Sunday, August 13, 2017

Fire and Fury?

A commentary by Steve Halpern

This past week I’ve read comments by President Donald Trump that have been on the front pages of newspapers all across the nation. First, Trump threatened North Korea with, “Fire and fury.” Trump followed up this statement with the words: “Maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough.” He clarified these words stating that, “North Korea better get their act together, or they are going to be in trouble like few nations have ever been in trouble.” For Trump, these statements weren’t enough. Speaking from his private golf club, while he is reportedly, “working on his vacation,” a banner headline from the Philadelphia Inquirer read, “Trump: U.S. military ‘locked and loaded.’”

To the best of my knowledge President Trump hasn’t specifically threatened North Korea with nuclear warfare. However, the above statements clearly imply, that is exactly what he is doing.

Listening to these statements many have concluded that Trump is different from other presidents. However, when we look at the history of this country, we might argue that while Trump might be more blunt than other Presidents, the content of his words have been a matter of routine policy in this country for decades. This is the history the pro-capitalist press rarely, if ever, reports on. So, this blog is an outline of the history of mass murder, as well as the resistance to U.S. policy, since the Second World War.


Most people know about the fact that the United States dropped nuclear weapons on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What most people don’t know is that the United States carried out a fire bombing campaign against Japan for six months before the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The late E. Bartlett Kerr wrote a book documenting this history in his Flames over Tokyo – The U.S. Army Air Forces’ Incendiary Campaign Against Japan 1944 – 1945. Kerr reported that the U.S. military invented specialized phosphorous (fire) bombs to be used specifically against civilian areas of Japan. The military decided to use these bombs because most Japanese housing was made of wood that would easily burn. Experiments were carried out to ensure that these bombs were effective. Close attention was paid to the direction of the wind to ensure that there would be maximum destruction.

At the end of Kerr’s book he gave a list of sixty-seven Japanese cities that were firebombed. The largest city in Japan is Tokyo. Kerr claimed that 50.8% of that city was destroyed with these phosphorous bombs. Kerr also listed cities in the United States that had similar population as the 67 Japanese cities that experienced firebombing. New York City had a similar population as Tokyo at that time.

We might recall the horror of the three thousand deaths at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. It is unimaginable to think about what it would have meant if half of the city of New York was burned to the ground. However, that is exactly what happened to Tokyo before the end of the Second World War.

E. Bartlett Kerr makes the seemingly insane argument that these bombings were necessary in order to force Japan to surrender. In fact, the United States went to war against Japan because both nations wanted to dominate Asia. The U.S. government was in a hurry to end the war because they knew that the Soviet Union was mobilizing their armed forces to go to war against Japan.

At that time, Japan was effectively defeated and posed no threat to the United States. As we will see, the U.S. wanted to be in a strong position to reverse the revolutions that were erupting in China, Korea, and Vietnam.


After the war, the Chinese Revolution erupted. China had been dominated by foreign powers since the Opium Wars of the nineteenth century. As a result, tens of millions of Chinese died of starvation.

This problem of massive starvation was new to China. The Chinese built their Grand Canal that stretched for about 1,500 miles. So, in the past when one section of China experienced food shortages, relief supplies were shipped on the Grand Canal.

The foreign powers, dominated by Britain, had no interest in maintaining this canal. These powers were only interested in the profits they could amass from China. So, when there were food shortages tens of millions of people starved to death.        

After the Second World War, China had a tremendous debt mostly due to their purchase of armaments. We might keep in mind that the Chinese government of those days was not only at war with the occupying Japanese army, but also with the Chinese forces under the command of Mao Zedong.

In order to attempt to pay this massive debt, the pro-capitalist Chinese government put in place a system of massive inflation. This policy literally destroyed the Chinese capitalist economy. So, the forces commanded by Mao Zedong took political control of the nation in a relatively bloodless revolution.

The political officials in the United States were enraged by the Chinese Revolution. They actually argued that they, “lost China.” So at the end of the Second World War, the U.S. government attempted to keep the armed forces mobilized in the Pacific. The reason for this continued mobilization was to attempt to bring down the new Chinese revolutionary government.

The problem was that the soldiers stationed in the Pacific wanted to go home. They experienced the horrors of war, and didn’t see any reason to continue fighting a war against China. So members of the U.S. military organized a movement to bring the GIs home. This movement forced the U.S. government to temporarily abandon their plans to place a puppet regime in China.   


Just as in Vietnam and China, there was an insurrectionary movement in Korea to free itself from Japanese occupation. After the war, those who fought against the Japanese took control over the entire nation. However, just a few days after Japan’s surrender, the U.S. armed forced invaded Korea and divided the nation into the northern and southern sections.

The U.S. government placed Syngman Rhee in charge of South Korea. Rhee lived in the United States for decades and had university degrees from George Washington, Harvard, and Princeton. He was also one of the few Korean supporters of the U.S. who was fluent in English.

While the press in this country has been highly critical of the repressive policies of North Korea, we read very little about the long history of repression in South Korea. These repressive policies began with Syngman Rhee. Rhee wanted to take control of the entire Korean peninsula and deliberately provoked the North to invade the South.

Because of his repressive policies, few in the South defended Rhee and the Northern Korea forces took control of the South in a short period of time. The only reason why there is a nation of South Korea today was because of a massive U.S. invasion.

General Douglas MacArthur felt that the U.S. armed forces would overwhelm the Koreans. He also believed that these armed forces could proceed to invade China and take control of that nation.

Well, the Koreans and Chinese allowed the U.S. forces to move north all the way to the Chinese border on the Yalu River. Then, the Chinese and Koreans counterattacked and trapped an entire battalion of U.S. soldiers.

As a part of the U.S. war against Korea General Curtis LeMay claimed that U.S. bombers destroyed about 20% of North Korea. The Air Force dropped about 32,000 tons of napalm bombs. These bombs literally burned Koreans. The Air Force also dropped 630,000 tons of explosive bombs on the country. Many of these bombs were dropped on the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. The residents of this city didn’t leave their homes for days because many of these bombs were time-delayed and the residents had no idea when they would explode.

It was General Curtis LeMay who was the Air Force Commander during the wars against Japan, Korea, as well as Vietnam. In Vietnam, LeMay argued that, “We should bomb Vietnam back into the stone age.” In the war against Korea and Vietnam, literally millions of people were killed by the U.S. forces. In other words, U.S. politicians gave the Air Force permission to carry out LeMay’s horrendous vision.

However, Vietnamese resistance, as well as the anti-war movement that erupted around the world, forced the United States to leave Vietnam. That anti-war sentiment continues to this day.


This blog gives just some of the facts that demonstrate how the current statements threatening war against Korea by President Trump are nothing new. In fact, most of the U.S. wars of the twentieth century took place when there was a Democratic Party President.

Today, South Korea is the only nation that I know of that changed from being underdeveloped to a highly developed nation. We should also keep in mind that, as in all capitalist nations, there is large-scale poverty in South Korea. People around the world know of the corporations Samsung, LG, and Hyundai. I believe that we can say that South Korea isn’t just a developed nation, but it has taken on imperialist characteristics. All of this happened because of massive capitalist investment in the nation.

We might keep in mind that the cause of the First and Second World Wars was the competition of the world powers for which one would dominate the world. Clearly, the United States capitalists have an interest in restricting South Korean global interests.

Clearly the Korean people don’t want another U.S. war against their country. Clearly, China doesn’t want that war either.

Yet, today there are about 80,000 U.S. soldiers stationed on Korean soil. While U.S. politicians portray the North Korean government as crazy, history tells another story. We don’t need to embrace the government of Kim Jon-un to understand that the United States has been the aggressor in Asia for quite a long time.

President Donald Trump isn’t a worker. He has no idea what it means to work for a boss in order to support his family. All wealth comes from working people who provide all the goods and services we all need and want. Donald Trump has no idea of what it means to be a garment worker, or a farm worker, or what it means to work in a factory or a meat processing plant. He was born into wealth, and probably didn’t need to work a day in his life.

Understanding this I believe that Donald Trumps threats to Korea underscore the idea that he has no idea what the word courage means. No, in my opinion Trump and his democratic and republican co-thinkers are motivated by another emotion: fear.

Trump ran for President because he sees the instability in the world. He clearly doesn’t like to think about the fact that this instability can lead to the loss of all the obscene amounts of wealth he owns. Trump believes in the impossible dream that his policies of, “America First,” will create some kind of stability in the world. He is learning that this idea has no more chance of success, than an elephant attempting to dance and the head of a pin.

I believe that there are enough nuclear weapons in the world to destroy this planet five times over. We who live here have literally every reason to oppose all U.S. moves towards war.       

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