Kicking North Koreans Down the Bloody Road of History

I don’t think that anyone really wants a war with North Korea. The potential use of nuclear weapons on either side is the stuff of nightmares; but even without nuclear weapons, the death tolls from conventional munitions such as artillery, small arms, non-nuclear missiles and air-strikes would be extraordinary.

Thus, many have been shocked that President Trump has seemed openly hostile to N. Korean Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un. They have blamed him with escalating the conflict, with prodding the rogue nation to the brink of nuclear conflict.

In the end, it sounds as if North Korea were a gentle, quiet land of rural majesty that just wanted to be left alone, when along came Donald Trump, who started being mean to the cuddly Teddy Bear president of exotic, far-off North Korea.

And yet, we forget. We forget that the Korean war of 1950-53 began when North invaded South and that it ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty. That war cost an estimated 1.6 million civilian casualties and some 1.2 million combat casualties. I’ve met veterans of that nightmare. It was a horrible war, and would be again.


However, we also forget that since that truce, North Korea has constantly provoked South Korea with infiltrations by special operations soldiers, with naval and border clashes, assassinations, terrorist events and artillery fire. We forget that North Korean operatives have kidnapped citizens of South Korea, Japan and other nations. (Many of whom never saw their families again.) Go through the list in the link below. It’s not stuff we hear much about, but it’s truly shocking. And the list only goes to 2007.

Beyond that, we in the West (and particularly college educated Americans) have a stunning ignorance about the singular delights of the land above the 38th parallel. We forget that North Korea, that undying zombie of Communism, is a land of terrible cruelty, torture, imprisonment, starvation and sorrow. As we in the West decry oppression in all its real and imaginary forms, the people of North Korea understand it in full. Over the decades of North Korean tyranny, since 1948, hundreds of thousands have died at the hands of their own government in prison camps and reeducation centers. Attempted defection to China usually results in either more abuses, or return to North Korea with further torment. Starvation, beatings, rape, forced abortions and executions are tools of state, and entire families are punished for the transgressions of one. (I suspect no small number of those crushed souls would say today, ’bomb it, bomb it all; it really can’t get a whole lot worse for us here, eating bugs and rats, and hoping our children aren’t murdered.’)
If you think I’m confabulating, follow the links below.

So it’s all well and good for us to oppose nuclear war, and to oppose war in in general. But the sudden discovery that North Korea was a super friendly place until Donald Trump? That’s not historically accurate or intellectually honest.

If it all cools off and calmer heads prevail, North Korea will still have hundreds of thousands of citizens living in conditions that rival those of the Soviet Gulags, or the Nazi concentration camps. They will survive day to day, eating starvation rations, being beaten or raped, tortured and murdered; the lucky ones exported abroad as wage slaves.
Those not in the camps, even the true believers, will continue to live in the constant fear that they’ll be arrested. And in the knowledge that their success, their survival, depends on showing unwavering devotion to Kim Jong-un and his family’s dynastic brand of tyrannical thuggery. Political opponents, religious believers, families of those suspected of dissent, all will fear the government or be punished by it. Because that’s how it goes down in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Assuming, again, that the war clouds pass, free people can wipe the sweat from their furrowed brows and allow the horrors of North Korea to go on, safe in the knowledge that diplomats will continue to talk as nuclear weapons and delivery systems continue to be developed in North Korea. All funded by the slave labor of untold, unknown citizens. And as men, women and children continue to suffer and starve.

What a relief that will be! And those who say ‘not my president’ can meet in safe cafes and discuss how ‘that crazy Trump’ nearly caused a war with a country that has been provoking free nations, and torturing its own citizens, for over 70 years. Safe out of the view of sensitive American citizens who oppose oppression.

I also hope we’re all prepared for what we see when, and if, the DPRK ever falls and the West has access. Because when we go in at last (hopefully through diplomacy or some miracle), when we see the camps and hear the stories, and witness the broken lives and weeping, gaunt faces; when we at last grasp the misery and sorrow that generations of people endured under that regime, we’ll be ashamed. And it will take decades for those people to escape the toxic cloud of imposed fear that enveloped them for so long.

But then, the world let it happen in exchange for the comfort of empty discussions and endless sanctions as we (the West and China) kicked North Korea and her people down the bloody road of history.

God forgive us when we see what that ‘peace’ cost.

Fundamental questions for everyone

Last week I spoke to a group of emergency residents in East Lansing.  For the first hour, I talked about having the right perspective in the transition to residency.  In the next hour, I simply discussed a list of questions I had written down over the days previous.

It occurred to me that we seldom ask penetrating, important questions.  We deal mostly in superficialities.  Especially in medicine, but in much of life, we scientific post-moderns evade metaphysical questions because there aren’t easy answers.  We like the things we believe are concrete, though even they are far more porous than we would like to admit.  As one of the very bright residents said, ‘your terms are very nebulous.’

Yes, they were.  But they were nebulous by design.  So, with this post, I want to begin a series of posts on some of those questions.  Some apply to medicine in general, some to emergency medicine in particular, but many to everyone on earth.

So, here goes.  Ponder them, discuss them, but please don’t evade them.  They are as relevant and essential as medications and water heaters, as government and economics.  Maybe, as things appear, even more so.

First question:

Am I free?

My thoughts:  I’m free, but within bounds.  As one listener pointed out, no one is entirely free.  Granted.  We are bound by space and time, by our bodies, by death, by money, by laws.  But, within those confines, we do have some freedoms.

This week, my two youngest and I road bikes into the national forest.  They’re 8 and 10.  We were free to ride into ‘the king’s forest,’ for now anyway.  We had no requirement to ask anyone’s permission.  My children are free to be with me, for now anyway.  I am free to spend my leisure time on them.

I am free to carry my pistol in a concealed holster into the forest.  I think it is irresponsible to rely on the inherent kindness of nature (a lie if ever there was one) or the inherent good of mankind (a delusion well dispelled in emergency rooms nationwide).  So, I carry my Glock 36.  I am free to defend myself and my progeny…so far.

I am free to take a job, or change jobs for now.  I am free to charge what my business sees fit; until the role of the ‘Salary Czar’ expands to medicine.

I am free to worship as I wish and say what I believe in a public forum; for now.

I am free to curse God or adore Him; I am free to abandon ethics or morals, to violate every precept of natural law if I choose.  All concerns for consequences aside, I may do as I wish.

I am free from guilt.  I do not dwell on past sins, as I believe them forgiven. Likewise,  I will not be bludgeoned into guilt by the political/cultural priests of secular misery for things I have no reason to bemoan, things I disagree with or things I didn’t cause.

I am blessed with health.  There is freedom in a sound body and mind.  I am loved by my dear wife and children; some may say I am bound to them, and so not free.  I disagree.  There is often more freedom within our constraints than ever there is outside of them.  I am free to love and experience the joy of the little universe of our family.

Others may not feel free.  I am sorry.  Jesus said he came ‘to set the prisoner free.’  Many of us, including myself, have been prisoners before.  But usually, we were imprisoned in false freedom, in a deceptive license of our own making, which was more confining than anything else.  We were our own guards.

Do you feel free?  Are you free?  Free economically?  Free politically?  Free spiritually or physically?

I leave you with that question.