1 The Korean War ends (1953)
The long prelude to this conflict can be traced to Imperial Japan’s murderous rule over Korea, beginning in 1910. It resulted in many Koreans fleeing in terror to nearby Manchuria, north-eastern China. The Japanese occupation persisted as the decades dragged on, despite intermittent Communist guerrilla operations, and other uprisings.
Kim Il-sung, who with all his flaws later ruled North Korea for 46 years, was one of the most enduring opponents against Japanese imperialism. At the age of 24, Kim ll-sung commanded a division that inflicted an unprecedented defeat on the Japanese in June 1937. It was known as the Battle of Pochonbo, an area near the Chinese border.
The victory, which was reported across the world, bolstered Kim Il-sung’s legend – entering annals as one of the most famous triumphs in the North’s history. It could further be seen as a symbolic victory too. The North continues to muddle on today in splendid isolation to other threats.
The Battle of Pochonbo outcome even drew grudging admiration from Japan’s hierarchy. They warned that Kim was “one of the most effective and popular Korean guerrilla leaders”.
By late 1940, Kim was the one of the last surviving members of his army’s leadership, with the Japanese rampaging against popular uprisings. Indeed Kim barely escaped, along with remnants of his army, as they crossed the mighty Amur River into the Soviet Union, on its most eastward reaches.
A decade later, with Imperial Japan defeated and Kim in power, the Korean War began with consequences persisting to the current day. Around three million Koreans died in this forgotten conflict, with few Americans today aware of the scale of the destruction.
The US Air Force dropped more bombs on Korea than during their entire Pacific campaign (1942-45). The northern half of Korea bore the war’s brunt. More of its towns and cities were destroyed then either those of Japan or Germany during the Second World War.
American bombers also demolished a number of North Korea’s dams that controlled their water supply. The bombing of the dams was a severe violation of the Nuremberg laws enacted less than a decade earlier.
2 President Kennedy invades South Vietnam (1962)
The 50th anniversary of the worst level of post-World War II aggression passed by five years ago, going virtually unreported. President Kennedy’s outright invasion in early 1962 – to prevent the US-backed dictatorship of Ngo Dinh Diem being overthrown – would leave millions dead by the mid-1970s.
The conflict was reinforced by Kennedy’s successors, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon. By the early 1970s it had spread to the rest of Indochina (Cambodia and Laos).
Early on, President Kennedy initiated chemical warfare to remove ground cover and crops. The chemical attacks were perpetrated in order to starve rebellious local populations, much of whom were forced into concentration camps, or “strategic hamlets”.
The war against Vietnam has traditionally been cast as a US military defeat. In truth, the Americans achieved most of their objectives. Independent nationalism was contained and other nations desiring self-rule did not wish to suffer a similar fate.
Through to the present day, the crimes committed have been glossed over in Hollywood films and television series. In a flagrant reversal of the reality, American military personnel are cast as the invasion’s unfortunate victims.
The National Liberation Front (“Viet Cong”) take up the mantle of the “bad guys”. The US military, it seems, have no right to face stiff opposition when illegally invading other nations.
3 The US overthrows Allende in Chile (1973)
The Chilean coup d’état was one of the defining moments in post-1945 Latin America. Salvador Allende became the democratically elected president of Chile in 1970 – narrowly beating the American favourite, Jorge Alessandri Rodriguez.
After Allende’s election, the CIA immediately intervened, attempting to influence the Chilean congress in securing moves favourable to the US. Allende’s arrival struck fear into American planners of another “well-functioning socialist experiment” in the Western hemisphere, after Cuba.
Allende was a moderate nationalist, being neither Socialist nor Communist – and certainly not a radical figure like Fidel Castro or his brother, Raul. Nonetheless, Castro’s four-week state visit to Chile in 1971 did not go unnoticed in Washington.
Two years later, Allende was ousted and killed in what is commonly known as “the first 9/11” in South America. It occurred on September 11 of 1973, when CIA-led forces successfully stormed the presidential palace, inflicting extensive damage.
The American aim, as National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger said, was to kill the “virus” of independent nationalism, so as to avoid further “contagion”.
Over 3,000 people lost their lives during the coup, including Allende himself. Much worse followed. General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship was established in 1974, terrorising Chileans through murders and torture for over 15 years.
4 The West installs Iranian dictator the Shah (1953)
Mohammed Mossadegh was the first democratically elected prime minister in Iranian history. Mossadegh assumed office in 1951 and was viewed with continuing suspicion by Western politicians.
Their fears were realised when Mossadegh took the unprecedented move of nationalising Iran’s oil industry, just months into power. He further dismissed a number of influential foreign officials from the country.
Iran’s enormous oil reserves had been under British corporate control – as a result, Mossadegh’s undertaking was met with horror in London. However, for millions of Iranians, it was a signal they were taking control of their own affairs for the first time in centuries. This was of no consequence for British or American leaders.
In 1953 the US, with British help, overthrew Iran’s parliamentary government. The coup re-installed the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who would compile one of the world’s worst human rights records.
The Shah was supported to the end by the West, being finally overthrown in the 1979 Iranian Revolution. In the decades since, the US has tirelessly undermined Iran.
President Jimmy Carter tried to initiate another coup, while his successor Ronald Reagan strongly backed Saddam Hussein. American sanctions on Iran were long imposed, becoming yet more severe during the Clinton and Bush years.
5 The US-led Iraq invasion (2003)
Shortly after the September 11 attacks on the US, President George W. Bush addressed a joint session of Congress, which was broadcast to the world. The US President outlined his objectives in a re-declared “war on terror”.
It came 20 years after predecessor Ronald Reagan’s own proclaimed “war against terrorism” – which also left huge destruction in its wake.
Reagan himself had a history of supporting Saddam Hussein, such as during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. Bush’s father, George Senior, was also a key ally of Saddam Hussein, even preventing the Iraqi dictator from being toppled by popular uprising in 1991.
The invasion was dubbed “Operation Iraqi Freedom” in mainstream outlets, who bear much responsibility for deceiving the public with insincere pretexts. Saddam Hussein was blamed for instigating the September 11 atrocities, with a majority of Americans believing he was “personally responsible”.
Saddam Hussein was entirely innocent of the crimes. None of the 9/11 masterminds were even Iraqi citizens. A myth was also relayed seriously, based on no evidence, that Saddam Hussein possessed “Weapons of Mass Destruction”, none of which were ever found.
In the previous decade to the attack, Iraq had already been enduring “genocidal” US/UK sanctions that left half a million Iraqi children dead.
The Iraq invasion itself would later result in the further deaths of hundreds of thousands. It also strengthened existing terrorist organisations, helped spawn ISIS, while sparking a continuing sectarian conflict. The 10th anniversary of the attack received scarce mention.
Providing aid to the Americans in the invasion was not only Britain, but also Australia and Poland.