My personal invasion of North Korea ended with a steaming plate of bulgogi, an ice cold bottle of OB Beer, and a Cuban cigar in 1998.
I wish I could say the same about U.S. President Donald Trump’s impending attack on the Hermit Kingdom, which threatens to bring calamity to the strategic Korean Peninsula.
The painful truth is that if South Korean President Moon Jae-in had the sense God gave Billy Goats he would just end our 67-year-old military alliance and ask us to remove our troops.
Because his country is caught between two fake tough guys right now in Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un. They’re both drunk with power, have lots to prove, have led sheltered lives of incredible privilege, prefer worshippers to empowered citizens, and have millions of clueless surrogates who are willing to do their fighting and dying for them.
Moon Jae-in has already begun distancing himself from Trump, but it may not be enough to head-off a completely avoidable military showdown which has absolutely nothing to do with protecting his country. The South Korean president met with Chinese President Xi Jinping last month and announced Wednesday that he’s open to a summit with his North Korean counterpart.
Trump Administration officials say they will resist efforts by the North to drive a wedge between the United States and its ally in the South. However, the painful truth is that the failing Trump Administration's political need for war is the real wedge.
The surest path to peace would be for Moon Jae-in to simply order U.S. troops out of South Korea until our presidential manchild leaves office, and then invite them back after he’s been replaced by a grown-up.
No one with an understanding of the vulnerability of the South Korean capital would think any less of Moon Jae-in for doing so. Seoul’s 10 million residents are only 35 miles from the DMZ, putting them within the range of many of North Korea’s 14,000 artillery pieces and rocket launchers.
The Congressional Research Office estimates 30,000 to 300,000 people would die in the first days of a conventional conflict between the U.S. and North Korea, which could quickly spread to China, Japan and Russia.
Trump could care less.
Unlike most U.S. presidents, he's not a smart man. Never been to war, never been a veteran, never been without, and never really suffered. Except from his own stupidity.
Trump has more in common with fellow fame whores Kim Kardashian and Tila Tequila, than former presidents Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. And he feels more of a kinship with authoritarian leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, than democratic leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Trump never really wanted to be president, according to "Fire and Fury" Author Michael Wolff. The Reality TV Star was just chasing free air time.
Trump wound up in The Oval Office strictly because he was the only remaining alternative to Hillary Clinton. The former First Lady who runs a political protection racket for Wall Street and is one of the most unpopular figures in U.S. political history.
Trump received just 63 million votes in a country with 240 million voting age citizens. As in one in four.
Nevertheless, he’s now in charge of both the planet's most powerful military and its largest national economy. And a half step ahead of impeachment, sex scandal and/or a fatal case of chlamydia.
Trump is hell-bent on jump-starting his dying presidency via an unnecessary war with North Korea. The conflict will allow him to assume the sweeping powers of a wartime president, wrap himself in the flag, and question the patriotism of his legion of critics. It’s also his best chance of avoiding prison time.
As unpleasant as this embarrassing president is for those of us in America who balk at joining his cult of personality, his personal shortcomings threaten the very existence of the Korean people. As in rotting corpses in the streets and entire cities on fire.
South Koreans will bear the brunt of Trump’s unnecessary war. However, they stand to receive absolutely nothing in return except the death of their distant relatives in the North and their friends and family members in the South.
What a deal, huh?
Trump doesn’t give a damn about South Korea. It’s just another “shithole country” to him, filled with people who don’t look like him. That’s our Racist-in-Chief's new word for non-white nations.
South Korea might as well be a Hollywood movie studio as far as Trump is concerned.
All he really cares about is ratings, attention and notoriety. A war with North Korea would be akin to an unpaid political advertisement for his floundering regime, whose members are poised to fill our bookstores with tell-all books and our prisons with white collar inmates.
Trump thinks this needless military conflict is going to play out like a revised version of the film "Patton," with him in the role of old "Blood and Guts." The five-time Vietnam War draft evader could not be more mistaken.
Sadly, North Korea is not Iraq. Where unchallenged American air power laid waste to exposed military facilities and formations in the desert.
Its geography is more like mountainous Afghanistan, but with lots and lots of underground tunnel complexes. And its bellicose population is a lot more like that of the Imperial Japan of World War II.
North Korea has a big mining industry, which is where all its tunnels come from. It's also really cold in the winter, with average temperatures below zero.
Bottom line, it’s not the kind of terrain which lends itself to the high tech warfare our military excels at.
The 25 million citizens of The Hermit Kingdom have been indoctrinated with a cult-like political belief system called "Juche." It combines political and spiritual leadership in the sole person of a “divine” Supreme Leader.
Retired South Korean Lt. Gen. In-Bum Chun compares the way North Koreans view their nation's Supreme Leader, Kim Jung Un, to the way Muslims view "Allah," according to Vox. Allah is the Arab word for God.
“I try to explain to the Americans — if we have to go into North Korea, it is not going to be like going into Iraq or Afghanistan," he told a London think tank Wednesday. "It’s not going to be like toppling (ex-Iraqi President Saddam) Hussein. This would be more like trying to get rid of Allah."
The closest parallel to Juche, which also combines elements of Communism with a hereditary monarchy, is the divine emperor of World War II Japan.
Those of you who are students of World War II may recall that the Japanese fought ferociously in defense of their God-like Emperor. Many of the slogans employed and displayed by the North Korean state come directly from Imperial Japan's kamikaze ideology, according to B.R. Myers — author of “the Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves.
The Japanese annexed Korea in 1910 and kept it until their 1945 defeat, which may account for some of the similarities. It’s also the reason South Korea was still refusing Japanese products when I lived there.
Which is why a Korean executive rolled down the window of his limousine one afternoon in Seoul to ogle my 6-year-old Toyota pickup as we waited in traffic. You would have thought it was a Rolls Royce, instead of a modest base pickup with a single bench seat, a manual transmission, and 140,000 miles on the odometer.
Normally, I’m the one staring at rich people’s cars. Not the other way around.
Japanese vehicles were extremely rare in South Korea in 1998. Mine was there because I was working as a reporter for the Stars & Stripes military newspaper.
“Nice car,” the middle-aged executive said with an improbable New York accent.
“I’ll trade you mine for yours, straight up,” I replied, drawing a chuckle.
That kind of unusual stuff happens all the time overseas, which is why we have professional diplomats who specialize in navigating foreign cultures. They understand why Japanese and Korean executives often choose to communicate in English, why Koreans dislike mixed race children, and the like.
One of them – our ambassador to Panama – resigned today to protest Trump’s tone-deaf description of Hispanic, Caribbean and African nations as “shithole countries.”
If Trump was half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd allow U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his team of professional diplomats to deal with North Korea. Instead of blundering around like a bull in a China shop.
North Korea is a living, breathing example of a police state. It has no free press and no political opposition. Supreme Leader Kim Jung Un is flattered and pampered like a medieval king. His father is revered like a God.
The state-controlled media has indoctrinated the North Korea people with the notion that we Americans are evil incarnate.
You know the way Orcs and Goblins are presented in The Lord of the Rings trilogy?
That’s the way they view us.
North Koreans literally think we eat Korean babies for breakfast.
Sounds outlandish, right?
Why don’t the North Korean people just Google “America” and read about us for themselves?
They can’t. They ain’t got no Internet.
The Internet is reserved strictly for the use of government officials and outsiders in North Korea, where there were an estimated 1,000 IP addresses in December 2014. Compared with more than 4 billion for the rest of the world.
As a country, North Korea is akin to a hive of Africanized bees in an Amazonian rainforest. In the sense that if you don’t have to mess with them, why would you?
Why not just give them a wide berth and move on?
Who gives a flying fuck what they do in their frozen little corner of the world?
Especially given our existing military engagements around the world, which have scattered our troops across more than 800 foreign bases and our Special Forces across more than 130 countries. We're now engaged in sporadic conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq, Niger, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Georgia, Syria, Sudan, and Ukraine.
Totalitarian regimes are notoriously short-lived and there’s an excellent chance the people of North Korea will do away with Kim Jung Un on their own, just as the Libyans did with Moammar Gadhafi. All we have to do is just leave them be.
So why don’t we?
I’ll tell you why: Little Donnie Trump isn’t built that way. He's more like a 5-year-old kid who wants to see what happens when you hit a beehive with a stick, than a sober adult.
Peace doesn't generate headlines. And for better or worse, Little Donnie desperately needs to play the tough guy after receiving four medical deferments and one educational deferment during the Vietnam War.
Trump sought these exemptions after graduating from The New York Military Academy for little rich boys. Where he had just spent four years playing Dress Up GI Joe (right).
Afterward, he attended Fordham University in the Bronx. The gritty blue collar community where I was raised.
Trump likes to tell stories, but you never hear a word from him about his time in the Bronx. I doubt he ever ventured beyond the wrought-iron fence around the campus. Lest he come face-to-face with his own imaginary Orcs and Goblins outside.
I don’t have much use for the man, but I fondly recall my time in South Korea and would dearly love to see its people and the remnants of our representative democracy survive his misguided presidency.
I visited Panmunjom in 1998 while covering the U.S. Air Force in South Korea for Stars & Stripes. The so-called Truce Village straddling the DMZ is a surreal place, divided by a painted line that runs across its streets and through the interior of the huts where negotiations occur.
Big office buildings filled with nothing sit on either end of the village. They're both for show.
As my group descended the steps on our side, I paused to scrutinize the big North Korean building across from us through an enormous camera lens. The kind professional photographers use to cover football games.
I was startled to find myself looking directly into the face of a North Korean officer, who was looking back at me through a pair of huge binoculars.
We both looked up simultaneously, jaws hanging open in the universal symbol of surprise. Then shared a discreet laugh. Lest our companions see us being less than appropriately warlike.
It was the briefest moment of shared levity.
It would be a shame to kill that guy and everyone he's ever known just so Trump can lift his dismal presidential approval rating, which was at 37 percent the week ending Jan. 7. Before he casually insulted the portion of the world that exists outside the Democratic Socialist countries of Scandinavia and Europe.
One of the many surreal things about Panmunjom is the huge size disparity between the North and South Korean soldiers who patrol it.
South Koreans have gained an average of three inches on their Northern cousins since the Korean Peninsula was divided in 1950. Mostly due to their superior diet.
The discrepancy is quite pronounced in Panmunjom, where petite North Korea martial artists stand at attention on their side of the line of demarcation. Just a few feet from their strapping, pork-fed South Korean counterparts
As we moved inside the huts, the U.S. Army Sergeant leading my group warned us that the North Koreans sometimes come by to take a closer look at visitors. Which is military speak for “they're just as bored as we are.”
The sergeant then regaled us with tales of how the North Koreans shortened the legs of the American chairs so they wouldn’t have to look up at our guys during negotiations. They also trimmed the tiny poles holding the American flags on the table, so their own flags would rise above them.
Clearly, they're struggling to fill time at the isolated outpost.
We’d already read about how the American soldiers stationed at Panmunjon were disciplined for feeding pizza to their starving North Koreans counterparts.
I can be a smartass and at some point I just got bored and drifted over the line into North Korea and stood there nonchalantly, waiting for the sergeant to notice me. Mostly so I could write some smart aleck shit like this someday about how I single-handed invaded North Korea and lived to tell the tale.
Apparently, I was not the first.
“Uh sir,” he said abruptly. “You want to come back over to our side now?”
Which I did.
What’s the moral of the story?
There’s a reason I’m not President of the United States and the fact that a clueless silver spoon like Trump actually has the job continues to amaze me.
Because Donald Trump makes me look like Albert Einstein, Nikola Tesla, and Marie Curie. Combined.
And that's saying something.
He makes the Cookie Monster look like Stephen Hawking.
What the hell is this buffoon still doing in The White House?
Let's go Robert Mueller. Get 'er done.
How friggin long does it take to impeach a bigoted moron suffering from dementia who thinks a McDonald's Happy Meal is good eating?