Thursday, February 13, 2014


The real meaning of the Korean War. Stopping Communism reaching Kansas.
Growing up in Kansas, I breathed a sigh of relief to have been saved
from the horrors of communism.  

Then those dirty Reds got me anyway!

Why an article that has anything to do with the Korean War 2014?  Maybe it has to do with the messy State known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea?  Well, a little, but not really so much.  Maybe I just ran into a piece related to it, that I find interesting. Uh, yeah, honestly that's it.  

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell wrote: “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”  There is some real truth in that, not total mind you, but some.  Still, we control the present and that is a fact.  We just need to continually remind ourselves of that fact.  An honest knowledge of the past doesn't hurt though.  

Meanwhile, back at the ranch.  The Korean War is a war that largely slips through history with little notice.  Considering the huge numbers of people who died and who were injured during that war, that fact seems strange.

As a kid I was pretty much assured by my teachers that the USA was totally in the right in that war and were always the good guys.  The North Koreans and the Chinese were boogeymen, uncivilized barbarians whose main goal seemed to be to torture, abuse, and brainwash everyone and everywhere.

MASH turned the Korean War into Vietnam, and while it was certainly a good TV show and a nice movie, it really told us nothing about the actual War fought on the Korean Peninsula or why it was fought or how it was fought.

My generation was much engulfed in the quagmire of Vietnam for a couple of decades so we, too, mostly forgot about Korea.

Justin Raimondo reminded us in an article last summer:

...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.

Raimondo adds some uncomfortable truths here about so-called progressives then,

...the liberals came out in support of the war, with The Nation and The New Republic leading the charge: the antiwar Republicans were "isolationists" and their alliance with "legalists," sniffed TNR, revealed a natural affinity, while progressives were burdened with no such sentimental attachments to the Constitution. The editor of The Nation red-baited Col. Robert McCormick‘s fiercely conservative Chicago Tribune for being on the same side as the American Communist Party. What’s interesting is that the CP’s former fellow-travelers, such as Henry Wallace, Corliss Lamont, and the principals of the Progressive Party – which had run Wallace for President with fulsome Communist support – rallied behind Truman, reveling in the idea of a UN-sponsored war on behalf of "collective security." Obama, it seems, commands a similar ability to inspire the left to throw its vaunted antiwar credentials overboard.

In some ways, Korea was an early version of where we are today.  Empire declaring its right to control everything.  Then it was mostly the US State.  Today it is mostly global capital (with a lot of help from the USA State and its military).  China popping up to replace the Evil Empire (though in a new way) and the US military rushing to encircle it with missiles and bombs and boats and planes.

Maybe, we need to remember where all this led long ago and far away.

Maybe the USA needs to remember the huge role it played in creating the strange state on the northern part of the Korean Peninsula.  Maybe the USA needs to remember that the paranoia of that State and that government, and what even to me seems to be the lunacy of its leaders, didn't just pop up out of nowhere.

Maybe we just need to wonder why that war has remained such a secret for all these years.

Maybe we need to recognize that this "good" war was really just one more "bad" one.

Or maybe we just need to always remember that we what think happened quite likely didn't.

Hmmm...I don't know, but the piece below is from

'Good' and 'bad' war - and the struggle of memory against forgetting

Fifty years ago, E.P. Thompson's 'The Making of the English Working Class' rescued the study of history from the powerful. Kings and queens, landowners, industrialists, politicians and imperialists had owned much of the public memory. In 1980, Howard Zinn's 'A People's History of the United States' also demonstrated that the freedoms and rights we enjoy precariously - free expression, free association, the jury system, the rights of minorities - were the achievements of ordinary people, not the gift of elites.

Historians, like journalists, play their most honourable role when they myth-bust. Eduardo Galeano's 'The Open Veins of Latin America' (1971) achieved this for the people of a continent whose historical memory was colonised and mutated by the dominance of the United States.

The "good" world war of 1939-45 provides a bottomless ethical bath in which the west's "peacetime" conquests are cleansed. De-mystifying historical investigation stands in the way. Richard Overy's '1939: the countdown to war' (2009) is a devastating explanation of why that cataclysm was not inevitable.

We need such smokescreen-clearing now more than ever. The powerful would like us to believe that the likes of Thompson, Zinn and Galeano are no longer necessary: that we live, as Time magazine put it, "in an eternal present", in which reflection is limited to Facebook and historical narrative is the preserve of Hollywood. This is a confidence trick. In 'Nineteen Eighty-Four', George Orwell wrote: "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."

The people of Korea understand this well. The slaughter on their peninsula following the second world war is known as the "forgotten war", whose significance for all humanity has long been suppressed in military histories of cold war good versus evil.

I have just read 'The Korean War: A History by Bruce Cumings' (2010), professor of history at the University of Chicago. I first saw Cumings interviewed in Regis Tremblay's extraordinary film, 'The Ghosts of Jeju', which documents the uprising of the people of the southern Korean island of Jeju in 1948 and the campaign of the present-day islanders to stop the building of a base with American missiles aimed provocatively at China.

Like most Koreans, the farmers and fishing families protested the senseless division of their nation between north and south in 1945 - a line drawn along the 38th Parallel by an American official, Dean Rusk, who had "consulted a map around midnight on the day after we obliterated Nagasaki with an atomic bomb," wrote Cumings. The myth of a "good" Korea (the south) and a "bad" Korea (the north) was invented.

In fact, Korea, north and south, has a remarkable people's history of resistance to feudalism and foreign occupation, notably Japan's in the 20th century. When the Americans defeated Japan in 1945, they occupied Korea and often branded those who had resisted the Japanese as "commies". On Jeju island, as many as 60,000 people were massacred by militias supported, directed and, in some cases, commanded by American officers.

This and other unreported atrocities were a "forgotten" prelude to the Korean War (1950-53) in which more people were killed than Japanese died during all of world war two. Cumings' gives an astonishing tally of the degree of destruction of the cities of the north is astonishing: Pyongyang 75 per cent, Sariwon 95 per cent, Sinanju 100 per cent.  Great dams in the north were bombed in order to unleash internal tsunamis. "Anti-personnel" weapons, such as Napalm, were tested on civilians. Cumings' superb investigation helps us understand why today's North Korea seems so strange: an anachronism sustained by an enduring mentality of siege.

"The unhindered machinery of incendiary bombing was visited on the North for three years," he wrote, "yielding a wasteland and a surviving mole people who had learned to love the shelter of caves, mountains, tunnels and redoubts, a subterranean world that became the basis for reconstructing a country and a memento for building a fierce hatred through the ranks of the population. Their truth is not cold, antiquarian, ineffectual knowledge." Cumings quotes Virginia Wolf on how the trauma of this kind of war "confers memory."

The guerrilla leader Kim Il Sung had begun fighting the Japanese militarists in 1932.  Every characteristic attached to the regime he founded - "communist, rogue state, evil enemy" - derives from a ruthless, brutal, heroic resistance: first to Japan, then the United States, which threatened to nuke the rubble its bombers had left. Cumings exposes as propaganda the notion that Kim Il Sung, leader of the "bad" Korea, was a stooge of Moscow. In contrast, the regime that Washington invented in the south, the "good" Korea, was run largely by those who had collaborated with Japan and America.

The Korean War has an unrecognised distinction. It was in the smouldering ruins of the peninsula that the US turned itself into what Cumings calls "an archipelago of empire". When the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s, it was as if the whole planet was declared American - or else.

But there is China now. The base currently being built on Cheju island will face the Chinese metropolis of Shanghai, less than 300 miles away, and the industrial heartland of the only country whose economic power is likely to surpass that of the US. "China," says President Obama in a leaked briefing paper, "is our fast emerging strategic threat." By 2020, almost two thirds of all US naval forces in the world will be transferred to the Asia-Pacific region. In an arc extending from Australia to Japan and beyond, China will be ringed by US missiles and nuclear-weapons armed aircraft.  Will this threat to all of us be "forgotten", too? 


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