US Rule in Occupied Earth (or Everything You Need to Know About Genocide, but Never Knew to Ask) Part 3: Lemkin’s Logic




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The misuse of words is a key way to ensure that the ideological hegemony of the powerful is not disrupted when they commit acts that ordinary people find abhorrent. In 1946 George Orwell wrote “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties.” A couple of years later he famously satirised this as “Newspeak” – a language of journalists and intelligentsia which systematically stripped the language of all meaningful terms, replacing them with good, bad, plus-good, plus-bad, double-plus-good, and double-plus-bad. A key aspect of using a concept of double-plus-bad or double-plus-good is that it cannot be argued against because it doesn’t have a concrete definition. We do this in a low-grade level as human beings because we are lazy and proud. We like to impress and to win arguments by using buzzwords in the place of thought. But at the higher levels of discourse (at the double-plus-bad and double-plus-good level) the use of language becomes systematically controlled in a way that shows clear purpose.

The higher one’s social ranking, the more constricted and controlled one’s vocabulary and hence thought. In part this is due to conscious propaganda manipulation coming from government and corporate interests which have long targeted “opinion leaders” with propaganda and left the messaging to “trickle down” (in the words of the US Government’s “Vietnam Information Group”). Orwell satirised this as being a “Party Line”, portraying it as a centrally coordinated effort, but what he was really suggesting is that the system functions the same whether there is a “Politburo” giving orders or not. The point is, that the ideology is internalised and the elites become their own and each other’s thought police. That was what Orwell analogised as being constant surveillance and inescapable broadcasting. The constant unstoppable nagging of the television and the inescapable omnipresent surveillance in 1984 were allegories for the internalised orthodox ideology.

The actual centralised dissemination of ideology is relatively crude, as the comparative failure of the Vietnam Information Group illustrates. The decentralised co-optation of elites is more subtle, more profound and more robust. It harnesses people’s imaginations, but more importantly it harnesses their ability to avoid imagination and thought. In real life what this may mean is that a word that does have a definition, has that definition suppressed and people use the word as if there was no actual definition at all. An obvious example is the word “terrorism”.

The word “terrorism” is used in a manner that has little to do with any actual stable definition. Originally terrorism referred to advocating the use of terror during the French Revolution. It was actually put forward as a way of minimising state violence because the emphasis on generating terror would maximise the disciplinary effects of violence. In other words, if you scare the shit out of people you don’t need to kill as many to make them all behave the way you want them to. It’s an old idea, of course, just named and given a post-enlightenment rationalisation. That form of terrorism is still very current everywhere that there is a military occupation. More broadly, though, terrorism came to denote a warfare technique where violence is used to terrorise the general population as a way of exerting pressure on a state power without having to inflict military defeats. As a technique of asymmetric warfare it has an obvious appeal, but it is usually counterproductive and a gift to your enemies. Indiscriminate attacks, like the terror-bombing campaign waged by Britain against Germany, tend to consolidate public support behind government and military leaders.

In real terrorism, the regime that rules the target population generally benefits. Moreover, ever since there has been the asymmetric use of terror, state regimes have labelled all asymmetric warfare as terrorism. In fact they have lumped in as many actions of their enemies under the category of terrorism as possible and, without exception, this is done as a way of garnering support for their own acts of terrorism, which they call “policing”, “security operations”, “counterinsurgency” or “counterterror”. The use of the term “counterterror” is quite interesting because it allows states to overtly signal to their personnel that they are to use terror tactics, but it has enough linguistic slippage to provide deniability.

In propaganda discourse terrorism is never something that stands alone, you tie it to other things like ethnicity and religion. The Germans of the Third Reich were not induced simply to hate distinct groups of people. Their propaganda system, just like ours, conflated various plus-bads and double-plus-bads to make them all seem like a great interlocked multifaceted double-plus-badness. Criminals were bad and perhaps deviants, sexual deviants who were decadent, devolved creatures, Jews or Jew-like, who are all lefties, socialists, Communists, and they want to destroy Germany. So the enemy was the criminal-queer-Jew-decadent-racial-deviant-Commie. If someone was shown to be one, they were tainted with all others. And if they were demonstrably not homosexual, for example, it didn’t matter because there was a more profound way in which they actually were – they embodied the real essence of the category rather than the mere outward form. And even though the Nazis related all of this to racial and cultural hygiene, the fact is that the most common immediate excuse for using violence against these Chimerical enemies was terrorism.

Germans used the concept of terrorism for exactly the same reasons as it is used now:

1) Because regimes like to pretend that terrorism threatens the stability of the entire society, notwithstanding that actual terrorism does not generally destabilise regimes, even if it disrupts society.

2) Because each individual will feel that they could be a victim. Terrorists are not going to stop to ask your political opinion before they kill you. This makes people feel as if they are on the side of the government because they share a common enemy.

3) Because calling people terrorists provides the all important sense of reciprocity that makes state violence against the “terrorists” seem justified. Britain, France, Israel and the US have all, just like Germany, used the label of “terrorism” to denominate entire populations as being terroristic in some essentialised way. This is used to make genocidal violence and terrorism against those populations seem justified.

In one of the most striking examples of late, Israel has just passed a law giving themselves permission to force feed hunger strikers in the manner practiced by the US and recognised elsewhere as torture. Telesur reports that security minister Gilad Erdan explained: “Prisoners are interested in turning a hunger strike into a new type of suicide terrorist attack through which they will threaten the state of Israel.”

Once upon a time, academics would have at least kept in the backs of their minds the notion that terrorism was a politically misused term. However, instead of that translating into publicly railing against the hypocritical misuse of the term by Western terrorist governments, their public contribution would tend to be along the lines of reminding people that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”. Like most fatuous clichés, this has the advantage of seeming thought-provoking whilst, in fact, being thought-killing. That was the typical liberal educated view – not to actually attempt to put things into a robust linguistic framework that could facilitate real analysis, but to imply that it is all a matter of opinion anyway.

As bad as that sounds, it all changed for the worse after 2001. Suddenly there was a boost for academic “security” specialists. People who had perhaps been more marginal in terrorism studies and security studies found that their way of defining terrorism (by taking the people they wanted to call “terrorists” and working backwards) were suddenly more prominent. The response from more level-headed academics was, of course, to immediately concede the middle ground to them and allow them to set the agenda. This meant that state terrorism, which was never incorporated into “terrorism studies” anyway, was now unmentionable. The idea that no definition of terrorism should prejudicially exclude a certain type of perpetrator is apparently alien to respectable scholars. Dissenting academics turned to “critical security studies” and the new “critical terrorism studies”. But these are self-marginalising positions which by their very names tell us that practitioners do not study a thing, but rather study the way that thing is discussed. The existence of something like “critical terrorism studies” necessarily embeds an orthodox “terrorism studies”. In practice, this provides a dual academic track wherein those who question what they are told voluntarily concede the greatest authority to those who are more inclined to parrot what they are told.

To force those who use words like “democracy” and “terrorism” to only do so in accordance with robust fully contextualised definitional criteria would be to deprive potential aggressors of a potent tool against thought. This is just as true of the term “genocide”, but there is an additional significance to the term. A true understanding of genocide will do more prevent its misuse as a way of eliciting a desired uncritical emotional response. This is because genocide differs as a concept in that understanding genocide will also strip away ability for perpetrators, especially repeated perpetrators such as the United States of America, to conceal the immorality of their intents as well as their actions. The meaning and applicability of the term genocide not only belies the rhetoric of moral righteousness, wherein the US strikes for freedom and to protect the innocent from evil-doers, but also the equally repulsive rhetoric of blunders, of inadvertence, and of self-driven systemic dysfunction. Applying the concept of genocide to US foreign policy reveals a conscious systematic intentionality in a project that very few people would consider morally acceptable. But to apply the term genocide, we need to recover the original meaning, which is to say a stable meaning that does not contradict itself and can be reconciled with historical usage.

To understand what genocide means it is best to trace the thinking of Raphael Lemkin, who invented the term. Lemkin was a Polish Jew who was passionate about history. When he was a teenager the Armenian holocaust had a huge impact on him. This was understandably emotional but was also a profound intellectual impact. He saw in these horrible events something related to the history of the persecution of Jews and the violence of pogroms. He became a lawyer and in the 1933 he advocated that new international laws be passed banning acts which would be considered crimes against the law of nations. He proposed two new international crimes which were, in brief terms, killing people on the basis of their ethnic, religious or national identity (barbarity”) and the destruction of items of culture, places of worship and so forth (vandalism”). Amusingly, his collective term for the crimes of “barbarity” and “vandalism” was “terrorism”.

Lemkin’s genius was not, despite his intents, in naming a crime but rather in naming a strategic behaviour. It would be better if genocide had never been thought of as a crime. Genocide is something that the powerful do to the weak and, despite the mythology, legal remedies do not work between parties of highly disparate power. Whilst people like to claim that laws are an equaliser that provides the weak with a tool to fight the powerful, that is not the historical experience of criminal law nor of international law. Power includes the power to police and enforce law and the power to defy law, thus the law must always be obeisant to power. Admittedly, one can theorise a society wherein a social contract made all people equal before the law, such as posited by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, but in practice that would have to be a society with no significant hierarchical differentiation. The hegemonic group in any society has always used different forms of law, including criminal law, against lower classes and ethnic minorities or, when desirable, women, the LGBT community, religious groups, or people who hold undesirable political opinions. Law, in short, is inescapably predisposed to be a tool of the powerful against the weak. That is not to say that people cannot use the law for the benefit of the weak, but that is a function of individuals working against the general inclination of the system.

The limits of laws can be be demonstrated by a counter-factual thought experiment. Imagine that Lemkin had succeeded beyond his wildest dreams in 1933 and that the current UN Genocide Convention had been signed and ratified by all countries including Germany in 1933. Would that have impacted the passage of the Nuremberg Race Laws in 1935? Well it didn’t stop South Africa instituting draconian “Pass Laws” in 1952, so one would have to say no. In fact there is no way in which our historical experience of the UNCG seems to suggest it would have constrained Germany in any way at all. By the time people in Allied countries were reacting to German genocides with demands for action, their governments were already at war with Germany. Moreover, their excuse for not acting against the infrastructure of extermination was the over-riding need to win the war, and argument that would not have been altered by the existence of a genocide convention. On the other hand, in 1938 the existence of a genocide convention might have strengthened Germany’s claims that ethnic Germans were being persecuted in the Sudetenland and given more legitimacy to the Munich Agreement which gave Germany the Sudetenland and left Czechoslovakia nearly defenceless against future German aggression.

That is why it is actually a pity that Lemkin was a crusading lawyer, because his great insight was in inventing a theoretically rich term which was the crystallisation of considerable historical knowledge. The breakthrough he made was to realise that the violence he had called “barbarity” and the destruction he had called “vandalism” could be reconceptualised as a single practice called “genocide”. This is absolutely fundamental to understanding what genocide means.

Here is how Lemkin introduced the subject:

Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups. Genocide is directed against the national group as an entity, and the actions involved are directed against individuals, not in their individual capacity, but as members of the national group.

“The following illustration will suffice. The confiscation of property of nationals of an occupied area on the ground that they have left the country may be considered simply as a deprivation of their individual property rights. However, if the confiscations are ordered against individuals solely because they are Poles, Jews, or Czechs, then the same confiscations tend in effect to weaken the national entities of which those persons are members.”

So Lemkin’s first example of an act of genocide is the confiscation of property from “Poles, Jews or Czechs….” This is a concept in which mass violence against people’s physical bodies is only one facet of a larger practice. In other words, when the Canadian government admitted recently to committing “cultural genocide” they were not truly apologising, but using slimy evasive apologetics. There is no such thing as “cultural genocide”, there is only genocide. Pamela Palmater introduced her reaction thus: “What happened in residential schools was not ‘cultural genocide’. It wasn’t ‘language genocide’. And it wasn’t ‘almost genocide’. What happened in residential schools was genocide. Canadian officials targeted Indians for assimilation and elimination purely for economic and political reasons.”

When Palmater wrote that she was merely introducing an extended argument, but she made a much more revealing comment about the nature of genocide when speaking on Democracy Now!:

“I know there was a focus on culture and that people were abused and beaten for speaking their language and culture, and they were clearly denied their identity. But for many of these children, upwards of 40 percent, they were denied their right to live. And that goes far beyond culture. Think about at the same time the forced sterilizations that were happening against indigenous women and little girls all across the country. Sterilization has nothing to do with one’s culture, but, in essence, the one’s right to continue on in their cultural group or nation-based group. The objective was to get rid of Indians in whatever way possible. Culture was one aspect of it, but also denying them the right to live or to procreate was an essential part of this.”

The key sentence is: “The objective was to get rid of Indians in whatever way possible”. Palmater knows that that does not mean the literal extermination of every single person that is even nominally Indian. What it means is erasing Indians from the places that they are not wanted at that historical moment. As Lemkin wrote, “Genocide has two phases: one, destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group; the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor. This imposition, in turn, may be made upon the oppressed population which is allowed to remain or upon the territory alone, after removal of the population and the colonization by the oppressor’s own nationals.This can be achieved through killing, assimilation, immiseration or dispossession. This can be achieved through transmigration – the ancient Assyrians, the Atlantic slavers, and the Soviet Union all uprooted populations to weaken them by taking them from their native soil. Equally, mass settler migration to the US, to Aotearoa, to West Papua, to Tibet or to Palestine imposes a new “national pattern” on the land.

The connection to native soil has profound personal aspects that might be considered spiritual, cultural or psychological, but let us not ignore the more immediately physical and concrete factors. Uprooting people utterly destroys their economic independence and can seriously degrade social interconnections that help provide the essentials of life. Thus, the famous susceptibility that colonised people have to Old World diseases has often struck when they are forced away from the land on which they rely for sustenance. People use the excuse of a purely biological fact (namely, the lower efficacy of immune response in populations that have not had generations of exposure to certain pathogens) to conceal the degree to which those who die of disease are often outright murder victims. When those who survive are relocated it may be to camps, ghettos, or reservations that provide little for independent existence. In fact the genocide perpetrator will place them in a subordinate and precarious position, exerting as much control over them as possible whilst creating the greatest degree of appearance that the victim population are separate and autonomous. Once again we are referring to the position of included exclusion, but with the pretence that the situation is the inverse – that the victims are autonomous and choose their own situation. All of this makes victim blaming much easier and allows further genocidal depredations to take place should the perpetrators discover the need for further dispossession.

This is what is facing a number of Western Australian Aboriginal communities currently. These communities are dependent on government supplying services, as are we all, but the cost of supplying services to Aboriginal communities will no longer be subsidised by the federal government, and the WA state government is refusing to make up the shortfall. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said: “What we can’t do is endlessly subsidise lifestyle choices if those lifestyle choices are not conducive to the kind of full participation in Australian society that everyone should have.” That could be said about any rural community because they all cost more to provide services to. In fact, mathematically there must always be places that cost more to provides services to than the average, and this same Western Australian government has just announced that it will be spending $32 million to upgrade rural water facilities that happen to be in the electorate of the Minister for Water.

Abbott’s words are particularly incendiary, though, because even if these are the traditional lands of the people living in these communities, when you look at the whole picture of colonisation in Australia the most heavily populated and resource rich lands are now all full of the descendants of settlers. The places that Aboriginal people can most easily maintain cultural autonomy and cohesion are those that were economically marginal to the early settlers, and those places were generally more marginal and sparsely by the indigenous people for the same reasons. Moreover, there is the fact that continued occupation of traditional lands might lead to the granting of native title. (You might think that 40,000 years is long enough to justify any such claim, but in legal terms let us not forget that until 1967 Aboriginal people were counted as wildlife not humans.) Some of these communities might be economically underdeveloped, but they do happen to be adjacent to large amounts of mineral wealth. Many put this latest attack against Aboriginal communities in the context of the 7 year old “intervention” in rural Northern Territories communities. As John Pilger has documented in the film Utopia the intervention was based on lies and seems more to do with exerting control over lands that are a potential source of strategic mineral wealth.

If official Australia is trying to dispossess Aboriginal people as such from land over which they want to exert control it is genocide. However, I do not want to overemphasise the significance of “ethnic cleansing” in a way that replicates the over-emphasis on mass murder that is more common. As scholar John Docker puts it, Lemkin took great care to define genocide as composite and manifold”. Acts of genocide are interrelated and interlocking events that create a network though space and time. Genocide against Aboriginal peoples has at various times and in various places meant extermination, enslavement, imprisonment, theft, fraud and impoverishment. Famously the genocide of Aboriginal peoples also involved the “stolen generation” of abducted children taken from Aboriginal parents and raised by “white” Australians.

The UN Genocide Convention specifically references the “forcible transfer” of children. This came from Lemkin’s observations of the Germanisation of other Caucasians. Lemkin and all those who contributed to the wording of the Genocide Convention would have had this sort of “denationalisation” in mind. Even though the abduction of Aboriginal children was occurring at the time that the Convention was written, I don’t think the people of the time really thought that it would apply to different “racial” groups, or at least those with generally distinct appearance. Regardless of the rhetorical equivocations on the subject, nobody thought that Aboriginal children would become white because they were raised by white parents or in white institutions. It was not a transfer into the hegemonic group, it was a transfer out of connection with others of the victim group. In fact, taking children was and is a way of trying to create that which all wielders of political power are innately inclined to want. They want to create human husks, cyphers who act only according to the stimuli given to them. Taking children functions in the same way that transmigration or concentration functions. It strips agency and magnifies the power of the perpetrator over the bodily existence of the victims. It is intended to also provide control over the mental existence of the victims, usurping their decision-making and imposing the “rationality” of the perpetrator.

There is a lot to unpack here. Genocide is actually the expression of a desire for complete power, a fantasy which is not unique to genocide at all. People become pure objects to be moved and used at will. Their own independent existence and agency is nullified even to the point where if it is determined that they are to die it is achieved with the mere flick of a switch. This sort of power cannot be achieved without exerting destructive violence. For individuals torture might be used to produce “learned helplessness” in order to exert this sort of power over them. Genocide aims to exert this power over defined groups who are connected by familial relations. As with torture, the power relation that it creates and the violence in which it is expressed, become the ends as well as the means.

I will relate this all back to mass murder and systematic annihilation in Part 4, but first let me mention race. Race and racism are social constructs but the important thing to realise is that racial discourse does not generate genocide. It may provide fertile ground, but the seed itself is from elsewhere.

Genocide has a dynamic relationship with racism or other forms of group hatred. A significant part of that is the systematic inculcation of hatred in a perpetrator population. This is a very old part of warfare and genocide, generally signalled by leaders who promulgate atrocity propaganda. This propaganda might be a story about soldiers killing babies, or it could be about how the enemy leader’s great-great-grandfather murdered an honoured ancestor. The idea is that the intended perpetrators will view any of the intended victims as somehow linked to the crime in some essential way. The violence of warfare and/or genocide naturally fuels the sense that membership in a group makes one guilty of the crimes of any of that group. In the former Yugoslavia it has been found that ethnic animosities were generated by acts of genocide, not the other way around. This is true whether the animosity is towards perpetrators or victims. If you are part of a group that is perpetrating genocide you will have a driving need to hate the victims. This is because we are socialised in such a way that to see some from our group as the “bad guys” in relation to the Other is like an act of painful self-mutilation that hurts, maims, and causes social death.

The point is that genocide is not an expression of racial hatred as such and it does not conform to the logic of racial thinking. If you believe that some undesirable trait or stain is carried in the “blood” in accordance with racial theories, it makes no sense to transfer children from the victim population. Hitler appeared to be conscious of this at least in the case of Jews. In a letter to Martin Bormann he wrote: “We use the term Jewish race merely for reasons of linguistic convenience, for in the real sense of the word, and from a genetic point of view there is no Jewish race. Present circumstances force upon us this characterization of the group of common race and intellect, to which all the Jews of the world profess their loyalty, regardless of the nationality identified in the passport of each individual. This group of persons we designate as the Jewish race. … The Jewish race is above all a community of the spirit. … Spiritual race is of a more solid and more durable kind than natural race. Wherever he goes, the Jew remains a Jew.” This is the other face of the coin revealed by Palmater in the quote above: “The objective was to get rid of Jews in whatever way possible”, not because of some special singular property of Jews but because of the entire multiplicity of everything that created the group identity of Jews.

With Native Americans in Canada and with Jews in Germany the object was to efface a group as such in order to allow the expansion of the hegemonic national identity. For Hitler this was philosophically linked with group will, but the same conclusions can be reached by your average prosaic greedy white supremacist who wants to get their hands on mineral resources, votes, or an expanded tax base. But Hitler’s genocidal activities and intents did not stop at the borders of Germany or Greater Germany. He wasn’t just attacking an internal minority he was also attacking ethnic and national groups outside of Germany’s borders for the purposes of imperial expansion and he was doing so using the same process – the process of genocide.

We have so overemphasised the concept of genocide as being an attack on an internal minority that even genocide scholars write about Jewish victims of German genocide as if they were a German minority. For Lemkin’s memory this is doubly abusive because he was a Polish Jew, as were half of the Jews killed by Germany. Lemkin’s prime exemplar of genocide, when he coined the term, was Poland. He mentioned many victim groups, including Jews, but the most commonly cited group he used to demonstrate “techniques of genocide” were the Poles, as such. He understood that Jews were slated for annihilation, but genocide had to be shown as a much broader phenomenon.

In genocide what is attacked is the sum of all of those things that make the victim group a group. We don’t have a term for this thing. At the risk of creating confusion I am just going to label the entire collection of inherent connections that provide a group identity its “demotic” and I think the unique essence that is created can be referred to as the “demotic idiom”. I do this to ground the terms by reference to the complex, but concrete, phenomenon of language. I also wish to make reference to demos because genocide is a strategic response to demographic circumstances. Genocide can be thought of as a demostrategic phenomenon.

So the demotic of the group is what is attacked in genocide. It is aimed at the victim group – the genos – as such. Thus the demotic is all of those things that make the group the group as such, and those things contribute strength and richness to the demotic idiom, which is, of course, unique. This would be individual and collective property, folklore, places of worship, sports stars, social welfare programmes, poets, statuary, language and public transport infrastructure – to name just a few random things. For convenience I am going to ignore weaknesses and say that anything that contributes in any way to the group identity as such is part of the demotic and is therefore potentially a target of genocide. You can attack an entire group by killing a single poet, for example.

Lemkin didn’t really quite understand the implications of the breadth of genocide. Instead of what I refer to as the demotic, he referred to a “biological aspect” to what had previously been called “denationalisation”. He specifically referenced the fact that Hitler viewed biology in essentialist terms: “Hitler’s conception of genocide is based not upon cultural but biological patterns. He believes that ‘Germanization can only be carried out with the soil and never with men.’” Therefore there is a contradiction here between the public Hitler of Mein Kampf and the private Hitler, confessing to Bormann that he doesn’t actually believe the literal truth of those words.

In fact, there is no “biological aspect”. Genocide is in that sense a misnomer. What Lemkin had mistaken for biological was actually the familial aspect of the demotic. Racial ideology and differences in phenotype notwithstanding, a genos is actually a social construct. It is a socially constructed demographic entity and it is reproduced primarily through child-rearing. The family is where language, customs, and the simple fact of self-identification are passed to the individual by their parents and other relatives. Moreover, even beyond the fundamental inscribing of group character on the individual, without which the group would not even exist, the familial interconnection carries through in later life. Connections with family form the closest social bond. Almost always individuals share group membership in the genos with those relatives with which they share the most significant social bonds. Inevitably, then, the familial interconnections correspond with biological structure and genetics and are the most significant sustenance of the demotic idiom.

Genocide scholars emphasise the fact that it is the way that perpetrators define the group that is important, not the way victims self-identify. Here is where we run into what seems to be a problem, because perpetrators tend to define victims in biological racial terms. However, it may be that someone’s life is spared on the basis that they do not display the “racial” characteristics by which the perpetrator claims to identify the victim group, but then again it might not. Ultimately the racial hygiene pretensions of some genocide perpetrators must be treated as hollow because the biological pretensions of racial discourse are hollow and unstable. No genos can actually be defined by “race”. The nature of human diversity is such that even the originating defining character of a genos is unstable. In fact, the hard defining lines that may form around a genos tend to be in reaction to racism, persecution and genocide. It is these things that prevent pluralistic integration.

I feel that I am drifting away from the central points about genocide, even though the problematics of identity are very important. Getting back to the demostrategic logic of genocide, there are several prominent motives for committing genocide, but in reality they are not as distinct as we might think. A settler-colony that wishes to cleanse the land of the indigenous is ultimately trying to achieve the same thing as an imperial power that wishes to crush and insurgent people which is much the same as a nationalist state that wants to erase a discordant minority and exert greater control through uniformity. The point is that all of these are undertaken by visiting destruction on the demotic idiom in the form of violence against the people and the destruction and degradation of those aspects of existence which collectively provide substance to the group.

Continued in Part 4: “You Are Next”.

US Rule in Occupied Earth (or Everything You Need to Know About Genocide, but Never Knew to Ask), Part 1: State of Exception




or direct link to mp3:

[Below is a transcript which is about 95% complete and which contains links to some material that is cited in the commentary]

It would be a vast understatement to say that the word “genocide” is not well understood. In politics, in academia and in normal everyday communication the word is almost exclusively misused and abused.

You might believe that the normal everyday usage (or, sometimes the usage of those with the authority of knowledge) is definitive. What a word means is what meaning is given to it. In most cases I would agree. The usage by ordinary people of a word is where the word usually derives its meaning. Not, however, when that usage contradicts itself. Not when that usage can only misrepresent the actualities that it purports to describe. And not when it is completely divorced from its original meaning.

For example, a recent Buzzfeed article refers several times to the British “attempting” genocide against Aborigines. That makes no sense. Genocide isn’t a single act, like burglary. Genocide either happens, or it doesn’t. We don’t refer to the genocide of Jews in World War II as “attempted genocide”. We don’t even refer to an “attempted genocide” in Rwanda. People have a vague notion that genocide must somehow mean complete extermination, except that they are not consistent in that. Genocide is used in different ways according to political criteria,. This isn’t merely slippage, but it actually requires that people do not have an actual definition of the word. It is a word that has had its meaning suppressed because the concept that the word represents is a dangerous concept. It is a concept which cannot be held on an ideological leash. It will drag the holder into the brambles of radical unorthodoxy rather than let itself be led to the park to chase a frisbee.

Any limit to our vocabulary is a limit to our thinking. Our society, like all others, constrains our vocabularies so that some thoughts are unthinkable. We may live in a pluralistic multinational global culture that is in many ways organic and diverse, but the repression of thought to which I refer is systematic and purposive and it is in the service of power. All languages have words or phrases that others lack, but I am not suggesting that merely lacking the word for a concept is systematic repression. Instead, words like “genocide” or “terrorism” are stripped of stable rational meaning whilst being vested heavily with emotive affect. This is the process that creates an orthodox idiom – which is to say a systematically and coherently circumscribed mode of language and thought.

This meanings are, as I have said, suppressed rather than erased. It would be wrong to view these words simply as “empty signifiers” as if the arbitrary nature of language meant that one could exert one’s will over language with full control. That is a type of vulgar postmodernism – a megalomaniac fantasy such as Karl Rove was indulging when he said: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out.”

Outside of Rove’s self-aggrandising fantasies, you cannot simply assign meanings to words at will. They must fit within a network of intelligibility that is grounded in a history of usage. Instead of simply redefining words what orthodox usage does is to load a word with emotion and political ideology whilst suppressing its basic and fundamental defining characteristics (which may be more or less broad, more or less faceted, and more or less mutable over time). This leads to an unstable and contradictory usage. That isn’t a problem to the orthodox ideologue but rather a great boon. It allows the word to be used differently according to need. Furthermore, because of the emotionality attached people will fight against any attempts to reinstate a stable and comparatively objective usage.

Genocide is exactly such a word. It first appeared in a work called Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, published in 1944. It’s original meaning cannot be erased because it is part of a network of inter-contextualised signifiers which exist in history. At the same time, though, that meaning is thoroughly obscured. People argue that something is genocide because it is really bad, while other people argue that you can’t call something genocide because it is not bad enough and to label it genocide would be an insult to victims of real genocide.

The meaning of “genocide” has not changed over time because the meaning was suppressed from the beginning. It was always a dangerous notion. People wrongly think that it was purely a response to the German atrocities that Winston Churchill referred to as “a crime without a name”. But Raphael Lemkin, who invented the term genocide, had long been thinking on this topic and what he described was a far broader and more historically significant phenomenon which didn’t merely describe acts of mass murder, but made sense of them. Unfortunately for Lemkin’s future career, once the logic of genocide is grasped it will reveal truths that are unpalatable and unacceptable. In the 1950s Lemkin devoted much of his attention to the genocides of indigenous people in the Americas, particularly North America. Lemkin established a clear intrinsic link between settler-colonialism and genocide and had he lived longer he would inevitably had to have recognised that the link between genocide and all forms of imperialism was nearly as inescapable.

Genocide is not, and never has been, something that you switch on and off. It is not a discrete act. It is not distinct from war and militarism, nor authoritarianism and political oppression. The institutions of genocide that a state creates will not end until they are eradicated. The German genocide in East Africa at the beginning of the 20th century created institutions which would later be instruments of genocide, but were also tools of repression used on political dissidents. Likewise, the institutions of genocide that are deployed in the Middle East and Africa are continuations of genocidal practices from Asia and Latin America, and are already imprinted in the nature of policing in the USA and in the authoritarian rhetoric and policies of David Cameron and the Conservative government in the UK.

Many contemporary thinkers from Sheldon Wolin and Giorgio Agamben to Jeff Halper and Chris Hedges are trying to grapple with the increasingly arbitrary nature of the state, its increasing hostility to humanity, and the increasing precarity of the people. (When I refer to the state here, I am referring to the nexus of governmental and “private” power which exercises effective sovereignty, not to the narrow concept of a governmental state power with formally recognised sovereignty). If we are to understand this situation in a way that will help to end its deadly progress, the greatest single step that we could take at this time is to reacquire the term “genocide”. Lemkin used it to describe the phenomenon that was the driving force behind German occupation policies in Europe. This inevitably also applied to Germany itself, though that was not Lemkin’s focus. For Lemkin the concentration camp was the defining institution of genocide. But Lemkin meant the term broadly. He considered Indian Reservations to be a form of concentration camp and would have most likely conceded that its is the power structure created by the barbed wire enclosures that is more important than the wire itself. For Giorgio Agamben the prevailing logic of the concentration camp is that of the “inclusive exclusion” and he has contended that that is the “biopolitical” paradigm of our age. The term “biopolitical” in its broader sense, refers to the way in which power exerts control over bodies, and I will argue that on a large scale the “biopolitical” becomes the “demostrategic”. At the large-scale demostrategic level, this paradigm of power may express itself in the very phenomenon of genocide that Lemkin first described.

In this series of articles I am going to draw threads together that show the need make appropriate usage of the term genocide as a way of revealing a pattern of destruction and mass violence that is interconnected. It is the millions of deaths in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; it is the permanent dysfunction and instability of Somalia and Libya; it is Plan Colombia; it is Iraq and Afghanistan; it is mass surveillance and it is the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement; it is Haiti and its is the political and drug related violence in Mexico; it is the “huge concentration camp” of Gaza and it is al-Sisi’s Egypt. This is the nature of US Rule on the Occupied Earth. It is all of a piece. It is all shaped by genocide. It is all becoming more genocidal.

Sadly, even the best intellectuals seem only to vaguely grasp that the term “genocide” has actual an definitional meaning. In contrast those who are more inclined to be opinionated or generally less inclined to to use cogent thinking are only too happy to forcefully tell people that their usage is not only wrong but offensive and dangerous. It is like the poem by Yeats, which, as it happens, foreshadowed the rise of Nazism,

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.”

Israel Shamir, for example, has let his anger at the misuse of the term genocide obliterate his mental faculties. He recently wrote that Lemkin coined the word genocide “in order to stress the difference between murdering Jews and killing lesser breeds. The word is quite meaningless otherwise.” He must know at some level that this is untrue, but he writes with thoughtless rage. The effect is to tell his readers not to even think about genocide – “It would be good to ban this word altogether.” That is not going to prevent the misuse of the word. In fact it plays into the hands of those who misuse the term in order the perpetrate aggression and genocide. The way to end the misuse is to treat the word genocide the way you would treat any other. When genocide is asserted we should expect that the usage is justified based on definitional criteria. As it is, telling a readership that already opposes imperialism and Zionism that the word “genocide” has no meaning only makes it easier to exploit the term for propaganda purposes.

“Genocide” is a word that itself exists in a state of exception. People will scream at you for suggesting that it can be weighed or compared in any way with anything else. Even some genocide scholars call it a “sui generis” phenomenon, meaning that they want to say that it cannot be defined, but they reserve the right to label some things as being genocide on the basis that they themselves know what it is when they see it. Moreover, there is a broad intellectual trend to treat genocide as a sacred word which only special experts may employ, because any improper usage would be hyperbole and damaging to one’s credibility.

Sadly this was the case on the radio programme Against the Grain, which is from broadcast Berkeley by KPFA (a storied non-profit radio station which also broadcasts the superb programme Flashpoints).

Against the Grain is aptly named. In a world of growing anti-intellectualism, interviewers and producers C. S. Soong and Sasha Lilley do their work with a depth that is hard to find elsewhere in political analysis. They interview intellectuals with the sole aim of facilitating the transmission of ideas and information. No words are wasted on flattery or extraneous personal detail. Above all, when Soong or Lilley conduct an interview they are very conversant with the material they are discussing. Most impressive to me, though, is that they never assume that the interviewee can’t explain something to the audience. They don’t try to avoid things on the grounds that they might bore or confuse us mere plebs, instead they chop them up with timely interjections so that they are digestible and so that the flow is maintained. In other words, they make it as easy for the audience as possible, but they don’t pander in any way.

Pandering is, of course, the one of the great intellectual plagues of our age. Ideas that came from the realms of marketing and mass entertainment have spread to infect all corners of society. The ideology of using a restricted vocabulary of words and ideas in order to never tax people’s brains by asking them to learn something new is an obvious recipe for disaster. You cannot learn if you are never presented with anything you do not already know. Pandering makes people stupider on the whole, but it also makes substantive change impossible. Pandering is not just about avoiding inflicting the pain of thought on people, it is also about not disturbing ideology. In political activism pandering is rife, and it is always represented as being “tactical” and “realistic”. That is why I appreciate a programme, like Against the Grain, that pulls no punches and tells it like it is.

However, if there is one thing on which people are guaranteed to pander in both intellectual and ideological terms it is the topic of genocide. People mystify it and misuse it. They sneer at the people who dare to suggest that the US or Israel or the UK is committing genocide, because they “know” that anyone making such an accusation is just engaging in political sloganeering. This is supposedly “debasing the coinage” in the words of the late Michael Mandel, showing that even the most admirable people can be very stupid when it comes to this topic.

Equally admirable people show that there is another face to this debased coin, using the term “genocide” to try to raise the alarm on the world’s horrors. A recent example of this was an interview with Professor David Isaacs on the plight of asylum seekers held on Nauru. What he reveals is an alarming and inhumanly cruel situation. It is a situation that cries out for action. But then he says that he is told “don’t use the g-word, the genocide word, … or people will think you are too extreme”. He is thinking exactly the same way that Mandel thinks, but from the other direction. In their construction “genocide” is a type of currency that is to expended when our subjective sense of alarm tells us that something is really really really bad.

For this reason, I was disappointed but not exactly surprised when the subject of the “g-word” was broached on Against the Grain and then treated as some special mystical term whose applicability could only be determined by the most authoritative authorities. This was towards the end of an otherwise excellent interview about the plight of Sri Lanka’s Tamils now, 6 years after the end of the 26 year-long civil war.

What was described by interviewee Anuradha Mittal is a textbook example of genocide. In genocide the killing of the victim population as such is not the end it is the means. When he first coined the term “genocide” Raphaël Lemkin wrote the following:

“Genocide has two phases: one, destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group; the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor. This imposition, in turn, may be made upon the oppressed population which is allowed to remain or upon the territory alone, after removal of the population and the colonization by the oppressor’s own nationals.”

In other words, the Sinhalisation of both the Tamil peoples and the land to which they belong is a defining genocidal characteristic. The direct violence of genocide arises because resistance is inevitable. The deprivation of social, cultural, religious, economic, and linguistic capital is itself a form of violence which victims cannot help but resist.

Mittal’s interview reveals that it was persecution and communal violence that initially drove some Tamils into an armed separatist movement. Now in the aftermath of the long bloody civil war she gives details of conditions based on a recently released report that she authored. Once you understand the concept of genocide, what she is describing in every aspect is symptomatic of genocide. Everything she talks about is characteristically genocidal, from the way the hegemonic victor tries to enforce a certain historical narrative through memorials, to the way the land is imprinted with a state, military, religious or linguistic character to alienate it from Tamils. In fact, the most salient and striking genocidal features are not the mass violence, but the unusual things such as having military run tourist resorts in occupied territory. That sort of behaviour only makes sense in the context of genocide.

At one point Mittal quotes Dr Rajani Thiranagama: “Objectivity, the pursuit of truth and critical, honest positions, is crucial for the community, but is a view that could cost many of us our lives. It is undertaken to revitalize a community sinking into a state of oblivion.” In that spirit, it is absolutely essential that genocide be understood for what it is. Without full and frank comprehension it will never end, even if the intensity of direct violence waxes and wanes.

Consider the persecution of Jews under the Reconquista, when Spain and Portugal were conquered by Christians 500 years ago. The persecution arose from a confluence of interests of state-building political elites, religious authorities seeking to increase power, and individuals looking to acquire land and other property sowed seeds of violence that would continue through the ages. The state sought to integrate Jews as “Conversos”, but the state also sought to repudiate that conversion in order to enforce uniformity, exercise religious authority and sieze property. In other words, the Converso’s became the “included exclusion” – the very circumstance to which concentration camp inmates are subjected. From that came the concept of “Crypto-Jews”, leading to the ideological linking of Judaism with occult conspiracy. Additionally the concept of ineradicable and heritable “blood guilt” was used. This not only fuelled future pogroms, but arguably formed a key ideological foundation of all modern racism. In the same manner, until the genocide of the Sri Lankan state is comprehended, exposed and repudiated by consensus, the ideological tools for future genocidal violence will remain intact. Tamil resistance, whether violent or not, will be delegitimised as “terrorism” and this will in turn be used to legitimate violent and deadly repression.

That is why my heart sank so low when the conversation on Against the Grain turned to genocide. There was a general tone shared by Soong and Mittal that was suggestive of the “ultimate crime” which the exchange portrayed as being beyond mere “war crimes”. Then Mittal said that the question of whether genocide had occurred should not be prejudged but should be decided by the “international community”. This makes me want to ask, what does that mean? Is it somehow above your pay grade to weigh the evidence? Is genocide something so controversial that only the high and mighty can pontificate on it? This is anti-intellectualism. Mittal is tacitly stating that we should not think about such things and that the thinking should be left to authorities. And what authorities are these? The term “international community” effectively means the US State Dept. or what Noam Chomsky has labelled as “IntCom”. This is true regardless of the intent of the speaker because if you promote the “international community” then those who control the usage of that term in political discourse get to decide what it entails and your original intent is meaningless.

Things took a turn for the worse when Mittal brought the ICC into the conversation. I don’t know what mania is gripping people at the moment, but every advocate for victims of persecution seems to think that the solution will be found by putting people in the dock at the Hague. I think that this is some sort of woefully misplaced yearning for a corrective patriarchal authority figure, and it poisons our discourse on genocide and on war crimes. People think that wrongs must be righted by the exercise of power in order to grant some psychologically satisfying sense of balance. This is quite divorced from practical realities including that of actually ending today’s atrocities, rather than fixating on a tiny percentage of those that occurred a generation ago. Does anyone actually look at the record of the ICC? There are some informed apologists for the ICC out there, but even they don’t defend it actions thus far as much as they claim that it will do better things in the future. Critics like David Hoile cannot be countered except with speculation about how wonderful the ICC will be at some future point. Hoile is an old Tory who may or may not be in the pay of Sudanese war criminals, but when he (a right-wing white man who was once photographed with a “Hang Nelson Mandela” sticker on his tie) debated the ICC in the pages of New Internationalist, he was far more convincing in suggesting that the ICC was institutionally racist than Angela Mudukuti, who argued that “attempting to undermine its legitimacy with allegations of racism will take the global international criminal justice project no further.” It is well worth looking up that debate for the sheer surrealism of the fact that the young bleeding-heart African woman effectively tells the old hairy white male Tory that he needs to be more trusting of the authorities or he will harm their efforts to run the world in an orderly manner. Whatever one thinks of Hoile, though, he has published a 600 page volume on the ICC which is full of substantive criticisms that stand regardless of his history or motives.

The fact is that if you don’t accept in advance that the ICC is both benevolent and a repository of expertise and authority, it is pretty difficult to see anything good in its patchy record of expensive and unacceptably lengthy proceedings all of which are against Africans. As an instrument of justice it is inefficient, dysfunctional and pathetic beyond belief; as an instrument of neocolonial domination it is very expensive, but probably considered worth the price by the European powers which bankroll its activities; as a propaganda instrument capable of making slaves scream out for more chains and whips, it is clearly priceless beyond measure.

The fact is that many national courts and international bodies can chose to exercise so-called “universal jurisdiction” over cases of genocide anywhere in the world. The ICC is a very silly place into which to channel one’s energies, but are prosecutions in general any better? There are two problems here. … Labelling genocide as a crime has become a very harmful distraction. It is this, more than anything, that has turned the term into one that is so misused for political ends. Genocide is represented as “an act” and the “crime of crimes” that exists in the world of black-and-white morality where its ultimate evil justifies acts of great violence, and makes people feel the glow of self-righteous anger.

People like to call for prosecutions because it is an instant source of gratification. The judicial system becomes a proxy instrument of violence either as combat or retribution. This is appealing to those who are in one way or another impotent. Prosecutors are symbolically taking the role of their antecedents, champions of weak who fought in trials by combat. Sometimes the most fervent advocates of this form of state violence are “pacifists”. The problem seems particularly acute in the US where the punitive impulse runs very deeply. It seems that US citizens are induced to feel acutely threatened and constrained by the domestic or foreign Other and are thus prone to support police, judicial or military state violence.

You might think that it is good that state violence be used against those found guilty of genocide and, to the extent necessary, those merely accused of the crime. That is fine if you call it what it is – retribution. If you consider that to be justice, then your concept of justice is retributive. I know that some would also argue that victims gain a sense satisfaction and closure, but since the vast majority of the victims of mass violence will never have access to this “satisfaction” it is a rather hollow and bitter virtue.

People talk about prosecutions as if they will have practical beneficial ramifications in ending violence. This flies in the face of the historical record. No one is ever prosecuted before they are in one manner or other defeated. In some cases they might be the sacrificial offering by a criminal grouping that consolidates itself by allowing one member to be culled, but more often it is simply a matter of victor’s justice. The accused is defeated by hard power means before they are ever detained. They might be very guilty of heinous crimes, but guilt is in fact incidental to a thoroughly political process.

Meanwhile, the ICC enthusiasts claim to be all about ending impunity. If you actually just step back for a second you will see that the application of international criminal justice in the ICC, ICTY, ICTR and in national courts does absolutely nothing to end impunity. Instead of viewing Charles Taylor and Slobadan Milosevic as villains who deserved punishment, imagine what message their prosecutions sent to the world. It is the same message sent by the deaths of Saddam Hussein and Muammer Ghaddafi, and that message is that the only hope for someone who is targeted by the US is to fight to the death. Making peace and going into exile is not an option. International criminal justice is only victor’s justice against the vanquished and a neocolonial weapon in fighting Third World nationalists.

The only other way that someone responsible for mass violence might be prosecuted is when the real war is won on their home turf. That real war is the intellectual and moral struggle – the fight to expose the means and ends of those who commit mass atrocities and, above all, the fight to vanquish apologetics. Jay Janson, who writes in Dissident Voice and Counter Currents, castigates people like me for not constantly calling for prosecutions of US officials and for not condemning every single citizen of each and every Western state to be a war criminal. He is right though, to point out that we must never stop referring to the crimes of the US “hyper-empire” as crimes. But history shows that the crimes do not end until the regime itself is recognised as criminal. It is not enough to recognise individual acts as crimes or actors as criminals. A majority of US citizens once recognised US interventions in Indochina as war crimes, but it changed nothing because it was constructed as a failing and a failure, not as a success.

Fatuous pundits and lying politicians like to claim that the US relies on “international legitimacy” and that this makes military interventions failures, but if you examine the history of US war crimes and crimes against humanity you can see that they follow the Maoist principle that all power comes from the barrel of a gun. They coerce other countries, including close allies, into treating them as legitimate. The real problems for the US regime that arose from the aggressions against Indochina were a dispersed and pluralistic domestic insurrection, that might have consolidated into a revolution, and a mutinous military. Once they had those problems solved they went back to serial aggression and serial genocide and many millions have died as a result. Therefore, it is necessary to create a consensus that the political establishment is criminal as a whole. Once that fight is won you can choose to try and move forward with prosecutions, as in Argentina, or with a truth and reconciliation process, as in South Africa.

Prosecutions are not a road to change. You can’t expect the corrupt institutions of a corrupt society to take any action that does not make the problem worse. The best that a campaign calling for prosecutions can be is an awareness raising campaign. If you really think that if you mobilise people and push hard enough some top-down bureaucratic judicial body will make a positive difference, then you need to find out what time it really is. We don’t need to lock Bush and Blair in prison, we need to de-legitimise them, disempower them, disempower those who support them, and end the criminal regimes of which they are merely transient components. It is true that if George W. Bush were in prison he wouldn’t be able to charge $100,000 to give a speech for a charity raising money for amputee veterans. But as grotesque and freakish as that is, the Bushes, the Clintons and Tony Blair only get so much money because a whole stratum of society worships power. In a situation that is equally reminiscent of pre-revolutionary France and Nazi Germany, our elites simply do not have any functioning morals. Without coercion they will never even acknowledge a moral component to the exercise of power, but will fawn all the more over those that commit war crimes because that is an exercise of great power.

Continued in Part 2: “Days of Revolt”.

The Korean Genocide Part 4: War or Genocide?


The Korean Genocide Part 4: War or Genocide?

(In Part 3 I presented matters relating to the opening of “major hostilities” in late June of 1950. I eschewed conclusions because of the unanswered questions around events. However I believe that it would be possible to present the case that the US was the instigator of these events due to the circumstance which surround the events (even if those events are themselves are difficult to discern). There is no smoking gun, as such, but there is a very strong case. The US desired this “war”, they had foreknowledge of the timing of its outbreak, and the window of time in which the US could benefit (by forestalling the impending conquest of Taiwan and the looming collapse of the Rhee regime) was very, very, narrow by this point. The US was actively deceptive in claiming to be unprepared to intervene, yet the rapidity of the deployment of the US Navy to the Taiwan Straits, and the instantaneous commitment of troops to Korea showed that planning and decision-making had taken place already. There is also a clear flurry of secretive activity by US officials and personnel leading up to the outbreak of hostilities as well as inter-client activity between the Guomindang and the Rhee régime. Lastly, though the unpreparedness of the ROK Army can be explained as a deliberate softening in order to draw forces into the equivalent of the “centre”, nothing on Earth can explain the depth of DPRK unpreparedness. And, as Sherlock Holmes tells us, when faced with choosing between the unlikely and the impossible, the unlikely must be true. ),%20anti%20American%202.jpg

The period which begins on 25 June 1950 and ends 27 July 1953 is conventionally termed “The Korean War”. A war of three years, as with wars in general, is almost inevitably going to be described in narrative terms and there are good reasons for this. Peoples’ lives were utterly dominated by major discreet events with distinct chronological placements – significant military actions; a front which swept south then north then south in the initial stage and then a completely different stage with virtually no such movement; notable political events; notable massacres; notable bombing raids. The Korean people were living through the “interesting times” referred to in the apocryphal Chinese curse – times when the narrative of “major” historical events is actually the most important factor in shaping the lives of the masses.

A narrative has a beginning, a middle and an end. The beginning describes a status quo. The middle is a series of transformative events which follow an initiation event which disturbs the status quo. The end is the establishment of a new status quo. This is all convention, of course, and it is understood that the beginning and end points are static only in terms relative to the defined boundaries of the middle – boundaries of both chronology and of type when including or excluding transformative events. What then should one expect from a narrative of war? More to the point, what would one expect the end to look like? Innumerable examples of war narratives end (by any reckoning) in a manner which accords with Clausewitz’s description of the nature of war. From the Punic Wars to the World Wars, they end with one side imposing its political will on the other, at least to some extent. Before World War II, stalemates were broken when one side gained the advantage. Only very small wars would actually end with a stalemate in place. The Korean War simply does not fit that aspect of the war narrative. The very simple trick of looking at the end of the narrative, one can already discern that the events of 25/06/1950 to 27/07/1953 are more likely to conform to a narrative wherein the “middle” is characterised by genocide rather than war.

In politico-military-strategic terms the end results of the Korean War are insignificant in terms of the scale of military action. There was no regime change. There wasn’t even a change in the balance of power on the peninsula except a growth of deterrence. If anything the war acted to stop change at this level, to halt transformative events and reimpose a more stable form of the status quo ante as if to defy the rules of narrative. However, on another level the transformation was profound and shocking. Around 10 percent of Koreans, or slightly more, were dead. In the DPRK about 2 million civilians and 500,000 military had died according to Halliday and Cumings.i That is more than one of every four human beings exterminated in a three year span. Others give lower figures, but still produce shocking mortality rates such as 1 in 5, though there is the ever-present confusion of specifying only “casualties” without distinguishing killed and wounded. One estimate is that one ninth of North Korean civilians (1,000,000 people) were killed in air raids alone.ii Additionally, according to Stueck,[i]n property, North Korea put its losses at $1.7 billion, South Korea at $2 billion, the equivalent of its gross national product for 1949. North Korea lost some 8,700 industrial plants, South Korea twice that number. Each area saw 600,000 homes destroyed.”iii The urban destruction in the DPRK was unparalleled before or since,at least 50 percent of eighteen out of the Norths twenty-two major cities were obliterated. A partial table looks this:

Pyongyang, 75%

Chongjin, 65%

Hamhung, 80%

Hungnam, 85%

Sariwon, 95%

Sinanju, 100%

Wonsan, 80%.”iv


Within months the US had run out of military targets and in less than a year they were running out of significant civilian targets and began bombing the countryside.v

The US also bombed south of the 38th parallel, when the KPA occupied areas or when there was guerilla activity. Hundreds of thousands were also massacred, almost exclusively by US and right-wing formations. Millett observes that[i]t is no accident that Koreans often compare themselves to Jews, Poles, and Irish.”vi In the ROK there is even a word, han, which specifically denotes the repressed and accumulated grief and rage that was produced in those who loved ones were killed by the regime but who avoided even mentioning the departed, let alone grieving their loss, for fear of being killed themselves.vii If this level of trauma is present in the ROK, one can only imagine the level of psychic devastation in the DPRK.

From the point of view of narrative, then, it would seem from the end point of the narrative arc that the middle, the crucial transformational events which are the stuff of traditional history, would be more likely to take the form of genocide than that of war. It’s not quite that simple though. It cannot be denied that there was a war going on. Baudrillard could not claim that “the Korean War did not happen”, although one might observe in events embryonic forms of the sort of “simulation” that led him to claim “the Gulf War did not happen”. What one can say is that in the narrative of war US actions often seem to be difficult to explicate, especially if its role in peace negotiations is incorporated. Claims of US naivety, idealism, stupidity and arrogance are all deployed to explain US actions, along with analyses of domestic political matters and inter-élite conflict. This sort of approach is no different from that used with respect to Indochina, Iraq, Afghanistan, and many sites of lesser US involvement which would include most of the very long list of US interventions. In contrast a narrative of genocide requires no such explications. Indeed, it is almost eerie that events unfold as if smoothly following a predetermined plan of genocide, notwithstanding that prosecuting genocide does not require the precision of prosecuting war and is thus not subject to uncertainty and reversal in the same manner.

Before narrating the events of the front line, it is worth describing the genocidal character of US actions in rear areas, which is ultimately a more fundamental defining characteristic of what occurred than the battles at the front. As Cho writes:

Targeting a civilian population would be a strategy that the U.S. militaryperfectedduring the Korean War, leaving three million people, or 10 percent of the population, dead. The horrors that began to unravel on the Korean peninsula on June 25, 1950, were already reminiscent of a future of U.S. military domination in Asia, flashing forward to images of napalmed children running through the streets….viii

It is worth contextualising US and ROK atrocities by making a comparison with Communist atrocities. Firstly, it is worth noting that the Chinese are not linked to massacres. Their treatment of POWs was far from what one would hope, and yet far better than that meted out by other belligerents. During 1951 the Chinese even took over custody of nearly all Western prisoners due to concerns over their treatment at Korean hands and were mostly at pains to treat them reasonably (in fairly grim circumstances) and protect them from the vengeance of Korean citizens.ix The Chinese example alone should be enough to belie completely any apologistic discourse which seeks to suggest that the sort of atrocities committed by the US were some innate by-product of the type of war fought.

North Korean atrocities differed form those of the US and ROK in three ways. Firstly there is the matter of scale. Cumings estimates that KPA atrocities were about one sixth compared to around 100,000 dying at the hands of ROK security forces and right-wing paramilitaries.x It may be that Cumings is being conservative with both numbers here, but if we assume from this a figure of 17,000 victims of Communist atrocities then it becomes more like one tenth or twentieth if one accounts in addition for US massacres and ROK massacres in captured or recaptured territories. If one factors in the civilians who died under US aerial bombardment the figure becomes less than 2%.xi

Secondly, there is the matter of authorisation. As Dong Choon Kim writes:North Korea’s Kim Il Sung strongly emphasized the prohibition against civilian killings, which seemed quite natural because the [KPA], as a revolutionary army, had to win the hearts and minds of the South Korean people.”xii Kim Il Sung also condemned revenge killingsxiii which were rife at the village level with reciprocal atrocities occurring as territory changed hands.xiv Furthermore, though the killing of POWs on or soon after capture was common, KPA officers at all levels strove constantly to end these murders.xv The authorised atrocities were restricted to the murder of political prisoners after a show of formal legal proceedings. On an individual level this is no less an atrocity than the same act carried out without the pretence of a trial, perhaps more so especially if confessions are produced through torture. It does, however, greatly restrict the scale of murder to a more individual rather than mass event. It also restricts the nature of the victims. Children, for example, would not be subject to this violence, nor generally would the apolitical, nor those without some significant form of political power.

This brings us to the third factor, the matter of discrimination. Communist atrocities particularly targetted specific individuals.xvi This was true of both authorised and unauthorised atrocities. Even surrendering soldiers and POWs are specifically “enemy combatants” who, by their nature, are or have been involved in conflict. The agency of, say, an infantryman may be virtually non-existent (outside of the fantasies promoted by recruiters), but that makes them pawns, not bystanders. There is no inherent moral difference between murdering a soldier and murdering a civilian, but there is a distinct difference. It is almost inevitable that military personnel are viewed as enemies, but enmity towards civilians, if defined innational, ethnical, racial or religious”xvii terms, is at the very least a prerequisite for genocide. Arguably it might be said that any mass killings and/or major destruction under this condition is definable as genocide in line with Lemkin’s definition of genocide as being “against populations”.xviii

Leaving aside the POW issue, given the conditions under which the Communists committed atrocities, it seems reasonable to accept Cumings’ implicit figure of roughly 17,000 civilians killed. This means that the US and ROK forces under US command killed more than 50 times as many civilians as the Communists.xix That is a substantive difference, not only in moral terms. Behind this massive disparity is a mountain of corpses. Explanations are given which rely on the atomisation of various forms of massacre, an artificial separation of methods and circumstances of mass slaughterpanic at the advance of the KPA; fanatical anticommunism; racism; superior firepower; and the USairpower fetish”. The disparity, however, gives lie to this because at every turn the Communists opposed the mass killing of civilians while, as will be shown; each instance of US/ROK mass murder was the result of policy. The disparate levels of atrocity mean exactly what they should suggest at first glanceone side was fighting a war, the other was committing a genocide.

To begin with the UN side of the frontline, the most well known massacre carried out by US personnel was that of No Gun Ri. This occurred from 26 July to 29 July 1950, that is to say over the space of about 3 days. The massacre began when refugees fleeing across a bridge were strafed and mortared. This much is not disputed.xx Controversy arose over the circumstances soon after the massacre rose to prominence in 1999. A narrative was promulgated throughout most of the US media thatthe incident took place because the military was ill-trained and ill-equipped during the early stages of the war”xxi with the result thatthe No Gun Ri story became sanitized as just another anecdotal war story that asks to be forgotten.”xxii In fact it is well documented that the US had on numerous occasions been directly ordered to open fire on refugees.xxiii According to the BBC: “Declassified military documents recently found in the US National Archives show clearly how US commanders repeatedly, and without ambiguity, ordered forces under their control to target and kill Korean refugees caught on the battlefield.”xxiv On 26 July, the day the massacre began, a letter from the US Ambassador to the ROK detailed to the State Department the US Army’s plan to open fire on refugees if they did not heed warning shots.xxv However, warning shots do not seem to have played a role in these events. According to the ROK Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRCK) in 2007:

On July 25th, 1950, Korean villagers were forced by U.S. soldiers to evacuate their homes and move south. The next day, July 26, the villagers continued south along the road. When the villagers reached the vicinity of No Gun Ri, the soldiers stopped them at a roadblock and ordered the group onto the railroad tracks, where the soldiers searched them and their personal belongings. Although the soldiers found no prohibited items (such as weapons or other military contraband), the soldiers ordered an air attack upon the villagers via radio communications with U.S. aircraft. Shortly afterwards, planes flew over and dropped bombs and fired machine guns, killing approximately one hundred villagers on the railroad tracks.xxvi

That is the context, which became a centre of controversy (albeit specious controversy) which in turn managed to leave most people with the impression of some sort of panicked response by US personnel who were not coping. The reader may well be wondering how this could possibly address all of the issues involved in a 3 day long massacre, a period longer than panic or unpreparedness could possibly account for.

After the initial attack, the refugees fled into a culvert and a tunnel beneath the bridge. US forces set up machine guns at either end of the culvert and tunnel. For over three entire days the machine gunners killed those who tried to leave, killing, according to the TRCK, an additional 300:xxvii‘There was a lieutenant screaming like a madman, fire on everything, kill ’em all,’ recalls 7th Cavalry veteran Joe Jackman. ‘I didn’t know if they were soldiers or what. Kids, there was kids out there, it didn’t matter what it was, eight to 80, blind, crippled or crazy, they shot ’em all.’xxviii Soldiers with small arms would, as time passed, approach the culvert to pick off any survivors. A survivor, 12 at the time, said:The American soldiers played with our lives like boys playing with flies.”xxix Bruce Cumings believes that there was a concerted effort to ensure that there were no surviving

We know these events occurred because of eye-witness statements, both those of survivors and those of 35 veterans who corroborate these events.xxxi Further corroboration exists in the bullet holes that remain to be seen, though plastered over, in the culvert and the tunnel to this day.xxxii Eye-witness testimony is the central evidence of these occurrences. Even the journal Archival Science is forced to concede that documents are supplementary, corroborating details rather than constituting an account.xxxiii This is true for all the massacres that occurred south of the 38th parallel. The orders that set the machinery of death in motion may be documented, but the events were not. The substance of eye-witness testimony, however, has been borne out by the mass graves to which witnesses were often able to lead investigators.xxxiv

No Gun Ri was not isolated. Over 60 further such massacres at US hands have been reported:

For example, on 11 July 1950, the US Air Force bombed the peaceful Iri railway station located far south of the combat line and killed about 300 civilians, including South Korean government officials. US warplanes also bombed and strafed gathered inhabitants or refugees in Masan, Haman, Sachon, Pohang, Andong, Yechon, Gumi, Danyang and other regions. Roughly 50 to 400 civilians were killed at each site and several times of that number were severely wounded. In dozens of villages across southern South Korea, US planes engaged in repeated low-level strafing runs of the ‘people in white,’ In the southeast seaside city of Pohang in August of 1950, US naval artillery bombarded the calm villages and killed more than 400 civilians. In addition, another fifty-four separate cases of attacks equivalent to No Gun Ri are logged with South Korean authorities but have not yet been investigated.xxxv

The one salient point that is repeated most often by veteran pilots is that they were told to target thepeople in white”. White clothing was the normal and traditional Korean attire, the most common form of dress among the rural majority.xxxvi But No Gun Ri is symptomatic of more than just the systematic targeting of refugees, it also shows the gratuitous violence of individual soldiers fuelled by racism. Hungarian reporter Tibor Meray described US personnel shooting Koreans for sport at the time and stated that neither the KPA nor the ROKA could compare to US forces in brutality.xxxvii In Viet Nam years later, a veteran of the Korean War told Philip Caputo:I saw men sight their rifles in by shooting at Korean farmers. Before you leave here, sir, youre going to learn that one of the most brutal things in the world is your average nineteen-year-old American boy.”xxxviii

The racist violence of US personnel had begun during the occupation. Here it is worth contrasting again. Soviet troops had entered Korea as conquerors, war weary, barefoot, and brutalised. They stole, they raped and they killed. After dark they had to travel in groups of no less than three to avoid reprisals from enraged Koreans.xxxix But the official reaction was swift. Their superiors stamped out such behaviour in a matter of weeks and the damage in relations began to heal.xl In contrast, Koreans greeted the US occupation warmly,xli but after 3 months of occupation Hodge reported that hatred of US was increasing,the word ‘pro-American’ is being added to ‘pro-Jap’, ‘national traitor’ and ‘Jap collaborator’.xlii This wasn’t just the result of US policies, but also of the behaviour of the occupation forces:

By December 1945 most of the specific acts with which the US command contended as the occupation proceededopen expressions of disrespect toward Koreans, lack of care in avoiding Korean pedestrians while driving American military vehicles, offensive advances toward Korean women, looting and larcenywere common.xliii

When thereplacements” arrived, conscripts taking over from Pacific War veterans, things got worse – “they lacked the training and discipline of their predecessors in the Army while possessing all the provincialism and sense of superiority of their older comrades, if not their dehumanizing experience in fighting the Japanese.”xliv Western reporters at the time found that racist contempt was the norm and that insurmountable alienation was more or less universal.xlv I cannot provide a full analysis of Hodge’s response, but it was inadequatelong on rhetoric (such as letters of exhortation to the troops), short on efficacious measures (such as widespread curfews and bans of off-duty personnel or rigorous prosecution of the more common offences, which were not necessarily minor). The fact that a commander with an entire machinery of military discipline at his disposal chose what amounted to begging his personnel to be nice shows that he was (as many have pointed out) a battlefield commander unsuited to the task of running an occupation. The fact that neither subordinates nor superiors did anything about his inefficacy, however, shows a fundamental disinterest in improving the behaviour of US personnel, a lack of will which supersedes in relevance any lack in capability on Hodge’s part.


Racist violence was fully unleashed once the War was under way. Just as the Germans had conflated Jewishness and Bolshevism, the US in propaganda and military indoctrination conflatedAsiatic”-ness and Communism.xlvi Instead of reserving animus for combatant enemies animus was directed atgooks”, which meant all Koreans regardless of combatant status, political orientation, or gender. It is true that risks vastly differed for different locales and statuses, but it is also true the every single Korean faced at least some risk of being killed by US forces and local allies were not an exception (a circumstance also seen in South Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and any other place where US forces are directly deployed). A US correspondent wrote that it wasnot a good time to be a Korean, for the Yankees are shooting them all”, while a British war correspondent recorded that GIsnever spoke of the enemy as though they were people…. …[E]very man’s dearest wish was to kill a Korean. ‘Today… I’ll get me a gook.’xlvii

When US forces went north of the 38th parallel massacres also occurred. Details are, of course, sketchier, with DPRK officialdom being an unreliable source. However, as Dong Choon Kim points out:While it must be acknowledged that the North has politically exploited such claims, the facts on the ground force us to not discount their veracity.”xlviii In one instance an estimated 35,380 people in Sinchon were massacred but whereas the DPRK leaders claim that US personnel committed the massacre, it was in fact ROK paramilitary police and militias who were sent north (by the US) in the tens of thousands.xlix

Although subject to commands from the Rhee regime, ROK security forces were ultimately under US command.l The US military may have been involved in formulating the “special decree” which initiated widespread massacres south of the 38th parallel, but there is no doubt that it was the US which initiated the massacres by ROK security forces north of the 38th. An order was issued toliquidate the North Korean Workers’ Party”, a mass movement which had 14% of the DPRK population as members. Mass arrests were to be followed by the production by the US ofblack lists”, the unstated purpose of which is easy enough to A partial list of occasions when the US has provided clients with lists of persons who the US wishes dead due to their political beliefs or activism includes: Guatemala, 1953;lii Iraq 1963,liii 2002-3,liv 2005-7;lv Indonesia 1965;lvi Indochina 1950-75;lvii Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Peru, and Ecuador mid-1970s (Operation Condor);lviii Latin America 1982-91lix (note that in the latter two instances most targets were not directly chosen by the US, but under guidelines created by the US). It is pretty easy to establish that these murders are eliticidal in nature by looking at the nature of the victims. They target leading intelligentsia and students, unionists, and peasant organisers. In Viet Nam, for instance, the US even invented the termViet Cong Infrastructure”. PradosdefinesthemasashadowynetworkofVietCongvillageauthorities,informers,taxcollectors,propagandateams,officialsofcommunitygroups,andthelike,whocollectivelycametobecalledtheVietCongInfrastructure(VCI).”Sympathizers”werealsocounted.lx The victims are very clearly non-combatants. For example, in William Blum’s survey of US interventions (Killing Hope) there is no index entry given forunionists”,subversives” ordissidents”; however, quite tellingly, one can get a fair idea of the approach to such individuals through looking up the entries ontorture, US connection to.” Out of 14 entries there are three relating to interrogation;lxi three where armed activists/guerillas/insurgents were tortured alongside unarmed political activists;lxii and 7 entries where only political dissidents are mentioned as victims.lxiii

We don’t know how many died in massacres north of the 38th parallel, but we do have some idea (very roughly) of how many died in mass executions in the south. Of 30,000 political prisoners at the outbreak of war almost all were disposed of (except for 7000 fortunate enough to be imprisoned in Seoul).lxiv This was the tip of the iceberg. An estimated 350,000 people were enrolled in the Bodoyeonmang (National Guidance League, NGL). It was putatively an organisation for monitoring and rehabilitating left-wing activists, but up to 70% of its members were simply apolitical peasants.lxv In a series of enormous mass executions (evidenced by mass graves which, again, provide grim proof of eyewitness testimony) somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 people were slaughtered (some estimates go as high as 300,000).lxvi In Taejon, for instance, 4000-7000 were executed, and when the town was recaptured the mass graves were used as propaganda under the false claim that it was in fact the Communists who had committed the atrocity.lxvii Probably those US personnel and Western reporters who saw the bodies believed it to be true (after all the Communists were the savages) but the massacre had in fact been attended by US officials.lxviii


Victims at Taejon. Note, I found this picture at a site which replicates the lie that communists committed this massacre. Of 48 photos in this 2010 retrospective 4 are depicting communist atrocities (or claim to be) while only 1 depicts an ROK/UN atrocity (below).

In recaptured territory, as in the North, many deemed politically suspect due to their activities during the DPRK occupation were liquidated. In the Seoul area, for instance, 50,000 were killed by one estimate.lxix In addition, civilians in areas where guerillas operated were at risk of being murdered throughout the war. Counterinsurgency often meant slaughtering civilian men, women and children deemed by geographical criteria to be supportive of the guerrillas. In Guchang, for instance,several thousand civilians, including babies, women, and elderly, were killed during the operations named ‘Keeping the Position by Cleansing the Fields….’lxx The US was also using airpower against parts of the countryside deemed inimical. From 5 January 1951 the US began the wholesale use of napalm against villages deemed to be willingly or unwillingly providing some form of support for guerrillas. As Suh Hee-Kyung writes:The objects of the bombings now included not only military targets but also civilian homes and towns suspected of harboring communist guerrillas and/or North Korean soldiers. Especially in areas that the North Korean Army and the Chinese Army had invaded, the U.S. Army applied a ‘scorched earth policy’ even if the targeted area was residential.”lxxi On 25 January 1951 Lt. General Edward Almond (commander of X Corps) defended the bombing in terms paraphrased by Cumings as,the local population was being killed, true, but the meager population remaining appears sympathetic to and harbors the enemy.”lxxii

The US also began its bombing campaign in the North. Most of the 1 million tons of US ordinance dropped from the air in the War were used instrategic” bombing in the North.lxxiii It is fair to say that in this small and highly urbanised half-country, this tonnage caused a greater degree of destruction than in any other time and place in human history (not counting single cities).By 1952 just about everything in northern and central Korea was completely levelled. What was left of the population survived in caves, the North Koreans creating an entire life underground, in complexes of dwellings, schools, hospitals, and factories.”lxxiv The rough consensus figure is that 1 million civilians died from the US bombing campaign. As Cumings notes:

The United Nation’s Genocide Convention defined the term as acts committed “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” This would include “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” It was approved in 1948 and entered into force in 1951 – just as the USAF was inflicting genocide, under this definition and under the aegis of the United Nations Command, on the citizens of North Korea. Others note that area bombing of enemy cities was not illegal in World War II, but became so only after the Red Cross Convention on the Protection of Civilians in Wartime, signed in Stockholm in August 1948.

Kim Dong Choon is cautious about the subject of genocide, despite writing in the Journal Of Genocide Studies:As we usually label genocide when the shooting and strafing were aimed at a certain race or community with clear cut boundaries and characteristics, America’s military actions towards Korean civilians may not be regarded as a genocidal incident. ([Interjects in endnote]However, as Bertrand Russell and Jean Paul Sartre argued when they established a ‘War Crimes Tribunal’… the ‘genocidal intent’ of war may be identified even when official military policies may deny such an ambition.)lxxv Of critical importance, however, is the fact that the US soldiers killed civilian refugees lacking even a modicum of self-defense, including women and children, even when no North Korean soldiers or grass-root guerilla forces threatened them.lxxvi This needless caution on Kim’s part is saddening. The US (and the ROK forces under US command) systematically killed civilians in various completely different circumstances, and they did so under orders from the very top of the chain of command. One need only to glimpse through the various levels of mortality produced bystrategic bombing”, “counterinsurgency”, and mass executions to see that, taken as a whole, this was a staggering amount of death and (perhaps more importantly) a staggering amount of co-ordinated labour employed in causing mass civilian deaths. The level of proof required here is, in fact, far lower than that required to label the mass killings in Rwanda or Cambodia as genocides. Likewise, the economic and social destruction wrought in the North was so comprehensive that it can only be matched by the most widely acknowledged genocides.

There is more. By deliberately drawing out the negotiations for an armistice while instituting a strategy ofattrition” the war, although a very real war, was made primarily an engine of genocide by the US. In this it became a progenitor of later genocidal war systems. To illustrate this evolution it is necessary to trace the progress of the war. The narrative produced is, like that of the origins of the war, distinctly anomalous at points. In the framework of war, as it is generally understood, such actions were difficult to explain and caused alarm among allies, US personnel themselves, and even US political leaders. The US public, on the other hand, simply hated the war and it destroyed the Truman presidencyTruman holding the record for least popular President on record (with 77% disapproval) until the advent of George W. Bush.lxxvii But while from a military perspective many US actions seemed counterproductive or at least completely pointless it should be remembered that the narrative ends with the US having won for itself every single advantage that it could have won, at least from an imperial perspective. The previously fragile division of Korea was now stable and consolidated as was the US client regime in the ROK. Each half of the peninsula was tied more firmly in dependency to its superpower patron. Taiwan was saved from unification with China, while the infant PRC was greatly retarded in its development. The US was now in a state of enduring militarisation, armed with both the weaponry and the ideology which would allow the US to exert coercive imperial power over most of the globe. From this perspective an outright military victory would have been considerably less attractive, not least because US interventions would rely on the (false) implication that the Communist Bloc posed a military threat to the US.

Korea is not particularly suited to blitzkrieg, it is narrow and hilly with poor roading generally at the bottom of valleys, and a climate which makes operations of any sort difficult. Carter Malkasian describes it as suited forstrong in-depth defense”, by which he means using elevated positions of the sort which would be so bloodily contested later in the war. Inexplicably, however, the ROKA commanderwanted to contain any North Korean attack at the 38th Parallel and rejected a planned withdrawal to stronger positions, such as behind the Han river. The 38th Parallel was on comparatively flat ground, lacking ridges or river-lines on which to form a defensive.lxxviii That is to say, such a stance is inexplicable unless it is explained, like so much else must be, as a deliberate softening of ROKA defences.

After capturing Seoul, the KPA waited about a week, apparently awaiting artillery and other supplies, before the next concentrated offensive.lxxixLacking detailed plans for operations south of Seoul, North Korean forces had been slow to proceed beyond the Han River.” On July 5 the KPA fought their first engagement with US forces, who did have anti-tank weapons but were nevertheless defeated. “American combatants had inadequate firepower to resist Soviet-built tanks, and North Korean soldiers were not intimidated by opponents simply because their skin was white….”lxxx On the contrary, the KPA continued to push, over-running an entire US division when Taejon was captured a week later. It took only until August 1 for the KPA to reach a point less than 50 km west of Pusan.lxxxi By this stage the KPA faced superior numbers 92,000 (47,000 of them US) to the 70,000 it could bring to the front known as the Pusan perimeter.lxxxii Only a tiny chunk of the peninsula was unconquered, but more critical for the KPA than being outnumbered was the fact that they had never prepared for this. They could not replace casualties, communications were still far from desirable efficacy, and their stretched supply lines combined with US air and naval power to make resupply difficult.lxxxiii As Malkasian explains the chance to end the war quickly was slipping away: “Better American bazookas and heavy M-26 Pershing tanks had arrived that could counter the T-34s. The North Koreans waited until 3 September to make their major assault in the Second Battle of the Naktong Bulge. However, by then North Korean strength was ebbing. With only 98,000 men, they faced 180,000 UNC soldiers.”lxxxiv

On September 15 the US X Corps made a bold and extremely well executed amphibious landing at Incheon, the port adjacent to Seoul. The DPRK expected this move but had little choice but to throw everything they could at the Pusan perimeter (in the abovementioned Second Battle of the Naktong Bulge).lxxxv It seems apparent, however, that the DPRK had prepared for withdrawal, and for troops who were cut-off to become guerillas in the hills.lxxxvi Nevertheless, this was a terrible defeat for the KPA who were more or less routed from the South, sustaining heavy casualties and equipment losses. UN forces broke out of the Pusan perimeter on September 23. Seoul fell on the 27th after bitter fighting which caused many civilian deaths.lxxxvii Only around 25,000 KPA reached the 38th parallel before UN forces.lxxxviii

The KPA continued retreating and X Corps pressed northwards. The 38th parallel, crossing which had been condemned as an act of aggression by the UNSC was, little over 2 months later, of no significance. An “imaginary line” as MacArthur put it,lxxxix the same phrase being used soon after by the US ambassador to the UN.xc (Malkasian claims that UNGAR 376, passed on October 7, authorised UN forces to proceed north of the 38th.xci The two major problems with such a contention are that a) by October the 7th UN forces were in places already more than 100 km north of the 38th and b) the resolution says no such thing.xcii)

The US rationalised crossing the 38th as a measure to prevent further aggression, but then changed to the annunciated aim of military unification.xciii The Chinese openly avowed that they would respond militarily to a march on the Yalu with PLA Chief of Staff (on Sept 26) and Chou En Lai both telling the Indian ambassador for conveyance to the US. US intelligence agencies claimed, however, to have believed otherwise.xciv When China entered the war, the US reacted at first as if nothing significant had happened then, after suffering defeats in October and November, as if a large portion of the PLA had crossed the border en masse:

As American forces rushed pell-mell back down the peninsula, observers at the time wondered why they were moving so fast, often breaking contact with an enemy not necessarily pursuing them. On December 15 a British military attaché wrote, ‘The withdrawal continues without any major enemy pressure. There were no signs of defense lines being used to halt the enemy march; it looked like a phony war, or a great hoax.’ British military attachés said in early December that the numbers of Chinese were quite exaggerated, with very few confirmed contacts with the Chinese ; furthermore, it was often impossible to judge the nationality of enemy units. The number of Chinese POWs being taken did not indicate huge numbers of troops.xcv

So yet again US led forces were inexplicably retreating rather than using the defensibility of the hilly terrain, this time back to the 38th parallel in what was known as the “Big Bug-Out”.xcvi Hyperbole exploded in Washington. This was the longest retreat in US military history, but it became transformed into the greatest defeat in US history leading to panic in the corridors of power and many very serious moves towards the use of atomic weapons.xcvii This even went as far as the transfer of necessary bomb components to Japan and Guam.xcviii The “Big Bug-Out” didn’t merely facilitate a vastly heightened level of threats from the US, it also gave a boost to the racist propaganda deployed on Western peoples, particularly those of the US. Hollywood films (more likely to be about the Pacific War than the unpopular Korean “police action”) featured scenes “of marauding Oriental troops; of bearded, unkempt American fighters inhabiting alien hovels in alien lands and dauntlessly improvising devices and designs as they go.”xcix Public affairs programming on television was unabashedly infected by official propaganda. One NBC programme was produced out of the White House by a presidential aide, who used it to declare that[t]he barbarous aggression of the Chinese hoards [sic] in Korea is not only an attack upon the forces of the United Nationsit is an attack upon civilization itselfit is an effort to destroy all the rights and privileges for which mankind has fought and bled since the dawn of time.”c

In coming months China really did commit massive numbers of personnel (officiallyvolunteers”) to a series of offensives, perhaps 400,000 by The KPA and the Chinese People’s Volunteers (CPV) managed to advance about 100km south of the 38thby the end of January, but by February UN counteroffensives had pushed them back across the Han and Seoul was evacuated after massive casualties on 14 March.cii The KPA and CPV continued to mount offensives, but shortages and heavy casualties inflicted by UN forces brought them inevitably to a stop.ciii

Seoul had by this stage changed hands 4 times. As UN forces retreated in January they more or less destroyed the port at Inchon and burnt down large parts of Seoul, just as they had on retreating from northern cities.civ As the UN was preparing to re-enter the city, US air and ground artilleryblasted” the Indeed, one neglected aspect of the war was that during the mobile phase (which, as has been shown, seemed a little artificial at times) all but some small pockets of the countryside were swept over at least once by the battlefront. In addition to the 1 million tons or ordnance dropped by US aircraft, US guns fired a total of 2.1 million tons of ordnanceon a peninsula less than four-fifths the size of New Zealand the US used 43% as much explosive power as it did in the entirety of World War II.cvi Massive amounts of Korean property were destroyed by UN scorched earth policies and by the profligate use of artillery in addition to the massive bombing campaign.

In late December 1950, General Matthew Ridgway took over command of the 8th Army which faced the KPA/CPF offensives. In April he was made Supreme Commander of UN forces.cvii From the first he created an offensive spirit and tactics to match. An infantryman put it thus:We were there to kill Chinese. That’s what they told us. The army was done with retreating. General Ridgway was in charge now, and he wasn’t a retreating general. We heard it every day from the officers. ‘Fix ’em, find ’em, kill ’em.’ We went out every day and we attacked. Seems like that’s all we did was attack. We hardly ate. We hardly slept. We just attacked.”cviii

The doctrine under which this occurred was referred to asattrition”. On the surface it seemed to have a military logic, at least in the time from January to March of 1951 in which the Communists were conducting major offensives and the UN conducting counteroffensives. In Malkasian’s words Ridgwaysought to wear down their manpower. To do so, superior UNC firepower was to be exploited to the maximum effect. The hallmark of Ridgway’s doctrine of attrition was his directive to his subordinates to maximize enemy casualties while minimizing those of the Eighth Army. Given the daunting Communist numerical superiority, conserving casualties was absolutely crucial.”cix

Implicit in the logic of this “attrition” were three concepts which as yet had no terminology, but would become central in later genocides – “body count”, “kill ratio”, and “force protection”. To understand let us contrast this “attrition” with attrition as it was understood previously by theorists such as Clausewitz. When Clausewitz wrote of a “war of attrition” he referred to the gradual wearing down of strength through the requirement of movement which fatigued personnel and caused supply Attrition is primarily a function of ‘war of manouevre’ with the center of gravity here being lines of communication.cxi In the World Wars attrition was notably aimed at and achieved by the deprivation of strategic resources – the single most successful way of reducing the military strength of an adversary which was based so firmly in productive capacities. In Korea this sort of attrition was achieved by stretching supply lines, and this certainly provides one explanation for the two major retreats by ROK/US/UN forces. Interdiction was also a way open to the US to cause attrition. The US interdiction campaign during the Korean War was only very modestly successful. The main challenge to it was the fact that Communist forces used a far smaller tonnage of supplies than UN, or more acutely, US forces. They ran, as it were, on the smell of an oily rag.cxii Bear in mind, however, that the CPV were poorly equipped and the Communists lacked the ability to supply sustained offensives of more than about 14 days,cxiii but as the war progressed their diversified logistical operations supplied ever greater amounts of materièl to the front.cxiv (Communist logistics may have been robust and decentralised, but there was no Ho Chi Minh Trail, and one gets the inevitable impression from the partial success of the interdiction campaign that the Communists would have been highly vulnerable to a programme of interdiction which was as profligately supported as the “strategic” bombing and the “meatgrinder” version of attrition described below.)

My point, and I will return to and illustrate the point, is that the Communist forces had to be more vulnerable in their materièl inferiority than in their numerical superiority. This is true notwithstanding the early Chinese belief that “deception, stealth, and night fighting would enable their poorly armed soldiers to overcome Western technological and materiel superiority.cxv With offensives severely limited by logistical concerns the Communists could only hope to chip away slowly at UN positions, but there was nothing to stop the UN from using its superior firepower to regain ground as proved to be the case in early 1951. Malkasian writes:

Ridgway’s first use of attrition was successful. [CPV commander] Peng [Dehuai] launched the Third Phase Offensive in sub-zero conditions on 31 December 1950. Although Ridgway was forced to abandon Seoul, his withdrawal stretched the Communist supply lines to breaking point, forcing Peng to call off the offensive. Ridgway was anxious to seize the initiative. On 15 January 1951, he mounted a reconnaissance in force, Operation Wolfhound, followed by a full-blown counteroffensive.cxvi

Others agree that it was the logistical difficulties that ended Chinese offensive actions.cxvii After the failure of the Third Phase Offensive, Peng returned to Beijing to inform Mao that the Communists could not win the war because supply lines had reached their maximum length.cxviii

Apart from the withdrawal during the Third Phase Offensive, however, Ridgway’s “attrition” had little to do with exploiting and exacerbating logistical weakness. It was about killing. After the capture of Seoul Ridgway ordered a limited offensive north of the 38th to establish the “Kansas Line” on high ground, but his whole doctrine was more generally to avoid taking territory or holding positions at the expense of casualties, while at the same time inflicting as many casualties as possible through the offensive “attrition” that became known to soldiers as the “meat grinder”. This involved staging attacks purely aimed at inflicting as many casualties as possible.cxix This was “limited war”. In fact, near the start of the “Big Bug-Out”, only 12 days after the Chinese entry into the war, and only 8 days after threatening the use of atomic weapons, Truman publicly abandoned the goal of military unification.cxxLimited war” meant, therefore, killing as many people as possible while maintaining a military stalemate, bearing in mind that bombing and massacres were ongoing.

Mao, however, was not to reach the same conclusion as Peng regarding the impossibility of significant military gain until the failure of the Fifth Phase Offensive which came to a halt because of a lack of food and ammunition. The hungry and ill-armed CPV troops were panicked by the inevitable counteroffensive and the UN advanced somewhat north of the Kansas Line, and then stopped.cxxi Neither side was trying to win the war now, and the Chinese also began using “attrition” in the sense of trying to inflict disproportionate casualties in terms relative to total numbers available.cxxii Perhaps it made slightly more sense for the numerically superior force to engage in this behaviour, but in the broader picture it was really just playing into the US hands, allowing them to maintain deadly conflict when there was really no military purpose in the killing.

Whether one dates it to the end of the Fifth Phase Offensive or the end of the subsequent UN counteroffensive, the stalemate phase lasted more than twice as long as the mobile phase of the war, and cost more lives. The stalemate was characterised by “see-saw” battles, wherein the same ground was taken and retaken many times overcxxiii in a manner akin to the mindless butchery of World War I. But this time, off centre stage, civilians were dying in numbers much greater than the battlefield deaths and a bitter guerilla war was fought with napalm and atrocities.

Cease-fire negotiations began on 10 July 1951 and continued for just over two years. One writer characterises them thus: “Throughout the duration of the negotiations U.S. leaders produced harsh ultimatums rather than workable bargaining positions, thereby presumably obviating any form of enemy flexibility.cxxiv The Communists tried to maximise the propaganda value of the talks, setting things up originally to give an impression of the UN being there to sue for peace,cxxv and they were able to capitalise on US dishonesty by the use of dissident Western journalists.cxxvi Early on armed Chinese troops paraded bymistake” through the demilitarized area. They had mortars and machine guns, but the Chinese claimed that they were military police (MPs).cxxvii The US, however, made even more drasticmistakes”. On August 22 the conference site was bombed and strafed by aplane of unknown origin but flying from the south”.cxxviii In September the UN apologised for twoaccidental” attacks the second of which took the life of a 12 year old.cxxix According to Halliday and Cumings, the Communistsclaimed that these were deliberate attempts by sectors of the US military to sabotage the talks at key momentsand possibly to assassinate communist delegates. At the time the USA denied most of the charges. The official US military history later acknowledged that the USA carried out a large number of violations, including strafing and bombing the neutral zone and bombing the communist negotiators’ convoy en route to the site.”cxxx

If I were to characterise, very roughly, the nature of the negotiations it would be something like this: Often the Communists didn’t take the negotiations that seriously because the US positions were themselves so extreme as to render seriousness difficult. Nevertheless, on a number of issues the Communists would make major concessions, although with minor face-saving conditions. US officials would then vastly exaggerate the significance of such conditions and a compliant Western news media would follow the official line that it was in fact the Communists who were demonstrating a lack of good faith. The US was the only UN party at the talks and their British allies were frustrated and blamed the US rather than the Communists for the lack of progress in talks. They also believed that US military actions, publicly rationalised as being designed to force the Communists to negotiate in earnest, actually caused the Communists to harden their line.cxxxi When talks stalled over the issue of POW repatriation, the UK Foreign Office again held US intransigence to be the cause. From their Korea desk J. M. Addis minuted with words such asrapid and unexplained changes of front on the main question and a policy of stepping up demands after concessions have been madehas not contributed to removing the suspicion that undoubtably exists on the Communist side that the Americans do not sincerely want an armistice.”cxxxii

A compromise proposed by the PRC wherein POW’s who did not wish to be repatriated could be interviewed by a neutral country was scuppered by the US bombing of 5 power stations on Yalu undertaken without consulting the British. Omar Bradley claimed it was apurely military operation” designed to apply pressure for negotiations.cxxxiii The proposal had been a major concession by the PRC because the 1949 Geneva Convention Article 118 made repatriation compulsory without exception. At the outbreak of war the US (a ratified signatory) and the DPRK (a non-signatory) announced adherence to extant Geneva Conventions (the PRC, a non-signatory, made such an announcement in 1952).cxxxiv Additionally, while within in the camps their were many who wished to defect, others were coerced by right-wing elements by threatened starvation and torture sessions.cxxxv

On the 13th of May the US began a series of bombing raids against DPRK dams. Timed just after the laborious work of rice transplantation, before plants had taken root, the resultant floods cause utter devastation. The bombing of the Toksan dam, for example,scooped clean 27 miles of valley” with floodwaters reaching and inundating large parts of Pyongyang. Many thousands must have drowned.cxxxvi Both stores and people were made more vulnerable by having been driven underground. But the direct mortality may be less significant than that which was to follow due to the destruction of the rice crop. As a US intelligence report puts it:The Westerner can little conceive the awesome meaning which the loss of this staple food commodity has for the Asianstarvation and slow death.”cxxxvii

An armistice was finally signed on 27 July 1953, but Korean suffering was far from over. Today one is accustomed, for very good reasons, to contrasting the impoverished and repressive DPRK with the wealthy and democratic ROK. One might think that the massive destruction and proportionately far greater death in the DPRK would leave them much worse off than those to the South. On the contrary, however, the people of the ROK were in fact worst off. The US was determined that the ROK should be a Third World state producing primary goods only.cxxxviiiIn 1961, eight years after the end of its fratricidal war with North Korea, South Koreas yearly income stood at $82 per person. The average Korean earned less than half the average Ghanaian citizen ($179).”cxxxix They were ruled by a US client who allowed the US to dictate economic policy and then blamed him for the policies they themselves forced on the ROK.cxl The US pursued a policy of keeping de-industrialisation,cxli it destabilised the ROK economy even during the war,cxlii it caused destructive inflation,cxliii used coercion to get the ROK to effectively abdicate economic sovereignty in 1952,cxliv and when people were starving to death due to these policies, the US repressed reports of this and created false statistics claiming that ROK citizens ate more food than they had before the war.cxlv As Tony Mitchell observes, the poverty and dependency thus created acted to increase US power, US control.cxlvi

In 1961 the new military dictatorship forced the US to accept a programme of economic nationalism in the ROK, something which was probably only possible because of the existence of the DPRK. Nevertheless it is a testament to the destructiveness of the antidevelopmentalist economic regime forced on poorer states by the US that it was not until at least the mid-1970s that ROK living standards caught up with those of the DPRK, reaching an average $1000 per capita per annum income in 1977.cxlvii

In terms of repression, the torture and killings under military rule have been discussed, and it was only with great sacrifice and bravery that the South Korean people seized democracy from below in 1987. North Korea also remained a dependencyso much so that the collapse of the Soviet Union destabilised the heavily industrialised and petrochemical dependent agriculture required in a state which is sorely lacking in fertile land. This led within a few years to devastating famines precipitated by flooding.cxlviii

For US imperialists the Korean War must be counted as a resounding success. Koreans were weakened and divided into two dependencies, China weakened and tied more firmly to the USSR, Japan and Taiwan were both strengthened economically but yet made increasingly dependent on the US. The US inaugurated an interventionist imperial military system, complemented by economic, ideological and political power, which allowed it almost free rein to intervene in any state outside of the Soviet Bloc up to and including full-scale military interventions where such a thing was practicable.

What had happened to Korea can be understood in those terms used by Lemkin to subdivide elements of genocide. They had suffered genocide in the physical, social, economic, political, cultural and moral senses, leaving out only the religious and biological elements which complete Lemkin’s enumeration. The trauma lasts even to this day, even south of the “demilitarized zone” (DMZ). The suffering, the loss and grief, the crushing of the national hopes of an oppressed people, the social disintegration, the loss of heritage, the millions of dead – these were not unfortunate by-products, these were not “collateral damage”, they were the means. The US had conducted a successful functional genocide, and its very success was to bring about repetition.

iHalliday and Cumings, Korea, p 200.

iiChristopher Coker, Humane Warfare, London: Routledge, 2001, p 2.

iiiStueck, The Korean War, p 361.

ivCumings, The Korean War, p 160.

vCoker, Humane Warfare, p 80.

viMillett, The War for Korea, p 4.

viiGrace M. Cho, HauntingtheKoreanDiaspora:Shame,Secrecy,andtheForgottenWar,Minneapolis:UniversityofMinnesotaPress,2008, p 82

viiiCho, Haunting the Diaspora, p 75.

ixHalliday and Cumings, Korea, p 180.

xCumings, The Korean War, p 202.

xiThe figures on which this is based are discussed below.


xiiiCumings, The Korean War, p 186.


xvCumings, The Korean War, p 187.

xviCumings, The Korean War, p 202.

xviiSee Appendix 1.

xviiiLemkin, Axis Rule, p 80.

xixFigures for civilian deaths at US and ROK hands are given below. I have not encountered any suggestion that other United Nations forces committed atrocities on a scale which would change the proportions by inclusion or exclusion from the total.

xxJudith Greer, “What Really Happened at No Gun Ri?”, Salon, 4 June 2002. Retrieved 17 November 2010 from

xxiSuhi Choi, “Silencing SurvivorsNarratives: Why Are We Again Forgetting the No Gun Ri Story?, Rhetoric & Public Affairs, 11:3, 2008, p 373.

xxiiIbid, p 367.

xxiiiCharles J. Hanley and Martha Mendoza, “US Policy was to Shoot Korean Refugees”, Associated Press, 29 May 2006. Retrieved 17 November 2010 from

xxivJeremy Williams,Kill ’em All’: The American Military in Korea, BBC, updated 17 February 2011. Retrieved 15 November 2011 from

xxvCharles J. Hanley, “No Gun Ri: Official Narrative and Inconvenient Truths”, Critical Asian Studies, 42:4, 2010, p 589.

xxviIbid, p 590.


xxviiiWilliams, “Kill ’em All….”

xxixCumings, The Korean War, p 167.

xxxIbid, p 168.

xxxiWilliams, “Kill ’em All….”

xxxiiValerie Perry, LookingforNoGunRi,KyotoJournal,49,2001.Retrieved15November2011from

xxxiiiDonghee Sinn, “Room for archives? Use of archival materials in No Gun Ri research, Archival Science, 10, 2010, pp 117-40.

xxxivKim, “Forgotten War…’, p 534.

xxxvIbid, p 523.

xxxviStueck and Yi, “An Alliance Forged in Blood…”, p 192.

xxxviiCumings, The Korean War, p 158.

xxxviiiPhilip Caputo, A Rumour of War, London: Arrow, 1978, p 137.

xxxixStueck, The Korean War, p 20.

xlAndrei Lankov, From Stalin to Kim Il Song: the formation of North Korea, 1945-1960, London: C. Hurst, 2002, p 6.

xliStueck and Yi, “An Alliance Forged in Blood…”, p 185.

xliiCumings, Korea’s Place in the Sun, p 198.

xliiiStueck and Yi, “An Alliance Forged in Blood…”, p 190.

xlivIbid, p 194.

xlvIbid, pp 195-6.

xlviBrewer, Why America Fights?…, p 142.

xlviiKorea, p 88.

xlviiiKim, “Forgotten War…”, p 531.

xlixIbid, p 536.

lIbid, p 532.

liCumings, The Korean War, p 195.

liiIbarra, “The Culture of Terror…”, p 198.

liiiTariq Ali, Bush in Babylon: The Recolonisation of Iraq, London: Verso, 2003, pp 87-8.

livMax Fuller, “Crying Wolf: Media Disinformation and Death Squads in Occupied Iraq, GlobalResearch, 10 November 2005. Retrieved 16 April 2006 from

lvMichael Moss, “How Iraq Police Reform Became Casualty of War”, New York Times, 22 May 2006; Max Fuller, “Silence of the Lambs? Proof of US orchestration of Death Squads Killings in Iraq”, GlobalResearch, 14 March 2007. Retrieved 16 April 2007 from

lviPeter Dale Scott, “The United States and the Overthrow of Sukarno, 1965-1967”, Pacific Affairs, Summer 1985, pp 239-264.

lviiFrankL.Jones,‘Blowtorch:RobertKomerandtheMakingofViet NamPacificationPolicy’,Parameters, Vol.35,No.3 (Autumn2005),p104;Prados,The Hidden History of the Viet Nam War,pp204-5.

lviiiRoger Morris, “Donald Rumsfeld’s Long March”.

lixStokes, “Why the End of the Cold War…”, pp 583-4.

lxPrados, The Hidden History of the Viet Nam War, pp 204-5, 210.

lxiBlum, Killing Hope, pp 38, 226, 279.

lxiiIbid, pp 128-9, 200-5, 239.

lxiiiIbid, pp 72, 116, 171, 219-21, 232, 359-61, 375.

lxivKim, “Forgotten War…”, p 533.

lxvIbid, p 534.

lxviIbid, p 535.

lxviiCumings, The Korean War, p 173.

lxviiiIbid, p 175.

lxixKim, “Forgotten War…”, p 536.

lxxIbid, p 532.

lxxiSuh Hee-Kyung, “Atrocities Before and During the Korean War”, Critical Asian Studies, 42:4, p 579.

lxxiiCumings, Korea’s Place in the Sun, p 295.

lxxiiiKolko, Century of War, p 404.

lxxivCumings, Korea’s Place in the Sun, pp 295-6.

lxxvKim, “Forgotten War…”, p 542, n 31.

lxxviIbid, p 532.

lxxviiCumings, The Korean War, p 149.

lxxviiiMalkasian, The Korean War, p 20.

lxxixHalliday and Cumings, Korea, p 82.

lxxxStueck, The Korean War, p 47.

lxxxiMalkasian, The Korean War, p 24.

lxxxiiHalliday and Cumings, Korea, p 82.

lxxxiiiStueck, The Korean War, p 48.

lxxxivMalkasian, The Korean War, p 24.

lxxxvIbid, p 26.

lxxxviHalliday and Cumings, Korea, p 97.

lxxxviiMalkasian, The Korean War, p 29.

lxxxviiiStueck, The Korean War, p 86

lxxxixMichael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations (4th ed.), New York: Basic Books, 2006, p 118.

xcCumings, The Korean War, p 23.

xciMalkasian, The Korean War, p 29.

xciiUNGAR 376, The Problem of the Independence of Korea, 7 October 1950. Retrieved 24 November 2011 from

xciiiWalzer, Just and Unjust Wars, p 118.

xcivCumings, Korea’s Place in the Sun, pp 283-4.

xcvIbid, p 287.

xcviMalkasian, The Korean War, p 36.

xcviiCumings, Korea’s Place in the Sun, pp 289-91.

xcviiiIbid, pp 292-3.

xcixMarilyn Young, “Hard Sell: The Korean War” quoted in Steven Casey, Selling the Korean War: Propaganda, Politics, and Public Opinion in the United States, 1950-1953, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008, 19501953, p 221.

cBrewer, Why America Fights, p 159.

ciHalliday and Cumings, Korea, p 144.


ciiiMalkasian, The Korean War, p 45.

civHalliday and Cumings, Korea, p 141.

cvIbid, p 144.

cviKolko, Century of War, p 404.

cviiI am not going to delve into the ‘controversy’ of MacArthur’s dismissal, except to point out that one possible interpretation was that MacArthur would have been very unlikely to have supported the stalemated ‘attrition’ strategy – the ‘meatgrinder’ – that was to be employed for the rest of the war.

cviiiMalkasian, The Korean War, p 38.

cixIbid, pp 38-9.

cxClausewitz, On War, 8.1, p 264.

cxiSee for example discussion of those times when a belligerent does not seek a decisive (or any) engagement, 7.16.

cxiiBilly C. Mossman, The Effectiveness of Air Interdiction During the Korean War, Arlington: Office of the Chief of Military History, 1966. Historical Manuscripts Collection, file number 2-3.7 AD.H.

cxiiiIbid, p 5.

cxivIbid, pp 16-7.

cxvMalkasian, The Korean War, p 30.

cxviIbid, p 39.

cxviiHalliday and Cumings, Korea, p 144; Stueck, The Korean War, p 232.

cxviiiHalliday and Cumings, Korea, p 144.

cxixMalkasian, The Korean War, p 40.

cxxStueck, The Korean War, p 138.

cxxiMalkasian, The Korean War, p 45.

cxxiiIbid, p 46.

cxxiiiIbid, p 48.

cxxivRon Robin,Behavioral Codes and Truce Talks: Images of the Enemy and Expert Knowledge in the Korean Armistice Negotiations, Diplomatic History, 25:4 (Fall, 2001), p 625.

cxxvStueck, Rethinking the Korean War, p 151.

cxxviHalliday and Cumings, Korea, p 162.

cxxviiIbid, p 160.

cxxviiiStueck, Rethinking the Korean War, p 153.

cxxixIbid, p 156.

cxxxHalliday and Cumings, Korea, p 161.

cxxxiDockrill,The Foreign Office, Anglo-American Relations…, pp 101-2.

cxxxiiIbid, p 105.

cxxxiiiIbid, p 107.

cxxxivCallum A. MacDonald, “’Heroes Behind Barbed Wire’: The US, Britain and the POW issue in the Korean War”, in James Cotton and Ian Neary (eds), The Korean War in History, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1989, p 135.

cxxxvIbid, pp 136-7.

cxxxviHalliday and Cumings, Korea, p 195.

cxxxviiIbid, p 196.

cxxxviiiTony Mitchell,Control of the Economy During the Korean War: The 1952 Co-ordination Treaty and its Consequences, in James Cotton and Ian Neary (eds), The Korean War in History, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1989, p 152.

cxxxixHa Joon Chang, Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism, London: Bloomsbury, 2008, p ix.

cxlMitchell, “Control of the Economy…”, p 154.

cxliIbid, pp 152-3.

cxliiIbid, p 156.

cxliiiIbid, pp 156-7.

cxlivIbid, p 159.

cxlvIbid, pp 159-60.

cxlviIbid, p 160.

cxlviiChang, Bad Samaritans, xiii.

cxlviiiMarcus Noland, “Famine and Reform in North Korea”, Asian Economic Papers, 3:2, pp 1-40.