John Pilger on Korean and other wars


This video from South Korea is called Peace activists on Jeju Island rally to protect their village from military base plans.

By John Pilger, from the New Statesman in Britain:

Buried horors and forgotten wars

Thursday 20th February 2014

JOHN PILGER looks back to the Korean war of 1950-53 and how distorted history masks the true nature of a conflict which scars the region to this day

Fifty years ago, EP Thompson‘s The Making of the English Working Class rescued the study of history from the powerful. Kings and queens, landowners, industrialists and imperialists had owned much of public memory.

In 1980 Howard Zinn‘s A People’s History of the United States also demonstrated that the freedoms and rights we enjoy precariously – free expression, free association, the jury system, rights of minorities – were the achievements of ordinary people, not the gift of elites.

Historians, like journalists, play their most honourable role when they myth-bust.

Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America (1971) achieved this for the people of a continent whose historical memory was colonised and mutated by the dominance of the United States.

We need such smokescreen-clearing now more than ever.

The powerful would like us to believe that the likes of Thompson, Zinn and Galeano are no longer necessary – that we live, as Time magazine put it, “in an eternal present” in which reflection is limited to Facebook and historical narrative is the preserve of Hollywood.

This is a confidence trick. In Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell wrote: “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”

The people of Korea understand this well.

The slaughter on their peninsula following the second world war is known as “the forgotten war,” whose significance for all humanity has long been suppressed in military histories of cold war good versus evil.

I have just read The Korean War: a History by Bruce Cumings (2010), professor of history at the University of Chicago.

I first saw Cumings interviewed in Regis Tremblay’s extraordinary film The Ghosts of Jeju, which documents the 1948 uprising on the southern Korean island of Jeju and the campaign by the present-day islanders to stop the building of a base with US missiles aimed provocatively at China.

Like most Koreans, the farmers and fishing families protested at the senseless division of their nation between north and south in 1945 – a line drawn along the 38th parallel by a US official, Dean Rusk, who had “consulted a map around midnight on the day after we obliterated Nagasaki with an atomic bomb,” as Cumings writes.

The myth of a “good” Korea (the South) and a “bad” Korea (the North) was invented.

In fact, Korea, north and south, has a remarkable people’s history of resistance to feudalism and foreign occupation, notably Japan’s in the 20th century.

When the US defeated Japan in 1945 it occupied Korea and often branded those who had resisted the Japanese as “commies.”

On Jeju, as many as 60,000 people were massacred by militias supported, directed and in some cases commanded by US officers.

This and other unreported atrocities were a “forgotten” prelude to the Korean war (1950-53), in which more people were killed than Japanese died during all of the second world war.

Cumings gives an astonishing tally of the degree of destruction of the cities of the North – Pyongyang 75 per cent, Sariwon 95 per cent, Sinanju 100 per cent.

Great dams in the North were bombed in order to unleash internal tsunamis. “Anti-personnel” weapons, such as napalm, were tested on civilians.

Cumings’s superb investigation helps us understand why today’s North Korea seems so strange, an anachronism sustained by an enduring mentality of siege.

“The unhindered machinery of incendiary bombing was visited on the North for three years,” he writes, “yielding a wasteland and a surviving mole people who had learned to love the shelter of caves, mountains, tunnels and redoubts, a subterranean world that became the basis for reconstructing a country and a memento for building a fierce hatred through the ranks of the population.

“Their truth is not cold, antiquarian, ineffectual knowledge.”

Cumings quotes Virginia Woolf to describe how the trauma of this kind of war “confers memory.”

The guerrilla leader Kim Il Sung had begun fighting the Japanese militarists in 1932.

Every characteristic attached to the regime he founded – “communist, rogue state, evil enemy” – derives from a ruthless, brutal, heroic resistance, first to Japan, then the United States, which threatened to nuke the rubble its bombers had left.

Cumings exposes as propaganda the notion that Kim Il Sung, leader of the “bad” Korea, was a stooge of Moscow.

In contrast, the regime that Washington invented in the South, the “good” Korea, was run largely by those who had collaborated with Japan and the United States.

The Korean war has an unrecognised distinction.

It was in the smouldering ruins of the peninsula that the US turned itself into what Cumings calls “an archipelago of empire.”

When the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s, it was as if the whole planet was declared pro-US – or else.

But there is China now.

The base being built on Jeju Island will face the Chinese metropolis of Shanghai, less than 300 miles away, and the industrial heartland of the only country whose economic power is likely to surpass that of the US.

“China,” says President Obama in a leaked briefing paper, “is our fast-emerging strategic threat.”

By 2020, almost two-thirds of all US naval forces in the world will be transferred to the Asia-Pacific region. In an arc extending from Australia to Japan and beyond, China will be ringed by US missiles and nuclear-weapons-armed aircraft.

Will this threat to all of us be “forgotten” too?

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Japanese governmental rewriting of history


This video says about itself:

Comfort Woman – Wianbu

14 July 2012

A short film about a Korean seventeen-year-old girl who is brought to a Japanese military camp during World War II, where a catastrophic future awaits her. Can she escape her fate?

From the History News Network in the USA:

12-28-13

Japan PM backs move to rewrite textbooks

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s conservative government has begun to pursue a more openly nationalist agenda on an issue that critics fear will push the country farther from its postwar pacifism: adding a more patriotic tone to Japan’s school textbooks.

The proposed textbook revisions have drawn less outcry abroad than Mr. Abe’s visit on Thursday to a shrine that honors war dead, including war criminals from World War II. However, though Mr. Abe’s supporters argue that changes are needed to teach children more patriotism, liberals warn that they could undercut an antiwar message they say has helped keep Japan peaceful for decades.

Prime Minister Abe is feeling the heat from his political base, which feels betrayed that he has not pursued a more strongly right-wing agenda,” said Nobuyoshi Takashima, a professor emeritus at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa who has studied the politics of textbooks. “Classrooms are one place where he can appease ultraconservatives by taking a more firmly nationalist stance.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that he wanted to explain to his neighbours why he decided to visit a shrine to war criminals. But China again called on the nationalist politician to wake up to the realities of Japan’s imperial history. Mr Abe visited the Yasukuni shrine – where 14 convicted class-A war criminals are enshrined among the nearly 2.5 million dead – on December 26, sparking a diplomatic furore with China and South Korea: here.

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Financial Times confuses Bahraini minister with 9/11 suspect


This video is called CNN – Bahrain security forces torture doctors, medics and patients.

By Sydney Smith:

Financial Times Mistakes Bahrain Foreign Minister in Photo as Accused 9/11 ‘Plotter’

December 26, 2013 05:00 AM EST

Whoops! The Financial Times wrongly used a photo of Bahrain‘s foreign minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al Khalifa, with a report on accused 9/11 terrorist Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, the Huffington Post reported.

The Financial Times‘ Dec. 21/22 story was titled “Guantanamo inmates face two divergent paths after 12 years” and included a photo of the foreign minister captioned as “among five detainees on trial.”  The caption of the photo called him the accused terrorist.

The Financial Times has published a correction and apology to the foreign minister, “Apology to His Excellency Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al Khalifa.”

This reminds me of the FBI in the USA confusing photos of Osama bin Laden with Spanish Leftist politician Gaspar Llamazares. There are differences between these two cases, though.

The Financial Times is an unarmed newspaper business. So, the Financial Times‘ misidentification was not a danger for Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al Khalifa in a big way. While the FBI is an armed organization; some of its members have a “licence to kill”. The FBI did put Gaspar Llamazares’ life in danger.

Though the FBI misidentified Gaspar Llamazares in January 2010, today, almost four years later, they have still not apologized for that as far is I know. Maybe they did not like Gaspar Llamazares’ criticism of George W Bush’s Iraq war? While, on the other hand, the Financial Times apologized immediately and profusely to Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al Khalifa.

There is still a third difference. Gaspar Llamazares was and is completely innocent of any terrorism. While hundreds of thousands of Bahrainis will consider Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al Khalifa, as a member of the royal dynasty and of the Bahraini government, engaged in bloody repression of the Bahraini pro-democracy movement, to be a “state terrorist”, roughly in the same league as al-Qaeda.

South Korean consumer products aren’t hard to find in Bahrain, one of the fastest-growing markets in the Persian Gulf for conglomerate Samsung Electronics. But more than two years into anti-government protests in the Gulf state, it is South Korean tear gas – rather than smartphones or flat-screen TVs – that is attracting international scrutiny for its role in an unfinished chapter of the Arab Spring: here.