Bush goes to Asia to sell war drive
Reprinted from the Feb. 28, 2002, issue of Workers World newspaper
By Fred Goldstein
Korean people protest
President George W. Bush and his militarist entourage have traveled to Asia to push their weight around like imperialist bullies and to systematically promote political and military tension in the region. This is the follow-up to his aggressive "Axis of Evil" speech on Jan. 29.
Fresh from the one-sided Pentagon victory in Afghanistan, and overflowing with arrogance, Bush has gone to Tokyo and Seoul, and will travel to Beijing, to build political momentum for Washington's campaign of threats against Iran, Iraq and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), as well as the dispatch of U.S. troops to the Philippines.
The most tension-ridden part of the trip is the stop in South Korea and Bush's meetings with President Kim Dae-jung. Bush's principal aim in naming the DPRK in his speech was to raise the level of hostility towards that country, promote its isolation, and undermine the strong current on the peninsula toward reconciliation, relaxation of tension, and reduction of military confrontation.
U.S. behind tensions
Bush tried to pin the blame for tensions in the region on the DPRK, which he said was developing "weapons of mass destruction" and has conventional weapons pointed at the south. This big lie is repeated over and over by the capitalist media worldwide without one word of contradiction. But the stark truth is that the only weapons of mass destruction in the region of the Korean peninsula are the 1,000 U.S. nuclear weapons capable of being targeted at the DPRK.
As for nuclear weapons in the DPRK, according to the 1994 General Framework Agreement between the U.S. and the DPRK, the government in the north agreed to put its nuclear power program on hold in return for U.S. aid in the construction of light-water nuclear reactors, which would supply power for the country. To date, the U.S. has completely reneged on its part of the agreement, but not one iota of evidence has been produced that the DPRK violated its end of the agreement.
To be sure, the DPRK would be completely within its right to develop any military program, nuclear or conventional, to defend the socialist country. It is encircled by 1,000 U.S. nuclear weapons, 38,000 U.S. troops in South Korea ready to plunge across the demilitarized zone, and the Seventh Fleet patrolling the Western Pacific. Periodic war games between the U.S. military and the South Korean military practice the invasion of the north.
The very idea of Bush attributing tensions in the region to the DPRK is ludicrous, considering that U.S. imperialism divided Korea in 1945. In fact, Washington waged a war in Korea from 1950-1953 in which it destroyed every building over one story tall in the north with merciless bombing, killing millions of Koreans. It was the U.S. government that trained and outfitted the South Korean military, the KCIA and the secret police to keep the country divided. It was the U.S. that was behind the South Korean National Security Law that makes it a crime punishable by long terms of imprisonment simply to profess sympathy for the DPRK-a law under which thousands have been imprisoned and tortured.
Billions in weapon sales
Furthermore, the Lockheed Corp. recently sold more than 110 missiles to the South Korean military. Part of the Bush trip to Seoul is aimed at getting the government to buy $4 billion worth of Boeing F-15 fighter planes.
The demonization of the DPRK and wild claims about "weapons of mass destruction" are calculated to bolster the Pentagon plan for a so-called missile defense system, which will not only threaten the DPRK and China but reap tens of billions of dollars in contracts for the military-industrial complex. Thus, it is the U.S. ruling class and its military that have a great stake in maintaining military tensions in the region.
Bush had to carry out this scheme to stoke tensions amidst warnings from all sides not to totally undermine Kim Dae-jung, who has based his political fate on the "sunshine policy" of working towards reconciliation and reunification. This goal is profoundly desired by the masses of South Korea, who have been sealed off from the north by a repressive, U.S.-backed military-police blockade for over half a century. In addition, significant sections of the South Korean bourgeoisie are looking forward to commercial relations with the DPRK, particularly as the world capitalist economic crisis puts pressure on the South Korean economy.
The national sentiment was reflected in the placards carried by demonstrators in Seoul as Bush's plane touched down. They read "No Bush! No War!" according to the Wall Street Journal of Feb. 20. KCNA news service in Pyongyang said the Seoul-based Radio No. 1 reported that students affiliated with the South Korean Federation of University Councils seized the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and hung a banner saying "We Oppose Bush's South Korea Visit."
The students were demanding that Bush back off his characterization of the DPRK as "evil." The Journal quoted Rev. Lee Hae Hak of the Korean Presbyterian Association, who said, "The U.S. is trying to conquer the whole world."
The south was bubbling with press conferences, rallies, and petition campaigns in Kwangju, South Jolla, Pusan and other regions calling for peace on the Korean peninsula and denouncing Bush's visit as an attempt to block all efforts for peace.
At one point, according to the Feb. 19 Korea Times, Rep. Song Seok-chan of the ruling Millennium Democratic Party called Bush "the incarnation of evil." He was later forced to apologize, but not before "sending a shock wave through the country."
When Bush counselor Karen Hughes was asked by reporters about the demonstrations at the Seoul airport when the U.S. president landed, protests the riot police were desperately trying to keep from camera view but which were visible to everyone on the runway, she said, "There are no demonstrations." It is not known whether this was in line with the new Pentagon policy of officially issuing lies and disinformation, or whether she spontaneously thought it up on her own.
It was under such mass pressure that Bush was compelled to proclaim his support for Kim Dae-jung's "sunshine policy" and to say that he had no intention of invading the DPRK. But having made the record on those two points, the rest of his pronouncements were calculated to stir war fever and military tensions and to completely undermine the very "sunshine policy" he said he supported.
Bush vilified the socialist government of the DPRK. He attacked its leader, Kim Jong Il, in the vilest terms. He repeated his warnings about "weapons of mass destruction." But at his joint press conference with Kim Dae-jung, he said he would negotiate without any condition and was for reconciliation.
In footsteps of Reagan
Bush went to the demilitarized zone and called for the unification of the country, while blaming the DPRK for the division. His advisers pointed out to the press, both before and after his visit to the DMZ, that the speech there should be seen in the spirit of the Reagan speech in 1987 at the Berlin Wall, where Reagan called on then Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down that wall."
They pointed out that this was compatible with negotiations, because Reagan later entered into negotiations with Gorbachev. Of course, Gorbachev was a conciliator with capitalist counter-revolution and imperialism. The negotiations and discussions with Gorbachev led to the Soviet leader abandoning Eastern Europe and, in particular, blessing the destruction of the German Democratic Republic by U.S. and German imperialism, letting them reunite the country on the basis of capitalist exploitation and oppression.
To compare the revolutionary leadership of the DPRK to the conciliator Gorbachev, whose conciliationist and collaborationist policies were transitional to the collapse of the USSR, is a travesty and ludicrous on its face. But such references are meant to convey the militaristic and counter-revolutionary spirit of Bush's visit to Seoul--and to Japan and Beijing, for that matter.
Lining up Japan
Indeed, during his visit to Japan, Bush's overriding political objective was to bring Japanese imperialism into line behind Washington's expansionism.
Tokyo is in a difficult position. In its present weakened condition, it cannot contend militarily with the U.S. in the region. Japan's odious history as the former colonial slave master over Korea (1910-1945) and much of east and southeast Asia means today's capitalist government has to rely on maneuver and "peaceful" methods of expanding its super-exploitation in the region. In that regard, it is fearful of an all-out conflict that could result from a war on the Korean peninsula.
Yet Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi had to obey the dictates of his overlord in Washington and pledge support for Bush's war drive.
To make Koizumi's humiliation even worse, he had to find kind words to say about Bush's "Axis of Evil" formulation, even though Japan does not have one drop of oil and relies on Iran and Iraq for its supply. It is a measure of the war fever in Washington that it forced Tokyo to pledge allegiance, even though war on the peninsula or in the Middle East would be disastrous for Japanese imperialism at the moment.
Bush also came to drum up support for Koizumi, whose political fortunes are sagging because he is unable to overcome the capitalist crisis that has brought unemployment to 5.6 percent there, the highest since World War II. Japanese banks are overloaded with debt, the stock market is at its lowest level, and mass discontent is growing.
Washington is relying on the Japanese economy, the second largest in the capitalist world, to turn around and pull the U.S. economy up with it. Japan is the largest trading partner of U.S. capitalism and is also a vast potential area for corporate investment. Washington has held the view that the Japanese government should force bankruptcies among failing banks and corporations, deregulate its economy to allow more U.S. corporate penetration, and privatize its vast pension system, among other things, to allow Wall Street into the market.
As Bush leaves Seoul for Beijing, it is clear that Bush has come to Asia with a new, post-Sept. 11 aggressiveness. U.S. imperialism and its representatives in the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department have traveled east to proclaim anew their dominance in the entire Pacific region.
But ambition is one thing. The resistance of the Asian masses awaits them should they plunge into any new adventure.
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