[sixties-l] Iran, KOrea, the "axis of evil"(long)

From: Ron Jacobs (rjacobs@zoo.uvm.edu)
Date: Thu Feb 14 2002 - 11:09:19 EST

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    two essays:
    Throwing Stones-GW and Northern Korea
         The United States has no legitimate business threatening northern
    Korea. The Pyongyang government may represent a threat to Washington's
    plans, but for Bush and his crew to provoke war is irresponsible and wrong.
     Since the fall of the Stalinist bureaucracies in the former Soviet Union
    and eastern Europe over a decade ago, northern Korea has been left holding
    the bag. During the cold war, Korea's southern half sold itself to the
    highest bidder (not without plenty of internal opposition) as the north
    solidified its ideological and economic ties to its allies in the ongoing
    struggle against Japan and the U.S.. Since those allies disappeared from
    the globe, the Pyongyang government has found itself the target of stepped
    up attacks.
         Although the United States maintains one of its largest foreign
    contingents in Korea's southern half and stockpiles thousands of weapons
    (some nuclear) there, it claims northern
    Korea's nuclear development and export of weapons to various countries is a
    threat. This claim is made by a government who has looked the other way
    countless times when its allies (Israel, for one) are proven to be building
    nuclear weapons. It is made by a government which makes and sells more
    weapons of mass destruction than all the rest of the countries in the
    world. Admittedly, further weapons proliferation is not favorable to world
    peace, but for Washington to cry foul and demand a halt to Pyongyang's
    research rings quite hollow. After all, it was Washington's political and
    military manipulations after the Second World War that created two Koreas
    in the first place. Much to the anger and dismay of the majority of the
    Korean people.

         How did the division occur, anyhow? Near the end of the Second World
    War, right before the U.S. dropped the bomb on Japan, the Soviet Union
    moved into northern Korea to fight the occupying Japanese troops. Within
    weeks of Japan's surrender, democratic groups of Korean peasants,
    merchants, and workers formed local governing organizations and begin to
    organize a national assembly. The U.S. and U.S.S.R., meanwhile, chose to
    maintain a "temporary" occupation of the country with the 38th parallel as
    the dividing line. This occupation was to end after the Koreans
    established their own government, and Korea was to reunite. However, after
    the United States realized that the makeup of any Korean?organized
    government would be anti?colonial, it reneged on its promise.
         Within weeks of the election of a popular national assembly, the
    Soviet Union began to withdraw its forces. The U.S., however, increased
    its military strength and coordinated security with the remnants of the
    hated Japanese army. At the same time, Synghman Rhee, an ultra?right
    Korean politician who was living in America, was flown back to Korea (with
    the assistance of the US intelligence community). He immediately began to
    liquidate the popular movement in southern Korea and, with the complete
    support of the U.S. military, refused to acknowledge the existence of the
    newly elected national assembly. In the weeks following his installment as
    ruler of southern Korea, over 100,000 Korean citizens were murdered and
    disappeared. The United States military provided the names of many of the
         After realizing that the United States had no plans to withdraw its
    troops, the Soviet Union put its withdrawal on hold and asked for
    assistance from the People's Republic of China. In the days and weeks that
    passed, military units from the south persistently forayed into the
    northern half of Korea, testing its defenses. Eventually, although the
    exact details remain unclear, northern Korean and Chinese troops attacked.
    On June 25, 1950, the U.S. responded, using the authority of the U.N.
    Security Council, and the Korean war began. Three years and one month
    later an armistice was signed between the warring sides. The toll in lives
    was: 52, 246 US soldiers, an estimated 4 million Koreans on both sides of
    the parallel (mostly civilians), 1 million Chinese soldiers, and another
    4000 soldiers from armies that allied themselves with the United States.

    The Situation Today
            In October 2000, the United States and northern Korea signed a bilateral
    agreement that read, in part:
    "Recognizing the changed circumstances on the Korean Peninsula created by
    the historic June 15, 2000 inter-Korean summit, the United States and the
    Democratic People's Republic of Korea have decided to take steps to
    fundamentally improve their bilateral relations in the interests of
    enhancing peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region.

    The two sides agreed there are a variety of available means, including Four
    Party talks, to reduce tension on the Korean Peninsula and formally end the
    Korean War by replacing the 1953 Armistice Agreement with permanent peace

            Unfortunately, the United States has not kept its end of the bargain.
    Most of this is due to the regime change in Washington. Despite the
    fundamentally imperialist nature of Bill Clinton's foreign policy, his
    administration had made genuine steps towards resolving the decades-old
    dispute on the Korean peninsula and there was a real hope among the Korean
    people on both sides of the 38th parallel that a lasting peace would come
    to their land. Indeed, the most optimistic among them began to make plans
    for the eventual reunification of the country. Then GW Bush moved into the
    White House and brought with him a number of men and women who had no
    interest in continuing the Clinton policy of containment or, god forbid,
    negotiating a lasting peace.
            The return to an antagonistic relationship was met by dismay in both
    Korean capitols. After southern Korea's president Kim Dae Jung's visit to
    Washington in March 2001 where he met with GW and a number of his henchmen,
    it was clear that the Clinton policy of rapprochement was dead. According
    to news reports, the meeting began on a sour note when Bush noted his
    dismay over Kim's signature on a letter opposing the "Star Wars" missile
    defense system promoted by Bush and his defense industry cabinet and
    advisory staff. One of the targets of this so-called missile shield would
    be northern Korea. After this beginning, Kim knew there was little point
    to bring up his agenda, which included:
    o Signing a joint peace declaration with the North.
    o Formally ending hostilities a half-century after the end of their civil war.
    o Possibly supplying electricity to the energy-poor North.
    o Promoting a return visit to Seoul this spring by the North's leader, Kim
            Since that meeting, things have only worsened, with GW's recent comments
    including northern Korea in a new "axis of evil" the most recent foray in
    the war of words between DC and Pyongyang. The hardliners in Washington
    refuse to even talk about peace, preferring to take a page out of cold war
    architect John Foster Dulles' script from the 1950s (written primarily by
    the defense industry) and revive a decades-old war that most Americans and
    Koreans would rather forget. Northern Korea, seeing no prospect of
    achieving its desire for a lasting peace and eventual reunification through
    conversations with Seoul (conversations which need U.S. support, which is
    not forthcoming), seems to be returning to its previous hardline position.
    Unfortunately for its population, this means more starvation and poverty,
    since what little money the government has will go towards maintaining and
    enhancing its military capabilities. As for the people of southern Korea
    and the rest of the region, it means a life where the fear of all-out war
    underlies every transaction, thanks to GW and his gang of international
            What are the alternatives? First and foremost, the United States should
    re-open the three-way conversation between the United States and both
    Koreas that was begun by the Clinton administration. Washington should
    recognize the northern Korean government as a responsible member of the
    international community and lift the economic sanctions against them.
    Lifting the sanctions would do more towards alleviating the suffering of
    the northern Korean people more than any other possible action. The people
    of this country, besides seeing much of their economic production being
    used to service the military, have also seen their countryside devastated
    by drought. It is this drought, more than any other factor, which has
    caused the scenes of suffering that the US news bureaus love to show us as
    examples of how Stalinist-type bureaucracies fail their populations. Of
    course, no government can prevent drought, not even capitalist ones,
    although the average US television viewer would never know that from these
    news reports. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the United States
    needs to let the people of the Korean peninsula decide their own fate-a
    fate which most certainly involves the eventual reunification of their
    -Ron Jacobs

    A Matter of Perspective-The US and Iran

            I'm not sure where GW Bush was in 1979, but he must remember something
    about the popular uprising of the Iranian people that overthrew the US's
    biggest puppet in the region-the Shah. Although the revolution had been
    brewing for years, in 1978 and early 1979 there were huge demonstrations
    against his rule by all sectors of Iranian society. These demonstrations
    took place in Iran's cities, her oilfields, her mosques and other places of
    worship, and finally within her military. Hundreds were killed by the
    Shah's military and secret police, the SAVAK. The movement involved social
    democrats, communists of all kinds, students, peasants, urban intellectuals
    and middle classes, and Islamists of every stripe-fundamentalists to
    radicals. It was a truly popular movement that resulted in the Shah
    leaving the country in disgrace on January 16, 1979.
            After his departure, there was a power struggle for control of the new
    revolutionary government. At first, the secular radicals had the upper
    hand and it looked like Iran might become the first socialist state in that
    region of the world. Unfortunately, this was not to be the case. Within
    days of the Shah's exile, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had re-entered
    the country from his exile in France, where he had been living and secretly
    organizing opposition to the Shah's regime since he had been forced out of
    the country after the CIA-sponsored coup that replaced the populist
    nationalist leader Muhammad Mossadegh with the Shah in 1953. Mossadegh had
    called for nationalization of the country's oil and a re-negotiation of all
    the contracts between Iran and the big oil companies. Of course, such a
    call has never been popular with the oil companies and the governments that
    serve them, especially that of the United States. This is the primary
    reason for the CIA-sponsored overthrow.
            Khomeini had been part of the resistance to the Shah in the 1950s, also.
    His strict interpretation of the Koran and his position as one of the
    highest Imams in Shi'a Islam gave him a large and devoted following. After
    all, to the faithful he was closer to Allah than anyone else and to resist
    his will was tantamount to resisting Allah's will. After Mossadegh's
    deposition and arrest, the Shah moved back onto the Peacock Throne and
    begin to rid the country of any opposition to his rule. He was helped
    tremendously by the US government and its various agencies. Khomeini was
    exiled and took up residence in France where he lived on funds partially
    provided by the French intelligence services and the CIA, who preferred his
    religious-based radicalism to that of the communists and socialists in
    Iran. These two groups had strong support among the workers in the oil
    extraction and refinement industry, as well as among the students.
            The Shah undertook some minimal land reforms and secularized Iranian
    culture. This latter action was a double-edged sword for the Shah. While
    it created a huge base of technicians and intellectuals that were needed
    for the expanding economy in Iran, it also provided these young people with
    the tools for a critical analysis of Iran's role in the US empire-a role
    many students and intellectuals found subservient and counter to the best
    interests of the Iranian people. At the same time, the secularization of
    Iranian society was met with religious-based fear in the provinces, where
    the Koran proscribed daily existence and religious leaders feared losing
    their followers to the temptations of secular capitalist culture. This
    contradiction was the breeding ground for the revolution which eventually
    brought down the Shah and his regime.
            In 1974, when I began working with Iranian students intent on bringing
    down the Shah and replacing his government with a popular regime, there
    were already divisions within the Iranian Student Association (ISA). This
    group was a coalition of Iranian students in the United States who were
    devoted to revolution. Although the secular faction had the upper hand
    when I first began working with the Washington, DC branch as a liaison
    between them and a radical student organization I belonged to at the
    University of Maryland, it wasn't long before the Islamists were the larger
    group, both in the DC area and nationally. Nonetheless, the various
    factions continued to work together, intent on ridding their country of the
    Shah, his opulent lifestyle at the expense of the Iranian peasantry and
    working class, and his dreaded secret police. I met some of the most
    dedicated people I have ever met before or since while working with these
    men and women. Many of them had families back in Iran who lived under a
    constant threat of torture and death because of their children's activities
    against the Shah and his puppetmaster in Washington. Despite these
    threats, their families supported their activities and did whatever they
    could to insure that these young men and women could finish their education
    in the United States and come back to Iran to serve the revolution.
    Meanwhile, in the United States, SAVAK agents operated openly, attacking
    demonstrations of Iranian students and their supporters, kidnapping Iranian
    activists, and testifying at INS deportation hearings, where Iranian
    activists were sent back to almost certain torture and death in Iran's gulags.
            I write this for one reason: to illustrate the commitment of the Iranian
    people to never let the United States control its destiny again. After
    Khomeini took over the reins of power in revolutionary Iran, he and his
    clerical government, in a show of religious intolerance and a grab for
    power, drove the secular elements out of the government and, in some cases,
    out of the country or to their death. Indeed, I am almost certain that
    some of the individuals I worked with in the 1970s were killed at the hands
    of the Khomeini police apparatus. It was these acts and the US-funded
    operations against the Iranian government (support of opposition groups,
    monetary support for Iraq's bloody war against Iran in the 1980s, to name
    two) that eventually dashed the revolutionary hopes of many of the Iranian
    people and led to Iran's current situation.
            However, if GW and his friends think they can defeat Iran, they are wrong.
     Although there are sharp divisions amongst the Iranian people both in the
    government and in the streets and villages, any military attack by the
    United States and/or Israel will cause those divisions to disappear. The
    Iranian people would unite to repel any such adventure. In addition, such
    an act would only serve to destroy the more moderate and secular elements
    in Iran, since war seems to bring the most reactionary elements to the fore
    in every country where there is a war. One need only look at America's
    current political climate for an example of this phenomenon. Despite the
    basically imperial nature of American foreign policy under Bill Clinton,
    there were genuine attempts by his administration to engage states
    considered "rogue" by the United States in a dialogue aimed at defusing the
    potential for war with those states. Now, with the resurgence of the
    warmakers inside the Beltway, this dialogue is forgotten and naked
    imperialism is back in vogue with the policymakers. Of course, should
    their war plans proceed as they hope, none of these men and women will be
    putting their lives on the front line. In fact, if previous US wars are
    any indication, neither will any of their relatives unless they volunteer
    to do so-a very unlikely proposition.
            It is important for anyone opposed to war for whatever reasons to
    challenge the Bush administration's characterization of Iran, Iraq, and
    North Korea as an "axis of evil." While there may be several aspects of
    these countries' political and social situations with which we may
    disagree, they are no more "evil" than any other nation. If one were to
    apply the reasons GW wants to wage war on these nations, s/he would most
    certainly find that the United States also fits man of GW's categories of
    "evil." It's all a matter of perspective. Indeed, if the export of
    weapons of mass destruction is a reason to go to war, then the United
    States, which exports more such weapons than any other country by far, is
    fair game for pretty much any army. Of course, this isn't going to happen
    (we hope) to the United States, nor should it happen elsewhere.

    -ron jacobs

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