The Arrogance of American Imperialism

By Tom Sturtevant

April 16, 2009

It is with a sense of remorse, shame, and guilt that I am in Korea after nearly 60 years when I was a young sailor on board an American aircraft carrier operating off the coast of Korea.

I was responsible for maintaining electronic equipment on propeller-driven airplanes that were bombing day and night Korean infrastructure--bridges, highways, railroad trains and tracks, trucks, ox carts, etc.

I confess that at the time I was quite ignorant of Korea - its history, its people, and its culture.

I have subsequently concluded over the years that American involvement in the war was unnecessary, illegal, and criminal and the result of American empire-building that started with the conquering of Native Americans (Indians or First People) in the 17th century and continued in the 18th and 19th centuries. U.S. imperialism has continued ever since.

In connection with Korea after 1876 I learned that Korea was the object of big power rivalry among the imperial powers of Russia, Japan, the United States, and Britain. American power asserted itself in the Treaty of Portsmouth that was signed in 1905 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a seaport on the Atlantic Ocean not too far from where I live today. The Treaty, to my knowledge, was drawn up without any involvement or consultation by any Koreans. The Treaty eventually led to the annexation and occupation of Korea by Japan, The average American is completely ignorant of this Treaty and its results.

Jump ahead to 1945 when Korea was freed of the Japanese occupation after the surrender of Japan. Korea was divided arbitrarily in August 1945 "when John J. McCloy of the American War Department directed two colonels, Dean Rusk and Charles H. Bonesteel, to withdraw to an adjoining room and find a place to divide Korea. Given thirty minutes to do so, they chose the thirty-eighth parallel." Thus, the fate of millions of Koreans was decided by two men in thirty minutes sitting in room without the slightest consultation, permission, approval or involvement of the Korean people. "...and Korea began the most anomalous period in its history since AD 686---the era of national division, not yet ended."

But all is not lost. In the port of Yokosuka in Japan where my ship was repaired and serviced during the war, there is an active peace movement to prevent the use of Yokosuka as port for the U.S. Navy. No peace vigils or actions existed in Yokosuka in the 1950s whenever my ship entered the port. At the same time Japanese protests are occurring, vigils and protests occur in Bath, Maine, where Aegis destroyers are built. Aegis destroyers are presently off the coast of Korea monitoring the impending missile launching from the north. And Bruce Gagnon and Mary Beth Sullivan are actively helping to lead the workers at the Bath Iron Works to build barges or wind turbines to take advantage of winds off the Atlantic Ocean.

Veterans for Peace has a Korean Peace Committee led by John Kim in New York City and an active project to eliminate U.S. foreign military bases. Veterans for Peace, for example, helped the people of the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, stop the U.S. Navy from using Vieques as a shelling and bombing range. And of course, we should all be proud of the activists in the Czech Republic in stopping the proposed U.S. radar system in their country.

Containing U.S. imperialism is an up-hill struggle. I am an optimist. I believe that the struggle is worthwhile, and with people like you here in Seoul, we shall prevail.

I would like to present at this time a flag from Veterans for Peace to Korean veterans who are struggling to prevent the establishment of U.S. military bases in Korea and to uncover and seek recognition of U.S. massacres during the war.

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