Veterans Day and counting. More pieces of the puzzle of the American psyche have fallen in place. As a Korean War veteran, I was referred to the book “The Coldest Winter, America and the Korean War,” by the noted historian/author David Halberstam who accounts in detail the political scene which led to America’s involvement on that imperiled peninsula and the first tragic winter in war and beyond thereon.
I’ve gleaned the following from that book and other sources:
Piece No. 1: Spanish-American War in the Philippines (1899) — “It was the nation’s first real colonial experience. Pressure in the U.S. for some form of expansion, a continuation of that 19th century sense of American Manifest Destiny and an expression of the need to display to the rest of the world America’s new economic muscle.” (Halberstam)
“The taste of empire is in the mouth of the people even as the taste of blood in the jungle. It means an imperial policy.” (Washington Post)
Piece No. 2: “Two powerful American instincts: a missionary drive — to civilize the natives as part of a Christian white man’s burden and racism of the most virulent kind.”
I had come from an industrial city which included Italians, Slavs, Czechs, Pols, blacks, Chinese and others of mixed ethnic origins. Madam Chiang visited once. When I heard the word “gook” in Korea in reference to North Koreans, Chinese and sometimes South Koreans, I was somewhat taken aback. This derogatory term came into being during that Philippines campaign and was used by American troops through World War II, Korea and Vietnam to identify Asians.
Piece No. 3: Because American Protestant and Catholic missionaries had been in China, America considered China theirs. It never was. The billions of dollars being given to the Nationalist Chinese regime was a complete waste. America didn’t fail China, Chiang Kai-shek failed America.
American right wing “China Firsts,” especially the publisher Henry Luce and his “American Century,” read that “American Empire,” having been a child of Chinese missionaries, used his heavy influence to keep American taxpayer dollars pouring into Chiang’s coffers while completely reversing the reports of his star newsmen who were bringing back the truth from the Chinese front lines. American goods and equipment were ending up in the hands of Mao’s troops, and Mao, smarter, but probably no more brutal than Chiang, was in complete touch with his people.
Piece No. 4: Americans were being told about the “Communist Menace” and had trouble realizing that Communist Russia and Communist China were two completely different factions. The Korean conflict was the inevitable result of American policy brought on by conspiratorial ideologists aching to take back control in Washington.
The same attitude in the American Japan Command ultimately caused the death of thousands of American troops in Korea in late 1950 while the McCarthy hearings ruined scores of American patriots in the states.
Piece No. 5: We keep replaying the Philippines saga, racism and all, but have had no gain in Korea, in Vietnam, nor will we gain in the Middle East. We never seem to learn. We waste our youth in useless wars, but miss the second act when remnants of that youth return as veterans with medical, mental and financial problems. That takes taxpayers’ money, you know.
“War is hell” to quote Gen. Sherman. It’s more like a neocon’s dream come true: make war to delete the treasury so that the rich and powerful can rule the peasants in “The New American Century,” while the Carlyle Group having included Bush and bin Laden is sitting pretty. If such books existed, I’d recommend the following: “Today’s Chinese Communist Capitalism, A Primer on Modern World Economics” and “Contemporary American Political Criticism, A Study of Idiocy.”
Note: During six days in Korea, from Nov. 26, 1950 to Dec. 2, 1950, 3,628 American servicemen were killed in action, with an overall American battle dead at 33,742 — 36,516 dead in the theater of operation, 103,284 wounded and 8,176 unaccounted for. The Forgotten War and the enigma of the American psyche!
Al Thompson lives in Lompoc. “The Forward View” is a progressive look at local issues that runs every Wednesday. For information, call 736-1897 or e-mail at email@example.com.