Sunday, April 07, 2013


Threat, counter-threat and the North Korean experience of war

by Larry Geller

President Obama may be playing with fire by escalating the military presence near North Korea. He may be assuming that North Korea is afraid of US retaliation should it attack S. Korea, Japan or the US. Perhaps they are afraid, or perhaps not.  During the Korean War, the North endured unbelievable casualties, and yet the war continued.

Civilian casualties in North Korea were so extensive as to have been described as a war crime. And the slaughter proved ineffective in deterring the North’s military. Here are two snips—the first describing the casualties, and the second describing the lack of effect.

North Korea lost close to thirty percent of its population as a result of US led bombings in the 1950s. US military sources confirm that 20 percent of North Korea’s  population was killed off over a three period of intensive bombings:

“After destroying North Korea’s 78 cities and thousands of her villages, and killing countless numbers of her civilians, [General] LeMay remarked, “Over a period of three years or so we killed off – what – twenty percent of the population.” It is now believed that the population north of the imposed 38th Parallel lost nearly a third its population of 8 – 9 million people during the 37-month long “hot” war, 1950 – 1953, perhaps an unprecedented percentage of mortality suffered by one nation due to the belligerance of another.”

During The Second World War the United Kingdom lost 0.94% of its population, France lost 1.35%, China lost 1.89% and the US lost 0.32%. During the Korean war, North Korea lost close to 30 % of its population.

These figures of civilian deaths in North Korea should also be compared to those compiled for Iraq  by the Lancet Study (John Hopkins School of Public Health). The Lancet study estimated a total of 655,000 Iraqi civilian deaths, following the US led invasion (March 2003- June 2006). 

[Global Research, KNOW THE FACTS: North Korea lost close to 30% of its population as a result of US bombings in the 1950s, 11/27/2010]

The following is snipped from The Korean War by Max Hastings (Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 1987) with my emphasis added:

Operation PRESSURE PUMP was designed to impress upon the communist delegation at Panmunjom the urgency of signing an armistice. Bomber attack, wrote Bradley as Chief of the JCS in November 1952, ‘constitutes the most potent means at present available to UNC, of maintaining the degree of military pressure which might impel the communists to agree, finally, to acceptable armistice terms’. Yet American attacks upon the huge Suiho hydroelectric plant on the Yalu in June 1952 aroused intense controversy around the world, and especially in Britain where strategic bombing in Korea was a sensitive issue. Installations in Pyongyang were hit again by massed bomber raids in July and August, along with key mineral workings. By the end of 1952, every worthwhile industrial target in the North seemed to the planners in Tokyo, poring over their photo mosaics, to have been battered into ruin. Pyongyang and other major cities had been flattened, hundreds of thousands of North Korean civilians killed. Yet there remained no evidence of the predicted collapse in the communist will to win. In the summer of 1953, the airmen claimed that the communist signature on the armistice document represented a last victory for air power, following a new campaign of attacks on dams critical for the irrigation of North Korea. There remains no decisive evidence to support or deny their claims. It is probably fair to assume that once the communists had reached a political decision to accept the armistice, the prospect of further serious damage to North Korea’s national infrastructure can scarcely have encouraged them to delay. The lessons of the Korean War for air power seemed self-evident to the ground force commanders, and to those politicians who took the trouble to inform themselves about such things. The experience of World War II showed that intensive strategic bombing could kill large numbers of civilians without decisive impact upon the battlefield, or even upon the war-making capacity of an industrial power. Bombing could inflict a catastrophe upon a nation without defeating it.

The mainstream media frequently dismiss North Korean leaders as crackpots. All the more reason to avoid a military confrontation, you’d think. Wouldn’t we be seen as crazy if we provoked one, given the history of war on that peninsula?


Thank you for posting this, Larry. The Korean War is one most Americans know very little about. The info you shared helps explain the militant determination Koreans feel against being threatened with military means. Besides, they fought us to a standstill last time.

Americans have come to believe we have a right to dominate the world. We don't use that sort of language. Like most imperialists, we believe we are helping impose order and uplift the less civilized. Apologists for our massive overseas military presence, so eager to believe we are "the good guys" point to the occasional "humanitarian mission" performed by our troops to show the benign intent of our military power.

So let's flip things around and see if Americans can begin to fathom how offensive our overseas militarism can be. Let's imagine the Chinese army had a massive military presence in Mexico, with naval ports, airbases, nuclear weapons and tens of thousands of troops. And every couple of years, they held war games designed to simulate an all out invasion of the United States. What would American public opinion be towards the Chinese, towards this outrageous provocation?

When you combine the fact the United States killed about 30% of their population the last time we went to war against them with our current provocations and bullying actions, it is understandable they would shake their fist at us and say, "Bring it on."

And what genius in the US strategic leadership came up with the brilliant idea of flying B-2 bombers from the US to demonstrate our ability, and apparent willingness, to drop nuclear weapons on the Koreans?

Who is more INSANE in this escalating dynamic, the bellicose leader of a small, pipsqueak nation who refuses to back down or the behemoth Superpower who also threatens to escalate towards war? Most Americans, deliberately ignorant about our past warcrimes against Korea and so imbued with "American Exceptionalism" to assume it is only right that we should have troops intimidating people all around the world, are torn between being patient and desirous of putting this loudmouth dictator in his place.

If other news sources would educate our population by opening our eyes about the Korean War as you have, perhaps our current emperor would feel more public pressure to show restraint.

I agree and I am extremely disappointed that CB promotes Hallorhan.

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