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.