Saturday, April 13, 2013

April 14: Good guys, bad guys, and the Koreas.

I'm surprised nobody has challenged me on my defence of Kim of North Korea in the present crisis. After all, Kim is not a nice man, and that whole, North Korean regime has quite a record of mismanagement, manipulation of its own people - and manipulation of us.

Since 1945, North Korea has been, in effect, an absolute monarchy. But it's a very poor one. It has virtually no real cash of its own because it has nothing to sell. When was the last time you bought  a product that was labelled "made in North Korea"?

What industrial equipment it has is antiquated, much of it 70 years old and more. It can barely raise enough food to keep its people alive - and certainly not enough to keep them healthy. A bad crop year means real starvation. So how has the country stayed afloat all these years?

It has made a science of sucking money out of the rest of the world. It's threat of starting a nuclear war is not a serious one. The notion that North Korea would be crazy enough to start a nuclear war might satisfy our racist prejudice that the "lesser" peoples of this world are so wise as us, and might even be insane. But it's quite silly. There is nothing crazy about Kim or his predecessors. They have always understood quite well that a nuclear attack on anybody would be suicide. There are only two countries in the world crazy and irresponsible enough (and well-equipped enough) to consider nuclear war - the US and Israel.

Both have made such threats. Funny how we never notice that. In fact, the US/South Korea war games, which feature the dropping of dummy nuclear bombs, are all just such a threat.

But, no, Kim plays with nuclear development because he needs money. The threats of nuclear weapons development in North Korea have yielded huge payments - temporary bribes, really - for Kim to back off. So, like any blackmailer, Kim will accept the bribes, then come back when he needs more.

That, along with aid from ngos, gives a North Korean "king" the power to hold onto people by feeding them just enough, and scaring them with the threat of an external enemy. The latter, incidentally, is the same way that the US gets its people to fight wars, by calling them wars on "terror" or "WMDs" or "bad people" when the war is really about oil or some other resource.
Did the US become the ally and protector to South Korea because it was a democracy and, therefore, good? No. Of course not.

In fact, South Korea after the second world war became a dictatorship. The dictator was Syngman Rhee, a man educated in the US, then planted in South Korea as an American puppet dictator. He was a pretty brutal one, too. In one of his campaigns to get rid of political opponents, he is said to have killed a hundred thousand of his own people in one year.

The US did not get the UN to intervene with the Korean war because it wanted to save democracy. There was no democracy to save. And the US didn't want one. 

The US intervened because it needed South Korea as a base for extending American influence (and control) into China. This has been the holy grail of American foreign policy for well over a century - get contol of China. Get control of that huge market. Make use of that vast pool of cheap labour. That's the whole history of US expansion across the Pacific, from the acquisition of Hawaii to the conquest of The Phillipines, to its support of a drug lord named Chiang-Kai Shek in China, to its war with Japan, and its planting of a dictator in South Korea.

Any reader who is a naval bug will know this just from looking at US naval construction since 1920. The American fleet specializes in very long range ships, and a very high proportion of supply ships. That's the kind of navy you need for operations reaching across the world's biggest ocean.

The need to close in on China, not any desire to protect democracy, was what sent the US into the Korean War.

In fact, when the war ended, the US maintained Syngman Rhee in power - and maintained him there as a dictator.

It's a big mistake to look at current events as a struggle between good guys and bad guys. Things are rarely that sharply defined. It gets even worse as these perceptions get mixed with our own racism and bigotries. We've seen this mix up in our own time time with Cuba, Libya, Haiti, Islam in general. Sometimes, it gets quite bizarre.

In Syria, for example, the good guys in our western news media are the so-called rebels. In fact, a high proportion of the rebels are affiliated with Al-Queda. So the US is breaking its own law in supplying weapons and other help to Al-Queda. The US is planning to send a man (who lives in Texas) to head a new government in Syria. There is no talk of an election first.

What we call the glory of the British Empire was not glorious at all for most of those forced to live under it. But few of us, then or even today, have ever recognized how brutal it was. Indeed, we have never even noticed the brutality and social destruction caused by our own invasion of Canada, and our continuing bad treatment of the First Nations whose we stole, and whom we shoved onto reserves to live in poverty.

So what's really going on in the Koreas?

Well, South Korea has never bothered to build a decent military. Why should it? It can rely on the US to protect it because it it desperately needs that base so close to China.

North Korea knows that. Far from being crazy, the rulers of the north know that they cannot possibly invade South Korea. (In any case, they know they don't have any sort of industrial base to support an army in the field.) The missile test is almost certainly the old, blackmail game to get cash. The US knows that.

So why does it spend hundreds of millions of dollars, probably billions, every year on these war games?

I don't know.

It could be to threaten China. It could be that each year's war games is practice for the one that will really be the opening of an American attack on North Korea - an attack because the US, if it is ever going to establish its long desired control over China has to do it now - or never.

Whatever it might be, it has nothing to do with good guys or bad guys. It has nothing to do with race. It has to do with the way we humans act. So forget all that loaded language you read and hear in the news media. And let's try really hard to fight down that racism that almost all of us carry without realizing it.

Our economic lesson, and the hundred years old lesson the US has refused to learn.

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