'Crazy American bastards'

Philip Ferguson plf13 at it.canterbury.ac.nz
Sun Feb 24 14:42:52 MST 2002

ending 23 February 2002


Visiting Korea, President George W Bush was called upon to explain his
description of North Korea as part of an evil axis in his State of the Union
address. Bush referred journalists to events 26 years ago when two American
soldiers were bludgeoned to death in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) between
the divided North and South.

In August of its bi-centennial year, the United States Army took part in
military manoeuvres with their South Korean allies, code-named Team Spirit
76. Tensions were already high in the region following the fall of the US
backed regime in South Vietnam. Defence Secretary James Schlesinger had
already threatened the North Koreans with a nuclear attack if they attacked
the South - and nuclear-armed F111 swing-wing fighter-bombers took part in
the exercises. US intelligence had already eaves-dropped on North Korean
communications that assumed the exercises were prelude to an invasion - but
no measures were taken to calm tensions between US and N Korean troops in
the DMZ.

Captain Arthur Bonifas and Lieutenant Mark Barrett had set about trimming a
poplar tree, when they were interrupted by Lieutenant Pak Chul, who told the
West Point Graduate Bonifas that 'if you cut more branches, there will be a
big problem'. Ignored, Pak told the work detail that they would be killed if
they continued. Bonifas continued to ignore the Korean, and paid with his
life, as did Barrett. Having got the worst of the confrontation, US
strategists went into over-drive to restore face. 'North Korean blood must
be spilled', raged Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. The conflict was
accelerated by the American election campaign, in which Ronald Reagan,
challenging Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination, called him soft on
Korea; beating off Reagan's challenge, Ford made the same accusation against
his Democrat opponent Jimmy Carter.

Kissinger: 'it will be useful for us to generate enough activity so that the
North Koreans begin to wonder what those crazy American bastards are capable
of doing in this election year'.  He chaired the Washington Special Actions
Group that considered options including exploding a nuclear weapon of the N
Korean coast, seizing a ship and a vast battery of threatening troop and
aircraft deployments.

On August 21 a convoy of 23 American and S Korean vehicles drove into the
Joint Security Area at Panmunjom without telling the N Koreans - operation
Paul Bunyan. A sixteen member US engineering team were backed up by a US
infantry company in 20 utility helicopters and seven Cobra attack
helicopters, B52 bombers US F-4 fighters and S Korean F-5 fighters. Waiting
on the runway at Osan Air Base, armed and fuelled were the F-111
fighter-bombers, and the Midway aircraft-carrier task force was stationed
offshore. Operation Paul Bunyan carried out its objective, it cut down the
poplar tree.

Surprised that the North Koreans offered no resistance, US officials were
outraged when their leader Kim Il Sung suggested that the whole operation
was undertaken to win Ford the election. 'We realised that our soldiers had
been taken in by the enemy's political scheme' said Kim 'so we decided not
to aggravate the incident any further'. National Security Advisor Brent
Scowcroft, however, did speculate that if North Korea had risen to the bait,
'Ford would have won the election'. In the event, it was Carter, who, to the
irritation of his Chiefs of Staff, tried to withdraw US troops from Korea,
but was stonewalled, throughout his one-term presidency. American endeavours
to crank up the conflict with the North have continued, not just for
purposes of domestic political consumption, but to stymie the growing mood
for reunification in the South.
- James Heartfield

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