Marines dropped devices similar to Napalm on Iraqi troops.
Marine Corps fighter pilots and commanders say they dropped firebombs similar to napalm on Iraqi troops earlier this year, according to a report published Tuesday.
The Marines say that in March, U.S. warplanes dropped dozens of incendiary bombs near bridges over the Saddam Canal and the Tigris River in central Iraq to clear the way for troops headed to Baghdad.
"We napalmed both those (bridge) approaches," said Col. Randolph Alles, commander of Marine Air Group 11, told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "Unfortunately, there were people there because you could see them in the (cockpit) video.
"They were Iraqi soldiers there. It's no great way to die," Alles added.
He could not provide estimates of Iraqi casualties.
"The generals love napalm," said Alles. "It has a big psychological effect."
The firebombs were used again in April against Iraqis near a key Tigris River bridge, north of Numaniyah, the Marines said. There were reports of another attack on the first day of the war.
During the war, Pentagon spokesmen denied that napalm was being used, saying the Pentagon's stockpile had been destroyed two years ago. Napalm, a thick, burning combination of polystyrene, gasoline and benzene, was used against people and villages in Vietnam. Its use drew widespread criticism.
The newspaper said the spokesmen were apparently drawing a distinction between the terms firebomb and napalm.
The Marines dropped "Mark 77 firebombs," which use kerosene-based jet fuel and a smaller concentration of benzene. Marine spokesman Col. Michael Daily acknowledged the incendiary devices were "remarkably similar" to napalm weapons, but said they had less of an impact on the environment.
"You can call it something other than napalm, but it's napalm," said John Pike, defense analyst with GlobalSecurity.org, a nonpartisan research group in Alexandria, Va.
Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Jim Amos confirmed aircraft dropped what he and other Marines continue to call napalm on Iraqi troops on several occasions. He commanded Marine jet and helicopter units involved in the Iraq war and leads the Miramar-based 3rd Marine Air Wing.
Although many human rights groups consider incendiary bombs to be inhumane, international law does not prohibit their use against military forces. The United States has not agreed to a ban against possible civilian targets.
"Incendiaries create burns that are difficult to treat," said Robert Musil, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, a Washington group that opposes the use of weapons of mass destruction.
Musil described the Pentagon's distinction between napalm and Mark 77 firebombs as "pretty outrageous."
Before March, the last time U.S. forces had used napalm in combat was the Persian Gulf War, again by Marines.
[Source: The Associated Press, San Diego, 05Aug03]
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