“If You’ve Got Dough, You Don’t Have to Go”

Episode 4 – Doubt

The Vietnam War

Directed by Ken Burn and Lyn Novick

Film Review

Maori TV showed Episode 4 of the Vietnam War series this week. 1966, Lyndon Johnson’s second year in office, saw a massive escalation of US forces in Vietnam – increasing from 200,000 in January to 500,000 in June 1967. Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and South Korea also sent troops to serve in Vietnam. Because both Australia and New Zealand had compulsory conscription until the early 1970s, there was a sizeable anti-Vietnam War movement in both countries.

The UK and Europe, in contrast, opposed the Vietnam War and called for the withdrawal of foreign troops.

Johnson also substantially escalated bombing campaigns against North Korea, Laos and Cambodia (the North Vietnamese used a network of jungle roads in Laos and Cambodia to transport arms and personnel to South Vietnam). North Vietnamese civilians, most of them women, worked day and night restoring the so-called “Ho Chi Minh trail following US bombing raids.

Because the US was incapable of gaining territory in Vietnam, it used body counts to measure its success. The latter frequently included civilians and were always exaggerated. The US goal was to reach a “crossover point” – where the US killed more North Vietnamese soldiers than North Vietnam could replace. This never happened.

In May 1966, the US puppet government in South Vietnam nearly collapsed owing to mass demonstrations in Saigon demanding representative democracy and a negotiated settlement to the war.

As US forces swelled in Vietnam, the Pentagon was forced to begin drafting college students, which massively fueled the antiwar movement. It was common for well-to-do families (like the Bushes) to arrange deferments tor their kids. As the saying went, “If you’ve got dough, you don’t have to go.”

In Vietnam, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, a disproportionate number of draftees and casualties were African American.

Down the Old Memory Hole: How Bush Jr Quashed the Movement for Korean Reunification

Nobel Peace Prize Winner Kim Dae Jung

With the Trump administration and the mainstream media gleefully beating the war drums for a military attack on North Korea, there’s crucial historical context missing from the corporate media coverage of this issue. I suspect most Americans have never heard of of Korea’s “Sunshine Policy” (1998-2008), aimed at eventual reunification of North and South Korea. We certainly heard about it here in New Zealand, thanks to the mass revolt in Bush’s diplomatic corps when he deliberately sabotaged this policy to isolate and provoke North Korea into amping up their their nuclear weapons program.

On learning of the Sunshine Policy, my Americans friends are shocked to learn that North Korea moved from active engagement in 1998 in nuclear disarmament and negotiations towards Korean reunification to announcing the their first nuclear weapons test in 2006. They also have no idea of the deliberate steps the Bush/Cheney administration took to sink the Sunshine Policy, nor their devious motives for doing so.

Carter’s 1994 Agreed Framework and the Origins of South Korea’s Sunshine Policy

The Sunshine Policy grew out of a treaty (the Agreed Framework) former president Jimmy Carter negotiated with late North Korean President Kim Il Sung in 1994. In return for North Korea agreeing to cease its nuclear weapons program and permitting the return of International Atomic Energy (IAEA) inspectors, the US agreed to replace the power lost when North Korea closed its Yongbyon reactor with oil shipments and two modern nuclear plants.

The North Koreans kept this agreement, and in 1998 South Korean president Kim Dae Jung began his Sunshine Policy aimed at lessening tensions and building reconciliation between North and South Korea. In June 2000, leaders of the two countries held a historic three-day summit in Pyongyang (the first in 50 years) and signed a pact in which they agreed to work towards reunification. Among other provisions, the agreement included substantial South Korean humanitarian aid to address North Korea’s chronic food shortages, loosening of restrictions on South Korean investment in North Korea, the opening of North Korea’s Kumgang Tourist Region to South Korean visitors, the establishment of a family reunification program, the opening of rail links through the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and a worker exchange program permitting South Korean workers to work at North Korea’s Kaesang Industrial Park.

In 2000, Kim Dae Jung won the Nobel Peace Prize for his successful implementation of the Sunshine Policy.

Why Bush Deliberately Sabotaged the Sunshine Policy

Unfortunately George W Bush, who took office in 2001, had very different plans for the Korean peninsula. In his view, a paranoid militarist North Korean threatening US allies South Korea and Japan was the most potent argument he had to justify his obsession with building a missile defense system. Once Japan joined the effort to normalize relations with North Korea, the neocons in his administration also had real concerns about the potential threat to US strategic dominance in the region.

In “Blame Bush for North Korea’s Nukes”, journalist Barbara O’Brien gives a blow by blow description of Bush’s calculated efforts to derail the Sunshine Policy, starting with his refusal to meet with Nobel Prize Winner Kim Dae Jung during his March 2001 visit to Washington. In January 2002, Bush would make his infamous Axis of Evil speech, including North Korea with Iraq and Iran as states deliberately sponsoring terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction. In October 2002, a month after Japan joined the diplomatic effort to normalize relations with North Korea, he accused the latter (with even flimsier evidence than his administration put forward for Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction) of secretly developing a program to enrich uranium to weapons grade and unilaterally cut off oil shipments the US committed to under the 1994 Agreed Framework.

Bush would go on to pull US troops out of North Korea, where they had been working cooperatively with the North Korean Army searching for the remains of US army personnel killed in the Korean War.

As O’Brien asserts in her series, the immediate trigger for these moves was a visit by Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi to North Korea in a first effort to normalize relations between the two countries. In the view of the Bush administration, an independent economic-political block consisting of Japan and a unified Korea posed a serious strategic threat to US dominance in Asia and had to be stopped. Her arguments make sense in view of the fact that direct US military occupation of South Korea only ended in 1994, a year after the South Korean people overthrew the last US-installed puppet dictator.

Provoking North Korea into Resuming Their Nuclear Weapons Program

In the face of growing belligerence and military threats from the US, in 2003 North Korea announced they were withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and restarted the nuclear reactor frozen by the 1994 Agreed Framework. They also announced they were restarting their nuclear weapons program and long range missile testing. In 2004, they would announce they had successfully manufactured a nuclear weapon and in 2006 test their first nuclear weapon

Whereas there was no evidence they had nuclear weapons in 2002 when Bush first leveled accusations against them, by 2004 he managed to convince them their regime was under sufficient threat they needed nuclear weapons to defend themselves – he also managed to convince Congress that the North Korean threat justified massive expenditures on a wasteful and questionably effective missile defense system.

Meanwhile despite growing tensions from North Korea’s decision to resume their nuclear weapons program, the Sunshine Policy would limp along until 2008. A shooting incident at the Mount Kumgang tourist region (in which a South Korean tourist was shot by North Korean soldiers) effectively ended it.

Originally published in Dissident Voice

The Long US War Against the Third World

blowback

Blowback: the Costs and Consequences of American Empire

by Chalmers Johnson

Henry Holt and Company (2000)

Book Review

Free Epub and Kindle editions at libcom library

Blowback is a catalog of US military aggression since World War II. It focuses primarily on covert operations by the CIA and Pentagon “special forces – though many of these operations progressed to full blown military invasions, as in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.*

The late Chalmers Johnson, a Southeast Asia specialist, also devotes several chapters to the US military occupation of Japan and South Korea following World War II. He traces how the CIA installed war criminals to run Japan’s government and secretly funded single party rule (by the Liberal Democratic Party from 1949-63. He also examines the continuing (extremely unpopular) US occupation of Okinawa.

Prior to reading Blowback, I had no idea that South Korean troops were under US military command until 1994, a year after the Korean people successfully overthrew the last US-installed puppet dictator. The Korean people fought for decades to expel the US military, despite their mass protests and demonstrations being violently suppressed by the US-run Korean military.**

Johnson also explores the immense unpopularity of the 700+ military bases the US maintains around the world – in part for their horrible record of environmental contamination (which they refuse to remediate) and in part for the notorious criminality of the GIs they host. In the case of Okinawa, GIs commit crimes at the average rate of one per day, ranging from muggings, reckless driving resulting in serious injury or death, rape and murder. In nearly all cases the Japanese government is denied jurisdiction to prosecute and US military court martials result in little more than a slap on the wrist.

Johnson maintains it’s largely owing to this history of GI criminality that the US refuses to accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC).


*A partial listing of major covert CIA interventions:

Iran 1953

Guatemala 1954

Cuba 1959 – present

Congo 1960

Brazil 1964

Indonesia 1965

Vietnam 1961-73

Cambodia 1961-73

Laos 1961-73

Greece 1961-74

Chile 1963

Afghanistan 1979 – present

El Salvador 1980 – present

Guatemala 1980 – present

Nicaragua 1980 – present

Iraq 1991 – present

**The US also supported the brutal regimes of the puppet dictators they installed in (partial list) Taiwan, Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Thailand.

 

A New Angle on Climate Change

Atmosphere of Hope

Pirate TV (2015)

Film Review

Atmosphere of Hope is a recent talk in which Australian environmentalist Tim Flannery summarizes the prospects for limiting and reducing atmospheric CO2 levels. Flannery is a new breed of environmentalist who questions the value of climate alarmism.

The upcoming COP21 conference in Paris will be very different from past climate conferences in that participating countries have already committed to specific emission reduction targets. Because these commitments have been made public (see How COP21 commitments stack up) environmentalists can already predict the effect they will have on total CO2 levels.

Thanks to the recent “decoupling” of reduced fossil fuel use and economic growth, Flannery is extremely confident that most governments will keep their commitments. While these targets are inadequate to limit global warming to 2 degrees centigrade (and preserving civilization as we know it), Flannery is extremely confident that new carbon capture technologies will make up the shortfall.

Successfully Decoupling Fossil Fuels and Economic Growth

The main argument our political leaders give against reducing fossil fuel consumption is the negative effect on economic growth. Thanks to a big drop in the cost of renewable energy (and a big increase in energy efficiency), this argument no longer holds water. Between 2013 and 2014 there was no increase in global fossil fuel consumption (causing an oil glut that dropped prices to $40 a barrel). Yet the global economy continued to grow, thanks to the substitution of cheap renewable energy for fossil fuels.

Flannery also believes that “wavy energy” technology also played a big role in this decoupling. “Wavy energy” refers to a distributed grid technology (developed in Germany) that compensates for the intermittent nature of solar and wind energy – at any given moment some place in Germany is generating some form of renewable energy.

The Role of Carbon Capture Technologies

For me the most interesting part of the talk was the discussion of all the new carbon capture technologies being developed. Flannery divides geoengineering technologies into two categories. The first, which he refers to as “second way, “involves blocking sunlight by injecting sulfur based chemicals into the stratosphere. In his view, this is highly dangerous due to the risk of climate rebound effects (to say nothing of the health effects of the chemicals).

In contrast, “third way geoengineering” technologies remove CO2 from the atmosphere and sequester it. There are further subdivided into biological (natural) and chemical (industrial) based technologies. The latter require external energy input, which means they only reduce CO2 concentrations if they employ renewable energy.

Examples of biological third way technologies include
• Reforestation
• Biochar (charcoal produced from plant matter and stored in the soil as a means of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere)
• Wood waste based plastics
• Carbon farming – Australia rewards farmers for replacing annual grasses and crops with perennial varieties that store carbon.

Examples of chemical third way technologies include
• Carbon negative concrete which absorbs CO2 over its lifetime
• Crushed serpentinites – minerals that capture CO2 as they weather and can be used for beaches, playgrounds, smoke stacks and carbon negative roof paint.
• CO2 based plastics
• CO2 based carbon fiber (used in the Boeing dream liner and carbon fiber cars) – would be cheaper than current carbon fiber, aluminum or steal
• A South Korean technology that employs used coffee grounds to capture methane.
• Chiller boxes in Antarctica – powered by wind energy, they would cause CO2 to solidify and fall as snow and then bury it under regular snow.