Nuclear Threats Against North Korea Consequences of the
'forgotten' war, by Bruce Cumings; Le Monde Diplomatique.
The media claim that North Korea is trying to obtain and
use weapons of mass destruction. Yet the United States,
which opposes this strategy, has used or threatened to
use such weapons in northeast Asia since the 1940s, when
it did drop atomic bombs on Japan.
THE forgotten war -- the Korean war of 1950-53 -- might
better be called the unknown war. What was indelible
about it was the extraordinary destructiveness of the
United States' air campaigns against North Korea, from
the widespread and continuous use of firebombing (mainly
with napalm), to threats to use nuclear and chemical
weapons (1), and the destruction of huge North Korean
dams in the final stages of the war. Yet this episode is
mostly unknown even to historians, let alone to the
average citizen, and it has never been mentioned during
the past decade of media analysis of the North Korean
Korea is also assumed to have been a limited war, but
its prosecution bore a strong resemblance to the air war
against Imperial Japan in the second world war, and was
often directed by the same US military leaders. The
atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been
examined from many different perspectives, yet the
incendiary air attacks against Japanese and Korean
cities have received much less attention. The US
post-Korean war air power and nuclear strategy in
northeast Asia are even less well understood; yet these
have dramatically shaped North Korean choices and remain
a key factor in its national security strategy.
Napalm was invented at the end of the second world war.
It became a major issue during the Vietnam war, brought
to prominence by horrific photos of injured civilians.
Yet far more napalm was dropped on Korea and with much
more devastating effect, since the Democratic People's
Republic of Korea (DPRK) had many more populous cities
and urban industrial installations than North Vietnam.
In 2003 I participated in a conference with US veterans
of the Korean war. During a discussion about napalm, a
survivor who lost an eye in the Changjin (in Japanese,
Chosin) Reservoir battle said it was indeed a nasty
weapon -- but "it fell on the right people." (Ah yes,
the "right people" -- a friendly-fire drop on a dozen US
soldiers.) He continued: "Men all around me were burned.
They lay rolling in the snow. Men I knew, marched and
fought with begged me to shoot them . . . It was
terrible. Where the napalm had burned the skin to a
crisp, it would be peeled back from the face, arms, legs
. . . like fried potato chips."
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