Friday, August 06, 2010

Hidden History

Book Review

The Hidden History of the Korean War

I. F. Stone

By Richard E. Noble

This book was originally published in 1952. The copy I have was reprinted in 1970. The front cover reads: America’s First Vietnam – the hidden History of the Korean War.

On the back cover there is a blurb by Stephen E. Ambrose – Professor of Maritime History at the Naval War College. “I. F. Stone is a great journalist, but more importantly he is an honest and courageous man. It took guts to publish this book in the McCarthy era. Today, millions are jumping on the bandwagon of damning our Asian policy – even president Nixon is climbing aboard. In 1952 Mr. Stone was a one man band. It is a pity that more Americans did not read and think about Hidden History at the time.”

Mr. Ambrose goes on to say in his introduction inside the book that “The Chinese never wanted the war and did not support the Koreans until MacArthur forced them to do so. The same was true for the Russians … MacArthur was the major, almost sole, reason the war did not end in late 1950 … Recent studies by the Rand Corporation surely an unimpeachable source come to almost identical conclusions … His (Stone’s) contention is that Dr. Rhee provoked the North Korean assault, with the active support of Chaing Kai-shek and the covert aid of MacArthur and Truman.”

Ambrose goes on to state that Truman needed a crisis in order to get funds to support NATO.

I. F. Stone in his preface states: “I have tried to bring as much of the hidden story to light as I could in order to put the people of the United States and the United Nations on guard ... I utilized material which could not be challenged by those who accept the official American government point of view ... I believe this book serves a threefold purpose. It is a case study in the cold war. It is also a study in war propaganda, in how to read newspapers and official documents in wartime. Emphasis, omission, and distortion rather than outright lying are the tools of the war propagandists and this book may help the reader to learn how to examine their output and – sift out the facts – for himself. Finally this book is what it purports to be, not “inside stuff” or keyhole revelations but the hidden history of the Korean War, the facts to be found in the official accounts themselves if texts are carefully examined and reports collated.”

If we accept the premise that the U.S. government had theoretically declared war against Russia in 1917 when the Russian army decided to walk off the battlefields of Europe and establish a “worker” state. And then add the point of view that it was the Free World Capitalists from the U.S. and elsewhere who financed Adolf Hitler with the intent of using Hitler and his Nazi State to attack and destroy Russia. And then we view the post war Marshall Plan and the establishment of NATO as further steps in isolating Russia as an enemy. And follow all this logic with the “Cold War” strategy to box Russia in militarily and economically, we have the foundations for this journalistic indictment.

We can also add to this animosity towards Russia on the part of the U.S. the present day dismantling of the Berlin wall followed by the collapse of the U.S.S.R leading to the American support of the new nation of Georgia and the consequent lack of financial support and/or aid to Mother Russia and the strongly unionized Poland and Mr. Stone’s point of view seems more than reasonable.

This entire attitude stems from the American Capitalist government’s strong aversion to the rights or advancement of labor organizations at home and abroad. It has become clear to me from my research of the American and world labor movement that from this country’s beginnings it has been at war with “workers” and the working man mentality. When and if one takes all of this into consideration the goals and intent of both MacArthur and Truman as pointed out elaborately and in detail in this book become more than understandable.

I feel that this book is accurate in all of its details with only one small flaw. As Mr. Ambrose also points out, North Korea did not really need to be “tricked” or lured into a belligerent attitude. Current day events point out clearly that North Korea has always had its problems when it comes to aggression.

But that one point made, I don’t think that fact diminishes the exceptional fact finding report conducted in this book by Mr. Stone.

General MacArthur comes off very, very bad in my estimation. He was not frightened of nuclear power, since the U.S. had the command of it at that moment. The idea that MacArthur was inciting the easily excitable North Koreans so that he could then suck in the Chinese followed by the Russians for a lopsided nuclear World War III seems truly frightening. Mr. Stone makes it very clear that it was MacArthur intention to eventually nuke China and Russia.

Truman did not want to nuke anybody but he did encourage MacArthur and a crisis. Truman used the Korean conflict in order to promote his domestic and foreign policy political objectives according to Stone.

Truman wanted the Marshall Plan and NATO defenses for Europe and continued wartime military investment at home to keep America out of a post war recession that could possibly give the Russians the upper hand economically and in the ideological battle for the hearts and minds of capitalists and communist everywhere, according to Stone.
From a Patriotic and purely American point of view, was this a proper course or strategy?

From my point of view, to encourage war, or even limited war, for political or economic objectives is not the proper course for a moral nation to take. To risk a nuclear war for ideological advantage is insane.

This book makes it much more understandable why Truman eventually fired MacArthur. I think that it is safe to say that Mr. Stone considers Mr. Truman an honest but not so wise president.

As I see this analysis of the Korean conflict I think that Mr. Stone’s major point is that this was a small incident that could have been resolved quickly and easily with a minimum of fighting, death and injury to either side. But because of MacArthur’s belligerent aggressive nature and Truman’s political, ideological and economic positioning there was a needless extension of hostilities.

Do I think this book is worth reading? I have just order two more of Mr. Stone’s works. I. F. Stone was a journalist recording, with super insights and amazing perspective, the news of his day. Today these works can be considered history – and great history at that. Mr. Stone was a radical. He calls himself a radical. If I. F. Stone is a radical, we need more radicals of his caliber today.

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