America’s War Аgainst the People of Korea: The Historical Record of US War Crimes

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The following text by Michel Chossudovsky was presented in Seoul, South Korea in the context of the Korea Armistice Day Commemoration, 27 July 2013

A Message for Peace. Towards a Peace Agreement and the Withdrawal of US Troops from Korea

Introduction

Armistice Day, 27 July 1953 is day of Remembrance for the People of Korea.

It is a landmark date in the historical struggle for national reunification and sovereignty.

I am privileged to have this opportunity of participating in the 60th anniversary commemoration of Armistice Day on July 27, 2013.

I am much indebted to the “Anti-War, Peace Actualized, People Action” movement for this opportunity to contribute to the debate on peace and reunification.

An armistice is an agreement by the warring parties to stop fighting. It does signify the end of war.

What underlies the 1953 Armistice Agreement is that one of the warring parties, namely the US has consistently threatened to wage war on the DPRK for the last 60 years.

The US has on countless occasions violated the Armistice Agreement. It has remained on a war footing. Casually ignored by the Western media and the international community, the US has actively deployed nuclear weapons targeted at North Korea for more than half a century in violation of article 13b) of the Armistice agreement. 

The armistice remains in force. The US is still at war with Korea. It is not a peace treaty, a peace agreement was never signed.

The US has used the Armistice agreement to justify the presence of 37,000 American troops on Korean soil under a bogus United Nations mandate, as well as establish an environment of continuous and ongoing military threats. This situation of “latent warfare” has lasted for the last 60 years. It is important to emphasize that this US garrison in South Korea is the only U.S. military presence based permanently on the Asian continent.

Our objective in this venue is to call for a far-reaching peace treaty, which will not only render the armistice agreement signed on July 27, 1953 null and void, but will also lay the foundations for the speedy withdrawal of US troops from Korea as well as lay the foundations for the reunification of the Korean nation.

Armistice Day in a Broader Historical Perspective

This commemoration is particularly significant in view of mounting US threats directed not only against Korea, but also against China and Russia as part of Washington’s “Asia Pivot”, not to mention the illegal occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, the US-NATO wars against Libya and Syria, the military threats directed against Iran, the longstanding struggle of the Palestinian people against Israel, the US sponsored wars and insurrections in sub-Saharan Africa.

Armistice Day July 27, 1953, is a significant landmark in the history of US led wars.  Under the Truman Doctrine formulated in the late 1940s, the Korean War (1950-1953) had set the stage for a global process of militarization and US led wars. “Peace-making” in terms of a peace agreement is in direct contradiction with Washington “war-making” agenda.

Washington has formulated a global military agenda. In the words of four star General Wesley Clark (Ret) [image right], quoting a senior Pentagon official:

“We’re going to take out seven countries in 5 years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran” (Democracy Now March 2, 2007).

The Korean War (1950-1953) was the first major military operation  undertaken by the US in the wake of  World War II,  launched at the very outset of  what was euphemistically called “The Cold War”. In many respects it was a continuation of World War II, whereby Korean lands under Japanese colonial occupation were, from one day to the next, handed over to a new colonial power, the United States of America.

At the Potsdam Conference (July–August 1945), the US and the Soviet Union agreed to dividing Korea, along the 38th parallel.

There was no “Liberation” of Korea following the entry of US forces. Quite the opposite.

As we recall, a US military government was established in South Korea on September 8, 1945, three weeks after the surrender of Japan on August 15th 1945. Moreover,  Japanese officials in South Korea assisted the US Army Military Government (USAMG) (1945-48) led by General Hodge in ensuring this transition. Japanese colonial administrators in Seoul as well as their Korean police officials worked hand in glove with the new colonial masters.

From the outset, the US military government refused to recognize the provisional government of the People’s Republic of Korea (PRK), which was committed to major social reforms including land distribution, laws protecting the rights of workers, minimum wage legislation and  the reunification of North and South Korea.

The PRK was non-aligned with an anti-colonial mandate, calling for the “establishment of close relations with the United States, USSR, England, and China, and positive opposition to any foreign influences interfering with the domestic affairs of the state.”2

The PRK was abolished by military decree in September 1945 by the USAMG. There was no democracy, no liberation no independence.

While Japan was treated as a defeated Empire, South Korea was identified as a colonial territory to be administered under US military rule and US occupation forces.

America’s handpicked appointee Sygman Rhee [left] was flown into Seoul in October 1945, in General Douglas MacArthur’s personal airplane.

The Korean War (1950-1953)

The crimes committed by the US against the people of Korea in the course of the Korean War but also in its aftermath are unprecedented in modern history.

Moreover, it is important to understand that these US sponsored crimes against humanity committed in the 1950s have, over the years, contributed to setting “a pattern of killings” and US human rights violations in different parts of the World.

The Korean War was also characterised by a practice of targeted assassinations of political dissidents, which was subsequently implemented by the CIA in numerous countries including Indonesia, Vietnam, Argentina, Guatemala, El Salvador, Afghanistan, Iraq.

Invariably these targeted killings were committed on the instructions of the CIA and carried out by a US sponsored proxy government or military dictatorship. More recently, targeted assassinations of civilians, “legalised” by the US Congress have become, so to speak, the “New Normal”.

According to  I.F. Stone’s “Hidden History of the Korean War” first published in 1952 (at the height of the Korean War), the US deliberately sought a pretext, an act of deception, which incited the North to cross the 38th parallel ultimately leading to all out war.

“[I. F. Stone’s book] raised questions about the origin of the Korean War, made a case that the United States government manipulated the United Nations, and gave evidence that the U.S. military and South Korean oligarchy dragged out the war by sabotaging the peace talks, 3

In Stone’s account, General Douglas MacArthur “did everything possible to avoid peace”.

US wars of aggression are waged under the cloak of “self defence” and pre-emptive attacks. Echoing I. F. Stone’s historical statement concerning General MacArthur, sixty years later US president Barack Obama and his defence Secretary Chuck Hagel are also “doing. everything possible to avoid peace”. 

This pattern of inciting the enemy “to fire the first shot” is well established in US military doctrine. It pertains to creating a “War Pretext Incident” which provides the aggressor to pretext to intervene on the grounds of “Self- Defence”. It characterised the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 1941, triggered by deception and provocation of which US officials had advanced knowledge. Pearl Harbor was the justification for America’s entry into World War II.

The Tonkin Gulf Incident in August 1964 was the pretext for the US to wage war on North Vietnam, following the adoption of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution by the US Congress, which granted President Lyndon B. Johnson the authority to wage war on Communist North Vietnam.

I. F. Stone’s analysis refutes “the standard telling”  … that the Korean War was an unprovoked aggression by the North Koreans beginning on June 25, 1950, undertaken at the behest of the Soviet Union to extend the Soviet sphere of influence to the whole of Korea, completely surprising the South Koreans, the U.S., and the U.N.”:

But was it a surprise? Could an attack by 70,000 men using at least 70 tanks launched simultaneously at four different points have been a surprise?

Stone gathers contemporary reports from South Korean, U.S. and U.N. sources documenting what was known before June 25. The head of the U.S. CIA, Rear Admiral Roscoe H. Hillenloetter, is reported to have said on the record, “that American intelligence was aware that ‘conditions existed in Korea that could have meant an invasion this week or next.’” (p. 2)  Stone writes that “America’s leading military commentator, Hanson Baldwin of the New York Times, a trusted confidant of the Pentagon, reported that they [U.S. military documents] showed ‘a marked buildup by the North Korean People’s Army along the 38th Parallel beginning in the early days of June.’” (p. 4)

How and why did U.S. President Truman so quickly decide by June 27 to commit the U.S. military to battle in South Korea? Stone makes a strong case that there were those in the U.S. government and military who saw a war in Korea and the resulting instability in East Asia as in the U.S. national interest. 4

According to the editor of France’s Nouvel Observateur Claude Bourdet:

“If Stone’s thesis corresponds to reality, we are in the presence of the greatest swindle in the whole of military history… not a question of a harmless fraud but of a terrible maneuver in which deception is being consciously utilized to block peace at a time when it is possible.”5

In the words of renowned American writers Leo Huberman and Paul Sweezy:

“….we have come to the conclusion that (South Korean president) Syngman Rhee deliberately provoked the North Koreans in the hope that they would retaliate by crossing the parallel in force. The northerners fell neatly into the trap.” 6

On 25 June 1950, following the adoption of UN  Security Council Resolution 82, General Douglas MacArthur, who headed the US military government in occupied Japan was appointed Commander in Chief of the so-called United Nations Command (UNCOM). According to Bruce Cumings, the Korean War “bore a strong resemblance to the air war against Imperial Japan in the second world war and was often directed by the same US military leaders” including generals Douglas MacArthur and Curtis Lemay.

US War Crimes against the People of Korea

Extensive crimes were committed by US forces in the course of the Korean War (1950-1953).  While nuclear weapons were not used during the Korean War, what prevailed was the strategy of  “mass killings of civilians” which had been formulated during World War II. A policy of killing innocent civilians was implemented through extensive air raids and bombings of German cities by American and British forces in the last weeks of World War II. In a bitter irony, military targets were safeguarded.

This unofficial doctrine of killing of civilians under the pretext of targeting military objectives largely characterised US military actions both in the course of the Korean war as well as in its aftermath. According to Bruce Cummings:

On 12 August 1950, the USAF dropped 625 tons of bombs on North Korea; two weeks later, the daily tonnage increased to some 800 tons.U.S. warplanes dropped more napalm and bombs on North Korea than they did during the whole Pacific campaign of World War II. 7

The territories North of the 38th parallel were subjected to extensive carpet bombing, which resulted in the destruction of 78 cities and thousands of villages:

“What was indelible about it [the Korean War of 1950-53] was the extraordinary destructiveness of the United States’ air campaigns against North Korea, from the widespread and continuous use of firebombing (mainly with napalm), to threats to use nuclear and chemical weapons, and the destruction of huge North Korean dams in the final stages of the war.  ….

As a result, almost every substantial building in North Korea was destroyed. …. 8

US Major General  William F Dean “reported that most of the North Korean cities and villages he saw were either rubble or snow-covered wastelands”

General Curtis LeMay [left] who coordinated the bombing raids against North Korea brazenly acknowledged that:

“Over a period of three years or so we killed off – what – twenty percent of the population. … We burned down every town in North Korea and South Korea, too”. 9

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