was fighting for, from 1950, when the war broke out, to 1953, when it ground to a halt, democracy hardly described the American cause.

We were fighting on behalf of Syngman Rhee, the US-educated-and-sponsored dictator of South Korea, whose vibrancy was demonstrated by the large-scale slaughter of his leftist political opponents. For 22 years, Rhee’s word was law, and many thousands of his political opponents were murdered: tens of thousands were jailed or driven into exile. Whatever measure of liberality has reigned on the Korean peninsula was in spite of Washington’s efforts and ongoing military presence. When the country finally rebelled against Rhee, and threw him out in the so-called April Revolution of 1960, he was ferried to safety in a CIA helicopter as crowds converged on the presidential palace.

The mythology that has coagulated around the Korean war is epitomized by Obama’s recent peroration, a compendium of uplifting phrases largely bereft of any real history. When history intrudes, it is seen only in very soft focus. The phrase “Korea reminds us” recurs throughout, like the refrain of a pop song, but nowhere does this anonymous presidential speechwriter remind us of the origins of this war. How did it come about?

To continue reading: Who Really Started the Korean War?