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[casi] US used upgraded napalm in Iraq attack

US used upgraded napalm in Iraq attack

August 18 2003By Andrew Buncombe

American pilots dropped napalm - the controversial and
deadly incendiary agent - on Iraqi troops as United States
forces advanced towards Baghdad in the war to oust Saddam
Hussein. The attacks caused massive fireballs that
obliterated several Iraqi positions.

Although the Pentagon initially adamantly denied using
napalm at the time, marine corps pilots and their commanders
returning from Iraq have now confirmed using an upgraded
version of the weapon against dug-in Iraqi positions. They
said napalm, which has a distinctive smell, was used because
of its psychological effect on an enemy.

A 1980 United Nations convention banned the use against
civilian targets of napalm, a terrifying mixture of jet fuel
and polystyrene that sticks to skin as it burns.

The US, which did not sign the treaty, is one of the few
countries that uses the weapon. It was employed notoriously
and with horrifying effect against both civilian and
military targets in the Vietnam War.

'It's no great way to die'
The upgraded weapon, which uses paraffin rather than petrol,
was used on several occasions in March and April, when
dozens of napalm bombs were dropped near bridges over the
Saddam Canal and the Tigris River, south of Baghdad.

"We napalmed both those [bridge] approaches," said Colonel
James Alles, commander of Marine Air Group 11.
"Unfortunately there were people there because you could see
them in the [cockpit] video. They were Iraqi soldiers.

"It's no great way to die. The generals love napalm. It has
a big psychological effect."

A reporter from the Sydney Morning Herald who witnessed
another napalm attack on March 21 on an Iraqi observation
post at Safwan Hill, close to the Kuwaiti border, wrote the
following day: "Safwan Hill went up in a huge fireball and
the observation post was obliterated. 'I pity anyone who is
in there,' a marine sergeant said. 'We told them to

At the time, the Pentagon insisted the report was untrue.
"We completed destruction of our last batch of napalm on
April 4, 2001," it said.

'You can call it something other than napalm but it is still
The revelation that napalm was used in the war against Iraq,
while the Pentagon denied it, has outraged campaigners and
opponents of the war. "Most of the world understands that
napalm and incendiaries are a horrible, horrible weapon,"
said Robert Musil, director of the organisation Physicians
for Social Responsibility.

"It takes up an awful lot of medical resources. It creates
horrible wounds." Musil said denial of its use "fits a
pattern of deception [by the US administration] as they try
to take on a new world role that is not going very well".

The Pentagon said it had not tried to deceive. It drew a
distinction between traditional napalm, first invented in
1942, and the weapons dropped in Iraq, which it calls Mark
77 firebombs. They weigh 230kg and consist of 20kg of
polystyrene-like gel and 34 litres of jet fuel. Officials
said that if journalists had asked about the firebombs,
their use would have been confirmed.

A spokesperson admitted they were "remarkably similar" to
napalm but said they caused less environmental damage. But
John Pike, director of the military studies
groupglobalsecurity. org, said: "You can call it something
other than napalm but it is still napalm.

"It has been reformulated in the sense that they now use a
different petroleum distillate, but that is it.

"The US is the only country that has used napalm for a long
time. I am not aware of any other country that uses it."

The US marines returning from Iraq also chose to call the
firebombs napalm. In an interview with the San Diego
Union-Tribune, marine corps Major-General Jim Amos said
napalm was used on several occasions in the war.

Musil said the Pentagon's effort to draw a distinction
between the weapons was "outrageous". He said: "It's
Orwellian. They do not want the public to know. It's just a
lie." - Foreign Service

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