Can the United States Own Up to Its War Crimes During the Korean War?

Hits: 524

When I was living in San Francisco in 1981, I met and became friends with Chun Sun-Tae, a Korean immigrant who had come to the United States as a college student in the 1960s and ran a small luggage shop in Oakland. James, as he was known, had grown up in the 1940s in the city of Kaesong in what was then the northern frontier of South Korea.

One warm day in June, 1950, he went camping with a group of friends at a nearby lake. The next morning, they woke to the sounds of artillery and gunfire: Kaesong had just been overrun by the Korean People’s Army and was now under control of the communist North.

Over the next three years, Kaesong would change hands several more times, and eventually became the site for the truce talks that led to the 1953 armistice that ended the fighting. It’s now located—as the photo above illustrates—just a few miles north of the current border in North Korea.

As a result of its unfortunate location, Kaesong was attacked several times during the war by US bombers and jet aircraft, who completely controlled Korean skies and dropped huge quantities of napalm and bombs on the country. Once, James told me, an American bomb ripped through a large structure in Kaesong where townspeople had sought shelter; hundreds of people were burned to death.

He described the experience of an American bombing in Memory of Forgotten War, a 2013 film by Ramsey Liem, a professor emeritus at Boston College.

“I still hear the sound… and then big clouds. Right after that… orange fire… blood here, shrapnel passing through my cheek.”

His father sent Chun south to Seoul, where his family thought he would be safe. When the lines dividing North and South were drawn after the 1953 armistice, Kaesong remained in the North—the only major city to change hands from South to North. James never saw his father again. But years later, during the 1980s, he became one of the first Korean-Americans to visit North Korea, and was finally reunited with the surviving members of his family.

Yet Korea remains divided, and tensions between North Korea and the United States are now higher than they’ve ever been. As the conflict has deepened in recent years, the nation north of the DMZ has become a source of hatred, disdain and fear. To most Americans, North Korea is an abomination, a “slave state,” ruthlessly run by a hereditary dictator, Kim Jong Un and a handful of sycophantic generals with funny hats and grim faces.

Few journalists ever get past these stereotypes to report on the country’s past, or look into the reasons for its hostility to the United States. Ask most reporters in Washington, and the words they’ll use for the North are “crazy” and “irrational.” And as we saw with the sophomoric film The Interview (and its reminders at this year’s Academy Awards), Hollywood sees North Korea and its leader as an endless source of amusement and parody.

But last week, for the first time in my memory, a mainstream US media outlet ran an article that not only challenged this narrow view, but cut through the haze to present the reasons for North Korea’s quite valid fear and distrust of America.

The US war crime North Korea won’t forget” was published on March 24 as a commentary in The Washington Post by Blaine Harden, a former Post reporter and the author of two books on North Korea. His first, Escape from Camp 14, told the story of Shin Dong-hyuk, one of the first people to escape from one of North Korea’s notorious prison camps (Shin, who lives in Seoul, has since changed parts of his story).

Harden is now on tour for his second book, The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot, which is about North Korea’s first dictator, Kim Il Sung, and a North Korean defector who flew a MIG fighter jet south during the height of the war. Harden, in other words, is someone with no illusions about the North.

That makes his Post article even more compelling, and I hope it’s read far and wide, especially in Washington. After explaining how the North’s leaders use the Korean War as a propaganda tool against the United States, Harden argues that there is truth behind some of the regime’s claims.

The hate is not all manufactured. It is rooted in a fact-based narrative, one that North Korea obsessively remembers and the United States blithely forgets.

The story dates to the early 1950s, when the US Air Force, in response to the North Korean invasion that started the Korean War, bombed and napalmed cities, towns and villages across the North. It was mostly easy pickings for the Air Force, whose B-29s faced little or no opposition on many missions.

The bombing was long, leisurely and merciless, even by the assessment of America’s own leaders. “Over a period of three years or so, we killed off—what—20 percent of the population,” Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, told the Office of Air Force History in 1984. Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later secretary of state, said the United States bombed “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.” After running low on urban targets, US bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops.

Although the ferocity of the bombing was criticized as racist and unjustified elsewhere in the world, it was never a big story back home. US press coverage of the air war focused, instead, on “MiG alley,” a narrow patch of North Korea near the Chinese border. There, in the world’s first jet-powered aerial war, American fighter pilots competed against each other to shoot down five or more Soviet-made fighters and become “aces.” War reporters rarely mentioned civilian casualties from US carpet-bombing. It is perhaps the most forgotten part of a forgotten war.

He ends with a plea for reconciliation.

Since World War II, the United States has engaged in an almost unbroken chain of major and minor wars in distant and poorly understood countries. Yet for a meddlesome superpower that claims the democratic high ground, it can sometimes be shockingly incurious and self-absorbed.

In the case of the bombing of North Korea, its people never really became conscious of a major war crime committed in their name. Paying attention in a democracy is a moral obligation. It is also a way to avoid repeating immoral mistakes.

And if North Korea ever does change, if the Kim family were overthrown or were to voluntarily loosen its chokehold on information, a US apology for the bombing could help dispel 65 years of hate.

As someone who’s spent years trying to explain the animosity between North Korea and the United States to skeptical Americans, including with many articles in The Nation, these words were a revelation to me. They also caught the attention of people I know with significant experience in both North and South Korea.

“This is hugely significant,” says Christine Ahn, a Korean-American activist who is the prime mover behind a plan by Gloria Steinem and other prominent women to walk across the North-South border next month in a plea for peace on the peninsula. “In the Post, he actually writes that the US committed war crimes in Korea.”

Harden, she noted, has been a major voice exposing the evils of North Korea. “While we can’t deny the existence of labor and prison camps,” said Ahn, “he’s putting North Korea in historical context. That’s what we as activists have been trying to do all along.”

“We are walking to invite all concerned to imagine a new chapter in Korean history, marked by dialogue, understanding, and—ultimately—forgiveness,” Ahn told a news conference at the United Nations on March 10. As The New York Times reported:

The goal of the women was to punctuate their desire for a permanent peace treaty to replace the 1953 armistice that halted, but technically did not end, the Korean War, a conflict that claimed an estimated four million lives, mostly Koreans, and separated millions of families.

The organizers, a broad array of international peace activists, also see their plan as a catalyst for other steps that could revive the North-South reconciliation process, which has essentially been paralyzed by hostility, suspicion and occasional eruptions of violence.

Mike Bassett, a former US Army officer who served in South Korea for most of the last decade as a tank commander and platoon sergeant, also linked Harden’s article to the need for reconciliation. “I was blown away” by the story, he told me. “This has been a subject I never expected anyone to talk about—and definitely not something as powerful as saying ‘we did commit war crimes there.’”

He compared the US attitude towards Korea, summarized in the oft-repeated phrase “the forgotten war,” to Japan’s refusal to recognize its terrible misdeeds during World War II. “The US will never admit what it did in Korea.”

Bassett’s knowledge runs deep. He was raised in Illinois by his grandfather, a Korean War veteran who was stationed with a US artillery battalion in the notorious “Iron Triangle.”

In the months after US forces crossed the 38th parallel in a disastrous attempt to occupy the North up to the Yalu River, it was a hotly contested area where United States, North Korean and Chinese forces often clashed, frequently in hand-to-hand combat. From his grandfather, Bassett learned first-hand about the human destruction caused by US bombing and shelling.

“He said his battalion decimated tons of civilians; he knew,” he said.

During his last deployment in 2008, Bassett was stationed in the most northern part of the DMZ with a reconnaissance-intelligence unit that often encountered North Korean soldiers just across the border. Until then, he had hated North Koreans with all his might. But the experience at the border began to change his perceptions.

“When I started pulling guard shifts on the DMZ, I’d be looking at them, and they were just like me—wet from the rain, cold, hungry. We made eye contact sometimes. I think we began to feel what each other was going through. I remembered what my grandfather had said—“we should have fought to the Yalu” and left Korea united.

“That experience made me want to change from shooting artillery at the North to learning how to resolve tensions. I want the regime to end, but it has to be in a humane way. Those guys [on the border] suffer just like I did.’

After leaving the military, Bassett studied at Yonsei University in South Korea and at American University in Washington, DC. He says he spent much of 2013 in North Korea, working as a consultant for South Korea’s Ministry of Unification on a plan to organize a North-South Korean orchestra that would perform at the Peace Park on the DMZ. But the plan was scuttled after tensions escalated over North Korea’s objection to US-South Korean military exercises that Kim’s regime believes are practice runs for an invasion.

Facing up to the truths of the war is central to the peace process, said Bassett. “The Korean War is still the most advanced propaganda war in human history.”


Originally published on 2015-03-30

Author: Tim Shorrock

Source: The Nation

Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest.

Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!

Donate to Support Us

We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.

READ MORE!
UN Anti-Nazi Resolution 10 Year Anniversary: Syria, Israel and North Korea Support It, US Adamantly Opposes It
Throughout the past decade, the UN General Assembly Third Committee has adopted the resolution: “Combating Glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fueling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.”Every year the resolution is adopted by an overwhelming majority of UN member states, while the European Union, which, as the battleground of Nazism should have supported the resolution, merely abstains, and their fence-straddling raises disturbing questions about their actual tendencies. Japan’s abstention raises equally disturbing questions. The United States has consistently, and shockingly, opposed this resolution.The resolution is sponsored by the Russian Federation, which ...
READ MORE
Kosovo: A Short History – A Contribution Which Noel Malcolm Will Never Tell You
I will not dwell either on the prehistory nor early history of the region of Kosovo-Metochia (KosMet) in this article.The Montenegrins and medieval SerbiaIt used to pass from one state to the other, until Stephan Nemanja (1166−1196), a nobleman from Zeta (present-day Montenegro), founded the state of Serbia, whose center very soon later became exactly in today’s KosMet. First a Byzantine vassal dukedom, Serbia became soon an independent state, to become an empire under the rule of Stephan Dušan (1331−1355), the first Emperor of Serbia.[1]Serbia’s Nemanjić’s dynasty ended with Dušan’s son, Uroš, disintegrating into many feudal possessions.[2] In the epic ...
READ MORE
Israel: America’s “Mad Dog” in Syria
Israel has played an increasingly provocative role in the destructive conflict unfolding within and along Syria’s borders since 2011. To many observers, it appears Israeli policy borders between opportunistic and unilateral aggression. In reality, Israel’s role in the Syrian conflict fits a much larger and long-term pattern with Anglo-American plans not only for Syria but for the entire region. A more recent row between Israel and Syria was the reported incursion of Israeli warplanes into Syrian airspace, including attacks near the eastern Syrian city of Palmyra. Palmyra hosts an ongoing battle between Syrian forces and the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (ISIS) terrorist ...
READ MORE
The Empire Wants Ms. Hitllary Clinton, The Conqueror!
What a fine race it has become! Both Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump are competing in it as a who is the ‘tougher guy/gal’ in what could be easily described as a 21st Century Tarantino-style (or Scorsese-style) political pulp fiction gore. What they both utter, may often sound like some staged bluff: “Are you talking to me? Hey, there’s nobody else here… Are you talking to me?” But just think for a moment what would really happen if one of them sticks to his or her ‘promises’ and ‘principles’, after getting elected! (The bullets would be flying, the nukes exploding, and millions ...
READ MORE
Bush Family Links to Nazi Germany
“A  famous American family” made its fortune from the Nazis, according to John Loftus’ documented historical analysis.     The Bush family links to Nazi Germany’s war economy were first brought to light at the Nuremberg trials in the testimony of Nazi Germany’s steel magnate Fritz Thyssen. Thyssen was a partner of George W. Bush’s grandfather Prescott Bush:  From 1945 until 1949 in Nuremberg, one of the lengthiest and, it now appears, most futile interrogations of a Nazi war crimes suspect began in the American Zone of Occupied Germany. Multibillionaire steel magnate Fritz Thyssen-the man whose steel combine was the cold heart of the Nazi war machine-talked and ...
READ MORE
A Biography of Kurt Waldheim (Austria)
The U.N. Organization was established in 1945 for the very security reason – to preserve the peace in the world. We believe that the governmental bodies and administrative structures of the U.N. have to be composed by the proved democratically oriented politicians and magistrates but above all this requirement has to be applied to the post and function of the U.N. Secretary-General. Nevertheless, in the history of the U.N. there is at least one (extremely) problematic appointment to the post of the U.N. Secretary-General: Kurt Waldheim from Austria.On the official website of the U.N. about its fourth Secretary-General one can ...
READ MORE
Destruction of Christianity: Syria and Kosovo
Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest. Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement! Donate to Support Us We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.
READ MORE
The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!
Has your electric garage door stopped working? Does your dog wake up in the middle of the night and begin howling? Is the weather unseasonably hot, cold, windy, dry or wet? Has your television set (or refrigerator, or sound system or home alarm) inexplicably turned on, or off? If one uncritically viewed the corporate-controlled media and accepted at face value the statements of much of official Washington, especially the Democratic Party, one could easily draw the conclusion that the Russians did it. A paranoid frenzy is gripping the US political and media establishment. A ruling elite that commands the world’s largest economy ...
READ MORE
“Operation Unthinkable” (1945) and US-NATO’s Threats to Wage War on Russia
Five days before the celebration of the 71th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s capitulation to the Soviet and allied troops in the WWII, the new NATO Supreme Commander in Europe Curtis Scaparrotti announced that he came to beat the drums of war again. Ignoring the historic facts and legitimate Russian interests in its around, in his first speech after assuming office he condemned alleged “Russian aggressive behavior that challenges international norms” and called the bloc members to “fight tonight if deterrence fails.” This commonplace declaration fairly correlates with the military and media strategy the Western ruling class adopted decades ago. Even putting aside the ...
READ MORE
Endless War is no Honor to America’s Veterans
Veterans Day has passed. The annual ritual never changes. Politicians who didn’t serve in the armed services start unnecessary wars, killing military personnel whose sacrifices are then lauded. Officials say these heroes died defending our freedom. That is almost always a lie.Sometimes Washington must go to war. Not often, however. Despite the endless claims that we live in a dangerous world, America is amazingly safe. No other power could defeat, let alone conquer, the United States. Only Russia has a comparable nuclear arsenal, but it would be destroyed if Moscow targeted America. China and Russia trail U.S. conventional military strength ...
READ MORE
Classified Evidence: US Soldiers Raped Boys in front of Their Mothers
According to a number of global mainstream media sources, the Pentagon is covering up a disturbing video that was never made public with the rest of the recent torture report.According to various well respected journalists, including Seymour Hersh, the appalling video was recorded at Abu Ghraib, the notorious US torture dungeon in Iraq that made headlines roughly a decade ago, when the inhumane tactics being used at the prison were exposed.Sadly, it seems that the evidence released years ago was only scratching the surface.While the video has remained under wraps thus far, Hersh says it is only a matter of time before it ...
READ MORE
These are all the Countries where the US has a Military Presence (in 2015)
On Mar. 24, US president Barack Obama announced that all 9,800 US troops currently stationed in Afghanistan will remain until the end of 2015. This generated a fair amount of criticism: it was, after all, Obama’s promise that the last American troop would leave the country in 2014.How have Obama’s plans for pulling out of Afghanistan fared so far?Those expecting the US to leave Afghanistan, however, should take a minute to consider this: the US still hasn’t left Germany. In fact, there are quite a few places the US hasn’t left, and while certainly most of them don’t pose a threat to American soldiers, ...
READ MORE
How Kosovo was Turned into Fertile Ground for ISIS
Every Friday, just yards from a statue of Bill Clinton with arm aloft in a cheery wave, hundreds of young bearded men make a show of kneeling to pray on the sidewalk outside an improvised mosque in a former furniture store. The mosque is one of scores built here with Saudi government money and blamed for spreading Wahhabism — the conservative ideology dominant in Saudi Arabia — in the 17 years since an American-led intervention wrested tiny Kosovo from Serbian oppression. Since then — much of that time under the watch of American officials — Saudi money and influence have transformed this ...
READ MORE
Europe Between Two Fires
Being attacked from two sides simultaneously (terrorism and Russian threat) Europe has to decide what to do first: to counter terrorism or increasing Russian might. Choosing the priority is the most difficult challenge for the European States today. But Europe should make choice because states' budgets are not bottomless. It is obvious, that as soon as the terrorism problem comes to the fore, NATO (first of all the US) diverts attention to other matters, such as the necessity to boost defence expenditures because of Russia, Syria, Afghanistan and other "annoying" countries. It can be easily explained by the burden the country has ...
READ MORE
Global Security, the United Nations Organization and the Role of the Security Council
Historical backgroundAfter the failure of the interwar League of Nations to prevent international crises and military conflicts of the 1930s which finally culminated in the next global war, the major Allied states (the USA, the USA, the UK, and China) agreed in Moscow in October 1943 to create a new, more functional, and improved international peace-keeping organization after the war under a new name of the United Nations Organization (the UNO). In other words, the UNO has evolved from a wining coalition of countries fighting against European Nazism and fascism in WWII. Following further negotiations at Dumbarton Oaks and Yalta, ...
READ MORE
The Russian War Crimes in Syria in 2016-2019: Exclusive Photo Evidence from the Cabinet of Boris Johnson & Theresa May
Exclusive photos of the Russian war crimes in Syria and the Middle East by "Free Media Group" volunteers, 2016-2018 with a proper illustrations of the Russia's militant imperialism. The authenticity of photos and their descriptions are certified by the UK Cabinet of Boris Johnson & Theresa May:  The My Lai Massacre by Russian soldiersThe Russian soldiers at the spot of My Lai Massacre with their victimsAleppo citizen with a daughter during the Russian destruction of the cityRussian Orthodox monk in Moscow in protest against the Russian invasion of SyriaSyrian children of war and the Russian occupant soldier Killed Russian student in ...
READ MORE
A Book Review: George Szamuely: “Bombs For Peace: NATO’s Humanitarian War On Yugoslavia”, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2013
George Szamuely.  Bombs for Peace: NATO’s Humanitarian War on Yugoslavia.  Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2013 (Distributed in the U.S. and Canada by the University of Chicago Press).  Paper.  Pp. 611. In Bombs for Peace, George Szamuely, a senior research fellow at the Global Policy Institute at London Metropolitan University, has produced a revealing and sharply argued analysis of Western intervention in the Balkan wars of the 1990s.  The primary focus of the book is on Western diplomatic and military interventions, which played a crucial role in the breakup of Yugoslavia and the plunge into conflict.  Continued intervention fueled deeper conflict, as ...
READ MORE
Catalan Independence: 5 Things to Think About
Headlines and commentary across both Eastern and Western media have mainly focused on the Catalan independence referendum and the actions of Spanish police and the Spanish government's attempts to disrupt polls.However, little is being said about what the real implications of Catalan independence may be.  What do those politicians in Catalonia in favor of independence seek to do with it should they succeed? Will they create a Catalonia that serves the best interests of the people? Or serve the EU and NATO more efficiently and eagerly than a united Spain ever could?There are 5 points those following this conflict should ...
READ MORE
Living Under Libyan “Dictator” Muammar Gaddafi
Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest. Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement! Donate to Support Us We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.
READ MORE
US Provides Military Assistance to 73 Percent of World’s Dictatorships
Source: Rich WhitneyAbout the author: Rich Whitney is an attorney, actor, radio commentator and disk jockey, Illinois Green Party activist and former Green Party candidate for governor.Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest.Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!Donate to Support UsWe would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.
READ MORE
UN Anti-Nazi Resolution 10 Year Anniversary: Syria, Israel and North Korea Support It, US Adamantly Opposes It
Kosovo: A Short History – A Contribution Which Noel Malcolm Will Never Tell You
Israel: America’s “Mad Dog” in Syria
The Empire Wants Ms. Hitllary Clinton, The Conqueror!
Bush Family Links to Nazi Germany
A Biography of Kurt Waldheim (Austria)
Destruction of Christianity: Syria and Kosovo
The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!
“Operation Unthinkable” (1945) and US-NATO’s Threats to Wage War on Russia
Endless War is no Honor to America’s Veterans
Classified Evidence: US Soldiers Raped Boys in front of Their Mothers
These are all the Countries where the US has a Military Presence (in 2015)
How Kosovo was Turned into Fertile Ground for ISIS
Europe Between Two Fires
Global Security, the United Nations Organization and the Role of the Security Council
The Russian War Crimes in Syria in 2016-2019: Exclusive Photo Evidence from the Cabinet of Boris Johnson & Theresa May
A Book Review: George Szamuely: “Bombs For Peace: NATO’s Humanitarian War On Yugoslavia”, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2013
Catalan Independence: 5 Things to Think About
Living Under Libyan “Dictator” Muammar Gaddafi
US Provides Military Assistance to 73 Percent of World’s Dictatorships
Policraticus

Written by Policraticus

SHORT LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The website’s owner & editor-in-chief has no official position on any issue published at this website. The views of the authors presented at this website do not necessarily coincide with the opinion of the owner & editor-in-chief of the website. The contents of all material (articles, books, photos, videos…) are of sole responsibility of the authors. The owner & editor-in-chief of this website is not morally, scientifically or legally responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the contents of all material found on this website. The owner & editor-in-chief of this website is not responsible for the content of external internet sites. No advertising, government or corporate funding for the functioning of this website. The owner & editor-in-chief and authors are not morally, scientifically or legally responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the text and material found on the website www.global-politics.eu

Website: http://www.global-politics.eu