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