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Context of 'March 22, 2003: US Air Force Denies Napalm Use in Iraq'

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The US Air Force website emphatically denies the use of napalm in Iraq (see March 22, 2003), posting a “disinformation alert” on its website. “The claims that we are using napalm in Iraq are patently false,” the alert claims. It also says that the United States’ stock of napalm bombs was destroyed in 2001 and that the Sydney Morning Herald has said it will be pulling its story (see March 22, 2003), which it never does. (US Department of Defense 3/22/2003)

The US says it is using Mark-77 firebombs in Iraq. Mark-77s are incendiary weapons that have a “remarkably similar” effect to that of napalm. The main difference between the two weapons is that Mark-77 firebombs use kerosene-based jet fuel whereas napalm used gasoline. The newer firebombs are also said to be more difficult to extinguish but to have less of an impact on the environment. (Crawley 8/5/2003; Agence France-Presse 8/8/2003) But critics say the difference is minute. Technically, the name, “napalm,” refers to the combination of naphthalene and palmitate which was used only in the very earliest versions of such bombs (see 1942). Later firebombs, such as the napalm used in Vietnam, was made from polystyrene instead. Yet these bombs continued to be referred to as napalm, or “Napalm-B.” Therefore critics say that by substituting jet fuel for gasoline, the military had just developed a more advanced napalm bomb. John Pike, director of the military studies group GlobalSecurity.Org, explains: “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.” (Cubby 8/8/2003; Cubby 8/9/2003; Buncombe 8/10/2003)


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