North Korean ‘Attack’ a U.S. Production, 60 Years in the Making

Satellite image of Korea at night. Isn't it a bit one-sided?

The markets are predictably overreacting to the cap gun fight between North and South Korea. Little more will likely come of it. Western media is uniform in characterizing the exchange as an unprovoked attack by the North justifiably answered by the South. The North Korean view is nowhere represented in handily available Western media outlets. Therefore, we can know little about what specifically triggered this latest exchange of hostilities between the two nations that have been at war since 1953.

As expected Japan furiously condemned the North’s actions, while China was measured in its response, asking all sides to deal with the issues in a calm, forthright manner through diplomatic channels. The U.S. State Department said it was monitoring the situation following as President Obama expressed disapproval.

Thus, the actions of the North and South as well as the reactions from the major powers followed the lines of a script that six decades old.

The North Korean flag: still flying

Hostilities on the Korean peninsula exploded when Japan invaded Manchuria and continued into Korea to begin a brutal occupation that lasted from 1931 to 1945. Many in the North resisted the occupation and assisted the Chinese in Manchuria. Many leaders in the South collaborated with the Japanese occupation. That is the essence of trouble on the peninsula following Japan’s defeat in WWII. The North wanted to deal with the traitorous South. The U.S., ,meanwhile, saw Korea as a place to begin the Cold War and thus keep America from returning to a peace time economy, as it had done after every previous war (and hasn’t done since).

There were, in fact, several Korean Wars in the years after WWII. The first began when Dean Rusk and others in the War Department unilaterally decided to split the country in two at the 38th parallel. They did this on Aug. 10, 1945. No other nation was consulted. The second Korean War came in the summer of 1950, when America, hiding behind the U.N. shield, intervened on South Korea’s side to “contain communism.” The third Korean War occurred in the winter of 1950-51, when America fell into a North Korean trap and pursued communism to the north, all the way to the Yalu River.

As historian Bruce Cumings points out in his book  The Korean War: A History, few people know of the fourth Korean War. This was the unremitting firebombing of North Korea by U.S. air assaults that continued for three years. Napalm, a gooey mixture of gasoline and polystyrene that sticks to flesh and doesn’t stop burning, was our weapon of choice.

North Korean leader Kim Sung Il.

We had learned the lessons of WWII well. It was much easier to burn a city down than to blow it up, short of deploying nuclear weapons, something the U.S. threatened repeatedly in North Korea.

How do you fire bomb a city? You mold magnesium-allow thermite into sticks. You then bundle these sticks by the millions. Finally, as boosters, you add various mixtures of benzol, rubber, resin, gelatin, and phosphorous. Such bombs create “annihilation zones” when dropped, burning everything in a city within minutes. Steel melted. What chance did human flesh have?

Cumings cites Jorg Friederich’s assessment of firebombing as the moment “modernity gave itself up to a new, incalculable fate.” Friederich was right. When firebombing wasn’t horrific enough, governments pursued nuclear bombs, led by the example of American and the Soviet Union.

America dropped oceans of napalm on North Korea. It did so without much publicity, and most of American did not know. The Air Force loved its new jelly, calling it a “wonder weapon.” They became known as Hell Bombs.

A napalm victim.

Cumings cites the case of Pfc. James Ransome Jr., whose unit one day were accidentally bomb with the “wonder weapon”: “His men rolled in the snow in agony and begged him to shoot them, as their skin burned to a crisp and peeled back ‘like fried potato chips..’ Reporers saw case after case of civilians drenched in napalm — the whole body ‘covered with a hard, black crust sprinkled with yellow pus.'”

The North has allowed itself to forget. That’s why there’s no peace on the Korean peninsula today. We had out chance, sixty years ago. We, the United States, in the name of fomenting perpetual Cold War, blew it.

Jake Comments on Teachers’ Work-to-Rule

They average almost $60K per year, not counting benefits, and work 183 days a year, but they aren't happy.

In the upcoming print version of PLANET VALENTI to be published tomorrow in the Pittsfield Gazette, we take on the crazy idea of work-to-rule. The United Educators of Pittsfield (UEP) has, for the second time this year, decided to perform only the most perfunctory aspects of their jobs. The teachers are being selfish. They are using an unconscionable bargaining tactics, one that is barely legal and maybe even not that. How does work to rule fit in with the teachers holding up their end of the Values Statement of the school department, which calls “effective teaching … the foundation of … student learning.” The values calls for teachers to collaborate with students in a “culture of respect and trust.” Work-to-rule is the exact opposite of this.

When teachers "work-to-rule," it can be hard for a lad to keep his mind on his work.

We shall let you read our full remarks in the Gazette, but we will include here the statement of Pittsfield school Supt. Jake Eberwein on the matter. For space reason, we aren’t sure Eberwein’s remarks will make it in print because we received them just at deadline. He wrote the following to THE PLANET:

I believe that we continue to bargain in good faith, and it is disappointing that the

UEP has exercised work to rule.   My administrative team continues to work

collaboratively with teachers to ensure that the educational experience of each

child is not compromised.

I do recognize that both sides believe they are putting forth proposals that are in

the best interest of children – however, work to rule is not consistent with the

stance that kids come first.   We must remain a student-centered organization/city

and it is counterproductive when our students get caught in the middle.

I continue to hold our teachers in high regard – it is extremely challenging work

that carries great responsibility…..and I believe that teachers are the heart and

soul of our school district – thus, we want to provide a fair contract that

recognizes their efforts.  I also can confidently state that our district has showed

recent gains in student performance, attendance, graduation…..and this is a direct

result of the work that is happening in our schools and our classrooms.

That being said – we need to be realistic about the economic realities of our

nation, our state, and our city.   I expect that the coming year may be one of the

most difficult given the slow pace of recovery and the relative absence of federal

bailout dollars.   We remain singularly focused on protecting jobs and keeping staff

in our schools and our classrooms.

I remain optimistic that we will reach an agreement shortly.   While negotiating

one-year deals is very difficult and draining – it is a reflection of the economic

times we find ourselves in.

Eberwein is correct. Work-to-rule is not and cannot be consistent with the school department’s goal of putting students first. No matter how much the cynical leadership of the UEP wants to claim their action is not doing harm to students and to learning, the facts speak for themselves. You cannot skip performing your job and say it doesn’t matter.


  1. Ron Kitterman
    November 23, 2010 at 5:23 pm #

    I’ve got the answer instead of working to the rule. Why don’t the teacher unions save the $4.5 million dollars it uses to fight questions 1 and 3 and give that back to the teachers. too late to do that now, but just a thought on the next election cycle.

  2. WidgetWoman
    November 23, 2010 at 9:12 pm #

    Mr. Kitterman has an excellent suggestion. I run a small business. I try to pay employees in salary and benefits fairly. In return they work hard, 365 days a year, not 183. They don’t make and average 60,000$ a year. They would never try to pull off something like this. Guess that’s why they aren’t teachers.

  3. Jim Gleason
    November 24, 2010 at 10:45 am #

    Teachers in Pittsfield do not average $60k, they verage around $53k. Do widget woman’s emloyees have a minimum 4 year degree and most have Masters degree’s? I seriously doubt it. This school dept. administration is not only negotiating with teachers, they’re doing the same with all other school unions and trying to nickle and dime them to death also. Ask any school employee if their working conditions have improved or worsened under this administration. I can almost guarantee the long term employees will all say they’ve worsened dramatically in the past 7 years. The cost of living is going up for everyone, not just private sector people. Fair negotiation tactics used to be used by the city. Not any more.

  4. Ron Kitterman
    November 24, 2010 at 2:19 pm #

    I agree with you on this one JIm, the other unions always suffer. But working to the rule is not the ansewer, either. They either throw you under the bus or use you like pawns, In this case they are using the teacher like pawns to negotiate. The kids suffer, the teachers suffer and the other unions will suffer too, They seem to be in agreement with the COL increase, so hopefully they are close to a settlement.

    • Victor M
      November 24, 2010 at 6:50 pm #

      The exact average salary is not easily available, though it is probably in the 56K area. Benefits will add between 25-33 percent. The work year is defined as 183 days. The problem is simply runaway costs. The solution is simply to contain those costs. The sides are close to a settlement, but at this point, it’s about saving face. Look for a settlement before Dec. 10.

  5. Noel Redd
    November 26, 2010 at 2:27 pm #

    NK has been doing this kind of stuff since the Korean War; however, this time they’ve crossed a line – they sunk a SK vessel a few months ago and now they killed SK civilians on SK soil. Another attack and its very possible SK will respond very aggressively and decisively. It won’t be up to the U.S. to start this war – but it’ll be up to the U.S. to finish it – very quickly.

    • George Peaslee
      November 28, 2010 at 4:32 pm #

      NK has learned to play the saber rattling game very well. They rattle it and they get something, just like training a rat. Who could blame SK if they decided to make a first strike right now, haven’t we taught them it’s ok? Now would seem to be the time to settle this mess before NK develops their nuclear capability any further. Settle it ad move on to something more important like healthcare, social security or maybe keeping jobs in the USA.

      • danvalenti
        November 28, 2010 at 5:25 pm #

        You are correct. If South Korea has learned from the U.S., it will strike the North, and now. That is what we have taught not only then, but the world. In the 60 years since 1950, America has transformed itself from a more-or-less admirable democracy to a despicable National Security State which sees as its mission the imposition of false values on the eastern and mid-eastern side of the globe that shares nothing whatsoever resembling our past, our history, and our traditions. Iraq and Afghanistan have proven that we have learned NOTHING from Korean, to say nothing of Vietnam.

  6. Gregory Coolbrith
    November 26, 2010 at 7:37 pm #

    The north koreans see Pres Obama as a week leader and they are absolutely correct,even now i bet there are just shaking in there boots over his responce to the issue.Maybe he can make a trip there and sit down and sing cooooomby raaa with the north’s new little leader

  7. Gregg Keely
    November 27, 2010 at 1:03 pm #

    China is geting stronger as a global power but they still hold no candle to us. i think they would be mad but they would do nothing but talk. they not ready for some one like us. this is not stupid US pride. its all about power they have a great “D”. but not the offense we got.