S. Brian Willson
This site contains essays describing the incredible historic pattern of U.S. arrogance, ethnocentrism, violence and lawlessness in domestic and global affairs, and the severe danger this pattern poses for the future health of Homo sapiens and Mother Earth. Other essays discuss revolutionary, nonviolent alternative approaches based on the principle of radical relational mutuality. This is a term increasingly used by physicists, mathematicians and cosmologists to describe the nature of the omnicentric*, ever-unfolding universe. Every being, every aspect of life energy in the cosmos, is intrinsically interconnected with and affects every other being and aspect of life energy at every moment.
*everything is at the center of the cosmos at every moment
All blog entries and essays posted on this site are authored by S. Brian Willson.
For Immediate Release: Contact: Dan Shea
Thursday, May 16, 2013 503-750-7649
Guantanamo Hunger Strike/Vigil
Begins Today at 3:00 PM in front of Portland City Hall
(Look for a large colorful banner and people wearing prison-style orange jumpsuits.)
Seventy-one-year-old S. Brian Willson, a Viet Nam veteran member of Veterans For Peace, Portland Chapter 72, beginning Sunday, May 12 reduced his food intake by more than 85 percent, fasting on 300 calories a day in solidarity with the 130 uncharged Guantanamo prisoner hunger strikers now in deteriorating health, many of whom are being force-fed. Willson, a trained lawyer and criminologist, anti-war activist and author, lives by the mantra: “We are not worth more; They are not worth less.” He joins 65-year-old grandmother Diane Wilson, a fifth-generation Texas shrimper, anti-war activist and author, who began an open-ended, water-only fast on May 1 outside the White House, and intends to fast until the prisoners are freed. There are more than 1,200 people around the country participating in a rolling hunger strike to bring attention to the plight of the fasting prisoners at Guantanamo, who have been illegally detained for over ten years with little recourse. May 16 is the 100th day of the hunger strike. The hunger strike/fast demands President Obama take immediate action to close the prison and release the prisoners.
Colonel Morris Davis, a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force and one-time Chief Prosecutor for the terrorism trials at Guantanamo, has collected 200,000 signatures to be submitted to the White House, appealing to President Obama to close the Medieval detention center.*
A total 166 prisoners from 25 countries remain housed in the U.S.-constructed and operated gulag (2002) at Guantanamo, located on Cuban soil without Cuba’s permission. Most have been jailed and tortured for eleven years without charges, without trials, with no contact with families, and only limited legal counsel when lawyers persist to overcome military obstruction. Although the U.S. is a signatory to the U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, its maltreatment of these detainees openly violates international laws and its own Constitution.
Currently as many as 130 of the prisoners are on a hunger strike in protest of their medieval conditions. Stripped of their dignity, their bodies are the only place where they retain some control, yet even this is taken away as their U.S. captors have induced force-feeding to keep them alive in their misery. The American Medical Association and the World Medical Association both declared that force-feeding of competent patients/prisoners is in violation of international law.
These prisoners’ names and home countries are now identified. Eighty-six of them were cleared for release several years ago, yet remain incarcerated. Fifty-six of these are from Yemen and President Obama has imposed a ban on releasing them. President Obama could use his bully leverage to close Guantanamo and release all the prisoners, despite his blaming Congress. U.S. Professor of Law Marjorie Cohn describes forced feeding as follows: “They strap you to a chair, tie up your wrists, your legs, your forehead and tightly around the waist,” Fayiz Al-Kandari told his lawyer, Lt. Col. Barry Wingard. Al-Kandari, a Kuwaiti held at Guantanamo for 11 years, has never been charged with a crime. “The tube makes his eyes water excessively and blood begins to trickle from the nose. Once the tube passes his throat the gag reflex kicks in. Warm liquid is poured into the body for 45 minutes to two hours. He feels like his body is going to convulse and often vomits,” Wingard added. ["Death is Preferable to Life at Obama's Guantanamo," Global Research, news site of Centre for Research on Globalization, May 10, 2013. http://www.globalresearch.ca/death-is-preferable-to-life-at-obamas-guantanamo/5334556]
The larger context: Of the 2,300,000 prisoners warehoused in 9,000 U.S. jails and prisons, nearly 1,400,000 are racial and ethnic minorities. As many as 80,000 are held in solitary confinement. More than 30,000 immigrants are languishing in indefinite detention. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture has concluded that physical isolation of 22-24 hours one day or longer for young people constitutes cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment. Force-feeding is not unique to Guantanamo; some U.S. prisoners are routinely and systematically force-fed. The U.S. possesses but 4.6 percent of the world’s population, but incarcerates 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, owning the highest per capita detention rate of any country in the world.
The U.S. decision to artificially divide an ancient homogenous Korea upon the surrender of the Japanese, August 15, 1945, and the subsequent U.S.-directed reign of terror, 1945-1948, that led directly to the war of national independence against western imperialist intervention, 1948-1950, and then, consequently, the hot war, 1950-1953, to be followed by extensive periods of military dictatorships until 1997 supported by the U.S. government, surely must rank as one of the cruelest tragedies of the Twentieth Century. This is virtually unknown history in the West, and today’s issues relating to Korea cannot be understood without knowing this diabolical assault on the Korean soul.
U.S. Intentions and Actions Dividing Korea, 1943-1945
Within months of Pearl Harbor, in early 1942, U.S. State Department planners began to express concern in the event there was to be Soviet involvement in the war against the Japanese in Manchuria and Korea. They feared that the Russians would bring with them the fearless Korean guerrillas who had been passionately fighting the Japanese in Manchuria in their efforts to recover their homeland. The first formal international statement supporting Korean independence was proclaimed in November 1943 when the U.S. (Franklin D. Roosevelt), Great Britain (Winston Churchill), and China (Chiang Kai-shek) issued the Cairo (Egypt) Declaration, in which Korea was to receive independence “in due course” following the expected ultimate unconditional surrender of the Japanese. This arrogance over Korea’s future existed despite the fact that Korea was the oldest victim of Japanese expansion. Fearing a Russian puppet regime in Korea once the Japanese were defeated, something confidentially presumed, this “conclusion” became the critical factor in planning for Korea. In March 1944, the U.S. State Department recommended “the employment of technically qualified Japanese in Korean economic life … during the period of military government.” (emphasis added) Given the extent of nearly forty years of Japanese domination and the humiliating subservient role forced on the Koreans, this secretly planned postwar U.S. military government in Korea amounted to preservation of Japanese imperialism and an unlawful, cruel violation of Korean sovereignty.
At the February 4-11, 1945 Yalta “Big Three” Conference, held at Yalta, a city in southern Ukraine on the Black Sea, President Roosevelt, without consulting the Koreans, suggested to Stalin and Churchill that Korea be placed under joint trusteeship prior to being granted its independence at the conclusion of World War II, once Japan surrendered. However, the most important agreement achieved at Yalta was the Soviet’s promise to enter the Pacific war theatre three months after the anticipated surrender of Germany, thereby relieving the U.S. of further casualties in defeating the Japanese in Manchuria, China, Korea, and Japan itself. This secret agreement by the USSR to enter the war against Japan was promised in return for possession of S. Sakhalin (island off the east coast of USSR just north of the Japanese island of Hokkaido), the Kurile Islands (extending northeast from the Japanese island of Hokkaido to the USSR peninsula of Kamchatka between the Sea of Okhotsk and the Pacific Ocean), and an occupation zone in Korea if the U.S. insisted on joint trusteeship.
Harry Truman had only succeeded to the Presidency on April 12, 1945, upon the death of President Roosevelt, only 2 months after the Yalta conference. Germany surrendered on May 7, starting the 3 month clock to the promised entrance of the Soviet Army to hopefully finish off the Japanese in Asia. The strategic decision to wait for resolution of the Manhattan Project (development of the top secret Atomic bomb) came to dominate much of secret U.S. policy making beginning in mid-May. Truman, only having been briefed of the existence of the new weapon project once taking the Presidency in April, and as a newcomer to international diplomacy, was believed to have dreaded his upcoming meeting with Stalin and Churchill at Potsdam, near Berlin, in northeastern Germany. The advance agenda of Potsdam was to discuss challenges arising out of the collapse of Nazi Germany and the disposition of eastern Europe vis-a-vis the Soviet Union. Not surprisingly he delayed the conference. However, it is significant to note that Truman finally scheduled the confernece to immediately follow the critical test of the secret Bomb, to occur July 16 at Alamogordo, 120 miles southeast of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The test’s success exceeded expectations and immediately provided the U.S. with unprecedented confidence in all of its post-test negotiations. Potsdam began on July 17 and concluded on August 2. Previously, the U.S. had virtually accepted the fact that once the Japanese were defeated with Soviet assistance, the Soviets would occupy and control the future of the Korean Peninsula. However, with the success of the new, most powerful, weapon ever developed, U.S. diplomacy was radically altered, and U.S. arrogance could prevail with minimal need to compromise.
On August 8, exactly three months after the German surrender, Russian troops entered Manchuria, as they had earlier promised, overwhelming Japanese forces there. On August 12 they entered northern Korea, further ousting Japanese forces, thereby assuring no more U.S. casualties. This significant Soviet involvement now made it impossible for the U.S. to exclude the USSR in a post-war Korean settlement. On August 11 (three days after the entrance of the Soviet troops in the Japanese arena and, as it turned out, only four days before the imminent surrender of Japan), President Truman ordered two colonels in his Department of War to hurriedly identify a supposedly temporary line dividing Korea into two zones. The 37th and 38th parallels were discussed in a quick 30-minute meeting by two young colonels, one being Oxford-educated Dean Rusk (later to be Secretary of State under President’s Kennedy and Johnson during the early Vietnam War years), at the newly constructed headquarters of the then U.S. War Department, the 34 acre Pentagon building in Arlington, VA. The decision on the 38th parallel, no surprise, created a division that placed approximately 21 million rural people, sixty-five percent of the country’s population, and the historic capital city of Seoul in the United States zone. Nine million people and the more industrial sectors, with fifty-five percent of the land base, were to be in the Soviet zone. The question was whether Stalin would accept the 38th parallel rather than the 37th, the latter of which would have included the historic capital of Seoul in the anticipated Soviet zone.
This decision establishing the 38th parallel, publicly proclaimed on August 15 as “General Order No. One,” occurred without prior consultation with other countries, including the Soviet Union. This public proclamation occurred on the same day that Japan announced its intentions to surrender. No one was sure how Stalin would respond to this limit on the August Soviet military advances in Korea. To everyone’s surprise, Stalin accepted the division without comment or challenge. The division of Korea had begun, even before Japan announced its surrender. Later, Dean G. Acheson, Secretary of State (1949-53), a lawyer trained at both Yale and Harvard, described the 38th Parallel as no more than “a surveyor’s line.” But to the Koreans it was the equivalent of an egregious assault on their historic soul and aspirations for genuine independence. Order Number One determined that the Japanese were to transfer power immediately from their authority to specified occupation forces, and to prevent local “Left” populations from taking control.
The U.S. was to take the southern zone; the already present Soviet troops were to remain temporarily in the northern one, with the aim of repatriating all Japanese in their respective sectors. The U.S. immediately created the United States Army Military Government in Korea (USAMGIK), which was the sole legal authority south of the 38th Parallel, and it remained so until the Republic of Korea was formally established on August 15, 1948, exactly three years later. Tragically, Western plans for a post-war division of Korea were proceeding without the prior knowledge or consent of the Korean people.
Ironically, on the very same day of the Japanese surrender and U.S proclamation of General Order Number One, August 15, 1945, the Korean people, the majority seriously impoverished, openly celebrated their liberation after forty years of miserable Japanese occupation. The Koreans immediately formed The Committee for the Preparation of Korean Independence (CKPI). By August 28, all Korean provinces on the entire Peninsula had established local peoples’ democratic committees and, on September 6, delegates from throughout Korea, north and south, gathered in Seoul to create the Korean People’s Republic (KPR). The people of Korea were confident they would now be able to build their own society, resuming control over their sovereignty which had been effectively suspended since the Japanese had taken over their foreign and military affairs in 1905 prior to formal full annexation in 1910. At that exciting moment in their lives on September 6, 1945, the Korean people could not have imagined that they were about to become victims of an even more tragic and cruel injustice, this time inflicted upon them by a Western nation, the United States of America, rather than by one of their historic Asian nemesises.
Japan presented its formal surrender on September 2 to five-star (a newly established rank at the time) General Douglas MacArthur aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay. MacArthur was named commander of the Allied powers in Japan and directed the subsequent occupation that included Korea as well.
On September 7, the very next day after the excited creation of the KPR, General Douglas MacArthur, as commander of the victorious Allied powers in the Pacific, formally issued a proclamation addressed “To the People of Korea,” announcing that forces under his command “will today occupy the territory of Korea south of 38 degrees north latitude.” The very first advance party of U.S. units, the 17th Regiment of the 7th Infantry Division, actually began arriving at Inchon on September 5th, two days before MacArthur’s occupation declaration. The bulk of the U.S. occupation forces began unloading from twenty-one Navy ships (including five destroyers) on September 8 through the port at Inchon under the command of Lieutenant General John Reed Hodge. Hundreds of black-coated armed Japanese police on horseback, still under the direction of Japanese Governor-General Abe Nobuyuki, kept Korean crowds away from the disembarking U.S. soldiers. On the morning of September 9, the U.S. troops marched into Seoul, again protected by Japanese troops lining the streets, ushering the high-ranking officers into their new quarters at the Choson Hotel. And on September 9, General Hodge announced that Abe, the Japanese Governor-General would continue to function with all his Japanese and Korean personnel.
Hodge had become known for his aggressive warfare in battles at Guadalcanal, Leyte, Bougainville, and the “last battle” at Okinawa, earning him the reputation as “the Patton of the Pacific.” Patton had been nicknamed “old blood and guts” for his tank actions in World War I, and his later exploits during War II in Italy, North Africa, and France and Germany.
Within a few weeks there were 25,000 troops and members of “civil service teams” in country. Ultimately the number of U.S. troops in southern Korea reached 72,000. Though the Koreans were officially characterized as a “semi-friendly, liberated” people, General Hodge, nonetheless, regrettably instructed his own officers that Korea “was an enemy of the United States…subject to the provisions and the terms of the surrender.” Quickly, tragically, and ironically, the Korean people, citizens of the victim-nation, had become enemies, while the defeated Japanese, who had been the illegal aggressors, served as occupiers with and friends of the United States. Korea was inflicted with the very occupation originally intended for Japan. Japan was subsequently built up by the U.S. in the post-war period, while Korea was subjected to brutal occupation. Japan remains to this day the U.S. forward military base affording protection and intelligence for its “interests” in the Asia-Pacific region.
This was due to strategic evaluations made by the U.S. of projected post-war plans of its wartime Soviet ally but who in fact were held with fear and mistrust by the West since the Bolshevik revolution first articulated its socialist philosophies in 1917. The provisions of such occupation, including ordinances issued by the Military Governor of Korea, were to be enforced by a “Military Occupation Court.” On September 12, West Point Graduate and artillery expert Major General Archibald V. Arnold, was named U.S. Military Governor to replace Japanese Governor-General Abe, though most of the existing administrative and police personnel were retained.
Arnold was later replaced as U.S. Military Governor by Major General William F. Dean, a highly decorated World War II veteran of battles in France, Germany and Austria. Interestingly, when the ‘hot’ war started in June 1950, Dean became the commander of the U.S. 24th Division and was captured on August 25 in Taejon, being the highest ranking U.S. officer ever captured by the North Koreans and imprisoned as a POW for 37 and-a-half months.
From that fateful day on September 8, 1945, to the present, a period of now 56 years — a long, painful 660 months — U.S. military forces (currently numbering 37,000 positioned at 100 installations), have maintained a continuous occupation in the south, supporting de facto U.S. domination of the political, rhetorical, economic and military life of a needlessly divided Korea. This overwhelming U.S. role, often brutal in nature and, until recently, supporting repressive policies of dictatorial puppets, continues to be the single greatest obstacle to peace, because of its interference with inevitable reunification of the Korean Peninsula. Until 1994, all of the hundreds of thousands of South Korean defense forces operated legally under direct U.S. command. Even today, although integrated into the Combined Forces Command (CFC), when the U.S. military commander in Korea deems there is a war situation, these forces automatically revert to direct U.S. control.
The well documented but little publicly known historical record of the United States in Korea is nothing short of demonic and shameless: from the brutal U.S. formal occupation (1945-48); to steadfast support of the tyrannical rule of U.S. puppet, Syngman Rhee, before, during, and after the hot Korean War (1948-1960), under the rhetorical propaganda of a Korean “democracy”; to U.S. dominance in Korea from 1960 to the present, most of the time during which the Korean people have been forced to labor under iron fist military dictators while the U.S. State Department often reported to the U.S. population the existence of “democratic reforms” there.
The United States direct involvement in Korea beginning in August 1945 provides us the earliest example of U.S. Cold War behavior. When examined carefully, it reveals a great deal about the nature of her national psyche as it is expressed in corresponding misguided political and vicious military policies, as well as the kind of unrestrained terror that was to be in store for its victims. Fear of communism — a national, and Western, mental illness of paranoia — caused a ferocious fury of violence to be directed at undeserving “Third World” peoples, as the monolithic spread of communism, itself grossly exaggerated, was regularly confused with genuine national self-determination (democratic) movements striving for independence from Western, colonial forces.
The United States’ ability to crush the popular movement (of “communists” as they were incorrectly labeled by U.S./Rhee political and military leaders) in Korea was an important test of the success or failure of the “containment” policy articulated in 1948 by George Kennan, director of the U.S. State Department’s Policy Planning Staff (PPS). Publishing a then top-secret document (PPS 23, February 24, 1948), Kennan laid out an honest assessment of the need for a successful U.S. imperial policy:
“…we have about 50 percent of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population…In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task…is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security…We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction…We should cease to talk about vague and — for the Far East — unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.”
The U.S./Puppet Rhee Repression Machinery Created
The U.S. understood that if it was to assert Western-style, capitalist control in Korea it had to defeat, then eliminate, the broad-based popular, democratic KPR. Instead of repatriating Japanese as mandated, the U.S. military government (USAMGIK), manned by nearly 2,000 U.S. officers, most of whom were unable to speak or understand the Korean language, quickly recruited them and their Korean collaborators to continue administrative functions. More important, and egregiously, the U.S. military government revived the feared Japanese colonial police force, the Korean National Police (KNP). About 85 percent of the Koreans who had served in the Japanese colonial police force were quickly employed by the U.S. to man the KNP. Other collaborators were recruited into the Korean Constabulary created in December 1945 by the commander of the U.S. forces in Korea, General John R. Hodge. Secret protocols, later revealed, gave the U.S. operational control of the South Korean police and all of its armed forces from August 15, 1945 to June 30, 1949. Additionally, many Japanese and Korean collaborators who had been correspondingly purged, often brutally as well, by Russian forces and the new popular Korean committees in the north, became core members of powerful paramilitary groups like the Korean National Youth (KNY) and the Northwest Youth League (NWY) in the south which would work in concert with the “official” U.S./Rhee security forces.
This was happening despite the fact that the U.S. government knew full well of Korean desires in 1945 for independence. General John Reed Hodge, commander of the XXIV Corps of the United States Tenth Army, became Commanding General of the US Armed Forces in Korea because his forces could be moved quickly to Korea after Japan’s August 15 surrender. While in Okinawa, Japan, the XXIV Corps possessed a thorough study entitled, “Joint Army-Navy Intelligence Study of Korea.” This report described the strong desires of the Koreans for their independence, and that they preferred a cumbersome autonomous transition to the danger and dread of continued control by “some successor to Japan.” The study described the extent of the 40 year Japanese rule and its collusion with an aristocratic Korean minority, reiterating that the majority of tenant-farmers were terribly oppressed. Nonetheless, the U.S. had no intention to grant the Koreans their historical legal and cultural rights to independence. And a subsequent U.S. survey of Korean attitudes disclosed that nearly three quarters of the population clearly wanted a socialist, rather than a capitalist, system. Furthermore, early reports revealed that their socialist leanings were quite independent of any directives from the Soviet Union, and were cooperative with but not under the thumb of northern Korea communists.
The U.S. hurriedly organized wealthy conservative Koreans representing the traditional land-owning elite and, on September 16, convened the Korean Democratic Party (KDP). According to XXIV Corps intelligence, the U.S. had quickly identified “several hundered conservatives” among the older and more educated Koreans who had served the Japanese who could serve as the nucleus for the rapidly convened KDP. These were the Koreans who had grown wealthy as a result of years of collaboration with their Japanese colonizers. Preston Goodfellow, former Deputy Director of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) who had a background in U.S. Army intelligence and clandestine warfare, was an acquaintance with Syngman Rhee living in the United States, and quickly made arrangements to import the seventy-year-old expatriate politician to Korea. Apparently Rhee had in some way cooperated with OSS in Washington, D.C. during World War II. On October 16, 1945, Rhee was flown to Korea from the U.S. on General Douglas MacArthur’s personal plane.
At the conclusion of World War II, Goodfellow was director of a mysterious “Overseas Reconstruction Corporation” which probably served as an intelligence front. In that capacity he became involved in Asian tungsten deals with the World Commerce Corporation, a postwar company established by heads of Allied intelligence operations, including William J. (“Wild Bill”) Donovan, the founding director of the OSS and Goodfellow’s immediate boss when he was gathering intelligence during the war. Tungsten was and is one of the most treasured strategic metals used in making hardened tank armor and anti-tank shells tipped with tungsten carbide. Only the more recent discovery of depleted uranium (DU 238) as an even more effective, but extraordinarily dangerous, armor plating and piercing shell has tungsten been replaced in this function. By early 1949 Goodfellow had become Syngman Rhee’s principal U.S. advisor and was a key agent for Korean-American business deals, and likely intelligence operations, involving both the U.S. and Nationalist China prior to the success of the Communists over the Nationalists. In 1954 Goodfellow was working with the former head of propaganda operations for the OSS in importing tungsten for the U.S. which at the time was desperate to maintain its military stockpile.
Rhee had been born in 1876 in Hwanghae Province, south of Pyonyang, into a struggling, though upper class family in the Yi dynasty. While attending a Methodist middle school in Seoul he repudiated Buddhism and Confucianism in favor of Christianity. However, he was vigorously opposed to the Japanese presence in Korea. He was arrested by Japanese police authorities and was sent to prison for several years. After release he had left for the United States in 1905, and was apparently able to arrange a meeting with outgoing Secretary of State John Hay in urging Theodore Roosevelt to protect Korean independence as the President was mediating an end to the Russo-Japanese War. He apparently was also able to meet with Roosevelt at his summer home at Oyster Bay, Long Island, at the very same time that Roosevelt’s Secretary of War Taft was meeting with Japan’s Katsura to consummate an agreement to Japan’s control over Korea if Japan honored the U.S. control over the Philippines. Rhee was rudely rebuffed. Rhee remained in the United States and received degrees from George Washington University (1907), an M.A. from Harvard (1908), and an alleged Ph.D. from Princeton (1910) where he claimed to have studied under Professor Woodrow Wilson. He is credited to being the first Korean to receive a doctorate from a U.S. university, even though it is not at all certain that he received such degree. He returned briefly to Korea in 1910 to work for the Seoul YMCA as a teacher and evangelist, but returned to the U.S. in 1912 where he remained, part of the time in Hawaii, other times in Washington and New York, until Goodfellow brought him back to Korea on MacArthur’s plane thirty-three years later with his wealthy Austrian wife whom he had met on a 1932 trip to Europe. To his credit an anti-Japanese colonialist, he had at one point been the leader of a Korean Provisional Government in exile, but was expelled in 1925 for embezzlement. Now Rhee, a Methodist, would quickly become the U.S. puppet leader in Buddhist and Confucianist Korea, just as Diem, a Catholic who had been temporarily living in New Jersey, was to be in Buddhist Vietnam nearly ten years later in the continuation of a tragic Asian policy in which the U.S. continued to confuse national movements for self-determination with monolithic communism. When he returned to Korea in 1945 few Koreans or U.S. Americans knew much about him since he had been in exile in the U.S. for a total of nearly forty years.
Now, with its Korean police state forces beefed up and a Korean political puppet it could herald as the new democratic leader of a South Korea, the U.S. Military Government could begin its systematic purge of all opposition forces. On October 20, at the Welcoming Ceremony for the Occupation, Rhee made it clear he was not intending to unify the country. Rhee denounced Russia and the North and refused to work with the KPR that had been democratically created on September 6. Rhee quickly embraced the pro-Japanese Koreans already working with the U.S. military government, while denouncing the more numerous anti-Japanese advocates on the Left. On December 12, 1945, the USAMGIK, working closely with Syngman Rhee, outlawed the KPR and all its related local, provincial and national democratic peoples’ organizations and activities. The various unions had joined forces in November under the National Council of Korean Labor Unions (NCKLU), affiliated with the KPR, but their activities were soon prohibited. All labor strikes were forbidden; most union activities were considered traitorous. Women’s organizations, youth groups, and other elements of the popular movement were targeted as well. In September 1946, disgruntled workers declared a daring strike that by October spread throughout South Korea. The USAMGIK declared martial law. By December, the combination of KNP forces, the Constabulary (called the National Defence Forces by Koreans, later to become the Republic of Korea Army or ROKA), and right-wing paramilitary units, supplemented by U.S. military forces and intelligence as needed, had forcefully contained the insurrection in all provinces. More than 1,000 Koreans had been killed with more than 30,000 jailed. Regional and local leaders of the popular movement were either dead, in prison, or had gone underground.
Korean Division Becomes “Legal”
Seventy-three-year-old Rhee was elected President on May 10, 1948, an election boycotted by virtually all Koreans except the conservative, elite KDP and Rhee’s own right-wing political groups. Rhee legally took office as President on August 15, and the Republic Of Korea (ROK) was formally declared. In response, three-and-a-half weeks later (on September 9, 1948), the people of the north begrudgingly created their own separate government, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), with Kim Il Sung as its Premier. Korea was now clearly, and tragically, split in two. Kim Il Sung had survived being a guerrilla fighter against the Japanese occupation in both China and Korea since 1932 when he was twenty years old. Kim was thirty-three when he returned to Pyongyang in October 1945 to begin the hoped-for era of rebuilding Korea free of foreign domination, and thirty-six when he became North Korea’s first premier on September 9, 1948.
Meanwhile, the Russian forces that had occupied the north since August 1945 withdrew on schedule in December 1948, leaving only a small number of advisors behind. After the ROK was offically proclaimed in August 1948, the U.S. State Department argued to delay the expected withdrawal of U.S. combat troops until June 30, 1949. This provided Rhee with additional benefits from U.S. combat support against his civilian and guerrilla opposition. These forces were finally withdrawn at the end of June 1949, replaced by a 500-man Korean Military Advisory Group (KMAG), headed by Brigadier General William L. Roberts.
Meanwhile, in September 1949, following the withdrawal of the majority of U.S. troops, Rhee’s anxiety increased about the lingering guerrilla war and the growing strength of the DPRK’s air forces, even though the Russian military had withdrawn from the North in 1948. He wanted to begin building his own air force, alleviating his nervous dependency upon the United States air forces. U.S. military and political leaders were opposed to granting aircraft to Rhee whose eagerness to invade the North they believed could cause a needless provocation with the North. Also secretary of State Acheson had denied the same request from Chiang Kai-Shek for his Nationalist forces fighting the Chinese Communists. Pastor Goodfellow was supporting his friend Rhee’s request for air forces for the ROK. Rhee found additional sympathetic support from Goodfellow’s friend, General Claire Chennault, who founded the Civil Air Transport (CAT) after World War II, the “Flying Tiger” air force, subsequently controlled by the CIA.
CAT had been flying mercenaries and supplies for China’s Kuomintang (KMT) forces who by late 1949 were sequestered in Burma in the wake of the Communist victory. All of the CAT planes had by then been safely moved to Formosa. In August 1949 Chiang Kai-Shek visited Rhee seeking an airbase in Korea that could assist the Nationalists in their continued campaign against the Chinese communists. Rhee in turn invited Chennault to Korea in November 1949 to present plans for developing a Korean air force along with the necessary secure bases. However, not until the Korean hot war started did the U.S. brass authorize the forty CAT planes relocated to six CIA training stations in Japan and Korea to fly transport, bombing and intelligence missions against Chinese installations along the coast, as well as serving the U.S./ United Nations campaigns against North Koreans. The nearly bankrupt airline, despite CIA funds, had a new lease on life, and was given the job of running the Korean National Airline as well.
The Systematic Elimination of Civilian Dissent
Both U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson and George Kennan, Asian specialist at the U.S. State Department, made it clear in 1949 that the ability of the “democratically elected” Syngman Rhee to suppress the internal threats to his regime was very important for the success of our containment (of “communism”) policy. The “guerrillas” had to be quickly eliminated so that the world could clearly witness Korea’s successful handling of the “communist threat.” The stakes were high in Korea for the U.S., and the West in general, and the U.S. wanted to make sure that their puppet Rhee would prevail, no matter the cost to the Korean people or to their aspirations for a reunified country. Goodfellow had briefed Rhee at the end of 1948, referencing his conversations with Acheson about Korea, that the guerrillas had to be “cleaned out quickly…everyone is watching how Korea handles the communist threat.” This helps explain the large role the U.S. military played in suppressing any and all resistance to the Rhee regime: advisers with all Korean army and police units, use of spotter planes to ferret out guerrillas, daily briefings of counterinsurgency units, interrogation and torture of prisoners, regular intelligence briefings, use of transport planes carrying armed troops and supplies, and even the occasional use of U.S. combat forces.
The Rhee/U.S. forces escalated their ruthless campaign of cleansing the south of dissidents, identifying as a suspected “communist” anyone who opposed the Rhee regime, whether openly or quietly. In fact, most participants or believers in the popular movement in the south were socialists and unaffiliated with outside “communist” organizations. As the repression intensified, however, alliances with popular movements in the north, including communist organizations, increased. The Cheju Island insurgency was crushed by August 1949 with 30,000 to 60,000 Koreans murdered and nearly 300 villages destroyed, but on the mainland, guerrilla warfare continued in most provinces until 1950-51. In the eyes of the commander of U.S. military forces in Korea, General Hodge, and new “President” Syngman Rhee, virtually any Korean not a publicly professed rightist was considered a “communist” traitor. Therefore massive numbers of farmers, villagers and urban residents were systematically rounded up in rural areas, villages and cities from throughout South Korea. Captives were regularly tortured to extract names of others. Thousands were imprisoned, and even more thousands forced to dig mass graves before being ordered into them and shot by fellow Koreans, often under the watch of U.S. officers. Estimates of civilians murdered under the pretext of killing “communists” during the era of legal U.S. occupation (August 15, 1945-August 15, 1948) and the succeeding extended period until June 30, 1949 when U.S. combat troops were finally withdrawn, often are in the 500,000 range, with the lowest figure being 100,000, the highest being 800,000.
Political prisoners under U.S. occupation increased from 17,000 in southern Korea at the time Rhee was brought from the United States in October 1945, to over 21,000 by December 1947. By mid-1949, there were 30,000 alleged “communists” in Rhee’s jails, and an estimated 70,000 in so-called “guidance camps” used as overflow prisons. By December 1949 as many as 1,000 people a day were being rounded up, tortured, and imprisoned. Meanwhile numerous others were being murdered summarily after torture, not even having the “privilege” of being thrown in prison. Agents had penetrated every organization, every student group, every cafe, and every workplace seeking any evidence of publicly expressed dissent and contempt for the Rhee regime. And even though the bulk of U.S. troops had departed, officials from the U.S. embassy and with the remaining 500 man U.S. Military Advisory Group knew and was complicit in this reign of terror.
A 1948 CIA personality profile analysis of Rhee, apparently the first ever prepared on a foreign leader by the relatively new CIA, concluded: “The danger exists…that Rhee’s inflated ego may lead him into action disastrous or at least highly embarrassing to the new Korean Government and to the interests of the U.S.” It is certainly true that the U.S. was worried about Rhee provoking a military attack against the North across the 17th Parallel. But a bloodbath within the South, exterminating or imprisoning virtually the entire popular movement, which at one time clearly represented the vast majority of Korean citizens, was of no concern to the U.S. In fact, it supported and directed much of it! Though at times the U.S. government privately censured Rhee and his military and Korean National Police units, U.S. officials consistently publicly praised the “free and democratic” Republic of Korea (ROK).
This sordid record of U.S. policy and its consequent behavior in Korea between 1945-50 served as a “training” model to be subsequently emulated, “refined” and at times varied to suit the situation. For example, following the 1965 CIA coup in Indonesia replacing the unacceptable (to the U.S. government) “Neutralist” President Sukarno with military strongman Suharto, systematic identification and elimination for several years of those perceived as sympathetic with Sukarno or who were thought to be “communist” led to the murders of anywhere from 500,000 to one million. The Phoenix program in South Vietnam sought to eliminate the Viet Cong civilian infrastructure from 1967-72, with estimates of those killed and/or captured reaching nearly 70,000. U.S. support for the counterrevolutionary government in El Salvador and its associated death squads from 1980 to 1994 led to the murders of 75,000 people, and displacement of more than a million. In revolutionary Nicaragua, U.S. created counterrevolutionary terrorists called Contras that marauded from 1982-90 through the countryside, destroying villages and assassinating those identified as supportive of the revolutionary government. More than 75,000 Nicaraguas were murdered or severely maimed.
There are many other examples, as well, perhaps six or seven dozen, where the use of military and security forces have used (and continue to use) terrorism under the aegis of fighting terrorism, more than not with U.S. support and direction, to preserve an ideology that supports the way of life for the elite and privileged at the expense of the poor majority. But with the possible exception of the barbaric purge in Indonesia from 1965-1967, which murdered anywhere from 500,000 to one million, the systematic elimination of the popular movement in Korea directed by the U.S./Rhee regime from 1945-50 continues to rank as the most aggrieved of all victim-nations during the so-called Cold War.
Meanwhile, and ironically, the period 1945-50 was experienced by most U.S. Americans as being among the most pleasant in their history. Basking in military victory from World War II, feeling invincible with possession and further development of the most powerful and technologically sophisticated military weaponry ever known to humankind, the people of the United States through their plutocratic government and capitalist economics were to rule the world. They would perceive as a threat virtually any alternative political-economic idea and prevent it from taking hold. “Manifest Destiny” began its truly global march to everywhere.
U.S. Decides To Announce Beginning of Hot War
The hot war apparently began at Ongjin very near the 38th Parallel in western Korea about 3 or 4 a.m. on June 25 (Korean time), 1950. This was in the same general area where heavy fighting had erupted at Kaesong in early May 1949, when battles, apparently started by six infantry companies from the south, lasted four days, taking the lives of 400 North Korean and 22 South Korean soldiers. According to U.S. and South Korean officials, nearly 100 civilians were also killed in Kaesong. Subsequent heavy fighting occurred in June on the remote Onjin Peninsula on the west coast above Seoul, and in August when forces from the north attacked the ROKA occupying a small mountain north of the 38th Parallel. Rhee had constantly threatened attacks on North Korea, creating anxiety among U.S. advisers. Just how the fighting started and by whom on that particular day, June 25, 1950, depends on one’s source of information. The North’s official version claims that South Korean forces had been shelling with howitzers and mortars the Unpa-san area on the Ongjin Peninsula on June 23-24. Then the ROKA’s 17th Regiment attacked a northern unit at Turak Mountain on the Onjin Peninsula on June 25 which was repelled by the northern forces. The South claimed, on the contrary, that elements of ROKA’s 17th Regiment counterattacked and were in possession of Haeju city, the only location north of the 38th Parallel claimed to have been taken by the South’s forces. This was announced on the morning of June 26. The details are irrelevant, however, since a civil and revolutionary war had been raging for nearly two years with military incursions moving routinely back and forth across the 38th Parallel. The war was announced to the world as a premeditated, belligerent attack of communist forces from the north against a sovereign democratic society in the south. The quick introduction of U.S./U.N. military forces beginning on June 26 occurred with no understanding by the West (except by a few astute observors such as journalist I.F. Stone) that in fact they were entering an active revolutionary, civil war in progress explicitly against five years of U.S. interference with the passionate effort of indigenous Koreans to achieve genuine independence. These additional outside forces simply fueled Korean passions even more, while creating further divisions among them.
This tragic paranoid misunderstanding by the U.S., and the West in general, accompanied by deeply held racism, helps to explain, but not in any way excuse, the massive numbers of civilians (“gooks”) massacred by U.S./U.N. forces, including, of course, by the ROK army itself, and the incredible devastation of civilian targets and murder of millions of civilians from the tenacious aerial bombing campaigns conducted throughout the war. Many of the bombing missions were carried out by the 1,008 bomber crews of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) under direction of its young and reckless commanding General, Curtis LeMay, who had recently directed the firebombings that destroyed all or parts of sixty-six Japanese cities in 1945. The extent of the hatred felt by U.S. forces toward Koreans was sometimes reported by shocked news people. The derogatory term “gooks” was as commonly applied to Koreans by U.S. military personnel as it was to Vietnamese later, during the Vietnam War. The Rhee forces, mostly made up of Koreans collaborating with their former Japanese occupiers, were also merciless in their killing of fellow Korean civilians in both southern and northern areas of Korea.
During the Korean “hot” war, General Douglas MacArthur ordered the U.S. Air Forces “destroy every means of communication, every installation, factory, city, and village” south of the Yalu River boundary with China. Pyongyang and 76 other Korean cities in the north were leveled during the 37-month bombing campaign coinciding with the hot war period.
Massive saturation bombings, especially with napalm and other incendiaries, alone murdered perhaps 2.5 million civilians. Major General William B. Kean of the 25th Infantry Division ordered that “civilians in the combat zone” be considered enemies. The famous July 25, 1950 Fifth Air Force memorandum to General Timberlake declared that adherence to Army orders to “strafe all civilian refugees [have been] complied with.” USA Today (Oct. 1, 1999) and The New York Times (Dec. 29, 1999) reported from declassified U.S. Air Force documents the “deliberate” strafings and bombings of Korean “civilians” and “people in white.” In the August 21, 1950 issue of Life, John Osborne reported that U.S. officers ordered troops to fire into clusters of civilians.
An early study examined the allegations of the use by the United States of bacteriological and chemical weapons in Korea. The Commission of International Association of Democratic Lawyers’ Report on U.S. Crimes in Korea, March 31, 1952, concluded that the U.S. used both germ (“deliberate dispersion of flies and other insects artificially infected with bacteria, with the intention of spreading death and disease”) and chemical (“use of poison gas bombs and other chemical substances”) warfare against both civilians and combatants in North Korea. Established at the September 1951 Berlin Congress of the Association, the Commission consisted of eight lawyers, one each from Austria, Italy, Great Britain, France, China, Belgium, Brazil, and Poland. The Association had been prompted by a Report of the Committee of the Women’s International Democratic Federation in Korea, May 16-27, 1951, an international commission of 22 women from 18 countries (including Canada and 7 Western European nations) that found systematic war crimes by a number of means were being committed by U.S. forces and South Korean forces under the command of the U.S., though it did not specifically discuss use of bacteriological or chemical weapons.
China convened its own international study, Report of the International Scientific Commission for the Investigation of the Facts Concerning Bacteriological Warfare in Korea and China, issued in Peking in 1952, finding significant use by the U.S. of germ warfare.
In all, thirty-six U.S. officers, mostly pilots, most from the Fifth Air Force, as well as some from the 1st Marine Air Wing under direction of the Fifth Air Force, gave their Chinese jailers statements admitting their participation in biological (germ) warfare. Most captured flyers acknowledged that tho they were subject to stress and duress, they were neither physically beaten nor provided information to include in their statements. The most exhaustive study of extent of US collaboration in the POW camps conducted by the US Army concluded that in fact there was no brainwashing nor beatings nor torture, but that the US prisoners were from a cultural background that failed to provide them with political insight and emotional maturity for dealing with such adverse experiences. Shortly after the confessing US prisoners were released in 1953, they were placed under strict control and the US government presented recantations signed by one-quarter of those who confessed. The majority did not recant, at least in public.
Of course, the U.S. denied the various allegations and accusations of its use of biological and chemical warfare, and does so to this day. However, thanks to two York University professors in Toronto, Canada, Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman, we now have the benefit of their 20-year exhaustive study, The United States and Biological Warfare: Secrets from the Early Cold War and Korea (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998). Carefully researched, their report concludes that the United States experimented with and deployed biological weapons during the Korean War, and that the U.S. government lied both to Congress and the U.S. public in saying that its biological warfare program was purely defensive (for retaliation only). A large and sophisticated offensive biological weapons system had been developed in the post-World War II years, and was used in North Korea. However, their study does not identify any use of germ warfare in South Korea, tho Koreans have insisted it was used in South Chollah Province.
Threat of US Use of Atomic Weapons on Northern Korea and China
Due to the early military successes of the northern forces pushing the ROK army and U.S. forces far south of Seoul, General MacArthur, on July 9, 1950, requested the use of Atomic bombs to protect his retreating forces. After some deliberation in Washington, this request was denied. This was the first of at least nine separate circumstances when the U.S. seriously considered using Atomic/Nuclear bombs against northern Korea and adjacent regions of China during the Korean War. A second “active consideration” of use of the Bomb occurred on November 30, 1950, following entrance into the war in late October of the Chinese military “hordes,” when President Truman publicly suggested General MacArthur might be given authority to use the Atomic bomb at his discretion to stop the Chinese. This created a tremendous furor in Europe which initially dampened the idea. Nonetheless, Truman ordered SAC to “dispatch…bomb groups” to Asia to “include Atomic capabilities” and had non-assembled Atomic bombs moved to aircraft carriers off Korean coasts.
Seven subsequent known serious considerations of using the Bomb occurred.
- In December 1950, only a short time after Truman’s public suggestion elicited negative responses from Europe, the Joint Chief of Staff (JCS) supported General MacArthur requested discretionary use of over thirty Atomic bombs to be dropped on “retardation targets” and “invasion forces” if necessary to avoid defeat.
- In March and April 1951, the Joint Chiefs of Staff requested use of Atomic bombs against Chinese bases in Korea and China, a plan supported in principle by President Truman who ordered the transfer (of completely assembled Atomic weapons) “to military custody” in Asia (Guam and Okinawa, Japan) for use against Chinese and North Korean targets if the Soviets and Chinese in any way escalated the war that spring.
- In June and July 1951, the Joint Chiefs of Staff requested use of Atomic weapons in tactical operations, five months after the first U.S. tests of tactical Nuclear weapons, in case of “unacceptable” deadlocks in the peace talks that had begun in July.
- In October 1951, three Army colonels traveled from Washington, D.C. to Japan and Korea for a top secret meeting with General Ridgeway, commander of the U.N. forces, and other officers, in part to initiate plans and preparations for “the employment of atomic weapons in support of ground operations” in Asia. In September and October 1951, U.S. bombers flew simulated Atomic bombing runs over northern Korea, even dropping dummy Atomic bombs, in preparation for using the real thing if peace talks were unacceptably stalled.
- In May 1952, when General Mark Clark replaced General Mathew Ridgeway as Commander of the U.N. forces, he proposed a number of new steps, including deployment of Atomic bombs.
- In February 1953, shortly after President Eisenhower was elected to office, he directly threatened China with Atomic bombs. The U.S. Air Force transferred fresh Atomic bombs to Okinawa, and its chief of staff, Hoyt Vandenberg, publicly suggested that an area in northeastern China, Mukden (Shenyang, 150 miles north of the border with Korea containing a large air base), would be an appropriate strategic target. This crisis was averted by diplomacy of Soviet leaders who immediately succeeded Stalin after his death on March 5.
- On May 20, 1953, the National Security Council seriously discussed the “extensive” use of atomic bombs against China, including much of Manchuria, if the Communists did not accept “reasonable” peace terms. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles transmitted a message through Premier Nehru of India to the Chinese and North Koreans, that the U.S. was prepared to use the Bomb during another adjournment of the peace talks. It should be noted that just one year later Dulles also offered two Atomic bombs to aid the French besieged at Dien Bien Phu in northwest Vietnam. Fortunately, Georges Bidault, Dulles’ counterpart as French foreign minister, turned down the offer due to his wise realization that the French forces would be wiped out as well if Atomic weapons were used.
On at least two other occasions the U.S. has seriously considered using nuclear weapons against North Korea. The first was in 1969, within a few months after Nixon became President, when the North Koreans apparently shot down a U.S. plane, killing thirty-one persons. Nixon and his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, recommended dropping a Nuclear bomb, but were subsequently persuaded to nix the plan. The second time was in June 1994, when President Bill Clinton was on the verge of bombing North Korea’s nuclear program in Yongbyon. Though it wasn’t clear whether Clinton intended to use low-level nuclear bombs, it was clear that bombing of nuclear facilities risked substantial radiation over a wide-area. Only the personal interventions of South Korean President Kim Young Sam and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on an emergency diplomatic mission averted the crisis within hours of the planned bombing.
By S. Brian Willson, June 2002, Revised October 2006
[First published in Global Outlook, Issue # 2, Summer 2002, later modified & published on global research website: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=WIL20061012&articleId=3464]
USAF Strategic Air Command head General Curtis LeMay remarked, “Over a period of three years or so we killed off – what – twenty percent of the population.” It is now believed that the population north of the imposed 38th Parallel lost nearly a third its population of 8 – 9 million people during the 37-month long “hot” war, 1950 – 1953, perhaps an unprecedented percentage of mortality suffered by one nation due to belligerence of another.
The demonization of North Korea by the United States government continues unrelentlessly. The wealthy oil and baseball man who claims to be president of the United States, used his first State of the Union address on January 29, 2002 to brand perennial enemy North Korea, along with former allies Iran and Iraq, as “the world’s most dangerous regimes” who now form a threatening “axis of evil.” Unbeknown to the public, because it was intended to have remained a secret (whoops!), was the fact that this claimed president presented a “Nuclear Posture Review” report to Congress only three weeks earlier, on January 8, which ordered the Pentagon to prepare contingency plans for use of nuclear weapons. The first designated targets for nuclear attack were his newly identified members of the “axis of evil,” along with four other lucky nations as well – Syria, Libya, Russia, and China. That this is nothing short of a policy of ultimate terror remains unaddressed in the U.S. media.
That Koreans are deeply concerned is an understatement. However, they understand the context in which their “evil” is being portrayed, not an altogether new threat leveled at them. However, the dangerous escalation of policy rhetoric following the 9-11 tragedy now boldly warns the world of virtual total war. Vice-president Richard Cheney, another oil man from Texas, declares that the U.S. is now considering military actions against forty to fifty nations, and that the war “may never end” and “become a permanent part of the way we live.”1 The Pentagon has declared that the widening gap between the “Haves” and “Have-nots” poses a serious challenge to the U.S., requiring a doctrine of “full spectrum dominance.” Thus, the U.S. demands total capacity to conquer every place and its inhabitants in and around the Earth, from deep underground bunkers, including those in North Korea and Iraq, through land, sea, and air, to outer space. All options for achieving global and spatial hegemony are now on the table. Already, the U.S. military is deployed in 100 different countries.2
Addiction to use of terror by the United States is nothing new. The civilization was founded and has been sustained by use of terror as a primary policy. For example, in 1779, General George Washington ordered destruction of the “merciless Indian savages” of upstate New York, instructing his generals to “chastize” them with “terror.” The generals dutifully carried out these orders. In 1866, General William Tecumseh Sherman ordered “extermination” with vindictive earnestness of the Sioux. They were virtually exterminated. Secretary of War Elihu Root (1899-1904) under President’s McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, justified the ruthless U.S. military conduct in the Philippines that savagely killed a half-million citizens by citing “precedents of the highest authority:” Washington’s and Sherman’s earlier orders.3
War against nations around the world is not new either. The U.S., over its history, has militarily intervened over 500 times, covertly thousands of times, in over one hundred nations.4 Virtually all these interventions have been lawless. It has bombed at least eighteen nations since it dropped Atomic bombs on Japan in 1945. It has used chemical warfare against Southeast Asia, and has provided chemical warfare agents for use by other nations such as Iraq. It has used biological warfare against China, North Korea, and Cuba. The Koreans are quite aware of most of this history. Most U.S. Americans are not. But now the U.S. has declared a unilateral terrorist war on the whole world.5
Two of the interventions in the Nineteenth Century were inflicted against Korea, the first in 1866. The second, larger one, in 1871, witnessed the landing of over 700 marines and sailors on Kanghwa beach on the west side of Korea seeking to establish the first phases of colonization. Destroying several forts while inflicting over 600 casualties on the defending Korean natives, the U.S. withdrew realizing that in order to assure hegemonic success, a much larger, permanent military presence would be necessary. The North Korean people regularly remark about this U.S. invasion, even though most in South Korea do not know of it due to historic censorship. Most in the U.S. don’t know about it either, for similar reasons, even though in all of the Nineteenth Century, this was the largest U.S. military force to land on foreign soil outside of Mexico and Canada until the “Spanish American War” in 1898.
I believe it important for U.S. Americans to place themselves in the position of people living in targeted countries. That North Korea, a nation of 24 million people, i.e., one-twelfth the population of the U.S., many of them poor, a land slightly larger in area than the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, continues to be one of the most demonized nations and least understood, totally perplexes the Korean people. It is worthwhile to seek an understanding of their perspective.
I recently visited that nation and talked with a number of her citizens. I traveled 900 ground miles through six of North Korea’s nine provinces, as well as spending time in Pyongyang, the capital, and several other cities. I talked with dozens of people from all walks of life. Though times have been hard for North Koreans, especially in the 1990s, they long ago proudly rebuilt all of their dozens of cities, thousands of villages, and hundreds of dykes and dams destroyed during the war.
U.S. interference into the sovereign life of Korea immediately upon the 1945 surrender of the hated Japanese, who had occupied the Korean Peninsula for forty years, is one of the major crimes of the Twentieth Century, from which the Korean people have never recovered. (SEE “United States Government War Crimes,” Foerstel and Willson, Spring 2002 – issue Number One, Global Outlook). From a North Korean’s perspective they (1) have vigorously opposed the unlawful and egregious division of their country from day one to the present, (2) were blamed for starting the “Korean War” which in fact had been a struggle between a minority of wealthy Koreans supporting continued colonization in collaboration with the U.S. and those majority Koreans who opposed it, (3) proudly and courageously held the U.S. and its “crony U.N. allies” to a stalemate during the “War,” and (4) have been tragically and unfairly considered a hostile nation ever since. They have not forgotten the forty years of Japanese occupation that preceded the U.S. imposed division and subsequent occupation that continues in the South. They deeply yearn for reunification of their historically unified culture.
Everyone I talked with, dozens and dozens of folks, lost one if not many more family members during the war, especially from the continuous bombing, much of it incendiary and napalm, deliberately dropped on virtually every space in the country. “Every means of communication, every installation, factory, city, and village” was ordered bombed by General MacArthur in the fall of 1950. It never stopped until the day of the armistice on July 27, 1953. The pained memories of people are still obvious, and their anger at “America” is often expressed, though they were very welcoming and gracious to me. Ten million Korean families remain permanently separated from each other due to the military patrolled and walled/fenced dividing line spanning 150 miles across the entire Peninsula.
Let us make it very clear here for western readers. North Korea was virtually totally destroyed during the “Korean War.” U.S. General Douglas MacArthur’s architect for the criminal air campaign was Strategic Air Command head General Curtis LeMay who had proudly conducted the earlier March 10 – August 15, 1945 continuous incendiary bombings of Japan that had destroyed 63 major cities and murdered a million citizens. (The deadly Atomic bombings actually killed far fewer people.) Eight years later, after destroying North Korea’s 78 cities and thousands of her villages, and killing countless numbers of her civilians, LeMay remarked, “Over a period of three years or so we killed off – what – twenty percent of the population.”6 It is now believed that the population north of the imposed 38th Parallel lost nearly a third its population of 8 – 9 million people during the 37-month long “hot” war, 1950 – 1953, perhaps an unprecedented percentage of mortality suffered by one nation due to the belligerence of another.
Virtually every person wanted to know what I thought of Bush’s recent accusation of North Korea as part of an “axis of evil.” Each of the three governments comprising Bush’s “axis of evil” of course immediately condemned the remarks, North Korea being no exception. I shared with them my own outrage and fears, and they seemed relieved to know that not all “Americans” are so cruel and bellicose. As with people in so many other nations with whom the U.S. has treated with hostility, they simply cannot understand why the U.S. is so obsessed with them.
Koreans were relieved to learn that a recent poll had indicated eighty percent of South Koreans were against the U.S. belligerent stance against their northern neighbors. The North Korean government described Bush as a “typical rogue and a kingpin of terrorism” as he was visiting the South in February, only three weeks after presenting his threatening State of the Union address.7 It was also encouraging that the two Koreas resumed quiet diplomatic talks in March just as the U.S. and South Korea were once again conducting their regular, large-scale, joint military exercises so enraging to the North, and to an increasing number of people in the South among the growing reunification movement there.8
In the English-language newspaper, The Pyongyang Times (February 23, 2002), there were articles entitled “US Is Empire of the Devil,” “Korea Will Never Be a Threat to the US,” and “Bush’s Remarks Stand Condemned.” Quite frankly, all three of these articles relate a truth about the U.S. that would draw a consensus from many quarters around the world.
While in country, together we listened to Bush’s March 14 Voice of America (VOA) radio chastizement of North Korea. First, he stated that the North’s 200,000 prisoner population was proof of terrible repression. Though I had no way of knowing the number of prisoners in the North, any more than Bush did, I do know that the United States had at least 2 million prisoners which is similar in per-capita detention rate to that of North Korea if the 200,000 figure is accurate. Furthermore, the U.S. has a minimum of 3-4 million persons, mostly minority and poor, under parole and probation supervision. The U.S. sweeps its class and race problems into prison.
Second, Bush declared that half the population was considered unreliable and, as a result, received less monthly food rations. The Koreans are a proud people living in a Confucian tradition, having rebuilt their nation from virtual total destruction during the Korean War. I did not notice any obvious display of dissent though some Koreans are desperate due to lack of food, water, and heat, especially in some rural areas. This does not automatically translate into dissent, though some are seeking relief by travel to neighboring countries.9
Third, Bush claimed that Koreans who listen to foreign radio are targeted for execution. Together Koreans and I regularly listened to U.S.VOA radio broadcasts and they freely discussed the content of the broadcasts without fear of reprisals.
Fourth, Bush condemned the DPRK for spending too much on its military, causing food shortages for the people. Note: Again it must be remembered that it was the U.S. that unilaterally divided Korea following the Japanese surrender in August 1945, and subsequently ruled with a military occupation government in the south, overseeing the elimination of virtually the entire popular movement of (majority) opposition to U.S. occupation, murdering hundreds of thousands of people. The consequent Korean civil war that openly raged in 1948-1950 was completely ignored when the U.S. defined the beginning of the Korean War in 1950. The U.S. remains at war with the DPRK, never having signed a peace treaty with her. The war has left a deep scar in the Korean character with a memory that is regularly provoked by continued belligerence directed at the DPRK. The U.S. regularly holds joint military exercises with South Korean military forces aimed at the DPRK. The U.S. retains 37,000 military troops at 100 installations south of the 38th parallel. The U.S. has its largest Asian bombing range where it practice bombs five days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, despite opposition from most South Koreans. And now Bush has identified North Korea as part of an “axis of evil” targeted for nuclear attack. This is no remote idea to North Koreans. The U.S. possesses nuclear weapons on ships and planes in the Pacific region surrounding North Korea. Virtually every nation in this perilous position would be concerned about their defense.
It is worth noting that the United States is the leading military spender in the world resulting in substantial underfunding of its own indispensable social programs.
Fifth, Bush accused the DPRK of selling weapons to other nations. That is like the pot calling the kettle black. The U.S. is by far the largest manufacturer of conventional, nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons in the world. It is also the largest seller of these weapons, and has used conventional (against dozens of nations), biological (Cuba, China, Korea, perhaps others), chemical (Southeast Asia), and nuclear (Japan, and threatened to use them on at least 20 other occasions) weapons. In addition it has armed other nations with these weapons of mass destruction, including Iraq, one of those countries now identified as part of the “axis of evil.” In the year 2000, international arms sales were nearly $37 billion, with the U.S. being directly responsible for just over half of those sales. South Korea was the third largest buyer of weapons from the United States with $3.2 worth of military hardware.10 And in January 2002, South Korea was seriously contemplating purchasing an additional $3.2 billion worth of 40 F-X fighter jets from U.S. arms giant Boeing.
At the conclusion of this VOA radio broadcast, Koreans and I looked at each other in disbelief. But we also knew that we were in solidarity with each other as part of the human family. When I said goodbye to my new friends we embraced knowing that we live in a single world made up of a rich diversity of ideas and species. We know that we are going to live or die together, and hope that the arrogant and dangerous rhetoric and militarism of the United States will soon end so we can all live in peace. However, for that to happen, there will need to be a dramatic awakening among the U.S. American people and a corresponding expression of massive nonviolent opposition that will make such threatening behavior impossible to carry out.
1. Bob Woodward, “CIA Told To Do ‘Whatever Necessary’ to Kill Bin Laden,” The Washington Post, October 21, 2001.
2. Bradley Graham, “Pentagon Plans New Command For U.S. Four Star Officer, Would Over See Homeland Defense,” The Washington Post, January 26, 2002.
3. Richard Drinnon, Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian Hating and Empire Building. New York: Schocken Books, 1990, p. 329.
4. B.M. Blechman and S.S. Kaplan, Force Without War: U.S. Armed Forces As A Political Instrument. Wash., D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1978, Appendix B; Congressional Research Service (Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division), Instances of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-1993. Wash., D.C.: Congressional Research Service, 1993; William Blum, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Intervention Since World War II. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1995; John Stockwell, The Praetorian Guard. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1991.
5. William Blum, Rogue State. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2000; Stephan Endicott and Edward Hagerman, The United States and Biological Warfare: Secrets From the Early Cold War and Korea. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1998.
6. Richard Rhodes, “The General and World War III,” The New Yorker, June 19, 1995, p. 53.
7.“North Korea Calls Bush ‘Kingpin of Terrorism,” Reuters wire story, February 23, 2002.
8.”South Korea Envoy to Travel North,” BBC News Online: World: Asia-Pacific, March 25, 2002. Retrieved March 26, 2002, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/low/english/world/asia-pacific/newsid_1891000/1891457.stm
9. Ji-Yeon Yuh, “North Korean Enemy Should Be Made Friend,” The Baltimore Sun, February 27, 2002.
10. Thom Shanker, “Global Arms Sales Rise Again, and the U.S. Leads the Pack, ” The New York Times, August 20, 2001.
The horror created by the chronic pattern of US domestic and international violence is beyond the scope of any solution that can be alleviated through legislation. The psychological roots of our national obsession with violence reside in our origins as a culture derived from the rationalized forceful dispossession of hundreds of Indigenous nations whose people were demonized as “savages” – an historical genocide of huge magnitude – committed with total impunity.
Believing that we live in an “exceptional” democratic society committed to justice for all turns out to be a myth that has served so far, to mask our social secret of in fact living in an oligarchy committed to prosperity for a few, generally white men, at virtually any cost.
Severe Impact of Inequality
The consequences have produced a society burdened with extreme disparities of income and wealth between the few Haves and the many Have-Nots. Such inequality in class stratification – in social-economic relations – is the most significant source of chronic individual and social stress in modern societies such as the USA. Social epidemiologists conclude that the shame inherent in social inequality creates chronic patterns of depression and violence. The strongest evidence that the quality of social relations is related to income inequality is revealed from studies of violent crime and homicide. Homicides are consistently higher in countries with large income differences. [See The Impact of Inequality: How To Make Sick Societies Healthier by Richard Wilkinson (The New Press, 2005)].
Comparing US with Canada, studies show at least a ten-fold difference in homicide rates related in inequality. National Institutes of Health studies reveal US homicide rates 6.9 times higher than rates in similar “developed” countries, driven by firearm homicide rates that are 19.5 times higher.
The vast majority of guns possessed by individual killers in the US are obtained in compliance with existing laws. There is some uncertainty as to what percentage of killers are mentally ill at the time of a shooting, since apparent law-abiding citizens can suffer from sudden episodes of rage or feeling emotionally distraught brought on by changes in social or economic circumstances.
US Government Sets Violent Example
External Military Interventions
A major question exists as to whether a government founded on and maintained by the patterns of violence can seriously prevent personal gun violence? Since 1798, the US government has chosen to militarily invade with US troops into dozens of countries on more than 560 occasions, 390 of which have occurred since World War II. And since World War II, the US has bombed 28 countries, and covertly intervened in more than 100 countries. Millions of people have been murdered, maimed, and displaced by these interventions, virtually all grotesquely illegal.
Internal Military Interventions
Armed military intervention within the United States reveals its own sad history. Since our beginnings as a Republic, there have been well over 200 interventions by federal troops or state militia in quelling domestic civil or racial unrest causing hundreds of deaths and injuries. Between the 1870s and 1930s, more than 700 labor union organizers were murdered during their efforts to achieve justice in US workplaces, either by armed corporate-hired thugs, or state or federal troops.
For example, Blair Mountain, West Virginia. Logan County, West Virginia, was the scene of the third known use of planes to intentionally bomb civilians, during one of the largest civil uprisings in US history, and largest armed insurrection since the Civil War. Between late August and early September 1921, 10,000 to 15,000 coal miners were confronted by 2,000 armed sheriff’s deputies, paramilitaries hired by the coal companies, and a threat of US troops. Private planes were hired to drop homemade bombs on the miners in the towns of Jeffery, Sharples and Blair, using gas and explosive bombs leftover from World War I. Orders from General Billy Mitchell directed Army bombers from Maryland to provide aerial surveillance to oversee the battle against the strikers. More than one million rounds were fired. Up to 30 deaths were reported among the sheriff’s deputies and paramilitary units, with 50-100 miners killed. Federal troops arrived on September 2 to mop up. Nearly 1,000 miners were indicted for murder. The confrontation severely hurt United Mine Worker membership out of fear of repeated battles with coal companies and their trusted armed local police.
Racist Double Standards
In 1920, there were an estimated six million members of the KKK, nearly 25 percent of the adult male population with representatives in every state. They were rarely, if ever, prosecuted. In 1919, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Investigation, precursor to the FBI, headed by young J. Edgar Hoover, collected personal files on 150,000 U.S. Americans labeled seditious radicals, often described as communists or Bolsheviks, many of them union organizers with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Thousands were rounded up and jailed, hundreds deported, many were murdered, virtually none enjoying any due process whatsoever. In the meantime members of the KKK were lynching with impunity African Americans at the rate of six a month, while murdering countless Black leaders and civil rights activists into the late 1960s. [Between 1882-1946, 4,715 African Americans were lynched, with a lesser number 27 lynched between 1947-1968.] The government did not consider this behavior terrorism, as it did those who were critical of U.S. domestic and foreign policy such as members of the IWW.
Furthermore, hundreds of massacres were committed by armed white citizens and riots raged against African Americans in cities throughout the U.S. throughout the twentieth century. The period 1917-1970 saw the appointment of 86 state or federal riot commissions seeking to identify the causes while recommending remedies. Consistently, these commissions found virulent racism and severe class differences as causes. Rarely was terrorism mentioned and few programs were instituted to address these structural causes aside from a brief period in the late 1960s when the 80-year-old Jim Crow laws were formerly outlawed. However, much of the Jim Crow spirit remains alive today as the criminal injustice system incarcerates nearly two million African American mostly males.
National Economy Dependent Upon Violence and Military Firepower: Endangers Children and Their Families Everywhere on the Planet
The US government and the corporations it protects, models from the top an extraordinary model of obsession with guns and all kinds of military weapons: (1) Possesses the vast majority of the world’s supply of weapons of mass destruction; (2) Assures a cabal that is the largest manufacturer and exporter of military weapons in the world; (3) Proudly carries out a policy of “full spectrum dominance” justifying placement of troops in 150 of the world’s 200 countries, sailing military ships in every seaspace, flying military planes in virtually every airspace, and dominating weaponry in space; and (4) Operates an economy almost totally dependent upon assuring profits from expanding and protecting the vast military-industrial-banking-executive-congressional complex.
With such modeling at the top it challenges one to know how to reduce the pattern of terrifying gun violence at home. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence reports almost 100,000 people in the US are shot or killed with a gun every year – 270 every day. Over 30,000 die from these shootings. Over 19,000 of these shootings are unintentional. The majority of suicides are committed with handguns – over 18,000 a year.
In effect, as our gun culture endangers children and their families at home, our culture of war endangers children and their families all over the world. In 2012, there were 17 major shootings in the US, murdering 100, injuring another 124, with an average of six murdered per shooting. In that same year, US President Obama directed 48 drone strikes against family members in Pakistan, murdering over 300 and injuring many others, with an average of six murdered per drone strike.
Looking at Just One Day
Taking just one day while writing this statement, January 10, 2013, I am reminded of our chronic gun madness: (1) Another school shooting, this one in rural Taft High School 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles, where a student with a shotgun entered his own school with a target list of other students who had bullied him, severely injuring one before being disarmed by, interestingly, a dialogue with a teacher who possessed no gun; (2) At the same time of the news of the school shooting, Vice-President Joe Biden in one portion of the White House was facilitating a task force meeting with the National Rifle Association and other gun advocates such as Wal-Mart, discussing measures to reduce gun violence; (3) At the same time in another part of the White House President Barack Obama authorized a drone strike intending to assassinate families in a rural housing complex in rural Hesso Khel, North Waziristan, Pakistan, murdering as many as six, injuring several more; (4) Learning that just two days earlier, a 12-year-old accidentally shot and killed his cousin in a small town in rural Alabama, and a 15-year-old girl in Milwaukee was accidentally shot dead by her brother.
The Nonviolence Approach, Versus Violence
As the teacher at the Taft High School disarmed through dialogue the high school shooter pointing a shotgun at him, such example reveals there are likely safer and more effective ways to deal with gun violence than arming virtually everyone, including teachers. A recent Mother Jones study (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/12/armed-citizens-do-not-stop-mass-shootings, December 19, 2012), examined the details of the 62 mass shootings (4 or more murdered) in the US over the last 30 years. They found that not one was stopped by armed citizens.
A January 11, 2013 study by the Children’s Defense Fund, “Protect Children, Not Guns, The Truth About Guns,” (http://www.childrensdefense.org/child-research-data-publications/data/state-data-repository/the-truth-about-guns.pdf) lays out the evidence that a gun in the home increases the risk of homicide, suicide, and accidental death: “A gun in the home makes the likelihood of homicide three times higher, suicide three to five times higher, and accidental death four times higher. For every time a gun in the home injures or kills in self-defense, there are 11 completed and attempted gun suicides, seven criminal assaults and homicides with a gun, and four unintentional shooting deaths or injuries.” Additionally the report reveals that the number of children under five who died from guns was more than the number of law enforcement officers who died from guns in the line of duty in 2010 (82 children under five died from guns in 2010, compared to 58 law enforcement officers killed by guns in the line of duty.)
And three times more children and teens were injured by guns in 2010 than the number of U.S. soldiers wounded in action that year in the Afghanistan war (15,576 children and teens were injured by guns in 2010 –1 child or teen injured every 34 minutes, 43 children and teens injured every day, 300 children and teens injured every week.)
The California State Teachers Retirement Systems pension fund, taking all this information to account, voted on January 9, 2013, to divest itself from all investments in firearms holdings, arguing that ammunition clips and assault rifles “pose extreme dangers to public health and safety” and that “divestment from the makers of these products complies with the board’s fiduciary duty”.
Looking at nonviolence from a broader perspective, a major study, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict by Chenoweth and Stephan (Columbia Univ Press, 2011), discloses that in the Twentieth Century, campaigns of nonviolent resistance around the world were more than twice as effective as their violent counterparts in achieving their goals for more justice.
It is worth repeating a quote generally attributed to Gandhi: “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.” And we can extend that to: “a corpse for a corpse makes everyone dead.”
Other than perhaps a shotgun, .22 rifle, or a small handgun, we can sensibly choose to disarm ourselves by banning possession of personal assault rifles and guns with magazines of more than six rounds.
I am repulsed by the US American obsession with possession of personal guns. I do not possess any guns, and do not intend to acquire any. As a Viet Nam veteran who received a marksman badge for proficiency with various types of firearms, I served as commander of a combat security ground unit where I witnessed US atrocities against Vietnamese civilians. After the war I served as director of a veterans center during which time a dozen veterans committed suicide, mostly with personal guns. Guns are designed for one purpose – to kill.
PORTLAND, OR December 7, 2012–Members of Right 2 Dream Too and supporters will hold a press conference and rally at Portland City Hall at 10am on Monday, December 10, United Nations Human Rights Day. Right 2 Dream Too has maintained a self-sustaining rest area for people who are houseless at NW 4th and Burnside since October 2011. Even though the site provides emergency shelter to dozens of people every night at no cost to the City of Portland, the City’s Bureau of Development Services continues to fine the landowners for code violations related to recreational camping ordinance. After months of negotiations, testimony before City Council and public rallies there is still no resolution to the conflict between Right 2 Dream Too and the City.
“Housing is a human right, which is why this event is on Human Rights Day,” says Lisa Fay, an organizer for the group. “Why is the City fining our successful project that provides shelter, is cost-effective, democratic, and builds community? It should be replicated, not fined. On December 10, 2012 we will announce a new level of fightback against the City’s unjust policies.”
Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads: ‘Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.’
The Universal Declaration is a resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations, which creates a high expectation that it will be taken seriously. However, a declaration does not create obligations that are technically binding in law. Nevertheless, since the Universal Declaration is so widely used as the primary statement of what are considered human rights today, it is often regarded as having legal significance and considered “customary” international law and as the authentic interpretation of the references in the UN Charter.
The specific rights in the UDHR have been codified into the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). A covenant is a treaty which, under the rules of international law, creates legal obligations on all states that ratify it.
Article 11(1) of the ICESCR also guarantees the right to housing as part of the right to an adequate standard of living. The ICESCR, ratified by 145 other countries, was signed by President Carter on October 5, 1977, and sent to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification. The Senate, however, has yet to even consider the covenant. Advocates should contact their senators and push for ratification of these important international human rights treaties, and then continue to push for the full implementation and enforcement of the rights embodied in these instruments. The results of such advocacy would go far in improving the living conditions of all persons.
Supremacy Clause: Article VI, US Constitution: “The Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”
Note: A “Declaration” does not create treaty obligations, but a “Covenant” does. The US has not yet ratified the “International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights” even though President Carter signed the Covenant in 1977. Thus, 35 years later, it awaits a US Senate ratification (2/3rd vote).