Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Korean Conflict: A Historical Perspective

"General Bradley said that we must draw the line (against Communist expansion) somewhere. The President stated he agreed on that. General Bradley said that Russia is not yet ready for war. The Korean situation offered as good an occasion for action in drawing the line as anywhere else."

~ From the official minutes of President Harry S. Truman's meeting with his top military and foreign-policy advisers at the Blair House on the evening of 25 June 1950

Here we go, again. Another opportunity for people halfway around the word to die, en masse, for the United States to demonstrate its uncanny ability to enforce a global double standard. While Israel, judging from its recent and not so recent actions, is as reckless and dangerous a government as they come, is allowed to keep its nuclear arsenel without sanctions (and indeed without any mention at all in official U.S. diplomatic circles) while other countries who we don't share a "special relationship" with, are not. In this case, North Korea, representing one third of the Neo-con "Axis of Evil", and already being slowly starved to death by economic sanctions imposed by a U.S.-domininated U.N., is about to take things into some very dangerous territory. Namely, they are about to become the noisy focus of the "Loud Little Handful" of Neo-cons. These are people that would like nothing better than to follow Douglas MacArthur, their ideological ancestor, down the rabbit-hole of nuclear abyss. This is history that could repeat itself, hopefully without a brand new, glowing and radioactive ending. So let's look at that history and clear up in advance some misconceptions that will no doubt be foisted on us again in the coming days by the usual suspects.

At the end of WWII, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were defeated and the world became the domain of the two "liberating" powers. The U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. Even before the last shots were fired in that war, a new ideological war between the two remaining large military powers was beginning. The "Cold War" in which the aspirations of the people of the world were boiled down into capitalist/communist ideological doctrine, would continue to cause turmoil and divert resources from the basic needs of humanity and towards the existance of massive armament stockpiles.

One of the key points of revisionist history is that this massive weapons buildup was able to "keep the peace". In fact, while nuclear war was avoided, dozens of "lower intensity" conflicts raged and millions died. Korea would be joined by a long list of places where Cold War brinksmanship would result in proxy wars, bringing foreign troops, advisors and armament into conflict with eachother.

Most U.S. history books will state that the Korean War began on June 25, 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea. The true origin is murkier, as offensive actions on both sides of the 38th parallel were occurring ever since this border dividing one country into two was established at the end of WWII. The border was in effect a dividing line between the influence of the two superpowers who had divvied up the Korean peninsula after removing the Japanese army, similar to the military occupation of Germany.

Syngman Rhee, the U.S.-approved ruler of South Korea, suffered an electoral setback a month before the war started as popular dissatisfaction with the pace of reconstruction grew among the South Korean population. The tenuous political position he faced seemed to force his hand towards diversionary tactics, such as increased belligerance towards the North, something we may see happening again if Obama tries to get his groove back after the mid-term elections by proving his foreign policy toughness to the incessant cry of the Neo-cons as amplified by the war-hungry corporate media. The Cold War never ended for these people, it just morphed into another War Without End.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Capitalism: The Silent Killer

"The streets and people of New York are devastated for the second time in a decade. This time, the culprits behind the wrecked lives and ruined livelihoods are not foreign extremists, but homegrown. And rather than receive appropriate retribution, the perpetrators receive billions of government dollars for their demolition job."

~Tom Engelhardt

Capitalism. A word that should be at least as well known as Communism or Socialism. Or terrorism for that matter. Yet a word that is strangley missing in most debates about or descriptions of U.S. government. The word is often replaced by sunny sounding proxies such as "freedom and democracy" or "liberty". One wonders about the taboo nature of this word in the imperial lexicon of corporate media. So let's break it down.

This is a system primarily fueled by the most base of base human nature; greed. Yet, this engine of exploitation and inequality is exhorted as instrinsically good and pitted against the intrinsically evil-by-association Socialism. We are thus being sold the idea that greed and selfishness and ranking priviledge by the amount of excess accumulated property is more noble, natural and godly than an egalitarian and selfless existance. What would Jesus do if faced with this assumption? As we are faced with it every day.

And it has been more in our face than usual these days as the system has collapsed in a massive tangle of crooked deals and unstaunched bleeding of outsourced jobs. All of this mess made possible by politicians on a legalized bribery binge pushing continued de-regulation of industries irrevocably driven to excess. Some very public dirty dealing was seen in the last few months as the Democratic congress and president attempted to tackle the most vital issue facing us; health care. We saw how crooked and gamed the legislative process is. The health insurance and pharm lobbies strangled the best option, single payer, in the crib then kneecapped even a weak public option. We saw our lives and well being quite literally given less priority than industry profit. It was there in all its naked, destructive glory, this god called Capitalism, the magical hand of the marketplace that decides whether we live or die.

It also decides where we live and the quality and conditions of our life. One of the sadder stories I have read recently is that of the children affected by the foreclosure tidal wave sweeping the country. This will not be a good holiday season for them, and neither may be future ones as the emotional scars of being uprooted remain for a long time.

So when you hear about the evils of Socialism and Communism or when you hear about the great goodness of freedom and liberty, remember the premature death, suffering and misery of the most dangerous and deadly "ism" out there: Capitalism.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Death By Corruption

"The Court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation. The path it has taken to reach its outcome will, I fear, do damage to this institution.

While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics."

~Justice John Paul Stevens, dissent on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

The 2010 elections are done and spell further doom to anything resembling the American Dream. The lukewarm, mild, tepid support of the New Deal safety net by the Democrats was swamped by a scalding-hot tea mess of ultra-right nutcases parading as populist reformers. The tea they served was brewed from an ocean of money provided in part by the Koch brothers, savvy businessmen who want a return from their investment.

They spent millions on attack ads, robo-calls and other forms of nefarious disinformation and now expect billions from the U.S. treasury to be provided by their army of looters soon to be sworn in to congress. This will come at the expense of anyone hoping to retire before the age of 80, anyone not raking in more than seven figures a year, and anyone trying to go to college without being saddled with debt for the next 30 years after graduation.

The campaign finance system is no longer just broken, it has been pulverized by corporate cash into a shadowy, toxic fog that cannot even be traced. Anywhere there is dissent from the corporate agenda the fog rolls in and blankets the airwaves with poison. The dissent is killed and replaced with a compliant tool to accomplish the further dismantling of FDR's social contract. This wave election may be the wave of the future if the walls between corporate money and fair elections are not rebuilt. Expecting the politicians to fix this is like expecting a drug cartel to police themselves and a drug addict to come clean without any type of intervention. It is up to we the people to get a constitutional amendment to fix this mess. That's the only hope of stopping the slide back to the Gilded Era of robber barons.