October 19, 2005 | Commentary on Department of Homeland Security

Mauling MacArthur

This time, South Korea's anti-American crowd has gone too far.

Uncle Sam-bashing is, unfortunately, quite popular these days among South Korea's left, teachers and youth - burning the Stars and Stripes and massive anti-U.S. street protests are all too common.

But now South Korean radicals - many of them de facto North Korean pawns - are threatening to tear down the 15-foot tall statue of U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur at Inchon, the site of the intrepid landing that changed the course of the bloody Korean War.

With U.S.-South Korean relations already on the skids from disagreements over North Korea's nuclear program to the future of U.S. troop basing, it's a propitious time to bring our Old Soldier home and place him where he belongs - among other American heroes on the Mall in the nation's capital.

For the last six months, activists have gathered around MacArthur's statue above Inchon harbor for anti-American/anti-alliance hate-fests, including violent attempts to topple the monument. The latest rally was on Sept. 11, a date plainly chosen to sting Americans.

Just four days before the 55th anniversary of the Sept. 15, 1950 landing, 4,000 anti-U.S. activists, armed with bamboo poles and metal pipes, led assaults on the statue in Inchon's Freedom Park, calling MacArthur "a war criminal who massacred numerous [Korean] civilians."

Pro-American Koreans have spoken up, too. Indeed, 10,000 of them, including South Korean Marine vets, headed to Inchon on the 15th to guard the statue on the anniversary - at which point the protestors wimped out, pulling a no-show.

How quickly the Korean anti-American crowd forgets the facts of "The Forgotten War" . . .

Without the genius of MacArthur's Inchon landing, the U.S.-South Korean forces then pinned down outside the southern city of Pusan would've certainly been pushed into the sea, ceding the entire Korean peninsula to Kim Il Sung's Soviet-backed communists.

Without Gen. MacArthur's wartime leadership and the service of nearly 2 million U.S. troops - and the death of 37,000 Americans - the Republic of Korea, now one of the world's most vibrant democracies and largest economies (11th largest), wouldn't exist today.

Actually, MacArthur liberated Korea twice - the first time, at the end of World War II, from a 35-year Japanese occupation and, then, from North Korean, Chinese and Soviet communist aggression during the Korean War.

It wasn't just Americans and Korean vets that the protestors offended. The U.K. ambassador to South Korea said that any attack on the MacArthur statue denigrates soldiers from the 20 nations who fought and died under MacArthur's U.N. command so that South Korea would remain free.

Instead of unprecedented peace and prosperity, 48 million South Koreans might instead be enslaved today in Kim Jong Il's police state. Famine is a daily reality in North Korea; over 200,000 live in political prison camps. It would be worthwhile for the protestors to remember that.

Yet last month's assault on MacArthur's statue won't be the last. At some point, the radicals may actually be able to pull down the monument, offending Korean vets and millions of Americans who have selflessly served - or serve - in South Korea to protect freedom a long way from home and family.

MacArthur was far from perfect, but he's a genuine American hero: highly-decorated WWI vet, WWII Medal of Honor recipient, postwar leader of occupied Japan and, arguably, America's greatest solider. He deserves better than to have his name tarnished and monument assaulted.

MacArthur isn't buried in Arlington National Cemetery, as so many American heroes are, but in Norfolk, Va., alongside his second wife in a small museum dedicated to his memory. It's time to bring a MacArthur monument to Washington, D.C.

It's upsetting, if understandable, that (some) Koreans don't want MacArthur's statue standing at Inchon - and it's their country, after all. So let's bring him home where he'll be appreciated, placing the statue of the Old Soldier at an appropriate place: the Korean War Veterans Memorial on the Mall in the nation's capital.

Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow. His book, "A Devil's Triangle: Terrorism, WMD and Rogue States," is just out

About the Author

Peter Brookes Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs
Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy

First appeared in the New York Post