In the Western mainstream North Korea is continually classified as a “rogue nation”, a “reclusive state” or, best of all, “the nuclear state”. The sense of irony has been lost entirely it seems. Such titles are more applicable to the United States and its right-hand man in the Middle East, Israel. It is conveniently forgotten that the US possesses the largest nuclear weapons arsenal of all.
North Korea are continuing to pose a real dilemma for the US, in what is one of the greatest energy producing regions on earth. Donald Trump’s threat to “totally destroy North Korea”, in his inaugural UN speech, reportedly drew gasps from the audience. Few pointed out, however, that the US President neglected to put the word “again” at the end of his sentence.
A little over two generations ago, the US completely destroyed North Korea (1950-53) in what was “one of the deadliest wars in modern history”. Much of the destruction was inflicted upon the North, and was so severe that it even “shocked and disgusted the American military personnel who witnessed it”.
General Douglas MacArthur served as the US Army’s Chief of Staff during the 1930s – he was a five-star general and Medal of Honour recipient. Of the Korean War MacArthur said, “I shrink – I shrink with a horror that I cannot express in words at this continuous slaughter of men in Korea. The war in Korea has already almost destroyed that nation of 20 million people. I have never seen such devastation”.
MacArthur continues, “I have seen, I guess, as much blood and disaster as any living man, and it just curdled my stomach the last time I was there [in Korea]. After I looked at the wreckage and those thousands of women and children and everything, I vomited… If you go on indefinitely, you are perpetuating a slaughter such as I have never heard of in the history of mankind”.
These words were uttered in 1951, with two years of the conflict still to run. Bearing in mind, this was not the account of a fresh-faced cadet exposed to war for the first time. It was the testimony of one of the most distinguished soldiers in American history. MacArthur oversaw major battles in both world wars, notably serving as commander of US Army Forces in the Far East (1941-45). General George S. Patton described MacArthur as “the bravest man I ever met”, the two having fought alongside each other during the First World War.
Patton further said of his colleague that, “I was the only man on the front-line except for MacArthur who never ducked a shell”. Come the closing stages of the Great War General Charles T. Menoher, MacArthur’s superior, described him as “the bloodiest fighting man in this army”. Yet the Korean War had reduced the indomitable MacArthur to a bewildered wreck.
In another account John H. Kim, a US Army Veteran and Chair of the Korea Committee of Veterans for Peace, said of the Korean War, “The US Army, Air Force and Navy were directly involved in the killing of about three million civilians in Korea”. Historian and author Bruce Cumings said, “…we [the US] destroyed more cities in the North than we did in Japan or Germany during World War II”.
And privileged Westerners wonder aghast why North Korean governments act recklessly at times? Perhaps it is not so surprising after all – also when under persistent threats to the present from their old foe.
The crimes committed by the US in this forgotten conflict blatantly violated the United Nations Charter – which entered into force in October 1945. In its opening sentences the UN Charter outlines that its existence is intended “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind – and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women, and of nations large and small…”
The US was one of the first signatories of the UN Charter, being among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. Yet it is the US who has breached this treaty time and again in the elapsing 72 years, often in the most flagrant manner.
The most severe example of American aggression could be witnessed during the invasion of Vietnam – initiated less than a decade after the Korean War ended, finally finishing in 1975. By the early 1970s, the US had also attacked the rest of Indochina, resulting in the deaths of millions – and its consequences continuing to the present. There was a disregard towards “faith in fundamental human rights” or for “nations large and small”.
At home, the war against Vietnam was viewed as “a noble cause” – when it later began to turn sour it was recast by American intellectuals as “our blundering efforts to do good”, and finally that it “wasn’t worth it”. To this day, there is little internal criticism in the US in its lead role in the Vietnam and Indochina conflicts.
There are then other overt breaches of international law, led by the US – be it the waging of conflicts such as the Gulf War, the invasion of Iraq or Libya, the support of various dictators, hostility towards Iran, and so on.
It is hardly surprising the US has seen itself become so isolated on the international scene. The superpower is virtually alone whether regard its stance on climate change, the Israel-Palestine conflict, its marginalisation at Western hemispheric meetings (such as the 2015 Summit of the Americas).
It represents quite a reversal for a country that for so long practically ran Latin American affairs. Sadly for US elites, they no longer possess the unchallenged means of imposing governments that will quietly take orders from Washington.
In Asia too, the US has been cast adrift as nations flock towards China’s rising influence in the region – with even Britain being drawn to the China-based Asian Infrastructure Development Bank. Appalled by such British moves, a US official told the Financial Times, “We are wary about a trend toward constant accommodation of China”. It seems the “constant accommodation” of the US is far from a guarantee anymore.