“What? You Think We’re So Innocent?”

Photo by Dan Scavino Jr. | CC BY 2.0

Channel surfing the corporate media’s alleged “news” broadcasts the other day I took note of a startling admission from Trump being interviewed about his meeting with Kim Jong-un. Assuming I’d also see it on the other channels I didn’t pay attention to which network was televising at that moment. I mention this oversight because Trump’s words were astoundingly honest coming from the mouth of any elite overseer of the empire let alone the current oligarch in-chief…and they were immediately disappeared from all outlets including the one which committed the  transgression. I wish I took note of which network it was. In response to media questions about his failure to address the dismal human rights record of North Korea Trump in his inimitable manner said “What, you think we’re so innocent?”

I don’t know what residual naivete on my part allowed me to think for the moment that the corporate Ministry of Truth would willingly broadcast the maximum leader’s words about our own nation’s crimes against humanity but there it was. Not for long though. Such an admission of our own guilt in human affairs was an egregious infraction on the part of editors. Big Brother was not happy! Trump was quoted on this subject again and again on all networks but now his quotes were  limited to statements that “… a lot of countries …have similar records.” Any hint of our own murderous actions was verboten. The real fake news was back on track.

I’ve encountered a number of folk who question why Trump would meet with such a blatant perpetrator of human rights crimes, usually citing Kim’s murder of “hundreds of thousands” of his own people and North Korean “failure” to live up to agreements. When I press them many know little if anything about the realities of recent events in their lives. Their dearth of actual facts (as opposed to “alternative facts”) is not offset by strongly held opinions.

Leaving aside the grave probability that any intensification of the threats made by all sides in Korea until recently could have led to the deaths of many millions, the cold hard fact is that the United States has directly killed millions of Koreans in far greater numbers than any of the Kims. Somehow that fact never makes it on to the palmtop. Engaging with the facts of current crises does not require a Ph.D. only a willingness to think more deeply and honestly…yes a hard bargain but widespread willful ignorance is spiraling us into dreadfully dangerous territory.

The Korean War was a blatant attempt by the U.S. to appropriate Japan’s colony as its beachhead on the mainland of East Asia. From 1910 to 1945 Japan enslaved much of Korea’s population and employed many native Koreans to help them do so. This resulted in an armed resistance to Tokyo’s crimes led by communist insurgents just as was the case in many countries during that period. If the majority of Koreans could have voted for a government on the day Japan surrendered they would have elected Kim Il-Sung, the grandfather of Kim Jong-Un, just as a similar event would have occurred in Vietnam around the same time in 1945. The reasons are elementary. Both Kim and Ho Chi Minh had led their respective peoples’ defiance of foreign occupation. The U.S. would soon exact a terrible toll for their intransigence.

The new Central Intelligence Agency understood the majority appeal of the communists and so moved to prevent any form of independence for Korea (and aided the French to reoccupy their colonies in Indochina). Ironically the presumed source of communist threat, our WWII ally the Soviet Union, accepted the division. Had it not today’s crisis would undoubtedly not exist. It was the Red Army, not the American, that defeated Japanese armies in mainland Asia and the Russkies could easily have occupied all of Korea. Of course the original propaganda claimed that the division of Korea into American and Soviet zones was temporary until such time as national elections could be held but because voters across Korea would have chosen a largely communist government Washington went out of its way to prevent that outcome and maintained the partition of the tiny peninsula. In the south the U.S. fostered a regime that even the general in charge of American occupying troops said was “Nazi-like” and it was comprised of the very Koreans who had collaborated with Japan in the exploitation of their fellows. When southerners rebelled against the newly imposed foreign occupation the newly armed American collaborators conducted numerous massacres and slaughtered tens of thousands. Then a rigged election installed Washington’s pre-approved candidate.

Realizing that reunification was not going to be allowed on Korean terms the northerners decided to settle the issue by “invading” their own country. Since this occurred at the height of anti-communist hysteria in the U.S. and at the very moment when the Truman Administration was trying to get Congress to fund the permanent war economy, the outbreak of civil war in Korea provided an invaluable windfall for the wilting marriage between the state and the weapons industries that lacked a profitable war to wage. “Thank God Korea came along!” exclaimed Secretary of State Dean Acheson as the national legislature immediately tripled the war…um defense…budget. Three years of war followed with at least four million Korean deaths and the near use of nuclear weapons, though this threat was really directed at China since northern Korea was within the first year reduced to ravaged wasteland. China entered the war when General Douglas MacArthur exceeded his mandate to restore the status quo ante bellum and crossed into North Korea seeking to crush it once and for all. Since this profoundly threatened China’s own recent revolution Chinese troops soon entered the war in force.

Because the danger of nuclear escalation presaged a Third World War an armistice was hastily convened that continues to this day, meaning that the U.S., both Koreas, and China are still technically in a state of war. One of the basic provisions of the armistice signed in 1953 held that the U.S. would introduce no new weapons into the south still occupied by American troops. In 1958 the armistice was violated when the U.S. introduced short-range nuclear missiles. Few are aware of that fact and no permitted talking head ever mentions it to my knowledge.

The corporate media resounds with accusations of North Korea’s breaches of various agreements over the past 60 years but the U.S. has broken the truce most egregiously time and again. The 1994 “agreed framework” under Clinton gets much attention now. This proposal was framed to prevent North Korea’s nuclear power program from being able to produce plutonium and therefore potential nukes in return for U.S promises to provide two light-water reactors that could not produce plutonium, supply the north with 500,000 tons of heavy fuel per year, lift economic sanctions, and work toward a formal peace treaty. North Korea would abandon its missile program and not reprocess uranium while each side would provide “formal assurances” not to employ nuclear weapons.

The chief negotiator for Clinton, Robert Gallucci, stated that American failure to meet its commitments would result in collapse of the agreement. State Department officials emphasized that the north was living up to its agreements and U.S. inspectors agreed. Yet, by 2000 the U.S. had failed to deliver the light –water reactors and the fuel. Then the new Bush Administration declared that North Korea was part of the “axis of evil” and stepped up threatening “war games” with South Korean forces along the border. Bush’s United Nations ambassador, John Bolton, said that he had found the “hammer”…to “shatter” the agreed framework.

The result? North Korea immediately withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and began a full-scale program to develop nuclear weapons and the missiles to carry them, clearly goaded by the destruction they and the world witnessed that both Bush and Obama unleashed upon on Iraq and Libya,  among other small and all but defenseless countries.

The Korean War is never depicted for American broadcast viewers as it really was but always recounted as a communist threat to the “free world” and a just response to the totalitarian aggression of brutal thugs in Pyongyang. This is a political cartoon that, like “coverage” of so many critical issues, grossly oversimplifies and distorts complex realities. Tragically the vast majority of American citizens accept these caricatures. Even those who proclaim higher education rarely look below these surfaces in order to comprehend our increasingly dangerous world despite the fact that in the tech age many sources of significant and genuine information and logical analysis exist for those who are willing to breach orthodox status quo boundaries.

Finally, to return to Trump’s doubts of our innocence. He is the first president of whom I am aware even to broach the unmentionable much less admit publically that we are hardly exceptional. All empires declare themselves the bearers of higher civilization even as their criminalities in the name of key ideals and “values” proliferate. The catalogue is extensive, too widespread to enumerate fully but here is a brief compendium.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, American allies, dictatorships both, are now desolating Yemen. Their missiles are purchased here in the U.S. largely from Raytheon and have reduced what was already the poorest country in the world to all but absolute immiseration. In nearby Iraq civilians are still dying as a result of the U.S. invasion in 2003 in the name of democracy, over a million thus far. In the 1970 and 80s Washington intervened in Central America and the Caribbean where popular insurgencies had overthrown dictators backed for generations by Washington with the result of hundreds of thousands dead. In 1973 the CIA facilitated a coup in Chile against the elected government of Salvador Allende leading to widespread executions, tortures and disappearances.

the 1960s witnessed the crimes in Southeast Asia. The Pentagon admits to killing 2 million in Vietnam; Hanoi says four million. In Laos and Cambodia another 2-3 million lost their lives under bombing more intensive than in WWII. And let us not forget Indonesia where just as the Vietnam War was broadening CIA operations enabled the dictator Suharto to overthrow that nation’s elected government and round-up and execute at least one million “enemies of the state.” As noted the war in Korea from 1950-1953 killed 4 million with more to follow. The South Korean dictatorship set up by the U.S. which ruled until the 1980s killed at least as many southerners as those now numbered and blamed on the northern regime.

In the early 1950s the CIA overthrew the elected government of Iran in order to replace it with the despotism of the Shah who quickly agreed to shove British oil aside to make way for American companies and expensive American weapons which he would need as the duly anointed “policeman of the Gulf.” The Pentagon trained his secret police, the SAVAK, in the methods of terrorizing and brutalizing those who objected to the new dictatorship. The ensuing repression of all dissent led ultimately to the Shah’s overthrow and the new Islamic regime condemned Washington as evil incarnate, a proposition that with subsequent armed interventions and overthrows of governments throughout the Muslim world would soon result in Islamic “terror.”

I could go on but the atrocities we Americans have actually committed, we the “not so innocent” after all… take it from the Donald… could ever be said to amount to waging terror across this wide world. Of course not! We are not like that.

Paul Atwood is the author of War and Empire: the American Way of Life.