When the Korean War broke out on 25 June 1950, then Prime Minister Clement Atlee was recorded as saying to cabinet secretary Sir Norman Brook that the conflict was “Distant yes, but nonetheless an obligation”. And so began Britain’s first major post war intervention, one that would claim over a thousand British lives. The ‘obligation’ as Atlee saw it, was to repel the communist North Korean army from quasi American colony in the south of the Korean peninsula ruled by the US installed dictator Syngman Rhee, whose regime contained many of the collaborators during the Japanese occupation responsible for much brutally including forced sex slaves during the Second World War.
The American presence in their zone of occupation in the divided Korean peninsula saw the deaths of thousands of dissidents. At least 100,000 were murdered by the pro American regime following the outbreak of the war in 1950, the mass graves of which are still being discovered. The war in the three year war would see the deaths of millions of people in brutal fighting and atrocities on both sides such as the No Gun Ri massacre committed by American troops that claimed the lives of 250-300 civilians, mainly women and children. The Americans were said to have used biological warfare and destroyed at least 98% of all structures in North Korea in intense bombing that left a permanent scar on the psyche of the Korean people to this day.
The 1950-53 Korean War would act as a template for Western interventions to come, the murky reasons for war for murky purposes a general, recognisable hallmark. Three years later, Britain, France and Israel would conspire to invade Egypt under a false pretext after its nationalist leader Gamal Abdel Nasser took control of the Suez Canal, something that would be seen as the greatest foreign policy disaster since the Munich Agreement in 1938 and ended in the resignation of the discredited Prime Minister Anthony Eden.
The period around the Korean War and its aftermath was one of hightened anti Communist paranoia, particularly in America which experienced McCartheyite witch hunts that ruined lives and destroyed careers and a paranoid foreign policy based on the fear of a communist “domino effect” which caused coups, wars, assasinations and atrocities claiming millions of lives in countries around the world. The CIA engineered coup in Indonesia alone is estimated to claimed 600,000 to 1,000,000 lives, while US anti communist inspired meddling destabilised countries from Central and South America to Africa to South East Asia, consequences still felt to this day the most notorious of which was the bloody conflict in Vietnam.
Following the defeat of the French colonial forces at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, the Americans gradually took an increasing role in the conflict finally openly intervening after the manufactured Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 gave the reason it sought for. As in the Korean War before it, the Americans used all manner destructive weapons at its desposal and fought to keep an authoritarian pro American regime in power. The death toll would run into the millions, including almost 60,000 US troops – many of them killed in friendly fire incidents. Unable to defeat the communist partisans or the army of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the American aggressors left in disgrace from the roof of their embassy in 1975.
In the modern era, the same factors of heavily disguised motives and mendacity for Western interventions continue. The 1991 Gulf War was fought on the basis of evicting the occupying Iraqi army from neighbouring Kuwait. Initially the US unwittingly gave the regime of Saddam Hussein the impression it wouldn’t intervene and thereby giving the green light for Saddam’s invasion. Fearing for control of the oil supply in the Middle East, the administration of George HW Bush did an about turn, taking an tough stand against the Iraqi aggressors. In the months that followed, the Americans would sabotage diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the dispute peacefully, concocting propaganda of fictional Iraqi atrocities to build up its case for war. Deliberately backing Saddam in a corner into a position where he couldn’t back down, sparking a short but devastating conflict that killed tens of thousands of Iragis and irradiating their country with depleted uranium. Half a million Iraqi children would die from Western sanctions in the years following the war, which the then US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright callously described as “a price worth paying”
Manufacturing a case for war would become a central focus for interventions to follow. The 78 days of airstrikes against Yugoslavia in 1999 was premised on a fake genocide. The FBI investigation after the NATO aggressors secured their occupation of the Serbian province of Kosovo found no evidence of mass killings
despite the previous claims of then Prime Minister Tony Blair, who would eventually come to be recognised as a lying war criminal. The illegal nature of the attack which fundamentally undermined international law led to Russia recognising the disputed areas of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent and annexing the historically Russian area of Crimea from the Ukraine in the years subsequent.
The nadir for Western interventions came in Iraq in 2003. As the recent Chilcot Inquiry has found, Tony Blair committed himself to invading Iraq while claiming to the British public he hoped for a peaceful solution. In July 2002 Blair told President Bush he was with him “whatever”. Weapons of mass destruction would be the excuse but removing Saddam “would be the prize” as declassified memos showed. It was an entirely unprovoked war of aggression, Iraq was a threat to neither the US or UK or indeed the region in general, but by then the West had effectively made itself the de facto world police and guardian of global human rights with an unimpeded mandate that didn’t stop at national borders.
Blair and Bush would ignore the many pleas and warnings, plunging Iraq into years of murderous anarchy. Hundreds of thousands died, millions displaced and yet the West learned nothing. Repeating virtually the same mistakes, the US, Britain and France attacked Libya in 2011 in support of Islamist rebels, turning what was then the most advanced country in Africa into a failed state. Even as the consequences of the West’s catastrophic intervention became evident in Libya, Western intelligence agencies focused their attentions on destabilising Syria, arming, training and funding an assortment of fundamentalist militias from the Turkish border.
Today, Western and Russian military forces assist Syrian, Iraqi and Kurdish forces in a batte against the fascistic and genocidal Islamic State group occupying territory in Iraq and Syria, the fatal consequences of decades of daranged Western foreign policy. The West, the US and UK in particular is probably unlikely to learn from its mistakes however.