Killing Them Softly


Over the course of the Vietnam War, the United States dropped tens of thousands of tons of napalm, carrying out a defoliation effort over an area larger than the size of the state of Massachusetts. The bombing far exceeded that of the Korean War or of World War II. The number of Vietnamese civilians killed numbers in the millions. “I used it routinely in Vietnam,” said retired Marine Lt. Gen. Bernard Trainor, now a prominent defense analyst. “I have no moral compunction against using it. It’s just another weapon.”

Sadly, we have not seen the last days of dropping napalm on peaceful civilian populations: in March 2003, Marines confirmed that they had repeatedly dropped napalm on Iraqi troops. One instance in March 2003 was witnessed by reporters from CNN and Sydney Morning Herald:

Marine Cobra helicopter gunships firing Hellfire missiles swept in low from the south. Then the marine howitzers, with a range of 30 kilometres [sic], opened a sustained barrage over the next eight hours. They were supported by US Navy aircraft which dropped 40,000 pounds of explosives and napalm, a US officer told the Herald.

Safwan Hill went up in a huge fireball and the Iraqi observation post was obliterated. “I pity anybody who’s in there,” a marine sergeant said. “We told them to surrender.” [1]

The US military has in its current arsenal a modern form of napalm known as the MK-77 Mod 5, which evolved from the M-47 and M-74 napalm bombs used in Vietnam. Acting in violation of international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions, the U.S. has used during the course of its occupation of Iraq white phosphorous, napalm, and cluster bombs.

“We napalmed both those [bridge] approaches,” said Colonel James Alles. “Unfortunately there were people there … 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.” [2]

”It comes across the radio as a general transmission, when it happens like that, you hear it on the radio…as they’d say, ”In five mikes, we’re going to drop some willy pete. Roger. Commence the bombing.” When you hear willy pete,’ that’s military slang [for white phosphorous].” [3]

“Most of the world understands that napalm and incendiaries are a horrible, horrible weapon,” said Robert Musil, director of the organization Physicians for Social Responsibility. “It takes up an awful lot of medical resources. It creates horrible wounds.” [4] Musil noted that the Pentagon’s initial denial of its use of napalm “fits a pattern of deception [by the US administration].”[5]

Vietnam veteran Thomas Brinson, who fought in the 1968 Tet Offensive, dryly observes, “Iraq is just Arabic for Vietnam, like the poster says – the same horror, the same tears.”

The 1980 UN Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects (Protocol III) banned the use of napalm.

[1] Murdoch, Lindsay. “Dead Bodies Are Everywhere.” Sydney Morning Herald, March 22, 2003. < >.

[2] Buncombe, Andrew. “Incendiary Weapons: The Big White Lie.” The Independent/UK, November 17, 2005. < >.

[3] Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre.

[4] Buncombe, Andrew. “Incendiary Weapons: The Big White Lie.” The Independent/UK, November 17, 2005. < >.

[5] “The Pentagon subsequently issued a statement to the Herald: ‘Your story (‘Dead bodies everywhere’, by Lindsay Murdoch, March 22, 2003) claiming US forces are using napalm in Iraq, is patently false. The US took napalm out of service in the early 1970s. We completed destruction of our last batch of napalm on April 4, 2001, and no longer maintain any stocks of napalm. – Jeff A. Davis, Lieutenant Commander, US Navy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense.’ ” (Murdoch, Lindsay. “Dead Bodies Are Everywhere.” Sydney Morning Herald, March 22, 2003).


~ by K. Danconia on 05.01.

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