An estimated 2,000,000 Vietnamese were killed from Napalm. Others, like the girl in this infamous photo, were terribly burned.

We have short memories, but, 40 years ago, this girl got burned by American napalm. Napalm is a form of gasoline with a gel-like consistency that sticks to anything, including human skin. It burns at over 2,000°F. Technically, Naplam is NOT a chemical weapon, even if it has a chemical composition, because its deadly effects are the consequence of the blast, and the burning any contact with it causes, as opposed to exposure to the substance itself. Napalm is an “incendiary”, but this sort of loophole in definition doesn’t make it any less deadly, despicable, or dangerous to civilians. It may not have been “chemical” by strict definition, and it may not have been illegal at the time, but it was “unconventional” (the Vietnamese couldn’t retaliate with napalm) and inhumane.

One of the things we did with napalm was drop napalm bombs from B-52s. We dropped those bombs on Vietnam for eight years, between 1965 (when I was born) and 1973. How much did we drop? At least 388,000 tons. Napalm is estimated to have claimed the lives of two million Vietnamese (And let’s not forget the defoliate “Agent Orange“, which, according to the Vietnamese Red Cross, has disabled a million people).

And NOW, we are in an uproar about Sarin gas being used in Syria, and we are poised to drop bombs on the Syrian people to punish their president, Bashar al-Assad.

Meanwhile we continue to use landmines, cluster bombs, and weapons with white phosphorus and depleted uranium, all of which have a significant impact on innocent civilians. Besides, so-called “chemical weapons” and other “unconventional weapons” (to use Obama’s term) are really the poor-man’s poor substitute for world class weapons, including nuclear weapons (the only reason I haven’t mentioned Hiroshima and Nagasaki is that’s just too big of another topic). Why use Sarin gas when you can drop a payload of bombs and call it fair play?

We Americans, when it comes to chemical/unconventional weapons, are like born-again virgins. We never done nothin’, and we are ready to not only point the finger at others, we’re ready to point the missiles.

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4 replies on “USA born-again virgin when it comes to using “unconventional weapons”

  1. Morally your point is completely valid, but technically napalm is an incendiary, not chemical weapon and its use was not regulated by international treaties until the early 1980s (with plenty of loopholes that, for example, allow you to lay down white phosphorous ‘smoke cover’ right in the middle of groups of people).

    The ‘rainbow agents’ (Agent Orange, Agent White, Agent Blue, etc) however were chemical weapons and even without their deadly contaminants (e.g. dioxin) their use against crops and water supplies was a war crime. Of course US authorities often claimed it wasn’t used against rice paddies at all, but simply ‘drifted’ from its intended targets (i.e. jungle cover potentially used by Vietcong) but there is plenty of evidence of deliberate targeting of rice paddies and water storage by Operation Ranch Hand and Agent Blue was developed specifically to destroy rice.


    1. Right. But that’s rather a technicality. I gather nuclear radiation isn’t a chemical either. The greater question is of any substance that impacts noncombatants, and particularly in a cruel and dastardly way, whether or not it has already been outlawed. I read that the US was accused of using Napalm on Iraq, but they just said it was some other, unclassified incendiary.

      Loopholes in tax laws are bad enough, let along loopholes in laws against chemical and other weapons.

      War itself is a crime against humanity.


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