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Columns: Napalm: Not Your Ordinary Jelly   (Views: 9,111)
Contributed by Harrell Graham on November 18th, 2010

by Harrell Graham

The 60’s burned certain images into our consciousness. One of them is what napalm does to human skin. Napalm: I bet the current generation doesn’t even know what this stuff is: gasoline mixed with petroleum jelly so that when it is dropped on you, burning, it sticks, all gooey-like—burning, with no way to wipe the jelly fire off causing exquisite pain. If we had been dropping it on Nazis in a real war that would have been okay with me. But we were dropping it on civilians in their grass hut villages. What is it, exactly, about fire bombing civilians that the American military is so infatuated with?
The US Napalmed Vietnamese Children
It was an actual war strategy of the Second World War, too: outfit the latest flying fortresses with incendiary bombs and drop them on dozens of cities—yes, setting entire cities on fire--in both Germany and Japan, killing primarily--or only--civilians. These weren’t ‘mistakes’, or ‘accidents’ but carefully planned attacks on men, women and children who were not, by any stretch of the imagination, soldiers. If you require more understanding of these sorry episodes in American history then I suggest you rent the movie, “The Fog of War” in which Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara lays bare these sickening acts of cowardice disguised as ‘battle’. McNamara cries in front of the camera as he remembers what he was a part of. Maybe there is still hope for humanity if a proponent of burning civilians can realize the mistakes he’s made. I couldn’t understand why some were so angry with those of us in the 60’s and 70’s who just simply didn’t want to pour gasoline jelly on rice farmers and their families. They called us cowards for refusing to fight in Vietnam but, truly, it was they who were cowards for not having the courage to stand up and say “No” to a bullshit war. Secretary of Defense McNamarra all but admits this as his singular failure as an American: his inability to say “No” when it really mattered. There are rules for war that are agreed to in international law. Number one among them is: no deliberate targeting of civilians. If the United States of America continues to deliberately target civilians then it, too, will go the way of other great powers who have faded into history because they turned against humanity by not adhering to the rules of war. (Read the excellent book, “The Lessons of Terror”, for a greater historical understanding of how using terror to fight terror is ultimately self-defeating.) Few things would give me greater pleasure than to find a Hitler in my crosshairs while I squeezed the trigger. In that case, happiness would truly be a warm gun, as John Lennon said. But murdering civilians should not be on the agenda of anyone claiming to represent what is good about the United States of America. So I’m waiting for the day when another kind of Vietnam memorial is erected, one that pays homage to the hundreds of thousands of American citizens who rallied to stop the war in Vietnam, to bring the troops home, to end that terrible, wasteful, murderous chapter in American history. How many lives did the Vietnam protesters save by shortening the war? Yes, erect a wall to them so that we may go there rejoicing in the power of the human spirit to defy a war machine run amock. And yet even another memorial would be in order: not just for the antiwar protesters but also one for the millions of Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian civilians killed in the war. As if the only casualties or heroes deserving a memorial were the American kids sent by their blood-thirsty parents and elected officials to die in the muck of Vietnam.

Napalm: Not Your Ordinary Jelly
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