A team of South Korean soldiers tracked me with the anti-aircraft gun mounted on their armored personnel carrier as I jogged the perimeter of Osan Air Force Base on a sunny morning in 1998.
The lethal weapon’s four barrels glinted like huge snake fangs as the bored gunner pivoted it absentmindedly. They gave him the power to turn me into ground beef with a single trigger pull.
I looked back nervously every few seconds as I chugged through the remote area to see if our bored allies were still entertaining themselves at my expense. My worried face big in their sights as my sneakers slapped the blacktop road.
“Fuck you,” I finally shouted playfully over my shoulder, eliciting a soft laugh from inside the vehicle.
“Fahk yoo too,” someone inside responded cheerily in heavily accented English.
After having lived and worked at Osan, I guess I process information about U.S. military activities in Korea differently than those who have never lived on an overseas military base. Or been to the eerie “demilitarized zone” (DMZ) separating North and South Korea, which is actually the world’s most heavily armed border.
I'm not saying I'm a military veteran, because I'm not. However, I do have some experience with the military as well as a boatload of experience handling press releases, deciphering propaganda, and covering politics and I’m under the impression we’re going to war. In fact, we may already be at war with North Korea by the time you read this column.
The Republic of Korea (ROK) is responsible for ground defense at the big joint air base. Osan is just 40 miles from the DMZ and serves as home to the headquarters for both our air force and their own.
Unlike most Stateside air bases, which focus on military airlift, Osan is home to everything that kills. That means F-16 fighter jets, U-2 spy planes, Special Forces commandos, electronic eavesdropping antennae, A-10 Warthog attack aircraft, armored personnel carriers using anti-aircraft guns in a ground defense role, and forests of Patriot missiles. All pointing north.
Life there is not a joke.
I know because I lived at Osan when I was a civilian employee for the U.S. Department of Defense. My job was to cover the U.S. Air Force in Korea for the legendary Stars & Stripes military newspaper.
Donald Trump has spent the past nine months moving men and material to South Korea to supplement the huge U.S. military force already permanently stationed there.
How do I know?
I have civilian friends who handle military moves and they say they've been moving people to Korea to beat the band since Trump occupied the White House on Feb. 20. There are also plenty of videos on YouTube (click pic below to play one) of huge American mechanized formations moving west via train to California ports. It’s not classified information.
Officially, these troop movements are happening because we’re holding joint exercises with the ROKs. The only problem with that explanation is we already had our annual exercises with them in March and April.
They’re big exercises and they’re expensive as hell. One of the reasons we conduct them is because the troop movements they generate are the perfect cover for a real invasion.
The stateside people who participate in these annual exercises do so as TDY personnel, which is military parlance for those on temporary duty assignments. They go there for a couple weeks and then return to their permanent duty stations.
That means Trump is beefing up our permanent force in South Korea. Not just the folks going there temporarily for the exercises.
Officially, we still have 28,500 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines there. Unofficially, it’s probably a helluva lot more.
Meaning, we’re going to war.
You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s opposition to this needless and ill-conceived war is the real reason Trump wants to get rid of him. The former Exxon CEO is a greedy sonofabitch, but he’s no fool.
Trump is. He didn’t object to being called a “moron” by Tillerson, but he objects to being told he can’t play Winston Churchill with his new toys. Especially at a time when he needs to distract the nation from the probe into his Russian ties led by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Meaning, we’re going to war.
The trust fund commando has moved three carrier strike groups into the waters off Korea for the first time in a decade: the USS Nimitz, the USS Reagan, the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
Another big expense.
Carrier strike groups don’t shoot down nuclear missiles. They’re offensive weapons used to attack the enemy.
Meaning, we’re going to war.
Ominously, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said pretty much the same thing yesterday on Face the Nation. The former U.S. Air Force colonel called for the military to start moving military spouses out of South Korea. He also said they should reclassify Korea as an “unaccompanied tour” to keep additional spouses out.
Earlier today, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said "war in that region would be catastrophic and it would have global consequences." He didn't say that for the benefit of North Korean dictator Kim Jung-un. He said it for Trump and for the adults trying to rein him in.
Meaning, we’re going to war.
It doesn't make any sense, but it's going to happen.
Why should you care?
Because we have a narcissistic idiot for a president right now and you could be impacted by this conflict. Right here at home.
The North Koreans can reach us, and they’re a not a bunch of Al Quaeda hillbillies. The Hermit Kingdom is a bellicose nation with an isolated, cultish population which thinks Americans eat Korean babies for breakfast.
They're fucking loony tunes. With a bizarre Juche philosophy that combines the monarchy-killing of old school Communism with hereditary rule.
Roll that insanity around in your head for a couple minutes.
War has been a real possibility for the past 60 years on the divided peninsula, which has the misfortune to lie between China and Japan. The North Koreans were rumored to be routinely transiting the heavily armed border via radar-resistant canvas covered biplanes when I was there, while their frogmen used modified torpedoes to navigate the South's shallow coastal waters.
Primitive but effective, like all things North Korean.
Meanwhile, the South was hopelessly corrupt. You could buy a job as a taxi driver on base with the right connections. And the Koreans who controlled the Osan housing office routinely forced American officers to rent the ratty apartments they owned, which were worth less than $500 a month, while pocketing the $1,500 monthly housing stipends we provided to ensure our boys were comfortable.
Most of the intersections of the South Korean capital of Seoul were equipped with concrete pillboxes. They took the threat from the North seriously
What do we have on our side?
A five-time draft dodger who thinks war is cool and heroic because it looks that way on television.
It’s a perfect storm for the kind of event that changes the planet for the next 50 years.
Trump is playing with fire with North Korea and he has no idea what he’s doing. Like a kid in Houston playing with the big garter snake he just found in the backyard on Christmas Day, with the cool rattle on the end of its tail.
He's a friggin clown.
Anyone who thinks a military professional who trains for war their whole life, and prepares for war, is going to wave him off is wrong.
Our men and women in uniform don’t make policy. They execute policy. Just like the German generals who warned Hitler not to engage in a two-front war in 1941 by attacking Russia and marched obediently to their deaths when he did. That's why we thank them for their "service" ad nauseum.
How many fronts are U.S. military personnel fighting on right now?
Only a handful of people even really know.
We've got more than 800 bases scattered around the world now. Up from 200 when I was in Korea in 1998-99.
Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans with full time civilian jobs back home is at its lowest point in decades.
The shortlist for active conflicts we're involved in includes Iraq, Afghanistan, Niger, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Georgia, Syria, Sudan, and Ukraine. The Nation estimated that we had Special Forces detachments in 134 countries in 2014.
Wanna know what no one in the New York City and Washington, D.C., privilege bubbles has said since 9/11?
"Gee, I wonder how this madness is all going to end?"
Know what else our toxic elites never ask themselves?
"How much is too much?"
They are now growing government revenue, political donations, and military budgets as if they're growing profits at publicly traded companies with stock tickers. Increasing the deficit to beat the band.
It's completely unsustainable, and we probably passed "too much" in 2006.
If America was a publicly traded corporation it would be well out of the investment phase and deeply into the phase where we cannibalize our own customers and employees, while cooking the books to hide our failing business model.
Painful Truth 6.678 Gazillion: The United States of America is to empire as Blackberry is to cellphones right now. We are Bernie Madoff in 2007, just one step ahead of the great unmasking.
Our elites are convinced that the only way to hide it all, and keep their respective gravy trains rolling, is to keep doubling down.
Meaning, we’re going to war.
It’s going to be a political war. Like a giant political ad for Trump, paid for with our tax dollars and the blood of working class kids.
This war is going to happen because it serves our silver spoon president’s deluded image of himself as a great leader and his desire to prove himself vicariously via surrogate combat. Not because it’s necessary.
The idea that North Korea’s development of inter-continental ballistic missiles somehow threatens us is nonsense. Not because it’s untrue, but because we have the ability to shoot down their missiles.
What we don’t possess is the economic will to inspect all 20 million shipping containers which enter this country every year. Any one of which could contain a weapon of mass destruction.
We only inspect a fraction right now, and do so only after they enter our ports. Meaning that a weapon could be timed to blow up in port before its container is even unloaded.
To put it another way, North Korea doesn’t need a fancy delivery system to hit us. Neither does anybody else.
They just have to be willing to pay the price afterward.
We also lack the ability to shoot down the artillery projectiles which North Korea would rain on Seoul. The South Korean capital has a population of 10 million and is only 35 miles from the DMZ.
It’s vulnerable to many of the North’s 12,000 pieces artillery tubes and 2,300 multiple launchers.
The property there is insured, which means a devastating attack will also roil the global economy in a big way. War would be a windfall for Trump's hedge fund friends, who stand to make make billions trading on their advance knowledge of the conflict.
However, if the North Koreans level Seoul we can say goodbye to most of our remaining allies in Asia. Because self-preservation is an instinct they possess and supporting any U.S. President who puts them at risk to advance a personal agenda is a nonstarter.
All of which means that if self-preservation is a quality you still possess, you should give a shit about what Trump is doing with North Korea right now.
This is not the kind of fight anyone sensible goes looking for.
Trump is hungry for military conflict. He’s always been a gambler and he’s gambling that a big war with a lot of U.S. casualties will boost his flagging popularity, allow him to claim the sweeping powers of a wartime president, and divert attention from Mueller's corruption probe.
North Korea's cultish and warlike society makes that body count a given.
This isn’t going to be a case of leadership by example.
Trump is never going to leave air conditioning, much less put himself on the proverbial two-way shooting range. Any more than his predecessor did when he said he killed Osama Bin Laden.
So we're looking at heavy damage to the South Korean capital of Seoul and the cancellation of the Winter Olympics slated for South Korea in early 2018. And lots and lots of dead Americans and Koreans.
We may also be looking at severe damage here at home.
And for what?
All so some rich poser who didn’t get beaten up nearly enough in junior high school can posture and preen as a fake tough guy by playing Dress Up GI Joe Barbie.
Trump represents the kind of disaster that can only happen when both political parties stop representing hardworking American people and start thinking they're in the business of deceiving us on behalf of global monied interests. Which is exactly where they are right now.
It's a formula for disaster. Not leadership.
The painful truth is that China, Russia and Iran are the only potential winners in our showdown with The Hermit Kingdom, which is going to accelerate our demise as a global leader. Regardless of whether this garbage president pulls it off.
I would love to be wrong on this call. Sadly, I don't think I am.