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Why Would 58% Favor U.S. Bombing of North Korea?

Photo by edwardhblake | CC BY 2.0

A new Gallup poll indicates the 58% of U.S. residents polled say they favor U.S. military action against North Korea if the U.S. “cannot accomplish its goals by more peaceful means first.” Like most polls it is tendentiously worded.

What are “its goals”? U.S. goals? What national, discussed and decided, “goals” do we have (as a nation) as regards the Korean peninsula?

I’m actually a U.S. citizen and a specialist in East Asian history. Frankly, I know a lot about Korea. But I was never consulted about those “goals.”

In the past the goals have included “defeating” North Korea; remember how Dick Cheney and John Bolton said the U.S. doesn’t negotiate with “evil” but defeats it? (But aren’t these guys long-discredited assholes, to anyone paying attention?)

Gallup ought to have asked its respondents: Would you favor U.S. military action of Korea, if it doesn’t stop its nuclear weapons program, which North Korea says is designed to protect it from U.S. attack?

The corporate media is telling the people that Pyongyang has to back down on its goal of a nuclear program (for deterrence purposes) or face more (vaguely conceptualized) consequences. It is stoking the traditional American penchant for wild violence in response to any remote threat, and the unique 21st century tactic of using weapons of mass destruction fears to legitimate regime change imposed by the country with the most weapons of mass destruction on earth, and the most experience in their use.

Meanwhile this cherished CNN reporter (with unique unprecedented exposure to North Korea) Will Ripley is reporting (in his vaunted documentary to air Saturday night) that North Korea in contrast to “Western historians” blames the Korean War (1950-1953) on the United States.

Tokyo-based Ripley’s the crème de la crème of mainstream DPRK reportage. He interviews teenage kids practicing militaristic video games indicating the U.S. as adversary—as though this were somehow troubling and hard to comprehend.

He might not know that the best Western historians on Korea (including most notably Bruce Cumings) do in fact blame the Korean War mostly on the U.S. Because that’s the truth.

The U.S. opposed the reunification of Korea after its partition in 1945. It installed in power its puppet Synghman Rhee, who alarmed Congress by his vicious repression and threats to invade the north. The north’s push into the south in June 1950 (which actually received widespread support in the south) could have resulted in the rapid reunification of the country and its final attainment of independence from imperialist overlords.

Instead it was met with a horrific, racist assault that killed three million Korean people and rendered the peninsula a moonscape.

Will Ripley raises his eyebrows in surprise that, gosh, these Pyongyang teenagers hate us!
They are raised in a climate of hate!

(Gosh, what reasonable children would hate a country, just because it attacked it, bombed the hell out of it, and killed a third of its people? Why bear such a grudge?)

So while affecting an air of dispassionate objectivity (and—as advertised—deep awareness, given his multiple trips to Pyongyang) Ripley treats the main thing (the ferocious violence inflicted by the U.S. historically on Korea) as a footnote, and the secondary thing (the DPRK’s deterrence measures, and the people’s annoying historical memory) as the big news story.

Totally out of historical context. Trump-era imperialist journalism at its slickest.

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Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

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