Military Double-Talk Written in Blood
Robert Ruark on the Korean War Debacle (1951)

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project
| October 24, 2017                               

The Korean War | Robert C. Ruark (1951)

On May 3, 1951, closed door Congressional hearings into Pres. Harry Truman’s recent firing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur began. MacArthur and Truman had butted heads over the scope of the war in Korea, leading to his dismissal in April.

In his syndicated column, famed writer Robert C. Ruark (1915-1965), himself a WWII vet, was brimming with metaphors for “the Korean mess”, all highly cynical.

Seven months onward, as the United States continued to flail in Korea, Ruark tore into Truman’s undeclared war in yet another blistering column.

May 3, 1951

We’re In A Grisly Game Of Squat Tag in Korea
By Robert C. Ruark

Writer Robert C. Ruark (1915-1965) NEW YORK, May 3.—The one thing that has become painfully plain to us common folks, since the general came home, is that we have been entangled in a joke war in Korea—a bad and tragic joke made doubly tragic by the fact that the men who have suffered and died in it are just as dead as if their sacrifice meant something.

At this writing I have no way of knowing what the MacArthur hearings this week will bring forth. [Gen. Douglas MacArthur] But from his own words, in his first speech, we certainly have been fighting no war, if a war’s prime aim is victory. The Korean conflict, has, rather, more resembled a grisly game of squat tag.

There has been tremendous sacrifice of life, American and South Korean, in pursuit of no real point that I can see. The troops surge and seesaw back and forth, pull and haul—without, to date, any concrete objective on our side.

If the original aim, as stated when we first went into the Korean mess, was to protect the South Koreans from their nasty neighbors and to deter aggression all over the world, then we have flopped horribly. We have protected the South Koreans by using their home terrain for a bloody tug of war that never resolves in a winner. We have been like firemen, wrecking the joint in order to salvage nothing.

Our young men have died with their hands tied, to date, and they have died largely without the satisfaction of knowing what they were dying for. To suspect the average American of average patriotism is willing to die to defend his country, or to defend an ideal involving others. Dying aimlessly is more silly than not.

If we started out with an ideal in Korea, something happened to it during the political juggling of a war. It is difficult to fight enthusiastically in a battle that has no logical finish, where there is no close prospect of winning. Our stand in Korea has been roughly comparable to the mythological character who was condemned eternally to roll a boulder up a never-surmountable hill.

It seems to me we prove little to the Russians by merely catching, then waiting for the next fresh pitch. There are a lot of Chinese across the Yalu—probably enough to keep coming for the next hundred years, or so. We have not deterred aggression, for sure. We have merely made it painful—as painful for us as for the aggressors, rather like pulling your own dentist’s teeth after he’s finished with yours. We have not avoided war with China.

Up to now nobody has ever accused Gen. MacArthur of defeatism, but if I hear him rightly he regards the Korean campaign as a waste of time, money and men, as it has been fought to date. He has made the terrible accusation that Washington has no policy, really, concerning Korea—a horrid condemnation of political blunder and a cynical waste of manpower.

I am no military tactician, certainly, but I can see that in time the troops and the taxpayers will weary of stories concerning flights from and defense of Seoul. And God knows the people who lived in and around the town must be slightly weary by now.

It seems to me that we have about two courses left to us, after a year of cruel fighting. We either win it or we lose it; but we do not keep fiddling with it, because we are fiddling with the lives of our men and the feelings of their heirs. To win, it means to hit it with everything we’ve got, in all the ways we know. To lose, it means we wrap up and go home, licking our wounds and counting our losses. Apart from the two cleanly defined alternatives, we are dealing in nothing but military double talk—double talk that is written in blood. And to date nobody can deny it’s been a double talk-war.

Alternate titles:

Where Are We Going?
Double-Talk War in Korea
We’re Fiddling While Boys Die In Korea
We’re In Grisly Game Of Squat Tag in Korea Carnival
All Korean War Proves Is Heavy Toll Of Dead
Ruark Says War in Korea Looks Like an Endless Useless Thing — Columnist Says We Are Dealing in Nothing But Military Double Talk Written in Blood

Republican Challenges Assumption That Americans Hate War (1951)


Related links:

The Korean War Makes No Sense | Robert C. Ruark (Dec. 1, 1951)

In Stirring Speech, Rep. Thomas J. Lane Defends Korean War Veterans (Jan. 9, 1952)

Estimate of the Political Strength of the Mosadeq Government (May 4, 1951)

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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