What Started America’s War Against China

Eric Zuesse (blogs at https://theduran.com/author/eric-zuesse/)

America’s long war against China was started by two things: a fatal rare error by FDR, who was one of America’s two greatest Presidents, plus the catastrophic incompetence of Truman, who was America’s worst President because he reversed the anti-imperialistic objective of FDR’s foreign policies — thus producing not only the Cold War but the U.S. empire’s refusal to end it even after it ended in 1991 on the Soviet side, and NATO expanded right up to Russia’s borders.

Toward the end of WW2, in late 1944 and early 1945, China, which was already at war against its invader, Japan, was also in a revolutionary war by Mao Tse Tung’s patriotic forces against Chiang Kai-shek’s corrupt and authoritarian Koumintang (KMT) national Government of China. The prevailing international assumption was that if the Allies (FDR, Churchill, and Stalin) would win WW2 against the Axis of Hitler, Hirohito, and Mussolini, then China would stay ruled by the dictatorial KMT. FDR’s policy erroneously accepted this belief, and therefore was supplying Lend-Lease aid to only the corrupt KMT, none to Mao’s forces. The consternation within FDR’s Administration was about Chiang’s reluctance to work with Mao to oust the Japanese. Some of FDR’s advisors were consistent with America’s war-aim to defeat Japan and so wanted FDR to require Chiang to cooperate with Mao against Japan or else lose U.S. support, but others were willing to accept Chiang’s refusal to cooperate with Mao; and finally FDR went with the latter: he accepted Chiang’s requirement that America not assist Mao. Chiang laid down that requirement on 16 November 1944.

Already, even by that time, it was clear that the Chinese people supported Mao’s forces against the corrupt Chiang’s, and that the prospects were increasingly that Mao’s side would win China’s civil war. However, FDR’s Administration just continued assuming the opposite. After much indecision by Roosevelt on this matter, he finally decided to grant Chiang’s demand for a total American commitment to his side of the civil war against Mao’s side, despite Chiang’s far less strong commitment than Mao’s to fight against the Japanese invaders and conquer the occupying forces in China. This was the second-worst blunder during FDR’s Presidency, second only to his acceptance of the DNC’s megadonors’ opposition to appointing Henry Wallace to become FDR’s V.P. running-mate in his 1944 re-election campaign (which error led to FDR’s appointing Truman instead — and so to the Cold War, which the megadonors wanted).

On 9 January 1945, Mao’s proposal to FDR was received by the U.S. Ambassador to China, Patrick Hurley, for transmittal to Roosevelt. Mao knew that FDR was, like Mao, deeply committed to terminating all forms of imperialism, and Mao wanted to discuss with Roosevelt in private a post-imperialist future in which China and America would collaborate to help bring this about and benefit both countries and the world-at-large. This communication, which was received by U.S. General Albert Wedemeyer and Hurley, followed after a conversation on 23 August 1944, in which John S. Service of the U.S. Embassy, had transcribed Mao’s ideas, which thus by then were well known to FDR’s top people in China — but never communicated to FDR. Mao’s 9 January 1945 proposal to FDR was that by means of a 6-day trip to Washington, Mao would secretly and privately meet with FDR in Washington to build a post-War U.S.-China partnership. Included were such provisions proposed by Mao, as:

China must industrialize. This can be done – in China – only by free enterprise and with the aid of foreign capital. Chinese and American interests are correlated and similar. They fit together, economically and politically. We can and must work together. … We will be interested in the most rapid possible development of the country on constructive and productive lines.

Hurley was supposed to forward it immediately to FDR but didn’t, because, as he explained to FDR his own viewpoint about Mao, “If the Communists, who are an armed political party, could succeed in making such arrangement with the United States Army, it would be futile for us to try to save the National Government of China.” Hurley had swallowed the capitalist Chiang’s anti-communist bait, hook, line, and sinker, and didn’t trust his boss’s judgment enough to do Hurley’s duty in this matter — which would have been for him simply to send Mao’s invitation for a personal meeting along for Roosevelt to consider, instead of for Hurley not even to mention to Roosevelt what Mao was requesting — a private meeting with the President.

FDR remained ignorant of Mao’s efforts to speak with him, and died on 12 April 1945; and, then, a mere hundred days after that, on 25 July 1945, President Truman (who likewise was a rabid anti-communist, and thus easily fooled by the operation of his Party’s billionaire-backers) decided to take the advice of his personal hero, the empire-accepting Dwight Eisenhower, and also of the passionately pro-empire Winston Churchill, that if the U.S. Government wouldn’t take over the world, then the Soviet Union would; and, so, the naive Truman promptly started the Cold War, in order for the U.S. Government to come to be in control over the world, so that the Soviet Union wouldn’t. This was a fundamental reversal of FDR’s post-WW2 foreign policy objective, which was to terminate all imperialisms and produce a U.N. that would replace all empires by instituting a full-fledged democratic world federation of all nations, possessing the ultimate authority and power, including over armaments, concerning all matters of international relations, and being the sole source of all international laws and international courts and enforcements, while leaving all intranational or domestic matters to the sole sovereign jurisdiction of the individual member-nations within this global federation. Truman opted instead against such a U.N. (a U.N. with “teeth”), so that the U.S. Government could become the world’s first all-encompassing empire. In 1947, he created both the CIA and the ‘Defense’ Department (which replaced The Founders’ War Department, which had included no standing army); and then he created NATO in 1949; and, so, started the military-industrial complex (the armament-manufacturer’s Government), which Eisenhower built even more, before Ike famously warned the country against it while leaving office in 1961, so that only his successors would get the blame for it — Ike himself would not, though Truman and he had actually created it.

Hurley wasn’t even sensitive to the fact that, whereas Mao was similar to FDR in being intensely anti-imperialisic — which Hurley himself also was — Chiang actually was not, but merely played along with that, in order to retain the Roosevelt Administration’s backing. Truman himself had no particular aversion to imperialism; and so he took the advice of both Churchill and Eisenhower — two committed imperialists, both of them aiming for the U.S. to take over from and expand Britain’s empire into an all-encompassing Anglo-American empire. Truman transformed the U.S. Government, replaced FDR’s entire Cabinet within two years, and installed pro-imperialists who would do anything in order to create the world’s first all-encompassing empire; Truman neither knew nor cared about his predecessor’s anti-imperialistic post-WW2 plans (which he considered to be naive). Promptly, America became hostile toward communists everywhere, including in Korea, and in Vietnam; and, so, America’s wars there were products of Truman, definitely NOT of FDR. Truman even allowed his Government to commit atrocities everywhere in order to advance this unprecedented U.S. hyper-imperialism. Prior to Truman, only President Teddy Roosevelt had been a neoconservative — a proponent of U.S. imperialism — but Truman’s U.S. imperialism (which was based largely upon the advice he got at Potsdam from both Churchill and Eisenhower) dwarfed that, as he started America’s foreign coups, and as U.S. foreign invasions and military occupations skyrocketed after WW2 (exactly what FDR had carefully been planning ever since August 1941 to prevent from happening in the wake of WW2). So, in regards to China and the rest of Asia, Truman started America’s ‘anti-communist’ (actually U.S.-mega-imperialistic) international wars there, and he allied America with conservative despots to run those countries: 100% against what had been FDR’s U.N.-oriented plan (which was for their temporary administration — “trusteeships” — by the U.N., to be followed by internationally monitored elections there leading to their independence).

“Land reform,” to terminate the local aristocracy’s stranglehold over the economy and government, was popular in all of these countries, but prohibited by the Truman-Eisenhower-backed despots, and America’s few super-rich were not only united against it, but owned or otherwise controlled the armaments-manufacturing firms, whose sole or main market was the U.S. and allied Governments, and who thus profited from growth in the military-industrial complex; and, so, this maintenance of the status-quo in other countries became permanent U.S. international policy, to serve the super-rich at everybody else’s expense.

Martin Luther King, at Riverside Church, 4 April 1967

… I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the ideologies of the Liberation Front, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1954 — in 1945 rather — after a combined French and Japanese occupation and before the communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its reconquest of her former colony. Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not ready for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination and a government that had been established not by China — for whom the Vietnamese have no great love — but by clearly indigenous forces that included some communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.

For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam. Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of their reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at recolonization.

After the French were defeated, it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva Agreement. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators, our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly rooted out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords, and refused even to discuss reunification with the North. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by United States’ influence and then by increasing numbers of United States troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem’s methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictators seemed to offer no real change. …

Dr. Marco Soddu’s excellent 13 December 2012 study of “Truman Administration’s Containment Policy in Light of the French Return to Indochina” makes clear that (unlike FDR) Truman’s historical understanding was poor and vulnerable to shaping by advisors who themselves had poor understanding, or (like Churchill and Eisenhower) ulterior motives.

FDR was far more of a strategic thinker than Truman was, and therefore was far less manipulable. In his 1 January 1945 Memorandum for the Secretary of State (Stenttinius, whom Truman viewed as being soft on communism and therefore Truman replaced him on 28 June 1945, even before deciding irrevocably to start a Cold War), FDR made clear that, “I still do not want to get mixed up in any Indochina decision. It is a matter for post-war.” And, “I made this very clear to Mr. Churchill. From both the military and civil point of view, action at this time is premature.” The aristocracies of both Britain and France were obsessed to continue their empires post-war. FDR held them off, so as to hold together the alliance against Hitler, but Truman was strongly inclined to yield to them whenever doing so would be “anti-communist.” He was simply manipulable by the super-rich. He never really understood what FDR’s vision was of the post-War world, nor cared. In fact, on 29 August 1945, in a conversation between Madam Chiang Kai shek and Truman, “Madame Chiang recalled that President Roosevelt had spoken of a trusteeship for Indo China, where-upon the President stated that there had been no discussion of a trusteeship for Indo China as far as he was concerned.” He was ignorant of it and didn’t care to know about it. This far into the Cold War that he now was committed to, he still had never even thought about what FDR’s vision had been. To Truman, communists personified evil: to him, they were psychopaths and demons — end of story.

By contrast, here was the reason why FDR strongly favored for existing colonies to become taken over, after the War, by the U.N., as trusteeships, on the road quickly to independence:

Memorandum, President Roosevelt to the Secretary of State

January 24, 1944

I saw Halifax last week and told him quite frankly that it was perfectly true that I had, for over a year, expressed the opinion that Indo-China should not go back to France but that it should be administered by an international trusteeship. France has had the country — thirty million inhabitants — for nearly one hundred years, and the people are worse off than they were at the beginning. As a matter of interest, I am wholeheartedly supported in this view by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and by Marshal Stalin. I see no reason to play in with the British Foreign Office in this matter. The only reason they seem to oppose it is that they fear the effect it would have on their own possessions and those of the Dutch. They have never liked the idea of trusteeship because it is, in some instances, aimed at future independence. This is true in the case of Indo-China. Each case must, of course, stand on its own feet, but the case of Indo-China is perfectly clear. France has milked it for one hundred years. The people of Indo-China are entitled to something better than that.

F[ranklin] D. R[oosevelt]]

On 25 June 2020, Jacobin magazine headlined “Uncovering the Hidden History of the Korean War”, and Owen Miller, lecturer in Korean studies at SOAS, University of London, wrote:

We know now that civil war had already come to South Korea before the formal establishment of the Republic of Korea in August 1948. It began with a major uprising on the island of Jeju in April of that year, leading to a brutal US-backed counterinsurgency campaign. …

After US and South Korean soldiers retook those areas in autumn 1950 and again in spring 1951, the forces of the Rhee government also pursued brutal retribution against anyone deemed to have collaborated with the occupation by the Korean People’s Army.

The displacement of people during this phase was vast, with millions on the move: more than half a million refugees from the north ended up settling permanently in the south, along with an unknown number making the reverse journey to the north. There were also many atrocities and aerial attacks against those fleeing, including the infamous No Gun Ri massacre perpetrated by the US Army in July 1950.

The third horror of the Korean War for civilians was the seemingly limitless aerial bombardment of North Korea by the US Air Force (USAF) and the accompanying depredations of hunger and disease. From an early stage, the USAF enjoyed air supremacy in Korea. It used this advantage to wreak havoc, not only on Chinese and North Korean military targets, but also on Korean cities, towns, industrial facilities, transport infrastructure, and — infamously — dams, both hydroelectric and irrigation.

The United States dropped more bombs — 635,000 tons — on North Korea than in the whole Pacific Theater during World War II, including large quantities of its new incendiary weapon, napalm. Most cities suffered between 75 percent and 90 percent destruction from the bombardment. As many as 1.5 million North Korean civilians may have died, many from bombing or its consequences.

What brought this cataclysm on the Korean people, coming almost immediately after four decades of brutal Japanese colonial rule? In the United States and South Korea, traditional interpretations of the war’s causes claimed that it was a product of Soviet expansionism and Moscow’s intent to “communize” Asia. The biggest challenge to this view came in the 1980s with the publication of Bruce Cumings’s book The Origins of the Korean War.

Cumings traced the roots of the conflict to Japanese colonial rule, partition in 1945, and the suppression of left-wing movements by the US occupation government in the southern zone.

The earliest mainstream U.S.-and-allied public report about the long-hidden reality, was an article by Howard W. French in the New York Times, on 24 October 2001, headlined

“South Koreans Seek Truth About ’48 Massacre”, which described massacres in Jeju Island of South Korea, by the U.S.-backed forces,

A series of massacres on Mount Halla, which rises over Jeju Island, between October 1948 and February of the next year are estimated to have killed 30,000 people, and rank among the worst atrocities this country has ever seen.

Yet many Koreans, especially those who have never lived on Jeju Island, in the far south of the country, know little or nothing about it.

The article doesn’t explain why “many Koreans … know little or nothing about it.” But it does say:

In South Korea, until a decade ago, the Jeju massacres were ascribed both officially and in textbooks to North Korean infiltrators. Gradually local journalists, university students and members of Parliament began pushing for recognition of what historians say really happened: a largely unfounded witch hunt that resulted in the killing of more than 10 percent of the island’s population.

Jack Willey headlined on 20 May 2001 in The Militant, “Sinchon massacre by U.S. military exposed”, and reported:

Over the past few years the Korean people have been able to expose the truth about a number of atrocities by Washington’s military forces during the 1950–53 Korean War. Many others, however, remain covered up and receive virtually no mention outside the Korean peninsula. One such massacre took place in Sinchon, a city located in what is today north Korea. …

In September 1950, four months after the outbreak of the Korean War, tens of thousands of U.S. troops poured into Korea and began a northward offensive. Sinchon County was occupied for 52 days in the closing months of that year. Dozens of photographs and artifacts documenting the roundups and executions of Korean patriots and indiscriminate killings of men, women, and children are on display at the museum.

One of the historical sites marks mass graves where the slaughtered were buried. According to Ri Song Jin, a witness to the massacre, imperialist forces tortured many Korean patriots in the basement of the Sinchon church at the beginning of the occupation, then buried the dead and near-dead bodies in a trench. …

In the lead-up to the Korean War, as the revolution was deepening in the north, social unrest bubbled throughout the south. In an attempt to buffer the resistance, Washington urged its puppet regime in Seoul to hold an election in May 1948 to try to give a “democratic” face to the dictatorship. …

In the course of the Korean War, the U.S. rulers also conducted saturation bombing, especially of the northern cities, factories, and mines. They dropped more than 428,000 bombs on Pyongyang, a city whose prewar population was only 400,000, and used 717 million pounds of napalm on the country’s people.

In spite of attempts by Washington and Seoul to cover up the atrocities, many Koreans who survived from both sides of the border have refused to stay quiet.

Even the CIA-edited and written Wikipedia (which blacklists (blocks from linking to) sites that aren’t CIA-approved) once included a photo “South Korean soldiers walk among dead political prisoners, Taejon, South Korea.jpg” showing the U.S.-backed forces down in a ditch full of corpses apparently prodding them as-if to find out whether any might still be alive, so as to shoot any that are. The accompanying “Description” says: “In this July 1950 U.S. Army file photograph once classified “top secret,” South Korean soldiers walk among some of the thousands of South Korean political prisoners shot at Taejon (now known as Daejeon), South Korea, early in the Korean War.”

There is also a Wikipedia article “The Bodo League Massacre”, which says that it:

was a massacre and war crime against communists and suspected sympathizers (many of whom were civilians who had no connection with communism or communists) that occurred in the summer of 1950 during the Korean War. Estimates of the death toll vary. Historians and experts on the Korean War estimate that the full total ranges from at least 60,000–110,000 (Kim Dong-choon) to 200,000 (Park Myung-lim).[2]

The massacre was falsely blamed on the communists led by Kim Il Sung.[3] 

On 16 September 2020, Jeffrey Kaye headlined “‘A real flood of bacteria and germs’ — Communications Intelligence and Charges of U.S. Germ Warfare during the Korean War”

This long after the events, it wasn’t yet allowed for the public to know that this is the type of Government America had in the immediate post-WW2 years — and has it today: Truman’s Government. And this Government still pontificates that it’s the alliance of ‘freedom and democracy’ and ‘human rights’, against the opposites.

Anyone who alleges that America’s Presidents after FDR have been in FDR’s tradition would also have difficulty to sustain that belief in the face of the example of Indonesia’s ethnic cleansing, whose victims or ‘ethnicity’ were basically determined by the U.S. embassy in Jakarta. This violated everything that FDR had stood for. The October 1965 through March 1966 Indonesian government extermination of anywhere from 500,000 to two million Indonesian supporters of communism and of any other left-wing political party — including supporters of Indonesia’s leader, General Sukarno, who had some leftist supporters — was probably masterminded, ordered, by U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, on behalf of the owners of the mega-corporations who were backing the Democratic Party. Certainly, LBJ was behind this ‘ethnic cleansing’, even well before it began. As early as March 1965, Johnson’s people were privately vitriolic against Sukarno, who was making noises about land-reform and possibly nationalizing natural resources. For example, on 18 March 1965, “118. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State (Ball) to President Johnson” opened: “Our relations with Indonesia are on the verge of falling apart. Sukarno is turning more and more toward the Communist PKI. The Army, which has been the traditional countervailing force, has its own problems of internal cohesion. Within the past few days the situation has grown increasingly more ominous. Not only has the management of the American rubber plants been taken over, but there are dangers of an imminent seizure of the American oil companies.” The coup started on 1 October 1965; General Suharto was installed to replace Sukarno, and promptly began the extermination-campaign. But he didn’t know whom to slaughter; so, as one excellent review of Vincent Bevins’s excellent book about the slaughters, The Jakarta Method: Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World, succinctly put the matter, “The US provided arms, training, communication equipment and lists of thousands of real and alleged leftists to be killed. US-owned plantations furnished lists of ‘troublesome’ employees. US officials repeatedly sent cables to the leader of the butchery, General Suharto, to kill the leftists faster.” Other fine reviews of this book are here and here. However, like the other books that have been published about that extermination-campaign, Bevins’s focus isn’t on the masterminds who planned and bribed to get it done (its beneficiaries), but instead on the physical perpetrators and their victims. The coup-and-extermination’s ultimate beneficiaries aren’t named, nor identified. The U.S. did that in conjunction with other members of the American gang, mainly in Europe. The Judge in the International People’s Tribunal stated that “the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Australia were all complicit to differing degrees in the commission of these crimes against humanity.” It was a Rhodesist operation, done for the U.S.-and-allied (especially Netherlands) aristocracies.

The evidence is absolutely massive and incontestible that FDR held as his cardinal principle in foreign policies a revulsion against any form of imperialism. Hurley himself shared this, and so, as FDR himself confided to his son Elliott:

“‘That Pat Hurley … he did a good job. If anybody can straighten out the mess of internal Chinese politics, he’s the man. … Men like Pat Hurley are invaluable. … I can give him assignments that I’d never give a man in the State Department, because I can depend on him. … Any number of times, the men in the State Department have tried to conceal messages to me, delay them, hold them up somehow, just because some of those career diplomats aren’t in accord with what they know I think. They should be working for Winston.’” 

Tragically, he didn’t understand that whereas Hurley shared FDR’s anti-imperialism, he didn’t understand FDR’s categorical separation of domestic-policy matters — such as internal economic matters in the communist-versus-capitalist field — versus foreign-affairs matters. On that, Hurley actually did exactly what FDR criticized his State Department for doing. Even more tragically, FDR died before the War ended and before the U.N.’s Charter was completed.

Furthermore: As Jeffrey St. Claire and Alexander Cockburn reported at Counterpunch on 1 December 2017, headlining “The US Opium Wars: China, Burma and the CIA”, Truman’s CIA was set up so as to receive part of its funding off-the-books from the international narcotics traffic, and so the CIA’s first coup was in 1948 Thailand in order to cut the CIA in on the take and provide protection to the trafficking organization, so that future coups and other secret conquests would have sufficient funding regardless of Congress. (The only thing the article got wrong is that they simply assumed that the change from FDR’s OSS to Truman’s CIA was only nominal, and that FDR would have allowed the CIA to do what Truman’s and Eisenhower’s CIA did do. But it is a common error of ‘historians’ to make that false assumption.)

Just as Truman’s American Government lied to tell Russia in 1990 that if the Soviet Union breaks up and ends its communism and Warsaw Pact, then NATO wouldn’t expand toward Russia’s borders; Truman’s American Government lied in 1972 when it said, and signed with China’s Government, the Shanghai Communique, including “The U.S. side declared: The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China.” George W. Bush’s Administration tried unsuccessfully in 2007 to outlaw internationally the very phrase “Taiwan is a part of China”; and, so, the Shanghai Communique has remained the official U.S. Government policy to this day. The Truman-installed U.S. regime hopes to get China to invade Taiwan in order for the U.S. to have a supposed pretext to then ‘defend that independent nation’ ‘against China’s aggression’, by invading China. But this doesn’t come from FDR; it comes from the anti-FDR: Truman. He wasn’t outright evil like all U.S. Presidents this century have been; but some times, incompetence can be even worse.

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Investigative historian Eric Zuesse’s latest book, AMERICA’S EMPIRE OF EVIL: Hitler’s Posthumous Victory, and Why the Social Sciences Need to Change, is about how America took over the world after World War II in order to enslave it to U.S.-and-allied billionaires. Their cartels extract the world’s wealth by control of not only their ‘news’ media but the social ‘sciences’ — duping the public.

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