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any manner any election."34
Perhaps even more ironic, in 1957 the Philippine government adopted a law,
clearly written by Americans, which outlawed both the Communist Party and the Huks,
giving as one of the reasons for doing so that these organizations aimed at placing the
government "under the control and domination of an alien power".35
By 1953 the Huks were scattered and demoralized, no longer a serious threat,
although their death would be distributed over the next few years. It is difficult to
ascertain to what extent their decline was due to the traditional military force employed
against them, or to Lansdale's more unorthodox methods, or to the eventual debilitation
of many of the Huks from malnutrition and disease, brought on by the impoverishment
of the peasantry. Long before the end, many Huks were also lacking weapons and
ammunition and proper military equipment, bringing into question the oft-repeated
charge of Soviet and Chinese aid to them made by Filipino and American authorities.36
Edward Lachica, a Filipino historian, has written that "The Kremlin did pay lip service
to the Communist movement in the Philippines, praising the Huks for being part of the
'global struggle against the U.S.', but no material support was offered."37
"Since the destruction of Huk military power," noted George Taylor, "the social
and political program that made the accomplishment possible has to a large extent fallen
by the wayside."38
Fortress America, however, was securely in place in southeast Asia. From the
Philippines would be launched American air and sea actions against Korea and China,
Vietnam and Indonesia. The Philippine government would send combat forces to fight
alongside the United States in Vietnam and Korea. On the islands' bases, the technology
and art of counter-insurgency warfare would be imparted to the troops of America's
other allies in the Pacific.



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5. Korea 1945-1953
Was it all that it appeared to be?

To die for an idea; it is unquestionably noble.
But how much nobler it would be if men died for
ideas that were true.
”H.L. Mencken, 1919

How is it that the Korean War escaped the protests which surrounded the war in
Vietnam? Everything we've come to love and cherish about Vietnam had its forerunner
in Korea: the support of a corrupt tyranny, the atrocities, the napalm, the mass slaughter
of civilians, the cities and villages laid to waste, the calculated management of the news,
the sabotaging of peace talks. But the American people were convinced that the war in
Korea was an unambiguous case of one country invading another without provocation.
A case of the bad guys attacking the good guys who were being saved by the even better
guys; none of the historical, political and moral uncertainty that was the dilemma of
Vietnam. The Korean War was seen to have begun in a specific manner: North Korea
attacked South Korea in the early morning of 25 June 1950; while Vietnam ... no one
seemed to know how it all began, or when, or why.
And there was little in the way of accusations about American "imperialism" in
Korea. The United States, after all, was fighting as part of a United Nations Army. What
was there to protest about? And of course there was McCarthyism, so prevalent in the
early 1950s, which further served to inhibit protest.
There were, in fact, rather different interpretations to be made of what the war
was all about, how it was being conducted, even how it began, but these quickly
succumbed to the heat of war fever.
Shortly after the close of the Second World War, the Soviet Union and the
United States occupied Korea in order to expel the defeated Japanese. A demarcation
line between the Russian and American forces was set up along the 38th Parallel. The
creation of this line in no way had the explicit or implicit intention of establishing two
separate countries, but the cold war was soon to intrude.
Both powers insisted that unification of North and South was the principal and
desired goal. However, they also desired to see this carried out in their own ideological
image, and settled thereby into a routine of proposal and counter-proposal, accusation
and counter-accusation, generously intermixed with deviousness, and produced nothing
in the way of an agreement during the ensuing years. Although both Moscow and
Washington and their hand-picked Korean leaders were not always displeased about the
division of the country (on the grounds that half a country was better than none),
officials and citizens of both sides continued to genuinely call for unification on a
regular basis.
That Korea was still one country, with unification still the goal, at the time the
war began, was underscored by the chief US delegate to the UN, Warren Austin, in a
statement he made shortly afterwards:

The artificial barrier which has divided North and South Korea has no basis for
existence either in law or in reason. Neither the United Nations, its Commission
on Korea, nor the Republic of Korea [South Korea] recognize such a line. Now




44
the North Koreans, by armed attack upon the Republic of Korea, have denied the
reality of any such line.1

The two sides had been clashing across the Parallel for several years. What
happened on that fateful day in June could thus be regarded as no more than the
escalation of an ongoing civil war. The North Korean Government has claimed that in
1949 alone, the South Korean army or police perpetrated 2,617 armed incursions into
the North to carry out murder, kidnapping, pillage and arson for the purpose of causing
social disorder and unrest, as well as to increase the combat capabilities of the invaders.
At times, stated the Pyongyang government, thousands of soldiers were involved in a
single battle with many casualties resulting.2
A State Department official, Ambassador-at-large Philip C. Jessup, speaking in
April 1950, put it this way:

There is constant fighting between the South Korean Army and bands that
infiltrate the country from the North. There are very real battles, involving
perhaps one or two thousand men. When you go to this boundary, as I did ... you
see troop movements, fortifications, and prisoners of war.3

Seen in this context, the question of who fired the first shot on 25 June 1950
takes on a much reduced air of significance. As it is, the North Korean version of events
is that their invasion was provoked by two days of bombardment by the South Koreans,
on the 23rd and 24th, followed by a surprise South Korean attack across the border on
the 25th against the western town of Haeju and other places. Announcement of the
Southern attack was broadcast over the North's radio later in the morning of the 25th.
Contrary to general belief at the time, no United Nations group”neither the UN
Military Observer Group in the field nor the UN Commission on Korea in Seoul”
witnessed, or claimed to have witnessed, the outbreak of hostilities. The Observer
Group's field trip along the Parallel ended on 23 June. Its statements about what took
place afterward are either speculation or based on information received from the South
Korean government or the US military.
Moreover, early in the morning of the 26th, the South Korean Office of Public
Information announced that Southern forces had indeed captured the North Korean
town of Haeju. The announcement stated that the attack had occurred that same
morning, but an American military status report as of nightfall on the 25th notes that all
Southern territory west of the Imjin River had been lost to a depth of at least three miles
inside the border except in the area of the Haeju "counter attack".
In either case, such a military victory on the part of the Southern forces is
extremely difficult to reconcile with the official Western account, maintained to this
day, that has the North Korean army sweeping south in a devastating surprise attack,
taking control of everything that lay before it, and forcing South Korean troops to
evacuate further south.
Subsequently, the South Korean government denied that its capture of Haeju had
actually taken place, blaming the original announcement, apparently, on an
exaggerating mili-taty officer. One historian has ascribed the allegedly incorrect
announcement to "an error due to poor communications, plus an attempt to stiffen South
Korean resistance by claiming a victory". Whatever actually lay behind the
announcement, it is evident that very little reliance, if any, can be placed upon
statements made by the South Korean government concerning the start of the war.4
There were, in fact, reports in the Western press of the attack on Haeju which
made no mention of the South Korean government's announcement, and which appear
to be independent confirmations of the event. The London Daily Herald, in its issue of


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26 June, stated that "American military observers said the Southern forces had made a
successful relieving counter-attack near the west coast, penetrated five miles into
Northern territory and seized the town of Haeju." This was echoed in The Guardian of
London the same day: "American officials confirmed that the Southern troops had
captured Haeju."
Similarly, the New York Herald Tribune reported, also on the 26th, that "South
Korean troops drove across the 38th Parallel, which forms the frontier, to capture the
manufacturing town of Haeju, just north of the line. The Republican troops captured
quantities of equipment." None of the accounts specified just when the attack took
place.
On the 25th, American writer John Gunther was in Japan preparing his
biography of General Douglas MacArthur. As he recounts in the book, he was playing
tourist in the town of Nikko with "two important members" of the American occupation,
when "one of these was called unexpectedly to the telephone. He came back and
whispered, 'A big story has just broken. The South Koreans have attacked North
Korea!'" That evening, Gunther and his party returned to Tokyo where "Several officers
met us at the station to tell us correctly and with much amplification what had happened
... there was no doubt whatever that North Korea was the aggressor."
And the telephone call? Gunther explains: "The message may have been garbled
in transmission. Nobody knew anything much at headquarters the first few hours, and
probably people were taken in by the blatant, corrosive lies of the North Korean radio."5
There is something a little incongruous about the picture of American military
and diplomatic personnel, practicing anti-communists each one, being taken in on so
important a matter by communist lies”blatant ones no less.
The head of South Korea, Syngman Rhee, had often expressed his desire and
readiness to compel the unification of Korea by force. On 26 June the New York Times
reminded its readers that "on a number of occasions, Dr. Rhee has indicated that his
army would have taken the offensive if Washington had given the consent." The
newspaper noted also that before the war began: "The warlike talk strangely [had]
almost all come from South Korean leaders."
Rhee may have had good reason for provoking a full-scale war apart from the
issue of unification. On 30 May, elections for the National Assembly were held in the
South in which Rhee's party suffered a heavy setback and lost control of the assembly.
Like countless statesmen before and after him, Rhee may have decided to play the war
card to rally support for his shaky rule. A labor adviser attached to the American aid
mission in South Korea, Stanley Earl, resigned in July, expressing the opinion that the
South Korean government was "an oppressive regime" which "did very little to help the
people" and that "an internal South Korean rebellion against the Rhee Government
would have occurred if the forces of North Korea had not invaded".6
Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, in his reminiscences, makes it plain that the
North Koreans had contemplated an invasion of the South for some time and he reports
their actual invasion without any mention of provocation on that day. This would seem
to put that particular question to rest. However, Khrushchev's chapter on Korea is a
wholly superficial account. It is not a serious work of history, nor was it intended to be.
As he himself states:
"My memories of the Korean War are unavoidably sketchy." (He did not
become Soviet leader until after the war was over.) His chapter contains no discussion
of any of the previous fighting across the border, nothing of Rhee's belligerent
statements, nothing at all even of the Soviet Union's crucial absence from the UN
which, as we shall see, allowed the so-called United Nations Army to be formed and


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intervene in the conflict. Moreover, his reminiscences, as published, are an edited and
condensed version of the tapes he made. A study based on a comparison between the
Russian-language transcription of the tapes and the published English-language book
reveals that some of Khrushchev's memories about Korea were indeed sketchy, but that
the book fails to bring this out. For example, North Korean leader Kim Il-sung met with
Stalin to discuss Kim's desire "to prod South Korea with the point of a bayonet". The
book then states unambiguously: "Kim went home and then returned to Moscow when
he had worked everything out." In the transcript, however, Khrushchev says: "In my
opinion, either the date of his return was set, or he was to inform us as soon as he
finished preparing all of his ideas. Then, I don't remember in which month or year, Kim
Il-sung came and related his plan to Stalin" (emphasis added).7
On 26 June, the United States presented a resolution before the UN Security
Council condemning North Korea for its "unprovoked aggression". The resolution was
approved, although there were arguments that "this was a fight between Koreans" and
should be treated as a civil war, and a suggestion from the Egyptian delegate that the
word "unprovoked" should be dropped in view of the longstanding hostilities between
the two Koreas.8
Yugoslavia insisted as well that "there seemed to be lack of precise information
that could enable the Council to pin responsibility", and proposed that North Korea be
invited to present its side of the story.9 This was not done. (Three months later, the
Soviet foreign minister put forward a motion that the UN hear representatives from both
sides. This, too, was voted down, by a margin of 46 to 6, because of North Korea's
"aggression", and it was decided to extend an invitation to South Korea alone.)10
On the 27th, the Security Council recommended that members of the United
Nations furnish assistance to South Korea "as may be necessary to repel the armed
attack". President Truman had already ordered the US Navy and Air Force into combat
by this time, thus presenting the Council with a fait accompli,11 a tactic the US was to
repeat several times before the war came to an end. The Council made its historic
decision with the barest of information available to it, and all of it derived from and
selected by only one side of the conflict. This was, as journalist I.F. Stone put it,
"neither honorable nor wise".
It should be kept in mind that in 1950 the United Nations was in no way a
neutral or balanced organization. The great majority of members were nations very
dependent upon the United States for economic recovery or development. There was no
Third World bloc which years later pursued a UN policy much more independent of the
United States. And only four countries of the Soviet bloc were members at the time,
none on the Security Council.12
Neither could UN Secretary-General Trygve Lie, of Norway, be regarded as
neutral in the midst of cold war controversy. In his memoirs, he makes it remarkably
clear that he was no objective outsider. His chapters on the Korean War are pure knee-
reflex anti-communism and reveal his maneuvering on the issue.13 In 1949, it was later
disclosed, Lie had entered into a secret agreement with the US State Department to
dismiss from UN employment individuals whom Washington regarded as having
questionable political leanings.14
The adoption of these resolutions by the Security Council was possible only
because the Soviet Union was absent from the proceedings due to its boycott of the
United Nations over the refusal to seat Communist China in place of Taiwan. If the
Russians had been present, they undoubtedly would have vetoed the resolutions. Their
absence has always posed an awkward problem for those who insist that the Russians
were behind the North Korean invasion. One of the most common explanations offered


47
is that the Russians, as a CIA memorandum stated, wanted "to challenge the US
specifically and test the firmness of US resistance to Communist expansion."15
Inasmuch as, during the existence of the Soviet Union, the same analysis was put forth
by American political pundits for virtually every encounter between the United States
and leftists anywhere in the world, before and after Korea, it would appear that the test
was going on for an inordinately long period and one can only wonder why the Soviets
never came to a conclusion.
"The finishing touch," wrote T.F. Stone, "was to make the 'United Nations'
forces subject to MacArthur without making MacArthur subject to the United Nations.
This came on July 7 in a resolution introduced jointly by Britain and France. This is
commonly supposed to have established a United Nations Command. Actually it did
nothing of the sort."16 The resolution recommended "that all members providing
military forces and other assistance ... make such forces and other assistance available to
a unified command under the United States" (emphasis added}. It further requested "the
United States to designate the commander of such forces."17 This would be the
redoubtable MacArthur.
It was to be an American show. Military personnel of some 16 other countries
took part in one way or another but, with the exception of the South Koreans, there
could be little doubt as to their true status or function. Eisenhower later wrote in his
memoirs that when he was considering US military intervention in Vietnam in 1954,
also as part of a "coalition", he recognized that the burden of the operation would fall on
the United States, but "the token forces supplied by these other nations, as in Korea,
would lend real moral standing to a venture that otherwise could be made to appear as a
brutal example of imperialism" (emphasis added).18
The war, and a brutal one it was indeed, was fought ostensibly in defense of the
Syngman Rhee regime. Outside of books published by various South Korean
governments, it is rather difficult to find a kind word for the man the United States
brought back to Korea in 1945 after decades of exile in America during the Japanese

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