U.S. foreign policy faux pas revisited

In a blackly funny dog-pile of idiocy, the Bush administration seems to be searching through the most abhorrent parts of U.S. history in order to come up with a game plan for Iraq.

During the Vietnam and Korean Wars, the United States used substances called M-47 and M-74 – otherwise known as napalm – against entrenched troops and civilians.

Napalm is a horrifying and extremely flammable goo that sticks to and burns anything and everything it comes into contact with. Another sick twist is that the flames from napalm cannot be put out with water.

Though all stockpiles of napalm were supposed to have been destroyed, the United States has admitted to using Mark 77 firebombs on Iraqi troops stationed on a bridge leading to Baghdad. MK77 is an incendiary gooey substance that sticks to and burns anything it touches, and cannot be put out with water. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Still, the United States is saying its forces aren’t using napalm, and technically, they’re not lying. This is because napalm is a mixture of benzene (21 percent), gasoline (33 percent), and polystyrene (46 percent). In MK77 firebombs, kerosene replaces the gasoline. This weapon is stilled banned by the United Nations, but since when has the U.S. adhered to U.N. regulations?

The United States has been quick to point out that the switch to kerosene makes the bombs better for the environment since they’re cleaner-burning. Great. Does that mean we finally adhere to the Kyoto Protocol against global warming? Wait, we didn’t sign that, either!

Ah, well, it’s nice to at least know that when we burn people alive with unquenchable fire, we’re emitting less pollution into the atmosphere than when we burned people alive 30 years ago, right?

To make already deplorable circumstances even worse, the Pentagon has been talking about the possibility of using what’s being called "the Salvador Option" to try and battle the growing number of insurgents in Iraq.

What’s that, you ask? Well, in the early 1980’s the situation in El Salvador was a little like today’s situation in Iraq, in that there were warring factions within the country and an effective rebel guerrilla insurgency.

The way the insurgency was quelled in El Salvador included the use of "death squads," or special forces that hunted down and killed rebel leaders and sympathizers, including countless civilians, four nuns from the United States, and other clergy.

The U.N. investigated and renounced this situation in El Salvador. In its Truth Commission it noted that, "… it must be pointed out that the United States Government tolerated, and apparently paid little official heed to the activities of Salvadoran exiles living in Miami. … [T]his group of exiles directly financed and indirectly helped run certain death squads."

The current debate in the Pentagon about "the Salvador Option" seems to be a tacit admittance of knowledge of this operation under the Reagan administration.

Now our current administration wants to use this strategy in Iraq, without any disguise. One proposal would send Special Forces to advise, support and maybe train (didn’t we learn anything with Osama bin Laden?) hand-picked Kurdish and Shiite fighters who would then target Sunni insurgents.

These revelations come soon after the announcement that the weapons of mass destruction we used as a pretext for invading Iraq are not to be found, and that the search has been called off.

Which past debacle will we revisit next in our ongoing foreign policy faux pas? Will we start crating up Iraqi children and sending them back to the United States to work on plantations?

Michelle Howa can be reached at [email protected]