Imperialist liberalism and Korea

‘U.S. Hands Off Korea’ protest in Los Angeles, March 4

It appears, as of this writing, that the summit meeting between Kim Jong Un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Donald Trump will finally happen on June 12 in Singapore.

Support by the Korean people for such a meeting is very high, in both the DPRK and South Korea. President Moon Jae-in’s popularity in the South has risen to 85 percent in the polls because of his role in pushing for an end to the cruel division of the Korean nation.

What about in the U.S.? One might expect that those on the right would be very opposed to such a meeting, since Korea-bashing and anti-communism are their standard fare. But Trump resonates with the Republican right, and criticism from his supporters is muted so far.

In fact, some of the strongest attacks on the planned Kim-Trump talks are coming from the anti-Trump analysts of the Washington Post and the New York Times, who pose as liberals. Their opinion pieces on the subject have been almost identical.

In a June 2 editorial headlined “Trump softens on North Korea,” the Washington Post calls the DPRK “one of the world’s most brutal, aggressive and unpredictable regimes” and worries that Trump might eventually be “willing to sign a peace treaty with the North formally ending the Korean War.” Heavens — a peace treaty!

It also complains that the “diplomatic thaw” initiated by Moon and Kim and endorsed by Trump “has already weakened the sanctions regime [Trump] spent more than a year marshaling. South Korea, China and Russia all seem poised to use the new era to resume trade and economic aid to North Korea.”

On the same day, an opinion piece in the New York Times by two of its senior analysts, David Sanger and Mark Landler, called the DPRK “a broken country” and moaned that Trump had set aside threats to “keep the younger Mr. Kim’s feet to the fire with sanctions until he complies” with demands to denuclearize immediately.

When Israel last month shot and killed scores of Palestinians demonstrating in Gaza against the prison camp conditions imposed on them in that small strip of land, did either of these bastions of imperialist liberalism call it “brutal” or demand sanctions on that settler colonial state?

When the Trump administration violates international law by launching missile attacks on Syria or drone strikes on Afghanistan and Libya, do these same analysts — or the newspapers they work for — demand sanctions on the U.S. as a “rogue country” or call it a “brutal, aggressive and unpredictable regime”?

Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to threaten the DPRK every day, as the Pentagon has done since the 1953 end of the Korean War, with nuclear weapons and a global delivery system, aircraft carriers, strategic bombers, nuclear submarines and 37 (at least) military installations in South Korea. The last includes the megabase Camp Humphreys, the largest U.S. overseas military base in the world, located close to the border with the North.

There are plenty of things Trump has done that merit much stronger language than these opinion pieces on Korea. What about the murderous treatment of migrants and building that obscene border wall? What about his appointment of nuclear warmonger John Bolton to his cabinet after Bolton wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the U.S. should launch a “preemptive” strike against the DPRK? What about his condoning of fascist violence in Charlottesville, Va.?

But these two newspapers of big business are much more focused on maintaining the “sanctions regime” that attempts to strangle the DPRK’s economy and starve the people into submission. That won’t happen. The people of the DPRK have shown the greatest ingenuity in developing their country despite everything the U.S. has done.

The lesson of this is that it is folly to expect the imperialist liberals to oppose Trump on any progressive basis. They don’t like him, but not for the right reasons. They’re afraid his egoism and unpredictability will undermine the political architecture created over the years to assure that the U.S. ruling class can dictate to the world.

So where does this leave the progressive, anti-war and workers’ movements here? We must be independent of imperialist liberalism and work much harder to support the right of the Korean people to determine their own destiny, free of U.S. threats.

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