Anti-Communism and the Korean War. 1950-1953

Jon Halliday


On April 16, 1952 the (London) Daily Worker carried a small item about a press conference given in Mexico City by the great Mexican painter, Diego Rivera. His latest painting, Nightmare of War and Dream of Peace, commissioned by the government, had just been cut down. Its two themes were the collection of signatures (includidg by Frida Kahlo) for the Five- Power Peace Pact and the exposure of the atrocities of the Korean War. The painting has since disappeared (it is reportedly in Beijing). Even Picasso's Massacre in Korea (1951) is rarely reproduced or mentioned. Rather, the Korean War is 'known', indeed un-known, to much of the Western world through M.A.S.H. This brilliantly resolves the problem of the nature of the Korean War by keeping almost all Koreans well out of sight, and isolating a few GIs in a tent, leaving them to ruminate about sickness, sex and golf. In its evasion, M.A.S.H. reveals a central truth about the Korean War that it was not just anti-Communist but so anti-Korean that the US and its allies, including Britain, not only could not take in who the enemy really was, but even who their Korean allies were. All Koreans became 'gooks' and very soon US pilots were being given orders to strafe, napalm and bomb any grouping of koreans. In Western history and mythology there has been a double elimination: of Korean Communism and of the Korean revolutionary movement, on the one hand, and of the whole history, culture and society of Korea as a nation. The paradoxical paroxysm of this is that although the US and its allies actually occupied North Korea-the only time the US has ever occupied a Communist country, and the only case of effective 'rollback'-this experience is censored out of existence. There is not a single study on a unique event in post-World War II history: the ousting of an established Communist regime and the occupation of its capital and 90 per cent of its territory.

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