U.S. Path to War on North Korea Is Well Worn

The U.S. proposal for a U.N. resolution allowing “all necessary measures” to forcibly halt and inspect North Korean ships and to cut off oil to North Korea may send our species out the door with a culminating act that echoes and builds on numerous historical precedents.

We know, if we don’t deny the science, that climate change threatens us all, that a single nuclear bomb could push climate change well past the point of no return (if we aren’t there already), that several nuclear bombs could starve us out of existence, and that a significant nuclear war could end our follies quite swiftly.

That alone ought to be enough reason to choose diplomacy over the foreign-policy equivalent of shooting guns at a hurricane.

But why is innocent harmless philanthropic inspecting of ships for the good of the Rule of Law a problem? If those people have nothing to hide, then what — insert clever grin here — do they have to worry about, huh?

Surveys of people around the world find strong majority opinion that the greatest threat to peace is the U.S. government. Surveys in the United States find nobody thinking such insanity. And of course the 4% of us who live in the United States are basically right, and the other 96% of our species are a bunch of lunatics as a general rule. But let’s try to see things from their misguided viewpoint, falsely informed as it is.

They think that big U.S. corporations like making money. Nuts, I know. But they think that. And they know that many of the biggest U.S. corporations make weapons of war, and that they make more money when they have more wars. Also, the nutcases who inhabit the rest of the earth believe that the U.S. government may not be 100% free of corruption, that in fact U.S. election “contributions” are the equivalent of what the rest of the world calls “bribes.” Lunacy, I’ll grant you, but the point is that these poor deluded creatures see it this way.

Now, we all know, or should know, that

  • then-Vice President Dick Cheney proposed staging a conflict between U.S. and Iranian ships in order to start a war;
  • then-President George W. Bush proposed painting U.S. planes with U.N. colors and flying them low over Iraq to get them shot at to start a war;
  • then-President Barack Obama obtained a U.N. resolution to rescue supposedly threatened people in a Libyan city and immediately proceeded to bomb and overthrow the Libyan government, relying on the expectation that many people would sort of kind of think a war had somehow more or less been authorized;
  • then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt acted on an October 1940 memo by Lieutenant Commander Arthur H. McCollum.

That memo called for eight actions that McCollum predicted would lead the Japanese to attack, including arranging for the use of British bases in Singapore and for the use of Dutch bases in what is now Indonesia, aiding the Chinese government, sending a division of long-range heavy cruisers to the Philippines or Singapore, sending two divisions of submarines to “the Orient,” keeping the main strength of the fleet in Hawaii, insisting that the Dutch refuse the Japanese oil, and embargoing all trade with Japan in collaboration with the British Empire. The day after McCollum’s memo, the State Department told Americans to evacuate far eastern nations, and Roosevelt ordered the fleet kept in Hawaii over the strenuous objection of Admiral James O. Richardson who quoted the President as saying “Sooner or later the Japanese would commit an overt act against the United States and the nation would be willing to enter the war.” The message that Admiral Harold Stark sent to Admiral Husband Kimmel on November 28, 1941, read, “IF HOSTILITIES CANNOT REPEAT CANNOT BE AVOIDED THE UNITED STATES DESIRES THAT JAPAN COMMIT THE FIRST OVERT ACT.” Joseph Rochefort, cofounder of the Navy’s communication intelligence section, who was instrumental in failing to communicate to Pearl Harbor what was coming, would later comment: “It was a pretty cheap price to pay for unifying the country.”

On May 31, 1941, at the Keep America Out of War Congress, William Henry Chamberlin gave a dire warning: “A total economic boycott of Japan, the stoppage of oil shipments for instance, would push Japan into the arms of the Axis. Economic war would be a prelude to naval and military war.” On July 24, 1941, President Roosevelt remarked, “If we cut the oil off, [the Japanese] probably would have gone down to the Dutch East Indies a year ago, and you would have had a war. It was very essential from our own selfish point of view of defense to prevent a war from starting in the South Pacific. So our foreign policy was trying to stop a war from breaking out there.” Reporters noticed that Roosevelt said “was” rather than “is.” The next day, Roosevelt issued an executive order freezing Japanese assets. The United States and Britain cut off oil and scrap metal to Japan. Radhabinod Pal, an Indian jurist who served on the war crimes tribunal in Tokyo after the war, called the embargoes a “clear and potent threat to Japan’s very existence,” and concluded the United States had provoked Japan.

Then, of course, there is the Korean precedent. The United States and allies divided Korea in two and fueled hostility on the border. The U.S. rejected Soviet proposals for peace negotiations. U.S. troops had to be drafted, even though they were told they were heading off to somehow defend the way of life in the United States and in supposed defense of South Korea against aggression by North Korea. On June 25, 1950, the north and the south each claimed the other side had invaded. The first reports from U.S. military intelligence were that the south had invaded the north. Both sides agreed that the fighting began near the west coast at the Ongjin peninsula, meaning that Pyongyang was a logical target for an invasion by the south, but an invasion by the north there made little sense as it led to a small peninsula and not to Seoul. Also on June 25th, both sides announced the capture by the south of the northern city of Haeju, and the U.S. military confirmed that. On June 26th, the U.S. ambassador sent a cable confirming a southern advance: Northern armor and artillery are withdrawing all along the line.

South Korean President Syngman Rhee had been conducting raids of the north for a year and had announced in the spring his intention to invade the north, moving most of his troops to the 38th parallel, the line along which the north and south had been divided. In the north only a third of available troops were positioned near the border. Nonetheless, Americans were told that North Korea had attacked South Korea and had done so at the behest of the Soviet Union as part of a plot to take over the world for communism. Arguably, whichever side attacked (and the consensus is that it was the North to first launch a successful major invasion, regardless of which side initially attacked), this was a civil war. The Soviet Union was not involved, and the United States ought not to have been. South Korea was not the United States, and was not in fact anywhere near the United States. Nonetheless, the United States entered another defensive war that had been built up to and provoked by both sides of a small, distant, and divided country.

The U.S. government persuaded the United Nations that military action had to be taken against North Korea, something the Soviet Union might have been expected to veto had it been behind the war, but the Soviet Union was boycotting the United Nations. The United States won some countries votes at the United Nations by lying to them that the south had captured tanks manned by Russians. U.S. officials publicly declared Soviet involvement but privately doubted it. The Soviet Union, in fact, did not want a war and on July 6th its deputy foreign minister told the British ambassador in Moscow that it wanted a peaceful settlement. The U.S. ambassador in Moscow thought this was genuine. Washington didnt care. The North, the U.S. government said, had violated the 38th parallel, that sacred line of national sovereignty. But as soon as U.S. General Douglas MacArthur got the chance, he proceeded, with President Trumans approval, right across that line, into the north, and up to the border of China. MacArthur had been drooling for a war with China and threatening it, and asked for permission to attack, which the Joint Chiefs of Staff refused. Eventually, Truman fired MacArthur. Attacking a power plant in North Korea that supplied China, and bombing a border city, was the closest MacArthur got to what he wanted.

But the U.S. threat to China, or at least the U.S. threat to defeat North Korea, brought the Chinese and Russians into the war, a war that cost Korea two million civilian lives and the United States 37,000 soldiers, while turning Seoul and Pyongyang both into piles of rubble. Many of the dead had been killed at close range, slaughtered unarmed and in cold-blood by both sides. And the border was right back where it had been, but the hatred directed across that border greatly increased. When the war ended, having accomplished no good for anyone but weapons makers, people emerged from a mole-like existence in caves and tunnels to find a nightmare in the bright of day.

I cannot resist mentioning here one of the most ludicrous ever means of rejecting unwanted information about a war, which arose in the United States during the Korean War. Here in our little U.S. bubble we’ve heard of a couple of versions of a film called The Manchurian Candidate. We’ve heard of the general concept of “brainwashing” and may even associate it with something evil that the Chinese supposedly did to U.S. prisoners during the Korean War.

I’d be willing to bet that the majority of people who’ve heard of these things have at least a vague sense that they’re not actually real. In fact, people cannot actually be programed like the Manchurian candidate, which was a work of fiction. There was never the slightest evidence that China or North Korea had done any such thing. And the CIA spent decades trying to do such a thing, and finally gave up.

I’d also be willing to bet that very few people know what it was that the U.S. government promoted the myth of “brainwashing” to cover up. During the Korean War, the United States bombed virtually all of North Korea and a good bit of the South, killing hundreds of thousands of people. It dropped massive quantities of Napalm. It bombed dams, bridges, villages, houses. This was all-out mass-slaughter. But there was something the U.S. government didn’t want known, something deemed unethical in this genocidal madness.

It is well documented that the United States dropped on China and North Korea insects and feathers carrying anthrax, cholera, encephalitis, and bubonic plague. This was supposed to be a secret at the time, and the Chinese response of mass vaccinations and insect eradication probably contributed to the project’s general failure (hundreds were killed, but not millions). But members of the U.S. military taken prisoner by the Chinese confessed to what they had been a part of. Some of them had felt guilty to begin with. Some had been shocked at China’s decent treatment of prisoners after U.S. depictions of the Chinese as savages. For whatever reasons, they confessed, and their confessions were highly credible, were borne out by independent scientific reviews, and have stood the test of time.

There isn’t any debate that the United States had been working on bio-weapons for years, at Fort Detrick — then Camp Detrick — and numerous other locations. Nor is there any question that the United States employed the top bio-weapons killers from among both the Japanese and the Nazis from the end of World War II onward. Nor is there any question that the U.S. tested such weapons on the city of San Francisco and numerous other locations around the United States, and on U.S. soldiers. There’s a museum in Havana featuring evidence of years of U.S. bio-warfare against Cuba. We know that Plum Island, off the tip of Long Island, was used to test the weaponization of insects, including the ticks that created the ongoing outbreak of Lyme Disease. Dave Chaddock’s book This Must Be the Place collects the evidence that the United States indeed tried to wipe out millions of Chinese and North Koreans with deadly diseases.

The propaganda struggle was intense. The support of the Guatemalan government for the reports of U.S. germ warfare in China were part of the U.S. motivation for overthrowing the Guatemalan government; and the same cover-up was likely part of the motivation for the CIA’s murder of a man named Frank Olson.

How to counter reports of the confessions? The answer for the CIA and the U.S. military and their allies in the corporate media was “brainwashing,” which conveniently explained away whatever prisoners said as false narratives implanted in their brains by brainwashers. Millions of Americans more or less believe this craziest-ever dog-ate-my-homework concoction to this day. It’s safe to say that Americans wouldn’t believe in Chinese “brainwashing” if the stories had been about the U.S. government rather than the Chinese.

Since the war ended, the United States has refused to end it, opposing any peace treaty, threatening North Korea steadily for decades, flying practice bombing runs along the border, forcing South Korea to install U.S. weapons that both North Korea and China view as threats. And now, fed up with North Korea’s failure to react sufficiently to countless provocations, the U.S. wants to stop ships on the open seas and blockade its puny enemy. When this approach was taken with Japan, neither Japan nor the United States had nuclear weapons.

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