The Blood of Innocents and Our Liberation
The following is the long version of the speech given by Walden Bello at the Dec. 14, 2002 rally in Seoul called to mark the deaths of Shin Hyo-soon and Shim Mi-sun. Bello represented the Asian Peace Alliance together with Teruko Kawae of Okinawa. He is also executive director of Focus on the Global South.)
There is a saying that it is the blood of martyrs that paves the road to redemption. There is no freedom without suffering, no liberation without tragedy. It has taken the deaths of these two beautiful girls, Shin Hyo-soon and Shim Mi-sun, to shake the conscience of all Korea to the reality that the US military presence in this country is a dagger pointed at the heart of the Korean nation.
Many Koreans have said for years that the over 30,000 US troops here serve no purpose for the Korean national interest but have everything to do with the strategic interests of the United States. They have brought out study after study, staged demonstration after demonstration. The ranks of the movement for genuine independence grew but not to the point of becoming a critical mass. It was not enough. Now the tragedy of Hyo-soon and Mi-sun has achieved the hitherto unthinkable: the unity of the Korean nation against the US military juggernaut.
Why? Because their death captured in such a poignant way Korea’s own tragedy. Their being crushed by a US tank symbolized Korea’s being run over, for over half a century now, by the strategic interests of the world’s most powerful country. Suddenly, for Koreans young and old, right and left, in the South and in the North, worker and entrepreneur, civilian and soldier, famous and obscure, everything has become painfully, perfectly clear: you have been run over repeatedly for over half a century.
We in Asia have also been shaken by this death of innocents and exoneration of the guilty. For Korea, a nation sliced in half by a superpower’s strategic needs, in turn, symbolizes Asia-a continent that has been repeatedly run over and crushed by colonial powers and great powers in pursuit of the violent logic of commercial and strategic advantage.
The people of the Philippines, my people, wanted nothing more than to liberate themselves from Spain in 1898 and to live in peace. That was not to be. The expansionist United States grabbed our country and embroiled us for over a century in conflicts and wars that had no relevance to the interests of the Filipino people. The US is still in my country in force, and today, it is dragging us into a war against peoples against whom we have no quarrel, against our Muslim brothers and sisters.
Today, Washington moves through the Asian region like the Angel of Death, intimidating and coercing and bribing leaders from Japan to Indonesia to Pakistan to participate in an act that not only would contravene international law but also take the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, including young lives like those of Hyo-soon and Mi-sun. The invasion of Iraq tomorrow would be an extension of the same strategic imperative that led over 50 years ago to the division of the Korean nation. There is no difference. The same forces, the same interests, the same drives are at play, though the face of imperial power then was that of Truman and MacArthur while today its face is that of George W. Bush. Iraq, Afghanistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Okinawa. Like Hyo-soon and Mi-sun, like Korea, these nations or peoples have been crushed without pity because they got in the way of US strategic interests.
Yet consciousness of oppression and anger is not enough. Anger must translate into consistent mobilization until your country is free once more from the yoke of the US presence. Anger must also translate into your participation in the global struggle against war, against imperial expansion. Ending the US presence in Korea, we must all realize, is one front of a broader war-the global war for peace, justice, and sovereignty. You cannot achieve victory on the Korean front of this war unless you also participate in the struggles on other fronts, the most critical of which right now is preventing the US from bombing and invading Iraq. For like all bullies, like all empires, Washington’s success in destroying Iraq will translate into greater arrogance and disdain of the wishes of the Korean people, the Filipino people, the people of Okinawa, the peoples of the world.
Your future and your freedom is indivisible from the freedom and future of the rest other peoples of the world. The lives of Hyo- soon and Mi-sun are intertwined with those of thousands of innocent Iraqi children who live under the threat of war, invasion, and bombing. Let me stress, though, that our enemy is the US, not the American people. The American people have been consistently misled into believing that the interest of their government and the corporate elite that rules America is also their interest. Nothing could be further from the truth, and we must not condemn them but work hard to educate them that their real interests lie in the liberation of the Korean people.
Now, I ask you join me in reciting the Asian people’s pledge to avenge the deaths of these two beautiful Korean children. We promise, Hyo-soon and Mi-sun, never to rest until we rid Korea of the US military presence. We promise never to rest until we rid Asia of the US military. We promise to exert all our efforts to prevent the United States from invading Iraq. We assure you, Hyo-soon and Mi-sun, that your deaths were not in vain, that your blood will water the tree of freedom of Korea and Asia.
The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip in 2002