Read and Learn, Pardner

What sucks about Orange County Register columnist Gordon Dillow is not that he always writes about the police, American flag, war veterans and cowboys, but that you always know what he's going to write about them—that the cops were right to shoot that guy, that the flag is America's Shroud of Turin, that vets should be running America and that the world was a better place when everyone wore holsters—and when consumption, gout and scrofula weeded out a certain undesirable element. What's more—or less, actually—is that you always know how he's going to write about them: in a style—if that's the word—that marries a VFW barstool sensibility to a Walter Brennan soundtrack.

He is the worst thing a columnist—paid to be provocative—can be: predictable. Take Dillow's Jan. 2 screed in which he spoke to two Korean War veterans bewildered by the recent rise of anti-American protests in South Korea. “It angers me,” Dave Teichmiller of Fullerton told Dillow. “They [the anti-American protesters] don't remember their own history.”

Now another, interesting, columnist might have used the opportunity to question U.S. involvement in Korea, thank you very much, Harry Truman. He might have echoed conservative Pat Buchanan's assertion that American troops should be deployed only in countries were they are loved, namely America, where they could guard the borders from the Mexican hordes. Hell, such a columnist might have tempered his compassion for the vets with the cosmopolitan sagacity of a guy who actually reads the newspapers.

But what did Dillow do? Same as always, he scowled that “gratitude to America for past services rendered has always been a fleeting phenomenon” and noted “Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it.”

But see, to get interesting stuff would probably require a bit of research; to be interesting, you have to have interest yourself. What's especially galling is that there would have been so much stuff for Dillow to call upon, what with 2002 likely to go down as the year the United States ruined years of carefully planned peace talks between North and South Korea. The following is only a partial list of American actions that have justifiably angered South Koreans. Read and learn, pardner:

•Jan. 24: South Korean presidential candidate Lee Hoi Chang meets Vice President Dick Cheney in Washington, D.C. They agree that current president Kim Dae-Jung's “sunshine policy” strategy of peaceful negotiations with North Korea (which won Kim the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize) is ineffective and should be replaced by brass-knuckled rhetoric.

•Jan. 29: President George W. Bush includes North Korea in his Axis of Evil—Iraq and Iran are the other two members of the terror triumvirate—against the advice of Asia experts in the State Department. The classification infuriates Pyongyang and shocks South Korea.

•Feb. 8: Because of Bush's Axis of Evil remarks, North Korea cancels a planned visit by former American ambassadors. The South Korean government considered the proposed visit important to reunification talks between North and South Korea.

•Feb. 21: At the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, officials take the gold medal from South Korean short-track skater Kim Dong-Sung after a dubious infraction. The medal is given to crowd favorite, American Apolo Anton Ohno. Afterward, Jay Leno jokes that Dong-Sung “was so mad he went home and kicked the dog—and then ate him.” The South Korean government demands that Leno apologize. Students launch a boycott of American products.

•April 19: When it looks as if Seoul is going to purchase jets from a French aerospace firm, Missouri Senator Christopher Bond warns “very unfortunate things could happen” to U.S.-South Korean relations. South Korea bows, announcing it will buy 40 F-15 aircraft for $4 billion from U.S.-based Boeing.

•June 13: Two 14-year-olds, Shim Mi-Son and Shin Hyo-Sun, are crushed to death by a U.S. armored vehicle while walking to a birthday party in their village. The U.S. Army rejects a South Korean request to try in civilian court the two soldiers manning the vehicle. Tried under military court, Sergeants Fernando Nino and Mark Walker are cleared of wrongdoing.

•Nov. 16: Bob Woodward's Bush at War reveals the president “loathes” North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. The remark worsens already tense relations between Seoul and Washington

•Nov. 22: Koreans protest the latest James Bond film, Die Another Day. It depicts South Korea as a Third World nation and includes a scene with Pierce Brosnan having sex in a Buddhist temple.

•Dec. 30: The United States threatens sanctions against North Korea despite Dae-Jung's observation that “pressure and isolation have never been successful with communist countries.”

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