Firing Fire in Afghanistan
The reporter wanted some comment on the use of the weapon. As far as I know, the M202A1, like other flame weapons, does not per se contravene Protocol III of the Convention Against Certain Conventional Weapons
(Incendiary Weapons) dated October 10, 1980. The problem with the Protocol is that the legality of the use depends on the intention of the user – as long as the weapon is claimed to be directed toward military objectives, it remains a permissible weapon of war.
To change the status quo, which I find abhorrent, the Protocol needs to be revised to outlaw the manufacture, storage, sale, any other transfer, or employment in battle of all forms of incendiary weapons. The basis for banning the M202A1 and other similar weapons should not be the intent of the side using the weapon but the same criteria that U.S. field commanders now use in their weapons selection: what is the effect on the target? Commanders are less interested in what weapon is used than what the results on the ground will be. Under this criterion, the M202A1 would be banned because like other "flame" weapons such as napalm and white phosphorous, the suffering inflicted on either military or civilian personnel is unnecessarily excessive.
It is no accident that in both literature and history, the descriptions of death from flames are always the most gruesome. They are undoubtedly the most painful and agonizing.