A resident of Wolmi Island, South Korea speaks, as quoted in the New York Times, August 3, 2008. “When the napalm hit our village, many people were still sleeping in their homes. Those who survived the flames ran to the tidal flats. We were trying to show the American pilots that we were civilians. But they strafed us, women and children.”
Americans have been bombing civilians for quite some time. In school we were told that the Rules of War impelled us, the good guys, to only deliberately target soldiers, and that any civilians causalities were “collateral damage” and accidental, but if this ever was the case it has not been so for some time. Napalm was developed as a way to most effectively burn down Japanese cities, causing huge fire storms as the paper and wood buildings caught fire. The canisters we dropped were designed to break through the roof of a house and detonate in the main living area. We were targeting civilians.
The firebombing of Tokyo, Dresden and Berlin were designed to force a surrender by demoralizing the populace. In Korea, we did the same, and seriously considered dropping nuclear weapons on the huge Chinese army that was massed along the Yala river border. It was only at the last-minute that President Truman stopped General MacArthur from doing so, for in fact the nuclear bombs had already been deployed.
During the Vietnam War, operations Rolling Thunder and Linebacker dropped four millions pounds of bombs on North Vietnam, mostly on Haiphong and Hanoi but we bombed neighboring Laos almost daily for eight years, dropping more explosives on that country than the allies dropped in all of World War II. Again, we were not targeting soldiers, but civilians. Laos had no army to speak of, but the population of that poor country was reduced to living in caves, because anything that moved became a target. We were trying to stop supplies moving along the area we dubbed the “Ho Chi Minh Trail.” It wasn’t much of a trail at first, but that didn’t stop us from daily B-52 bombing runs and finally considering using nuclear weapons to take out convoys of wagons, bicycles and mules until someone had the sense to say that would be a very bad idea, possibly sparking Russian or Chinese retaliation in kind. Curtis Lemay, the U.S. Air Force General who had been responsible for the fire-bombing of so many Japanese cities, vowed that we would bomb Vietnam “back to the stone age.”
America is addicted to the idea that we can exercise persuasive military might without putting “boots on the ground,” by bombing people from plans that are so high up they can’t be shot down. Now in addition to bombers we have drones that can fire missiles, so the notion is even more attractive. Remote control bullying.
One thing we certainly accomplish by bombing people who don’t agree with us is that we make generations of these same people hate us. When fire rains down from the sky, the death toll is indiscriminate. Korea, Laos and Vietnam tell stories of villagers hiding in caves who were incinerated by napalm strikes.
North Korea’s hatred of the United States is so highly developed it would be funny if it weren’t grounded in a resentment that simply won’t die. They still blame us for everything bad that happens in their country. This resulted from a United Nations Police Action (as was the Vietnam War) where we had not formally declared war. There was no truce because there was so surrender. But there was and is hatred, lingering smoldering hatred that will take many years to extinguish.