Through North Korea’s Eyes: Who is the Real Rogue State Here?
Sixty years ago, Country A bombed Country B, so much so that there were no targets left. Country A then chose to bomb dams, flooding country B and drowning civilians. Country A boasted that 20 percent of the population of Country B was killed.
Country A has a history of invading and destabilising countries. Country B has not invaded another country since it was nearly decimated. Country A is the only one to use The Bomb and has the world’s biggest arsenal of them. Country B managed to acquire The Bomb, which probably saved it from a second round of annihilation at the hands of Country A.
Despite all of this, however, country B is the rogue state and international opinion is firmly with country A.
Why? Because country A is the mighty United States, whose military strength is just one of the ways in which it wields influence across the world. Other ways include Hollywood – which churns out war movies by the dozen – and a partisan media, which includes the world’s most respected publications and news agencies, all of which do a superb job of slipping in subtle forms of propaganda.
It doesn’t help that country B, North Korea, is ruled by an authoritarian and despotic dynast who has apparently banned blue jeans and decreed that men are allowed to sport only 28-state approved haircuts. On the flip side, weed is easily available.
Among the more sinister stories coming out the so-called ‘hermit kingdom’ (US-imposed sanctions might also have something to do with that moniker), are that of custodial torture and the killing of political foes in public, using an anti-aircraft gun.
North Korea is hardly the only authoritarian, despotic country in the world. The list includes many US allies, past and present; Saudi Arabia also carries out public executions and is currently funding a proxy war in Yemen; Israel uses US-funded weapons to routinely gun down unarmed protesters in the Gaza strip, children and healthcare workers included; Myanmar is witnessing a genocide of Rohingya Muslims. So why is North Korea singled out as the only rogue state?
Following the summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, where the latter pledged denuclearisation, there have been laments from mostly (and ironically) liberal circles that a ‘Gulag state’ has been given international respectability.
The horrors of North Korean prisons have been brought out through defector accounts and has been rightly given plenty of column space in the Western media, an attention denied to ‘gulags’ closer to home, like Guantanamo Bay. The US is vocal about human rights and the world somehow listens without irony, but notwithstanding imperialist hypocrisy, surely peace is preferable to nuclear war.
Even if North Korea was as defenceless as the other members of the Axis of Evil, the American habit of dropping democracy with bombs has only brought untold suffering to the recipients, the most recent example being Libya. There, Barack Obama, in one of his not-so-cool acts, decided to intervene and overthrow dictator Muammar Gaddafi. What followed was a similar script to what was seen in Iraq, Vietnam, Cambodia and many more.
Obama later admitted that the Libyan intervention was the “worst mistake” of his presidency. Meanwhile, many Libyan refugees continue to die in the Mediterranean Sea in a desperate bid to escape to Europe from their war-torn country and a slave trade is booming.
Constant Reminders of the Korean War
Following the Second World War, Korea was split into two parts, the southern part controlled by a client military regime supported by the United States and the northern part backed by the Soviet Union. The two parts were soon at each other’s throats, and North Korea went deep into South territory, in what has been described as an invasion by the US and just another in a series of conflicts, by the other side. The US intervened, and Chinese troops entered Korea in support of their communist ally.
Towards the end of the Korean war, the US dropped 6,25,000 tonnes of bombs on the tiny country, more than they had dropped in the Pacific Theatre of the Second World War. Dean Rusk, who served in the Truman administration said that “the United States bombed everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.” Soon, in the words of Gen Curtis Lemay “there were no targets left”.
Ever resourceful, the generals decided to bomb irrigation dams, which supplied water to 75 percent of the tiny country’s rice fields. The Americans knew exactly what they were doing.
Only a few years before this, at the Nuremberg trial following the Second World World, a Nazi military officer who ordered the bombing of a dam in Netherlands was found guilty of war crimes and was sentenced to death.
The horrors of the war moved Spanish painter Pablo Picasso to depict this new kind of techno-war, where technological superiority and a total lack of empathy combined to unleash human suffering on a scale not seen before.
Despite this near-annihilation, the North Koreans could not be defeated.
And now, in response to North Korean “provocations”, the US and South Korea has been holding military drills, code-named Foal Eagle, for the last 21 years. The drills involve “live-fire” exercises, where real aircraft, tanks and warships fire real ammunition and bombs, in what is meant to be a threat. For North Koreans, it is also an ugly reminder.
(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author's own.)