Monday, August 04, 2008

Uncovering the Cover-up

When is a war not a war?

If you are President Harry Truman and it is 1950, Korea is not a war but a police action Truman could not afford to let his opponents win the “label” contest and link the “W” word with the fighting in Korea. Following on the fall of China to Mao’s communist army, Truman could ill afford another Asian country – South Korea – falling under the sway of “the reds” and providing more ammunition to Senator Joe McCarthy’s witch hunt.

Truman was helped by the fact that a 14 year-long “real” war had ended in Asia only 58 months earlier. The U.S. public was tired of war and more interested in getting back to “normalcy.” That helped make his case, as did the appeal by the UN Security Council for member states to provide troops to repel the North’s invasion of South Korea. (Russia’s representative had walked out of the Security Council discussions, badly miscalculating the effect his absence would have –which was zero. With Taiwan then occupying China’s seat on the Security Council, the threat of a veto of the resolution calling for troops disappeared.)

When is a violent criminal act not a violent criminal act?

If you are President George Bush (also known as “W” to some of his friends) in 2001, it’s when you learn that 19 civilian foreigners have hijacked four U.S. civilian airliners and crashed three of them into the World Trade Center towers and the west–facing side of the Pentagon while the fourth crashed in rural Pennsylvania. More than 2,950 people were killed in the aircraft, the trade center towers, the Pentagon, and among those who tried to rescue others.

“W” seemed unable – indeed, remains unable today – to differentiate between a spectacular and coordinated mass murder such as occurred September 11, 2001 and an act of war. Under Article 51 of the UN Charter, a country may take preemptive military action if it is in imminent danger of being attacked by another country. But there is no provision for preemptive military action against a group of individuals planning to kill as .many people as possible – which is a conspiratorial criminal act

History has judged Truman’s “police action” to have been a “war”; battle deaths were 33,686, with another 2,830 in-theatre deaths from non-hostile incidents. In then-year dollars, the monetary cost was $30 billion. Updated to Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 currency values, fighting the Korean War today would cost $320 billion, a ten-fold increase.

What prompts this digression back into history?

After 2 ½ years investigating allegations that U.S. airplanes deliberately bombed, strafed, and machine gunned unarmed South Koreans fleeing to escape the North Korean invasion, a South Korean Truth and Reconciliation Commission has found the allegations credible and has asked for compensation from the U.S. for the survivors and dependents of those killed. The initial findings were released July 26, the 58th anniversary of the shooting of fleeing civilians by U.S. ground forces and then aircraft at No Gun Ri. What is worse – shades of “a few bad apples” a la Abu Ghraib – the U.S. commanders knew and made no effort to stop the troops on the front lines that were killing non-combatants simply because the western soldiers could not distinguish friend from foe.

So it is today. How will history deal with "W's" war?

Listen: can you not hear echoes of those killings – and for the same reasons as were given 58 years ago – in Afghanistan today?

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