Like most Koreans, the farmers and fishing families protested the senseless division of their nation between north and south in 1945 – a line drawn along the 38th Parallel by an American official, Dean Rusk, who had “consulted a map around midnight on the day after we obliterated Nagasaki with an atomic bomb,” wrote Cumings.
In fact, Korea, north and south, has a remarkable people’s history of resistance to feudalism and foreign occupation, notably Japan’s in the 20th century. When the Americans defeated Japan in 1945, they occupied Korea and often branded those who had resisted the Japanese as “commies”.
Wasn’t resisting Japan what the Americans were doing for almost four years? Does this make the Americans “commies” as well? Perhaps we could ask America’s greatest ally during the war what he thinks. But I digress.
Cumings exposes as propaganda the notion that Kim Il-sung, leader of the “bad” Korea, was a stooge of Moscow. In contrast, the regime that Washington invented in the south, the “good” Korea, was run largely by those who had collaborated with Japan and America. (emphasis added)
The United States defeated Japan in World War II, mercilessly bombing countless civilians in the process, and then immediately used Japanese connections to control South Korea – an artificial creation of an American giddy with nuclear success. This statement regarding Koreans who had collaborated with Japan and America is actually a nice bow tied around a gift that was first purchased forty years earlier – in 1905.
What was the gift?
The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War, by James Bradley
This “gift” is described well in this book by Bradley:
In the summer of 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt – known as Teddy to the public – dispatched the largest diplomatic delegation to Asia in U.S. history: Teddy sent his secretary of war, seven senators, twenty-three congressman, various military and civilian officials, and his daughter on an ocean liner from San Francisco to Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, China, Korea, then back to San Francisco. (P. 1)
Roosevelt was confident that the future of the United States would be determined more by its position facing China than in its position facing Europe. Certainly, the position in Europe already had a strong foothold, via the Anglo-American empire and America’s emerging role in it.
Roosevelt’s held a superior view of the great Anglo race – emerging from the Caucasus, moving through central Europe (the Germanic tribes), on to England then the eastern fringe of North America. From there, an entire continent was conquered. Roosevelt saw the next steps to the west, meaning the entire Pacific, even unto China.
And for this, he sent the delegation, led by William Howard Taft. Their purpose was to secure the continuation of this tribal wandering to the west.
What is the tie to this statement, referenced above, by Pilger?
…behind [Roosevelt’s] Asian whispers that critical summer of 1905 was a very big stick – the bruises from which would catalyze World War II in the Pacific, the Chinese Communist Revolution, the Korean War, and an array of tensions that inform our lives today. The twentieth-century American experience in Asia would follow in the diplomatic wake first churned by Theodore Roosevelt. (P. 4)
To gain a foothold in Asia, Roosevelt felt it necessary to gain an ally in the region – one to do the heavy lifting. His problem – there was no Anglo presence capable of the task, unlike the migrating tribes that ended up reaching the Pacific coast of the New World. Japan was to play the part of “Anglo” – don’t ask, I will come to this later.
As early as 1790 (yes, you read that right) and continuing through the middle decades of the nineteenth century, the United States reached out to Japan via the US navy at least 27 times. The Japanese steadfastly refused the American advances. This did not sit so well with representatives of the “superior race”:
In an 1846 speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Senator Thomas Hart Benton noted that Asians were inferior to the American Aryan and, “like all the rest, must receive an impression from the superior race whenever they come in contact.” (P. 175)
American ministers played their part:
The missionary Samuel Wells Williams wrote, “I have a full conviction that the seclusion policy of the nations of Eastern Asia is not according to God’s plan of mercy to these peoples, and their government must change them through fear or force, that his people may be free.” (P. 176)
In 1852, the Secretary of the Navy, John Kennedy, wrote that Japan must recognize “its Christian obligation to join the family of Christendom.” (P. 176)
…secretary of state, Daniel Webster, argued that Japan had “no right” to refuse the U.S. Navy’s “reasonable” request to commandeer Japanese sovereign soil for its coaling stations because the coal at issue was “but a gift of Providence, deposited, by the Creator of all things, in the depths of the Japanese islands for the benefit of the human family.” (P. 176)
All around Japan through eastern and Southeast Asia, western powers were taking control: China was being dismembered. Additionally, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Burma, and India all were controlled by one or another European power. (P. 180)
A handful of Japanese decided it was better to get with the program than be co-opted by the Europeans. Bradley refers to this group as the Japanese “founding fathers.” These men, coming from the southern island of Kyushu, fought their way to the royal capital of Kyoto. On January 3, 1868, they stormed the royal compound and took control of the young emperor – renaming him Meiji. (P. 180)
These founding fathers knew that the westerners felt that the Asians were inferior – so they decided to craft an identity separate from other Asians. They developed a western-styled military; they wore western clothes; they strung telegraph wire; they practiced using knives and forks. They opened Japan to western teachers and missionaries. The sent their children to western schools. Most importantly, they developed the western attitude of colonization through conquest. (P. 182)
They became “Honorary Aryans,” apart from other Asians and now western in many ways. The World’s Fair in Philadelphia, in 1876, heralded this distinction: the Chinese were declared a dying race; Japan was praised. (P. 182)
By this time, the Americans sent a capable instructor to the Japanese founding fathers, Charles LeGendre, known as “General.” He offered the following advice as to how Japan should move the rest of Asia from barbarism to civilization:
LeGendre recommended Anglo-Saxon methods: “Pacify and civilize them if possible, and if not…exterminate them or otherwise deal with them as the United States and England have dealt with the barbarians.” (P. 188)
Japan exercised this method of civilization against Taiwan – an island previously subservient to both Japan and China. (P. 190) Next, they looked to Korea. Dressed now in Western suits and top hat, the Japanese came via an American-made warship, bearing an American-style treaty of friendship. After all, it worked for Perry! Given the backbone provided by China, the Koreans didn’t budge. (P. 192)
In the background, the Americans gave verbal assurances to the Korean King Gojong regarding independence, all the while pushing Japan to aggress against this neighbor. (P. 195, 213)
Japan’s western methods further developed: Japan declared war on China on August 1, 1894. (P. 197) According to the New York Times:
“The war is often called a conflict between Eastern and Western civilization. It would be more accurate to call it a conflict between civilization and barbarism.” (P. 197)
The birthing of the “Honorary Aryans” was a success!
Many expected that China would make short work of the upstart Japanese. Instead, China ended up suing for peace:
In the resulting Treaty of Shimonoseki, China was forced to cede Taiwan and the Liaodong Peninsula, pay a large indemnity, accept that Korea was truly independent, and accord the Japanese the same unequal diplomatic and commercial privileges enjoyed by White Christians in China. (P. 198)
Japan further finalized a treaty with Great Britain – the treaty was seen as a dagger aimed at Czarist Russia. The US would also have liked to join Britain and Japan in this treaty, but Roosevelt felt there was no chance to get such a treaty through Congress.
Japan’s propaganda machine went into full force. Baron Kentaro Kaneko was sent to the US in 1904 to woo the American public, and to further influence Teddy Roosevelt.
He took the country by storm. (P. 218) He also convinced Roosevelt of the necessity that Japan be allowed a free hand in the Far East, to include Korea. All American promises regarding support for that country fell by the wayside.
War between Japan and Russia was soon to come – with Japan striking a surprise attack without a war declaration (imagine that). (P. 214) The Russians protested; Roosevelt cheered (as did his distant cousin 37 years later for another “surprise” attack). Roosevelt warned France and Germany against coming to Russia’s aid. (P. 216)
The clergy in the US got in on the act; Reverend Robert MacArthur, the pastor of New York City’s Calvary Baptist Church for 35 years, delivered a sermon entitled “Japan’s Victory – Christian Opportunity”:
The Great Master said, ‘By their fruits ye shall know them.” Apply that standard, and you will find that the nominally heathen Japan is more Christian than ‘Holy Russia.’ …The victory of the Japanese is a distinct triumph for Christianity. (P. 236)
I don’t believe this is what the “Great Master” meant to suggest.
In any case, Japan had made it to the pinnacle of civilized society. An American newspaper reported:
Ever since the Chicago Exposition [of 1892-1893] foreigners have gradually acquired some knowledge of Japanese culture, but it was limited to the fact that Japan produces beautiful pottery, tea and silk. Since the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War last year, however, an attitude of respect for Japan may be felt everywhere, and there is talk of nothing but Japan this and Japan that… (P. 199)
Militarism made Japan civilized and respectable:
“Japan is the only nation in Asia that understands the principles and methods of Western civilization…. All the Asiatic nations are now faced with the urgent necessity of adjusting themselves to the present age. Japan should be their natural leader in that process.”
Theodore Roosevelt, 1905 (P. 217)
Roosevelt would broker a treaty between Japan and Russia; during this time, he first offered the idea of a “Japanese Monroe Doctrine” for Asia. (P. 243)
This is the background for “The Imperial Cruise” and for Taft’s trip to Asia.
Within a few short years, Japan’s militarism would terrorize much of the Far East:
“The average Westerner…was wont to regard Japan as barbarous while she indulged in the gentle arts of peace: he calls her civilized since she began to commit wholesale slaughter in the Manchurian battlefields.”
Okakura Kakuzo, 1906 (P. 167)
Ultimately, Japan’s militarism would lead it into a deadly conflict against that same US government. The propaganda machine now turned the Japanese into pariahs.
The key event in this history – the culmination of the American advances that preceded it and the legitimization of the Japanese militarism that followed it – was crafted by Teddy Roosevelt. He sent Taft on the “Imperial Cruise,” with the objective of getting Japan to play a role – an Aryan puppet:
Taft was Roosevelt’s secretary of war, and he led the delegation. He was carrying secret oral instructions from Roosevelt. These instructions were kept secret from both Congress and the State Department. (P. 168) A few Japanese leaders knew that the president had a secret plan for Japan – including Emperor Meiji: Roosevelt would grant Japan a protectorate in Korea in exchange for Japan’s assisting the American penetration of Asia. (P. 170)
Taft knew he could not make any formal commitment – the Constitution and Congress stood in his way. However, he offered to his Japanese counterpart:
“Without any agreement at all…just as confidently as if a treaty had been signed…appropriate action by the United States could be counted upon” to support Japan’s sphere of influence in Asia… (P. 249)
With this commitment, Korea was subjected to 45 years of Japan’s tortuous subjugation. China was made a continuous war zone. One of the most militaristic regimes of the first half of the twentieth centuries was birthed. The US, if not the father, was certainly the mid-wife.
It is easy to see World War II in Europe as a continuation of the Great War. In Asia, the connections stretch back even further. And in both cases, the United States government played a leading role.
Reprinted with permission from Bionic Mosquito.