WP is not the only chemical weapon used by US forces in Iraq.  A new kind of napalm has been confirmed used, which the US claims is “better for the environment.”  And there have been allegations of posion gas used as well.

Reuters reported today on the use of napalm-type weapons by US forces in Iraq.  While the US military denies using white phosphorus shells against civilians in Fallujah, the use of MK 77 firebombs was confirmed.  MK 77 is like napalm in every regard except chemical make-up.  That is to say that MK 77 functions in the same way as napalm, but using different ingredients to get the job done.  It’s essentially a new and improved kind of napalm.

The US military has denied that it used white phosphorus against civilians. It confirmed, however, that US forces had dropped MK 77 firebombs, which a documentary on Italian state-run broadcaster RAI compared to napalm, against military targets in Iraq in March and April 2003.

The rest of the world recognizes that firebombs and napalm as illegal chemical weapons.  The reason is that the use of these weapons cannot be targeted to hit primarily military personnel or other fighters.  Civilian populations are hit hard by these kinds of weapons, and since the weapons are so effective at maiming civilian and fighter targets the weapons present tough challenges to medical responders.

On Nov 28, 2004 the UK’s Sunday Mirror reported on the use of napalm-type firebombs by US forces, noting that:

A 1980 UN convention banned the use of napalm against civilians – after pictures of a naked girl victim fleeing in Vietnam shocked the world. America, which didn’t ratify the treaty, is the only country in the world still using the weapon.

MK 77 is just like Napalm, but “better for the environment”
It is shocking to hear so many American politicians, commentators and military spokespersons defending the use of napalm-type weapons.  Even more shocking is how they have defended MK 77 in particular.  When I first heard of the Reuters story I was reminded of comments I heard earlier in the war by a US military spokesperson who was not only defending the use of MK 77 but also touting its environmental soundless.  Evidentially MK 77 is just as effective at indiscriminate killing, but is better for the environment.  

Here’s what the military spokesperson Col. Michael Daily had to say about MK 77’s environmental benefits:

Yesterday military spokesmen described what they see as the distinction between the two types of incendiary bombs. They said mixture used in modern firebombs is a less harmful mixture than Vietnam War-era napalm.

“This additive has significantly less of an impact on the environment,” wrote Marine spokesman Col. Michael Daily, in an e-mailed information sheet provided by the Pentagon.

He added, “many folks (out of habit) refer to the Mark 77 as ‘napalm’ because its effect upon the target is remarkably similar.” source: San Diego Union Tribune

Posion gas used by US forces?
The renewed allegations of chemical warfare against Fullujah and other Iraqi targets so far have covered white phosphorus and napalm-type weapons.  But reports out of Fallujah were not limited to just these two agents. Democracy Now reported, just days after the Fallujah offensive, that the US had also been accused on using poison gases in Fallujah, citing the following Inter Press Service article:

“Poisonous gases have been used in Fallujah,” 35-year-old trader from Fallujah Abu Hammad told IPS. “They used everything — tanks, artillery, infantry, poison gas. Fallujah has been bombed to the ground.”

Hammad is from the Julan district of Fallujah where some of the heaviest fighting occurred. Other residents of that area report the use of illegal weapons.

“They used these weird bombs that put up smoke like a mushroom cloud,” Abu Sabah, another Fallujah refugee from the Julan area told IPS. “Then small pieces fall from the air with long tails of smoke behind them.”

He said pieces of these bombs exploded into large fires that burnt the skin even when water was thrown on the burns. Phosphorous weapons as well as napalm are known to cause such effects. “People suffered so much from these,” he said.

What’s wrong with chemical warfare?
I believe that all wars of aggression are wrong.  The war in Iraq is a war of aggression, and as such all acts stemming from it are wrong.  But I do make a distinction between conventional weapons and other kinds of weaponry.  Any weapons that result in undue civilian deaths or injuries, such as mines, napalm, chemical and biological agents, nuclear bombs, firebombing of cities have no place in the arsenals of great nations.  While it more difficult to actually go in and to kill actual fighters, that is the price you to limit civilian deaths.  Moreover, this is more imperative when the war is one of choice, an act of aggression.

Cross posted: Political Porn

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