By JEFF MACKLER
In the days of my youth, our local peace group began its protests against U.S. nuclear weapons—atomic bombs at that time—by marching across the radius of total incineration, in our instance, the distance from the Ohio-based Strategic Air Command (SAC) Wright Patterson Air Force Base to a location nine miles away. Everything within that radius, we proclaimed in 1959, with facts to prove it, would be totally obliterated, pulverized, reduced to ashes should the area surrounding the SAC base be hit by an A-bomb.
The A-bombs—the bombs that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945—were soon supplanted by hydrogen or H-bombs, whose destructive power was 5000 times greater. Scientists at that time warned that 10 such bombs dropped in key urban areas across the U.S. could obliterate much of the U.S, population, while reducing the country to an uninhabitable radioactive nightmare.
Today, there are many thousands of such weapons. If deployed, the insane but not unthinkable obliteration of the earth’s people and much of non-human life itself would be assured.
Yet this insanity is routinely contemplated by U.S. imperialism’s chief representatives, whether they be Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, or Donald Trump—none of whom has declared that the use of these doomsday weapons is unthinkable. To the contrary, President Obama authorized the development and production of a “modernized” nuclear weapons program at a cost of $1 trillion over the course of the next 30 years.
Last month’s dropping on Afghanistan of the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB, nick-named by the sick-minded military bureaucrats, “Mother Of All Bombs”) was a warning to North Korea and Syria that the U.S. behemoth had new horrors to inflict on anyone who challenged imperial prerogatives.
U.S. President Harry Truman, a “civilized” president from a middle-class lineage, authorized the dropping of the two A-bombs, nick-named “little boy” and “fat man,” on Japan. Some 250,000 people, almost all civilians, were incinerated, with the rationale that this was preferable to a land-based U.S. invasion of Japan, which Truman argued would have been even more costly in terms of the loss of American lives.
Subsequently, historians have demonstrated that the U.S. was much more concerned that their agreement with their Soviet Union wartime ally for a joint U.S.-Russian invasion of the Japanese mainland would give the U.S. a reduced postwar role in the occupation of conquered Japan. The A-bomb amounted to a warning to the Soviet Union (which had no nuclear weapons at the time) to stay out. Subsequent research also demonstrated that the Japanese government had already accepted the basic surrender terms demanded by the U.S. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were obliterated nonetheless, a warning to the entire world.
In recent weeks, some 46 of the 47 major U.S. newspapers editorialized in support of Trump’s bombing of Syria, without a shred of proof to confirm Trump’s sarin gas allegations. (See Socialist Action’s statement of the U.S. Syria bombing on p. 2) We hear few, if any, voices among the nation’s ruling elite warning against the Trump administration’s nuclear weapons arsenal or related war threats against North Korea. U.S. imperialist wars, always justified in advance by the intense demonization of its intended victims and associated pretexts justifying war, are the rule in what passes for “our civilized nation.”
The colonial history of Korea
North Korea is once again in U.S. gunsights, including endless caricatures of the “boy dictator” head of state, Kim Jong-un, not to mention the never-denied U.S. cyberwar directed at North Korean military installations. (North Korea is ruled by a repressive Stalinist regime that oversees a fundamentally capitalist economy with the military bureaucracy at its center, but it is the task of the Korean people, not the United States, to overthrow it.)
What is left out of this warmongering hyperbole is the colonial history of Korea, including the U.S. post-World War II occupation of the South, where the vast majority opposed the U.S. occupier’s slaughter of the social forces allied with the Korean Communist Party/Workers Party of Korea.
From 1905 to 1945 Korea had been occupied by Japan, which sought its permanent incorporation into the Japanese Empire, including the banning of much of Korean culture and the Korean language itself. In opposition to the Korean people, the U.S. occupiers in the South, as they did in Vietnam, initially sought to maintain the previous Japanese-created government infrastructure and personnel as well as the associated semi-feudal social relations.
Korea’s post-World War II history is not qualitatively different from Vietnam’s in many respects. The northern portion was liberated from the Japanese occupation by the Soviet army, aided by the Korean resistance; Vietnam was liberated by the Russian-allied Vietnamese Communist Party, led by Ho-Chi-Minh.
After the war, the southern part of Korea, by “agreement” with the Stalinized Russian CP, which subordinated support for national liberation struggles to accommodation with imperialism to preserve the privileges of the Stalinist bureaucracy, was ceded to U.S. imperialism. The latter immediately moved to wipe out the Korean Communist forces.
For most of South Korea’s history, the U.S. occupiers installed a series of dictators, beginning with U.S.-educated Princeton graduate Syngman Rhee in 1945. Rhee led the infamous Bodo League massacre or “summer of terror” in 1950, which murdered 100,000 (some estimates put the number at 200,000) Koreans charged with being “communist sympathizers” while orchestrating the U.S.-backed South Korean Army’s incursions into the North.
The insightful Washington, D.C. journalist I.F. Stone authored a valuable book, “The Hidden History of the Korean War 1950-51,” that refutes the U.S. McCarthy-era pretext that the Korean War began only with the invasion of 50,000 North Korean troops. Actually, the attempt by Northern forces to re-unify the country had great popular support in the South.
That war saw U.S. and allied troops slaughter some 1.5 million Koreans and Chinese, with the latter entering the war only after General Douglas MacArthur, defying President Truman’s orders, crossed the Yalu River, intent on invading China as well. Some convincing figures put the number of Koreans and Chinese lost at more than triple this figure! U.S. troop losses were 30,000.
As with the Vietnam War, which began little more than a decade later and saw the U.S. murder 4 million Vietnamese, the Korean War was undertaken by U.S. imperialism in the name an anti-communist crusade. The now dominant post-World War II U.S. military power proceeded to extend its imperial control around the world, including through the 1953 CIA coup that overthrew the popular and elected government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaaddegh in Iran and U.S. military support the same year to a coup that installed a dictatorship in Guatemala, which slaughtered 400,000 indigenous peasants to defend “U.S. interests.”
In the U.S. during the same period, the McCarthy-era Cold War witch hunt was launched, which sought to eliminate basic civil liberties and imprisoned, in the name of “national security,” many those who refused to repudiate their political ideas. Witch-hunting legislation aimed at purging communists and socialists from the U.S. trade unions and from public employment more generally was approved by compliant courts.
Today, the Trump administration’s dangerous saber-rattling has met with across-the-board bipartisan support—this time with stated or implied threats of war, if not nuclear war.
North Korea and Syria are placed front and center in the U.S. crosshairs one day, while China and Russia are demonized and threatened the next. Meanwhile, U.S. troops, overt and covert, are in combat throughout the Middle East and beyond.
The antiwar movement’s historic demand, “U.S. Out Now!” has rarely been more urgent. And we must add: “No to the Obama-era ‘Pivot to Asia,’” where 60 percent of the entire U.S. armada is today stationed in the Pacific region—armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons. In addition, the U.S. maintains almost 30,000 troops in South Korea, and regularly threatens the North with aircraft flyovers and military exercises. The antiwar movement must demand the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. military forces from Korea and the region. “Self-determination for all oppressed nations!”
With regard to nuclear weapons, any sane movement must stand opposed to their very existence, not to mention their deployment. We hear no U.S. government objections today to the nuclear weapons of the U.S.-backed Pakistani dictatorship, or to those of the murderous Indian regime of the reactionary Narendra Modi, or to those of the racist, colonial settler state of Zionist Israel. These repressive governments, we are assured by U.S. imperialism, can be counted on to act responsibly! And there is no mention in the corporate media that South Korea itself stands awash with nuclear weapons in the hands of the still present U.S. military.
The Trump administration, which has embraced authoritarian governments the world over (Philippines, Saudi Arabia, India, etc.) as “friends and partners who share the goal of fighting terrorism,” has made clear, as in the past, that U.S.-backed dictators require no condemnation! In the well-chosen words of an earlier U.S. imperialist president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, referring to Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, “He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”
With regard to U.S. threats of war against North Korea, we must begin our response to this existential threat to all humanity by demanding the immediate, unconditional, and total abolition of U.S. imperialism’s nuclear arsenal. This is the starting point of building a world free from all nuclear weapons. We must reject any “rights” or justification of U.S. imperialism in proclaiming itself the bully cop of the world.