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Military cremation would alter tradition

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•  Commanders: U.S. | Iraq
•  Weapons: 3D Models

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon is considering cremating remains of troops who may die in a chemical or biological attack in a possible war with Iraq, officials said Thursday.

Use of field cremation would alter a longtime U.S. military tradition of making every effort to return each person's body home in a flag-draped coffin.

It is not yet clear if the military would operate a crematorium in the Middle East or how the ashes would be sorted and returned to families.

The Pentagon also would have to address cultural and religious objections by some service members.

The reason for the high-level policy review is the prospect of mass casualties, especially from smallpox or anthrax, that would require the quick disposal of bodies to protect the living.

If adopted, the policy would be used by commanders only as a last resort if regular decontamination procedures are overwhelmed, Pentagon officials said.

Cremation has never been an authorized means of dealing with remains on the battlefield. A final decision on the policy review is expected within weeks.

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