Pentagon plans to make food packets different color than bombs

Friday, November 2nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Pentagon plans to change the color of the tens of thousands of humanitarian food packets being dropped over Afghanistan to contrast with unexploded bomblets.

Some humanitarian aid groups have complained that the bright yellow food packets are the same color as unexploded cluster bombs. Children could ``mistake the colorful yellow bomblets released by cluster bombs for either air-dropped food packets _ which are also yellow _ or for toys,'' Andrew Wilder of the group Save the Children told a House panel Thursday.

Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a news conference Thursday that the color of the food packets would be changed to blue, but on Friday a Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, said blue had been ruled out because of cultural connotations among Muslims.

Myers also said U.S. planes had dropped leaflets written in local languages explaining the difference between the food packets and the bomblets, but on Friday Whitman said leaflets probably would not be dropped before Saturday.

Myers said the United States has dropped more than a million food packets to hungry Afghans since the Oct. 7 start of the bombing campaign.

Andrew Natsios, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said the food drops were in areas where there was no bombing, so there should not be a problem with people mistaking one for the other.

Myers and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld also defended the use of cluster bombs, which human rights groups have criticized as too indiscriminate.

``They're being used on front-line al-Qaida and Taliban troops to try to kill them, is why we're using them, to be perfectly blunt,'' Rumsfeld said.