David Halberstam (2009 [2007]) The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War.

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David Halberstam was killed in a car crash in 2007, clichéd as it is, his memory lives on here. This is a book all American citizens need to read before saluting the flag. Old Glory, American Presidents should be handed it when they are sworn in and take office. The Korean War began on 25th June 1950 and lasted three years. The forgotten war, a stepping stone into Vietnam. Military historian S.L.A Marshall described it as ‘the century’s nastiest little war’.

Karl Marx’s view was that ‘history repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce.’ Halberstem did not witness the election of the moron’s moron, Donald J Trump, as the 45th President of the United States. An election victory the mainstream media did not see coming. (I can take a little credit here, predicting he might win, could win, did win, for the same reasons that I thought Boris Johnson this side of the Atlantic might be the next British Prime Minister when he dallied with Brexit all those years ago). The much heralded New York Times, whom Halberstem worked for, marked Hilary Clinton as a shoo-in for President.   You’d need to go back to 3rd November 1948 for such a shock election result. There was no digital then.   The Chicago Tribune  had already printed copies of its front-page banner: ‘Dewey defeats Trauman’. Harry S Trauman was, as history shows, elected President by a landslide. There’s a lesson there somewhere.

Senator Joe McCarthy’s claim then that ‘the Reds Run the State Department’ have taken until 2016 to having any semblance of truth, or fake news, depending on your point of view. There is little doubt that Russian intelligence provided finance and expertise to get the least intelligent President in American history elected. Reporter George Reedy’s quip at the height of the House of Un-American Activities investigations, that espionage wasn’t Joe McCarthy’s speciality and that ‘Joe couldn’t find a Communist in Red Square – he didn’t know Karl Marx from Groucho Marx ’, now seems the cruellest kind of irony.

Demands for a ‘loyalty test’ still hold true with Trump, but With President Trump inviting President Putin to the White House and Washington in the Autumn and announcing policy reversals be Tweet, reds are no longer under the bed and mainstream media is twittering as it catches up. There’s no doubt the moron’s moron would fail Hoover’s ‘loyalty test’. The only person Trump remains loyal to is himself.

(There is a joke here about them not being in the bed unless a couple of ‘communist’ prostitutes have peed on it, first –but that’s fake news and not very funny).

The Coldest Winter is a topical book about casual racism and hubris. The four-star General Douglas MacArthur and self-styled Emperor of the East took it upon himself to ignore orders from the Commander in Chief, President Harry S Trauman and created a coterie of sycophantic officers and yes men that took up residence in Tokyo to fight a war in Korea. There’s parallels here, of course, with the moron’s moron.

MacArthur claimed in early November 1950 that what fighting there was in Korea would all be over in three weeks and his men would be home for Christmas. He ignored warnings and intelligence reports that the Chinese were about to enter the war to support the three divisions of North Korea communist troops that were routing their Southern (ROK) counterparts. MacArthur referred to them collectively as Chinese laundrymen and a few divisions of white American troops would show up and have them running. MacArthur was right because he was always right. His armoury didn’t include being wrong.

American troops sent to Korean didn’t have enough of pretty much everything required for a war including men, military hardware, rifles that worked and ammunition. Much like the Nazis invading Russia, they were in summer uniform in temperatures thirty-below zero. Most non-conflict casualties for American troops and their NATO allies were due to frost bit. But there were lots of casualties. Americans were running, but in the wrong direction, not towards the North Korean capital as planned back at MacArthur’s headquarter, but back towards the 38th parallel, that still divides North and South Korea. Many of them never returned. MacArthur’s call for a larger war against China were downplayed.

Satellites looking down at night see only the South Korean towns lit up. The North remains in the darkness of the 1950s, when Chinese troops used horses and musical instruments to coordinate their punishing attacks.

General Douglas MacArthur presided over one of the worst military defeats since Custard at Little Big Horn. This was the same general, of course, that refused to believe the Japanese would attack America – until Pearl Harbour – and then got stranded in the Philippines when the Japanese invaded. He had that God complex.

In comparison, there’s nothing casual about the moron’s moron’s racism or hubris. It’s who he is and what he stands for and stood for in the Presidential election.

The Korean War was an unpopular war, largely ignored at home in the United States. Fighting Communism, fighting the North Koreans, fighting the Chinese, with the Russians standing on the side-lines, fighting for free Asia, to protect Europe, the word ‘crusade’ was used. Escalation of a small war, to a larger war, to a nuclear war and nuclear winter.  North Korea’s Kim Il-Sung, the Great Leader also had that God complex, which he passed on to his son, and grandson, Kim Jong-Un like a bit of stale cheese. Chinese historians, those running dogs, were not pleased that little mention was made of China’s part in saving North Korea from capitalism in a museum documenting the war in Pyongyang.  History repeating itself. God I hope not.

China, the workshop of the world, is at the stage where America was at the end of the Second World War. Where Russia was after winning the Great Patriotic War (let’s forget, like President Putin does, the sticky bit about the agreement to invade Poland and parcel up Europe with the Nazis). The rise of fascism all over Europe.  The moron’s moron in the White House. Hubris and racism meeting and having spoilt kids we call oligarchs. The rise of eugenics, populism and the belief that the atomic bomb can be deployed in a limited capacity. There lies World War III and Armageddon. The seeds of that right-wing madness is all here in the 700 pages of David Halberstam’s classic book. A must buy. A must read. My book of the year.

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John Pilger, The Coming War with China.

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http://www.itv.com/hub/the-coming-war-on-china/2a4249a0001

The title is deliberately provocative. Does John Pilger mean trade war between the number one and two trading blocks in the world? Because we know that is already happening. President-elect Donald J Trump in his campaign –among other accusations – accused China of raping America and stealing job and the American economy was ‘hurt very badly by China with devaluation.’ The United States and Canada are vital to the Chinese economy. The former dependent on the cheap money China provides to service its debts. Equally, America and the rest of the world are depended on the cheap imports that Chinese labours provide. Think Apple here. Australia’s economy is premised on exporting the raw materials necessary to keep the Chinese economy growing. Britain and America’s  metaphoric economy report cards, for example, are marked as successful if GDP growth has been reaching one-percent, or if it hits the dizzy heights of two-percent GDP growth. China, in contrast, recently hit growth rates exceeding ten-percent of GDP, but this has slowed in recent years to around five-percent and falling to levels associated with more mature economies.

It’s worth quoting Lijia Zhang, a Beijing journalist. Her best-selling book (although obviously not in America) is called Socialism Is Great! She was a child of the Cultural Revolution, when millions of Chinese died of hunger and has lived in the US and Europe. ‘Many Americans imagine that Chinese people live a miserable, repressed life with no freedom whatsoever. The [idea of] the yellow peril has never left them… They have no idea there are some 500 million people being lifted out of poverty, and some would say it’s 600 million.’

China stands now where America stood before the start of the First World War. The world’s axis is shifting East, not only to China, but to countries like India, which between them account for over half the population of the planet. It’s the end of empire for America. And like the British before them if it comes to deploying gunboats as the British did during the opium wars and the Boxer Rebellion, then Pilger notes the American’s are doing the same with over 400 naval bases world-wide, including one a few miles from me in Faslane, but most of them pointing East and costing trillions of dollars. The irony here James Bradley notes:  ‘Warren Delano, the grandfather of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was the American opium king of China; he was the biggest American opium dealer, second only to the British. Much of the east coast [establishment] of the United States – Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Princeton – was born of drug money.’

America wants to be allowed to be more protectionists that China and China to be more free market than America. The irony here is the Hurun Reports conclusions there are more dollar billionaires in China than anywhere else in the world, including America. But as Eric Li concludes you can be a billionaire in China, but still not be able to buy the Chinese politburo. Pilger’s programme was made before the election of billionaire president Donald J Trump and whose senior positions have been filled so far with a number of billionaires, three Goldman Sachs bankers, and the chief executive of the largest oil company in the world, who has close ties with Russia. It makes George W Bush’s first cabinet of millionaires pauperish.    ‘I believe in American exceptionalism with every fibre of my being,’ said President Barack Obama.  President-elect Trump has already made that exceptionalism clear with his appointment of retired marine general James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis as defense secretary. Accused China of interfering with a missing US drone and angering China’s leaders by taking a call from Taiwan’s president – an island that China regards as its sovereign territory.

The difference now is it’s nuclear. Pilger takes us through the stages of and testing of America’s nuclear capability. The Bikini Atoll was repeatedly blown up with the cost estimated in millions of dollars a day. But the real cost was to the islanders used as human guniea pigs in experiments into radioactivity that would have shamed Dr Mengele because the latter only tortured subjects in front of him and not the children’s children of their children as US scientists repeatedly did and continue to do. Poor nations dependence on the US dollar was highlighted by a tale of rich and poor. The Ronald Reagan Ballistic  Missle Defense Site (of course it’s defense) on the Marshall Islands spends billions of tax dollars and year, and millions of dollars a day. The island nearest this paradise ( a swimming pool away) cannot afford to fix the town’s only bus. But perhaps the most chilling moment in Pilger’s documentary was when a former soldier admitted that during the Cuban Missile Crisis a rogue officer ordered those under his command to fire the missiles, and opening the silo doors, which would have wiped out China and the world. For twenty seconds in 1961 the world stood on Armageddon, before the order to stand down was made and the officer quietly escorted away to La-La land.

Pilger does not touch on American’s forgotten war, the Korean war, when Chinese forces near Yalu in early 1950s caught General Douglas MacArthur and his soldiers by surprise (see David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter. America and the Korean War).  America was sick of war, as was the world. The answer was to go nuclear. But even then scientist recognised that would mean the end of the world. The Coldest Winter is, of course, nuclear winter.  Now with ‘smaller’ nuclear weapons and hawks in the cabinet, every war looks winnable, but only by striking first. We’ve given Dr Strangelove Trump the codes to our planet’s future.

Here it’s worth quoting an exchange with Pilger and Professor Ted Postol was scientific adviser to the head of US naval operations. An authority on nuclear weapons. Remember this is pre-Trump and pre the term ‘posttruth’ gaining entry to the Oxford English dictionary: “Everybody here wants to look like they’re tough. See I got to be tough… I’m not afraid of doing anything military, I’m not afraid of threatening; I’m a hairy-chested gorilla. And we have gotten into a state, the United States has gotten into a situation where there’s a lot of sabre-rattling, and it’s really being orchestrated from the top.”

 

I said, “This seems incredibly dangerous.”

 

“That is an understatement,” he replied.