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A. B. Abrams Talks About His Book: "Power and Primacy, The History of Western intervention in the Asia Pacific"

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The value attributed to the Korean or East Asian life was extremely low at the time in the United States - which had just five years prior killed over 100,000 Japanese civilians in a single night during the firebombing of Tokyo for no apparent material gain other than the psychological impact it would have on the population. At times the military ordered the killing of civilians for fear that they may be sheltering guerrillas or North Korean soldiers. Similar conduct was observed towards South Vietnamese civilians in the 1960s. Given the consistency of this conduct, how can we expect civilians of supposedly allied East Asian states to be treated should there be another major war in the region?

Q7: I am a founding member of the Bioweapon Truth Commission (BWTC -, which likely has the largest collection of printed and multimedia documentation on this subject, on the internet. It does contain some information about the early use of chemical weapons, including the West, going back to World War I. But, my eyes widened when you wrote about the US not only using bioweapons in Korea and China, but also chemical weapons during the Korean War. Please tell us about that.

A7: Conflict with Chinese and North Korean forces and defeats at their hands came as a major shock to the Western world - arguably a greater shock than Russia's defeat by Japan 45 years prior which was entirely unexpected for similar reasons. It was previously widely believed that East Asian peoples and the Chinese in particular were incompetent militarily, and that they would turn and run at the first sight of Western soldiers. This was far from the case, and against overwhelming odds North Korean forces forced the U.S. and its allies into a three-month long retreat southwards - with the Americans alone taking an estimated 20,000 casualties. With the Chinese entry into the war, the U.S. no longer outnumbered their enemy and the number of troops on the front was largely equalised. Seeking a means to kill more of their enemies more efficiently, extensive research was undertaken by the Chemical Corps in particular, into new means of killing larger numbers of enemies more efficiently - using weapons such as sarin gas. Sarin was mass produced for the U.S. Military for this express purpose, but reports indicate it was not ready before the war's end. Some reports by international commissions indicate that chemical weapons were used on a limited scale, perhaps experimentally, but this remains uncertain. Chemical weapons have been termed the 'poor man's nuclear bomb,' and any possible employment was overshadowed by very significant evidence and widespread use of biological weapons, the U.S.'s very near use of nuclear weapons and the brutalities of the firebombing campaign - spraying incendiaries such as napalm indiscriminately over population centres.

Q8: Close your eyes and imagine NATO attacking North Korea. In one scenario, the West does not use tactical nuclear weapons. In the second, it does. What do you think China and Russia would do in both cases?

A8: The answer would depend on the time period, but it is something I have covered extensively in my upcoming work in relation to Beijing and Moscow's responses to a growing willingness by the United States to launch military action in 2016 and 2017. Both parties took extensive moves to prevent such an attack, including deploying long range air defence assets to their Korean borders with coverage over the peninsula and carrying out large scale naval and amphibious drills very near to the Korean Peninsula. It was also reported that China flew its new J-20 stealth fighters into South Korean airspace undetected, and later announced it to emphasise the vulnerability of U.S. bases there. Even the Chinese and Russian approval for U.S. drafted sanctions against North Korea was interpreted by some as a measure to prevent military action - providing the Western Bloc with an alternative avenue to put pressure on Pyongyang which undermined calls for an offensive.

There are indications that no matter what kind of weapons are used, both neighbouring states would intervene jointly to protect North Korea - something Chinese state media has reiterated Beijing's commitment to see through. What matters most is to deter U.S. and allied military action by emphasizing their commitment to Korea's defence, as even a symbolic 'bloody nose' strike on the DPRK would most likely escalate into a total war. Military exercises near the peninsula at times of high tension and deployment of military assets to respond to a potential attack are critical to this. While this was particularly vital in 2017, prospects for a U.S. led attack on North Korea today remain slim, with Pyongyang in a stronger position vis-à-vis the United States than ever before in its history due to successes in economic modernisation and the development of a viable and diverse nuclear and missile deterrent capability. The ability of a small state to hold a superpower's cities in the firing line with thermonuclear weapons is historically unprecedented, and has allowed Pyongyang to increasingly stand up for itself militarily.

Q9: You write much about the West's "interests" in trying to control all the Asian countries, but you never associate it with global capitalism, that being exploiting natural and human resources on the cheap. Was that intentional? Where do you think capitalism fits into the West's "full spectrum dominance" to maintain its "postwar order"?

A9: The work primarily focuses on the nature of Western-led order, and the moves the Western Bloc takes to undermine threats to both its regional and global position of primacy which have primarily emanated from the Asia-Pacific. This had been the case for several centuries, long before Adam Smith and before capitalism in its current form existed. Where capitalism fits into this depends on how capitalism may be defined. Imperial Japan and the Asian Tiger economies are widely considered capitalist states, but they were quashed quite brutally on separate occasions when they challenged the primacy of the Western capitalists. Indeed, Western socialists and leftists have often been as vocal in their calls for a coercive and forceful Western led order and the interventionism needed to see it through as capitalists have, with the benefits of hegemony benefitting Western economies for centuries - benefits shared by the working classes. Detailing the role of ideology and of capitalism in interventionism may be something worth further researching in future.

Q10: Your book reminds me of Jeff Kaye's investigation into several "suicides", in his book, Cover-up at Guantanamo and parts of my China Trilogy . At times, they are all hard to read, because they rip the façade of whitewashed propaganda off Western empire, to expose some very unsettling, shocking, and at times gut-wrenching truths. How do you respond to people who complain about this or try to justify the West's real history, often with the moral equivalence of, "Well, everybody else does it too"?

A10: Moral equivalence is very often a last resort of those found to have committed atrocities, but I make an effort to rule out options for this by directly comparing the conduct of Western and East Asian powers in my work. Moral equivalence can often result from cognitive dissonance - people may not want to believe a certain party are the 'bad guys' so attempt to portray them as a lesser of two evils or their misconduct as part of the nature of war or politics. I strongly refute these claims in my work, and can do so more effectively by showing the consistencies in Western conduct towards East Asian nations over a period of several decades. In the cases of Western conduct towards civilians in the Korean War, and separately the comfort women system established by the U.S. Military in South Korea, the work makes direct comparisons with the conduct of East Asian parties and shows a very stark contrast.

Q11: Do you have any other books in the hopper? What are your literary and writing ambitions, looking into the future?

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Jeff J. Brown is the author of 44 Days (2013) and Doctor WriteRead's Treasure Trove to Great English (2015). In 2016 Punto Press released China Rising, Capitalist Roads, Socialist Destinations The Truth behind Asia's Enigmatic Colossus. For (more...)

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