17 July 2006


My work on a Marines installation takes me to various memorials to the troops who gave their lives for the country. This includes a conference room, which memorializes two Marines from the American heartland who gave their lives during the Korean War.

These men grew up during very difficult times; the Great Depression was during their childhood, and as they entered their teens, World War II demanded further sacrifices. And when yet another conflict - this time, in a faraway land they probably had never heard of - occurred, they bravely volunteered to serve. When their battle groups were under heavy enemy attack, they blocked an enemy grenade, or otherwise gave their lives, to protect the rest of the group, and to contribute to winning the battle.

The Korean War was a textbook example on why the civilian President, as Commander-in-Chief, has to be the voice of reason. First, Harry Truman understood the gravity of the situation enough to have a doctrine of containing the communist influence, well before war broke out in Korea. Then, he used diplomacy to get the United Nations to send a multinational force to quell the conflict - sixteen nations, including the United States, fought alongside the South Korean forces. When General Douglas MacArthur wanted to fight an all-out war, not only against North Korea but also against China, USSR, and all other communist nations, Truman sacked him, wisely deciding that wearing the communist camp out through containment was a much safer option than nuclear annihilation of the entire world. (However, South Korean conservatives, including then-President Syngman Rhee, have never forgiven Truman - and the Democrats - for this decision.)

Fast forward to today, with W as Commander-in-Chief. I am always reminded of that as I see W's photo everywhere, captioned the "Honorable" George W. Bush. Unfortunately, there is nothing honorable about W and his war conduct. Rather than giving the voice of reason to the military, he has been even more of a madman than the military commanders, diverting American war efforts from the real enemy, the Taliban in Afghanistan, to a personal/oil industry pet project, Iraq. He pretends to be the ultimate authority in military affairs, even though his Vietnam-era military service details are sketchy at best. And the worst of it is, he is using tools like Fox News to brainwash the soldiers, so that they think they are fighting a noble war in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and elsewhere, when in fact they aren't. And the level of brainwashing is absolutely scary; combined with the false perception that Republicans are more pro-military and the doctrines of the Christian fundamentalists, the soldiers are worshipping W like the newest Christian prophet that he pretends to be, ready to go on more and more Crusades.

Back to the two Marines who gave their lives in Korea, I look at them and see two wasted lives. The US involvement in South Korea, lasting through today, has not always been a positive influence. South Korean democratic institutions, and its very sovereignty, have been hampered by excessive US meddling, especially during the Republican administrations (the worst were in the Richard Nixon - Park Chung Hee era and the Ronald Reagan - Chun Doo Hwan era). The relationship between the two nations have benefited only the right wing of the two, not everyone; Korea has always been a pet project of American conservatives like Sam Brownback and the Concerned Women for America, and it's been the right-wingers in South Korea who want continued high levels of US military presence, against the wishes of the people of South Korea - and both the left and the right of the United States. (This includes moving the US Army command in Seoul to a location an hour to the south, a project I may be involved in in the future.) The students, the labor, and other activists, including everyday civilians, have suffered immensely on both sides as a result of this relationship, particularly in 1980 and in 1983, and this must change. Unfortunately, the current free trade talks between the two countries, the biggest such agreement for the US since NAFTA, will only further strengthen the hands of the right wingers, and put the students, labor, and other activists further into the hole.