U.S. Used Chemical Weapons in Iraq

There are stories circulating that the United States has and or is using "chemical weapons" in Iraq. Randi Rhodes was fulminating today about our use of "chemical weapons" such as napalm and white phosphorus weapons in Iraq.

I would like to think there’s just a misunderstanding here, and this isn’t a purposeful lefty spin on things.  I’ve observed before that some of our left of center folks sometimes have a little trouble understanding  military terms and technology.  Maybe that’s what’s going on here.  I hope so.

Napalm and white Phosphorus are extremely nasty weapons that burn people alive, and leave survivors with hideous scars and disabilities.  One of the defining images from the Vietnam war was that naked little girl, running down the road. They’re weapons that probably ought to be banned, but they’re not "chemical weapons." While it is certainly true that WP and napalm are mixtures of various chemicals, that fact does not make them "chemical weapons." 

These weapons are classified as incendiary weapons.  See also here. They’re covered by under the 1980 Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

White phosphorus isn’t new.  A white phosphorus round was tested during World War I in the 3" Stokes trench mortar.  During World War II, white phosphorus rounds were second only to HE rounds in mortars. WP was delivered by mortars, hand grenades, artillery, bombs and rockets.  WP and flame throwers were widely used to clear tunnels and bunkers during the Pacific Island campaigns. This combination made for some very nasty photographs that were widely circulated at the time. It was used during the Korean War and in Vietnam.

Napalm has also been around for some time. It is made up of chemicals but it is not a "chemical weapon." Napalm is an incendiary
developed in 1943 by Harvard scientists cooperating with the U.S.
army and used in bombs and flame throwers. Napalm is based on a mixture
of gasoline and a thickening agent. Aluminum salts of napathenic acid and palmitic acid used for this purpose gave us the term napalm. The thick jelly-like material burns at up to 1830° F (1000° C) and clings to anything it touches.

We have used napalm in Iraq, but have been lying about it by using some Clintonistic semantic parsing of the term.  Napalm hasn’t been manufactured using the 1943 ingredients for years, but when General Tommy Franks was asked if we used napalm during the Tora Bora campaign he said, "We’re not using — we’re not using the old napalm in Tora Bora." But we were/are using these.

So, we aren’t using "chemical weapons" in Iraq. But we are using WP and napalm. Both of which are truly horrific weapons. Our military probably thinks that using these weapons is the tactically correct thing to do. But these weapons, especially napalm, or whatever you want to call it, invoke images of another brutal and unsuccessful war that still haunts us and makes us wonder if this conflict is going to have a similar outcome.

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