Americans have Forgotten What We did to North Korea

Share

Hits: 595

Perhaps no country on Earth is more misunderstood by Americans than North Korea. Though the country’s leaders are typically portrayed as buffoonish, even silly, in fact they are deadly serious in their cruelty and skill at retaining power. Though the country is seen as Soviet-style communist, in fact it is better understood as a holdover of Japanese fascism.

And there is another misconception, one that Americans might not want to hear but that is important for understanding the hermit kingdom: Yes, much of its anti-Americanism is cynically manufactured as a propaganda tool, and yes, it is often based on lies. But no, it is not all lies. The US did in fact do something terrible, even evil to North Korea, and while that act does not explain, much less forgive, North Korea’s many abuses since, it is not totally irrelevant either.

That act was this: In the early 1950s, during the Korean War, the US dropped more bombs on North Korea than it had dropped in the entire Pacific theater during World War II. This carpet bombing, which included 32,000 tons of napalm, often deliberately targeted civilian as well as military targets, devastating the country far beyond what was necessary to fight the war. Whole cities were destroyed, with many thousands of innocent civilians killed and many more left homeless and hungry.

A US B-26 bomber drops a bomb on the North Korean city of Wonsan in 1951.Interim Archives/Getty Images

For Americans, the journalist Blaine Harden has written, this bombing was “perhaps the most forgotten part of a forgotten war,” even though it was almost certainly “a major war crime.” Yet it shows that North Korea’s hatred of America “is not all manufactured,” he wrote. “It is rooted in a fact-based narrative, one that North Korea obsessively remembers and the United States blithely forgets.”

And the US, as Harden recounted in a column earlier this year, knew exactly what it was doing:

“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, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops.

Historians dispute just how important this bombing really was in making North Korea the country that it is today; some say it was formative in shaping the young nation’s history, others that North Korea was already on its way to becoming the hermit kingdom and that its leaders merely exploited the bombing to get there.

As the North Korea scholar B. R. Myers points out in The Cleanest Race, perhaps the definitive study of the North Korean worldview, anti-American propaganda was already in full swing before the bombing began. Since then, it has not focused as much on the American bombing (which Myers, like most scholars, considers a war crime) as you might expect:

As might be expected, the Korean War occupies a central place in anti-American propaganda, but the [propaganda] dwells less on the US Air Force’s extensive bombing campaign (which is hard to reconcile with the myth of the protective leader) than on village massacres and other isolated outrages.

Yet even if the bombing did not cause North Korea’s obsessive hatred of America and Americans, it did help to focus it. The effects of the bombing were felt nearly universally, the suffering it caused among the first shared experiences for North Koreans. Unlike the propaganda, which only recounted supposed American crimes, here was a real American crime that everyone could see for themselves, and indeed had likely affected them personally. How could it not be formative?

American bombing, to be clear, did not transform North Korea from a nice country into a bad one; the seeds of the country’s generations-long fascist rule had already taken root by the early 1950s, and indeed it is worth remembering that the North had launched the war in the first place. But that bombing did end up abetting, however unintentionally, the Kim family project of creating a paranoid, volatile, and oppressive bunker state.

You can see this, for example, in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, which was all but razed by American bombing. As Myers points out, “The destruction of the original city by American bombs enabled the regime to re-design it from scratch as a grand and enduring work of propaganda in its own right.”

The North Korean capital of Pyongyang. At bottom, the city in 1953, after an estimated 75 percent of it was destroyed by US bombing. At top, the city in 1964 after reconstruction. (Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty)

The symbolism of this is haunting: The US, in its ruthless destruction, made it easier for the North Korean leaders to rebuild their shattered city into a physical embodiment of Orwellian dystopia. The blame for the North Korean project still rests fully with those leaders, who knew exactly what they were doing. But it is a reminder that the United States once lent those leaders a helping hand in converting their nation into a fascist holdover.

In the rare moments when we do talk about the US bombing of North Korea, it can be easy to get lost in debating its long-term political consequences. But the bombing primarily mattered at the time, and still matters today, not because it was politically counterproductive, but because it was horrific and unjust.

You can glimpse both the humanitarian and political consequences in an alarmed diplomatic cable that North Korea’s foreign minister sent to the United Nations, which was nominally leading the war effort, in January 1951. Scholar Adam Cathcart dug up the cable a few days ago, which is what got me thinking again about the bombing that America has largely forgotten. Here are some excerpts from the cable, haunting to read today:

ON JANUARY 3 AT 10:30 AM, AN ARMADE OF 82 FLYING FORTRESSES LOOSED THEIR DEATH-DEALING LOAD ON THE CITY OF PYONGYANG. …

HUNDREDS OF TONS OF BOMBS AND INCENDIARY COMPOUND WERE SIMULTANEOUSLY DROPPED THROUGHOUT THE CITY, CAUSING ANNIHILATING FIRES. IN ORDER TO PREVENT THE EXTINCTION OF THESE FIRES, THE TRANS-ATLANTIC BARBARIANS BOMBED THE CITY WITH DELAYED-ACTION HIGH-EXPLOSIVE BOMBS WHICH EXPLODED AT INTERVALS THROUGHOUT FOR A WHOLE DAY, MAKING IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR THE PEOPLE TO COME OUT ONTO THE STREETS. THE ENTIRE CITY HAS NOW BEEN BURNING, ENVELOPED IN FLAMES, FOR TWO DAYS. BY THE SECOND DAY 7,812 CIVILIANS’ HOUSES HAD BEEN BURNT DOWN. THE AMERICANS WERE WELL AWARE THAT THERE WERE NO MILITARY OBJECTIVES LEFT IN PYONGYANG. …

THE NUMBER OF INHABITANTS OF PYONGYANG KILLED BY BOMB SPLINTERS, BURNT ALIVE AND SUFFOCATED BY SMOKE IS INCALCULABLE, SINCE NO COMPUTATION IS POSSIBLE. SOME FIFTY THOUSAND INHABITANTS REMAIN IN THE CITY, WHICH BEFORE THE WAR HAD A POPULATION OF FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND.

Even in the English translation from the original Russian, the seeds of North Korea’s now famously vituperative and conspiratorial rhetoric are easy to see; there is an odd reference to “Wall Street bosses” supposedly driving the war.

But while today’s North Korean anti-American rhetoric is so often filled with obvious distortions and lies and thus easy to dismiss, this piece of anti-American rhetoric is chillingly real. That makes the cable jarring to read even beyond the sheer awful suffering it describes. It was a moment when the official North Korean characterization of America, one that we today rightly consider propagandistic nonsense, had a lot of truth to it.


Originally published on 2015-08-03

Source: Vox

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.

[wpedon id=”4696″ align=”left”]

READ MORE!
Putin is Defeating More than ISIS in Syria
Russia and its President, Vladimir Putin, a little more than a year ago, in July 2014 were the focus of attention in Europe and North America, accused, without a shred of forensic evidence, of shooting down an unarmed civilian Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine. The Russians were deemed out to restore the Soviet Union with their agreement to the popular referendum of Crimean citizens to annex into the Russian Federation and not Ukraine. Western sanctions were being thrown at Russia by both Washington and the EU. People spoke of a new Cold War. Today the picture is changing, and profoundly. ...
READ MORE
International Hypocrisy: Reprimanding the Saudi Kingdom
By now all international media resources; newspapers, magazines, TV channels, and internet social media, are busy reporting the gruesome murder of Jamal Khashoggi; a Saudi reporter, who was loyal to the regime until he turned against Muhamad bin Salman (MBS) and his suppressive policies. Once MBS was announced crowned prince in 2015 and started his war against Yemen, critic Khashoggi found it safer for himself to leave Saudi Arabia. He moved first to UK and later to USA. In his writings Khashoggi harshly criticized the policies of the young prince. Eventually he was lured to the Saudi consulate in Turkey, where ...
READ MORE
Kiev Euromaidan: Participants in 2014 Ukrainian Coup Confess
The overthrow of the democratically elected President of Ukraine in February 2014 was one of the most important geostrategic occurrences during the past century, because it led to the breakaway from Ukraine of the two regions — Crimea and Donbass — that had been the most opposed to the overthrow, and that had voted over 75% for the President who had been overthrown. And those two breakaways from Ukraine were then presented in the U.S.-allied “The West” as having resulted from ‘Russian aggression’, which then became punished, first by economic sanctions against Russia, and then by massive NATO military buildups ...
READ MORE
The Worst Mistake in U.S. History
The worst mistake in U.S. history was the conversion after World War II of the U.S. government from a constitutional, limited-government republic to a national-security state. Nothing has done more to warp and distort the conscience, principles, and values of the American people, including those who serve in the U.S. military.A good example of how the national-security state has adversely affected the thinking of U.S. soldiers was reflected in an op-ed entitled “What We’re Fighting For” that appeared in the February 10, 2017, issue of the New York Times. Authored by an Iraq War veteran named Phil Klay, the article ...
READ MORE
Krymas: Rusijos aneksija ar JAV/NATO/ES agresija?
Šį straipsnį paskatino parašyti JAV specialiųjų tarnybų bei Lietuvos politinio elito sukelta ir eskaluojama plataus masto karo su Rusija propaganda ir tautinės nesantaikos kurstymas visame pasaulyje ir ypač Lietuvos viešoje erdvėje. Masinės Vakarų informacinės agresijos prieš Rusiją pretekstu tapo globalinė JAV-NATO karo nusikaltėlių gaujos klastotė 2014-03-16 Krymo pusiasalio gyventojų referendumo rezultatai ir jų pagrindu įvykęs Krymo prisijungimas prie Rusijos, savo istorinės, etninės Tėvynės. Vakarų reakcija į šį absoliučiai teisėtą Krymo gyventojų pasirinkimą, Vakarų inicijuotas ekonominis karas prieš Rusiją yra absoliučiai neteisėti tarptautinės teisės požiūriu – Vakarų sankcijos Rusijai už Krymo prisijungimą yra tik dar vienas globalinis JAV-NATO valstybių tarptautinis nusikaltimas. ...
READ MORE
The Russian Minority Question in Estonia
A historical overview and Estonia's minorities Estonia (Eesti, Estland) is a Baltic state that was colonized by the German Teutonic Order of Knights from 1346 being, therefore, dominated politically and economically by a German-speaking landowning aristocracy, which succeeded to maintain its social and economic position even during the Swidish occupation of the territory of present-day Estonia from 1561 to 1721 and for most period of subsequent Russia's administration since 1721 to 1915. From 1855 the ethnic Estonians received the right to possess the land. Migration increased the Estonian population in the cities during the time of the Russian administration. It is ...
READ MORE
North Macedonia Is Being Used by NATO to Target Serbia and Russia
The North Macedonian House of Representatives unanimously approved on Monday for their country to accept the NATO Accession Protocol, taking the former Yugoslav Republic a step closer towards accession into NATO which is expected to be completed and finalized in the spring. North Macedonia’s rapid accession into NATO is only possible because of the Prespa Agreement signed between Athens and Skopje in June 2018, bringing an end to the name dispute between the two countries that emerged in 1991 with the breakup of Yugoslavia.The Prespa Agreement, named after a lake that traverses the borders of Greece, North Macedonia and Albania, defined ...
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
The Birkenstock Bomber: When Bernie did Serbia
The most useful parable about progressives is that offered by Bernard Sanders, self-styled “socialist-progressive-independent” rep from Vermont. Sanders owes his political career to rage against the Vietnam War among radicals, many of whom moved into the state in the early 1970s. They forthwith planned a long-term, carefully organized, assault on Vermont’s two-party structure. Sanders linked his political ambitions to this effort to organize a third force, the Progressive Alliance. He became mayor of Burlington and, later, congressman.At a rapid clip the emphasis moved from party-building to Sanders-building. By 1994, it was apparent that the only movement B. Sanders was interested in ...
READ MORE
Mainstream Media: Fake News Through Lying by Omission
Fake news is simply a new, Trump-popularized descriptive for media lying that occurs in 2 basic forms, lying by omission and lying by commission. Lying by omission is far, far worse than lying by commission because the latter can at least admit refutation and public debate. Western Mainstream media impose a huge burden of fake news on Western societies through entrenched and pervasive lying by omission. Indeed the most egregious and pervasive Mainstream media lie of omission is suppression of reportage of such lying by omission. The unimpeded, remorseless, corporate-dominated Mainstream media, politicians and pliant intellectuals are now going further, and ...
READ MORE
Democratic Front of Montenegro will Continue to Fight Against NATO Membership
The opposition in Montenegro unanimously decided to boycott the local elections in Niksic, scheduled for March 12. This decision was made in protest against the political trial against the deputies from the Democratic Front (DF) Andrija Mandic and Milan Knežević. DF, Democratic Montenegro, Demos, civil movement URA, the Social Democrats and the Socialist People’s Party refused to participate in the elections after the Mandic and Knežević were deprived of parliamentary immunity. Andrija Mandic said that the prosecution was launched in order to weaken the Democratic Front. He added that he wants to raise the question about the legitimacy of the removal ...
READ MORE
Remembering the NATO Led War on Yugoslavia: Kosovo “Freedom Fighters” Financed by Organized Crime
Twelve years ago, March 24th, 1999, marks the commencement of NATO’s aerial bombardment of Yugoslavia. The bombings which lasted for almost three months, were followed by the military invasion (under a bogus UN mandate) and illegal occupation of the province of Kosovo.In the course of the last week, the so-called international community, backed by the UN Security Council has called for the bombing of Libya, a sovereign country, allegedly to protect the lives of civilians under the logo of “Responsibility to Protect”.The covert operations, the military strategies applied in Libya not to mention the process of media disinformation bears a canny ...
READ MORE
‘Collateral Murder’ and the My Lai Massacre
To gauge the transformation in the response by the U.S. military, the mainstream media and the public to a U.S. war crime, one need only compare the reactions to two of the most heinous American crimes:  the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam and the gunning down of innocent Iraqis on a Baghdad street in 2007.The latter was captured on a cockpit video from attacking Apache helicopters and revealed in a video released by WikiLeaks ten years ago today. Wikileaks obtained the video from a conscientious U.S. Army intelligence analyst, Chelsea Manning. The My Lai incident was revealed to the public ...
READ MORE
U.S. Conceals Thousands of Airstrikes in Middle East
On February 5, Military Times published a report stating that Washington has failed to publicly disclose potentially thousands of lethal airstrikes conducted over several years in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. The investigation reveals that in Afghanistan in 2016 alone, the U.S. air force carried out at least 456 bombings. The open-source report published by the Air Force Command doesn’t include these figures.According to the Military Times, the information was obtained from “Congress, American allies, military analysts, academic researchers, the media and independent watchdog groups” and it shows that much of what the Pentagon has disclosed may be misleading or simply ...
READ MORE
The NYT’s Yellow Journalism on Russia
Reading The New York Times these days is like getting a daily dose of the “Two Minutes Hate” as envisioned in George Orwell’s 1984, except applied to America’s new/old enemy Russia. Even routine international behavior, such as Russia using fictitious names for potential adversaries during a military drill, is transformed into something weird and evil. In the snide and alarmist style that the Times now always applies to Russia, reporter Andrew Higgins wrote – referring to a fictitious war-game “enemy” – “The country does not exist, so it has neither an army nor any real citizens, though it has acquired a ...
READ MORE
Jasenovac? What Jasenovac?
Chris Deliso of Balkanalysis points out the latest travesty of the Western media: 59,000 stories on Auschwitz, three on Jasenovac. As if the third-largest death camp in Nazi-occupied Europe simply never existed. Franjo Tudjman certainly thought so, and it appears the current Croatian leadership shares his "historical" perspective.Contemporary German estimates of Serbs murdered by the Ustasha (in Jasenovac and elsewhere) ranged as high as 750,000. Wiesenthal center uses the number of 600,000. Serbian researchers have spoken of up to 700,000 victims. Modern revisionists, Croat and otherwise, talk of 30-100,000, at most. Among them is the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which ...
READ MORE
The Korean War and Crimes against Humanity
“ON JANUARY 3 [1951] AT 10:30 AM, AN ARMADE OF 82 FLYING FORTRESSES LOOSED THEIR DEATH-DEALING LOAD ON THE CITY OF PYONGYANG. … “THE NUMBER OF INHABITANTS OF PYONGYANG KILLED BY BOMB SPLINTERS, BURNT ALIVE AND SUFFOCATED BY SMOKE IS INCALCULABLE, SINCE NO COMPUTATION IS POSSIBLE. SOME FIFTY THOUSAND INHABITANTS REMAIN IN THE CITY, WHICH BEFORE THE WAR HAD A POPULATION OF FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND.” [UN Repository]With tension ever mounting in the Korean peninsular, all the higher every year with US bombers conducting annual drills over South Korea within direct strike range of North Korea, it is notable and deeply regrettable the West has lost all ...
READ MORE
The U.S. Documentary Movie: “The Origin Of Islamic State”
Truth in Media, THE ORIGIN OF ISISBen Swann explores the origin of ISIS that has already been long forgotten by American media.Swann takes on the central issue of whether or not ISIS was created by “inaction” by the United States government or by “direct” action.Link to the movie: THE ORIGIN OF ISISOriginally posted by Ben Swann on Thursday, 19 March 2015.Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection, Public Domain & 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 ...
READ MORE
NATO’s Fascist Wedge in Ukraine
The latest advert for Ukraine’s armed forces depicts chiselled military hunks over a caption: “THEY WILL PROTECT YOUR INVESTMENTS — Ukrainian Army: protecting the borders of civilisation.” In reality, Russia was Ukraine’s largest single investor in the first six months of 2018, comprising 34.6 per cent of total foreign direct investment. Advertising slogans for Ukraine’s army targeted at English-speaking investors are a sign of increasing desperation within ruling circles. Recent public reports of the mafia running Odessa, Ukraine’s largest port, were linked via the Paradise Papers in a BBC investigation to money laundering in London’s property market by Alexander “The Don” Angert and ...
READ MORE
Media Literacy 101: Kosovo and Libya
The media never merely report the news. They manipulate and distort the news. They want to tell you what and how to think. Pursuant to this role, they routinely rewrite history. A striking instance of media rewriting of history is in the reporting on Kosovo. In the AP article “US Prosecutor to Probe Kosovo Organ Trafficking”, it is reported that the alleged atrocity occurred “during Kosovo’s war for independence from Serbia” in 1999. Everyone remembers that war as one to prevent genocide and ethnic cleansing, that it was “a humanitarian intervention”. But here it is now characterized and defined as a ...
READ MORE
Putin is Defeating More than ISIS in Syria
International Hypocrisy: Reprimanding the Saudi Kingdom
Kiev Euromaidan: Participants in 2014 Ukrainian Coup Confess
The Worst Mistake in U.S. History
Krymas: Rusijos aneksija ar JAV/NATO/ES agresija?
The Russian Minority Question in Estonia
North Macedonia Is Being Used by NATO to Target Serbia and Russia
Endless War is no Honor to America’s Veterans
The Birkenstock Bomber: When Bernie did Serbia
Mainstream Media: Fake News Through Lying by Omission
Democratic Front of Montenegro will Continue to Fight Against NATO Membership
Remembering the NATO Led War on Yugoslavia: Kosovo “Freedom Fighters” Financed by Organized Crime
‘Collateral Murder’ and the My Lai Massacre
U.S. Conceals Thousands of Airstrikes in Middle East
The NYT’s Yellow Journalism on Russia
Jasenovac? What Jasenovac?
The Korean War and Crimes against Humanity
The U.S. Documentary Movie: “The Origin Of Islamic State”
NATO’s Fascist Wedge in Ukraine
Media Literacy 101: Kosovo and Libya
FOLLOW US ON OUR SOCIAL PLATFORMS
Share