Column: We accept checks, South Korea

I'll go out on a limb here and guess a lot of readers had a "what the ..." reaction when they opened Monday's Miner and saw the "South Koreans seek war reparations from U.S." headline.

The Associated Press report detailed the efforts of South Korea's Truth and Reconciliation Commission to uncover instances when Americans killed South Koreans rather than the enemy North Koreans. There's no doubt in my mind it happened. Every war has non-combatant deaths.

"Of course, the U.S. government should pay compensation. It's the U.S. military's fault," survivor Cho Kook-won told the AP. Kook-won lost four family members during a napalm attack in 1951.

I think it's reasonable to ask Kook-won where he'd be if the U.S. had a less direct role in the war.

Suppose Harry Truman fielded that phone call about soldiers from North Korea pouring over the border and the first words out of his mouth were, "Where's the quickest port we can get to so we can haul ass?"

Something One-Kook, excuse me, Kook-won, might consider is that about 28,000 Americans died during the Korean War. Without that ultimate sacrifice, there's no guessing what South Korea would look like now - a mirror image of the grinding poverty, starvation and work camps that are the reality of North Korea.

Consider also that U.S. forces were there before the war at no small expense to taxpayers and as a hardship to members of the service, who went there without their families.

And please consider that U.S. forces remain to this day, well beyond the point when South Korea has developed a military more than strong enough to defend the border. That's at a cost of billions to American taxpayers.

Remember also that South Korea's first elections, orchestrated by the U.S., were held in 1948, and since the creation of the republic, the standard of living for South Koreans in general has improved by leaps and bounds.

So I think reparations are in order, and I'd be comfortable with the South Korean government giving $1 million to the direct descendants of those members of the U.S. military killed in action, and $500,000 to those who were wounded in the conflict or their direct descendants.

Then we can all just move on.

• • •

Barack Obama has joined John McCain in the about-face department, offering his support for "limited" offshore drilling. Democrats have long proclaimed that more drilling won't make any difference, and by strictly limiting it they will make it true.

The Associated Press is buying into the argument as well, repeatedly pointing out in stories about President Bush's call for Congress to OK offshore drilling that "experts" - some from the government - say it won't make any difference in the price paid at the pump.

Other economists, such as Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams, say expanded drilling would have an immediate impact.

Who's right?

Take a look at what has happened to the price of oil since Bush lifted the executive ban on offshore drilling. Imagine how much less those hated speculators would pay for oil futures if the Democrats who control the House (Nancy Pelosi) and Senate (Harry Reid) actually allowed a vote on the issue.