Do Americans Recall Past Forgotten Wars or Care About Ones to Come?

August 24, 2013

By Donald Kirk

KoreanWarMemorial-300x198The United States has been throwing around millions and billions and trillions for so many lost causes, unjust causes and dumb causes that it’s hardly surprising to realize that Egypt ranks as one of the biggest recipients of American largesse.

As far as I know, only Israel gets more U.S. military aid. That’s needed, we’re always told, to insure Israel’s defense against just about every Arab country, and a few others, all of whom vow from time to time to wipe the Jewish state off the map.

Unlike the Egyptians, however, the Israelis have not been firing into mobs of their own people in a spectacle that’s shocked the world. No, Palestinians would counter, but they’ve shot any number of us, and they drove us from our land and are depriving us of ever more land while building “settlements” in Palestinian territory.

That’s hard to deny, but it’s hard for me to recall personally any massacre that’s been as blatant anywhere else on earth outside a war zone. Far fewer people died on Tiananmen Square in June 1989 and in Kwangju in May 1980, scenes that I visited before and after the slaughter.

Now the question is whether or why the U.S. should go on pouring arms and money into a regime that uses it not to fight a foreign foe but to insure its power over its people.

That’s the kind of question that has often arisen in the discussion of the U.S. commitment to South Korea. Ever since the Korean War, activists have opposed the U.S. rushing to the aid of regimes that were exposed as having slaughtered many of their citizens, that is, South Koreans.

The killing was less rampant in the era of Park Chung-Hee, who reigned supreme for 18 and a half years after seizing power from a democratic government, but that was because he exercised such strong control through the Korean Central Intelligence Agency.

Throughout the Park era, and that of the general who succeeded him after his assassination by his intelligence chief in October 1979, Americans questioned the efficacy of U.S. military support for South Korea. I was in Korea then, interviewing missionaries as well as U.S. diplomats and political figures.

Pleas for democracy were answered in June 1987 with huge but largely peaceful demonstrations culminating in the promulgation of a democratic constitution that remains in place to this day, providing for election of a new president every five years and guaranteeing numerous other rights.

Quite aside from concern about democracy in South Korea, the U.S. had another reason for supporting dictators whose deeds and policies were distasteful to so many Americans. That is, North Korea, with a military establishment twice the size of that of the South, had, and still has, a powerful force right above the line.

The North Koreans, moreover, have done their best to give Americans reason to keep sizeable forces here, and to join in war games with the South Koreans, by intermittently broadcasting crazy-wild threats that are hard to shrug off.

Can the U.S. come up with any such rationale in the case of Egypt? Are Israeli forces about to pour across the border, maybe capturing the Sinai peninsula. U.S. diplomats would doubtless be able to offer all kinds of reasons for going on with billions more in arms shipments once a few more hundred people die and the mayhem dies down.

The fact is, though, Americans don’t know whom to believe and what side to take in the Middle East. The Muslim Brotherhood, fomenting the demonstrations on behalf of Mohammed Morsi, the zealot who was democratically elected but then did all he could to destroy democracy, has sanctioned attacks on Christian churches and would doubtlessly oppose all kinds of freedoms if they ever came to power.

Americans are more stymied in Syria, where thousands have died fighting a ruthless dictatorship. The impression is unmistakable that foes of the Assad regime would be fanatic about pillorying a Christian minority, most of whom have either fled or been killed.

Nor do Americans know what to do about Pakistan, an Islamic country that’s at odds with India while harboring elements of Al Qaida and the Taliban.

The Taliban is gearing up for the final push in Afghanistan once the Americans pull out their last troops next year. As for Iraq, the U.S. has long since withdrawn the last of the forces that drove out the old Saddam Hussein regime, leaving the country more bloodied than ever.

Remember all that? I’ll bet most Americans have not only forgotten but don’t care.

The Korean War may have been America’s original “forgotten war,” but it appears not to have been the last.


Article submitted by:  Veronica Coffin

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