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The Cold War Roots of a New Korean War

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While President Trump’s impulsiveness and erratic behavior is clearly bringing America closer to war with North Korea, the real root of the Korean crisis lies not with him but rather with the Pentagon and the CIA, whose overwhelming power within the federal governmental structure is what really governs foreign policy, especially with respect to Korea.

Who would have ever thought that the national-security state’s anti-communist crusade in the 1940s and 1950s would lead to the possibility of another war in Korea in 2017, one that could lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, including tens of thousands of Americans?

Yet, that is precisely what has happened. Almost 70 years ago, the U.S. government intervened in the Korean civil war. It was a violent intervention that tremendously increased the death toll and destruction in both North Korea and South Korea. In North Korea, U.S. forces bombers carpet-bombed the entire nation, destroying not only cities but also rural villages. While Americans call the Korean War the “Forgotten War,” the North Koreans don’t. They have never forgotten the massive death and destruction that the Pentagon and the CIA intentionally wreaked on their nation.

Under what legal authority did the Pentagon and the CIA intervene in the Korean civil war?

No legal authority whatsoever. The U.S. Constitution requires a congressional declaration of war before the president can legally wage war against another nation. President Truman, who ordered U.S. troops into Korea, did not secure that declaration of war. Instead of going to Congress, where America’s elected representatives are, he went to the United Nations, which is composed of unelected bureaucrats from foreign nations. Truman secured the permission of those unelected bureaucrats to sacrifice the lives of tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers in a foreign war thousands of miles away.

Needless to say, U.S. troops obeyed Truman’s order, notwithstanding the oaths they had all taken to support and defend the U.S. Constitution.

To make their moral case to the American people for intervening in Korea, Truman, the Pentagon, and the CIA, along with other U.S. officials, claimed that there was a vast communist conspiracy to take over the United States and the rest of the world, a conspiracy that supposedly was based in Moscow, Russia. The civil war in Korea was a step by the communists to further that conspiracy, they said. If the United States didn’t stop the Reds in Korea, it wouldn’t be long, U.S. officials maintained, before they came to America and turned our nation Red.

Of course, it was the same argument they would use more than a decade later to justify their intervention in Vietnam’s civil war.

It was all balderdash and falsehood. The Reds were never coming to get us. At best, Pentagon and CIA officials and others were suffering from extreme paranoia. At worst, it was a deliberate falsehood to build up the power and resources of the national-security establishment, much like the lies that led to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in the Vietnam War.

After the Korean War was suspended, the Pentagon and the CIA decided to keep U.S. troops in South Korea indefinitely. They didn’t need to do that. For the past 67 years, they could have exited Korea and come home, just as they did with respect to Vietnam.

Why did they decide to keep U.S. troops in Korea?

Two reasons:

One, so that the troops would serve as an automatic “tripwire” in the event that civil war broke out again in Korea. By sacrificing a certain number of U.S. troops, the Pentagon and the CIA felt that the U.S.  would automatically be committed to the conflict, which would obviate any possibility for a debate in Congress with respect to a congressional declaration of war and to whether the United States should again intervene into a Korean civil war.

Two, a permanent U.S. military presence in Korea would maintain pressure for regime change in North Korea, a U.S. goal during the Korean War and one that the Pentagon and the CIA have never abandoned.

And that’s the root of the problem. While the Pentagon and the CIA are making it look like North Korea wants nuclear weapons to initiate a nuclear war against the continental United States, nothing could be further from the truth. Like the Cubans during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the North Koreans want nuclear weapons to deter another U.S. regime change operation or to defend against it should it ever come.

In fact, the Cuban experience is instructive, especially given that the Pentagon and the CIA’s regime-change operations there almost resulted in all-out nuclear war. Soon after Castro took power in Cuba, his communist comrade Che Guevara was asked what he wanted from the United States. His answer was simple: Cuba just wanted to be left alone.

But the Pentagon and the CIA would never leave Cuba alone. They still won’t leave Cuba alone.  They’ve initiated sabotage, terrorism, assassination, embargo, and invasion, all with the aim of securing regime change. The fact is, as discomforting as it might be for many Americans to accept, it has always been the Pentagon and the CIA that have been the aggressors when it comes to Cuba.

And all because of the anti-communist conspiracy mindset, one that was convinced that the Reds were coming to get us and that places like Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba were stepping stones to turning America Red.

It might all be too late but it would be wise for Americans to do a quick national self-examination and some serious soul-searching about what the Pentagon and the CIA have done and continue to do to nations around the world and to our nation and to the consequences of their foreign policy of interventionism, empire, and regime change. If the Pentagon and the CIA succeed in bringing about another one of their many foreign wars, especially one in Korea, it will be too late, at least for the hundreds of thousands of people killed and injured in yet another such war.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.


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