On this day in 1950 – (66 years ago) — North Korean troops crossed the Thirty-Eighth Parallel in a large-scale invasion of South Korea that opened the Korean War. North Korea’s leader, Kim Il Sung — the grandfather of its current leader, Kim Jong Un — had spent several years building up a massive Soviet-style army. South Korea was largely unprepared, and within days the Northern army worked its way far enough down the peninsula to capture Seoul, the Southern capital. South Korea was forced to seek help from the United States. The Truman administration obtained a UN sanction for a major undeclared war, and the Chinese army came to North Korea’s aid. The Korean War lasted three years, and no one really knows how many people died. But by one estimate, it killed some two hundred thousand South Korean, American, and British troops, another half million on the North Korean and Chinese side, and more than a million Korean civilians. It abounded in massacres, torture, and other atrocities, and it was fought to a stalemate. In 1953 a cease-fire brought the border between the two Koreas back to where it had been before the war, and sixty-six years later, the Korean War remains technically unresolved.
On this day in 1975 – (41 years ago) — days after being convicted of election fraud and stripped of her seat in India’s Parliament, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi — no relation to the nation’s founder, Mahatma Gandhi — responded to widespread protests, strikes, and calls for her resignation by having a nationwide state of emergency declared, which allowed her to rule the country by decree. Elections were postponed, press freedoms were curtailed, and TV and radio stations were forced to broadcast government propaganda. Many newspapers responded to the censorship with carefully veiled satire — one, the Indian Express of Delhi, simply published a large blank space on its editorial page. According to Amnesty International, some 120 thousand opposition politicians, protesters, strike leaders, and dissidents were arrested and detained without trial, and some were allegedly tortured. Meanwhile, the prime minister’s son, Sanjay Gandhi, led a program of forced sterilization in which some eight million people were pressured into receiving vasectomies or tubal ligations. But after twenty months, Indira Gandhi finally ordered the release of political prisoners, and called new elections. She was promptly thrown out of office, her political party lost control of Parliament, and her son’s sterilization program left a public backlash against family planning in India that reportedly persists to this day.
On this day in 1996 – (20 years ago) – a truck bomb packed with more than two tons of explosives was detonated on the grounds of the Khobar Towers, a building complex in Saudi Arabia that housed military personnel patrolling a no-fly zone in southern Iraq after the Persian Gulf War. The explosion was loud enough to be heard twenty miles away. It damaged or destroyed six high-rise buildings, killed nineteen members of the US Air Force, and seriously injured almost five hundred people of various nationalities. In the confusion that followed, responsibility for the attack was variously attributed to Al Qaeda, to Hezbollah, to the supreme leader of Iran, and to a number of named Saudi militants—several of whom remain on the FBI’s list of most wanted terrorists.
Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi