Wednesday, November 16, 2005

White Phosphorus in Fallujah

Over the past few days I've been watching the growing story of the US's use of white phosphorus in Fallujah last year. According to allegations initially made by Italian broadcaster RAI, and subsequently confirmed by both US soldiers and contemporary media reports, the US used white phosphorus against "insurgents". Whether deliberately or by gross negligence, these "insurgents" included a large number of civilians, who suffered terrible injuries. The Bush Administration initially denied the allegations, then admitted them in the face of the evidence, but denied that this equated to the use of a chemical weapon. The latter point is arguable; as George Monbiot points out in the Guardian:

White phosphorus is not listed in the schedules of the Chemical Weapons Convention. It can be legally used as a flare to illuminate the battlefield, or to produce smoke to hide troop movements from the enemy. Like other unlisted substances, it may be deployed for "Military purposes... not dependent on the use of the toxic properties of chemicals as a method of warfare". But it becomes a chemical weapon as soon as it is used directly against people. A chemical weapon can be "any chemical which through its chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm".

And yet at the same time, such quibbling is spectacularly beside the point. The reason we ban chemical weapons such as mustard gas is because they are indiscriminate and cause terrible injuries [GRAPHIC]. That's the same reason we object to white phosphorus: it makes absolutely no distinction between combatants and civilians, affects a wide area, and causes terrible injuries [GRAPHIC]. It is not something that should even be considered for direct military use, let alone in a civilian area such as a city. But then, "indiscriminate" pretty much sums up the whole attitude of US forces in Iraq since the beginning, and if its more convenient for them to melt the skin off the people they're supposed to be saving, that's exactly what they'll do.

(BTW, if you're looking at the pictures linked above, do not click "successiva" too often unless you have a very strong stomach. Melted dead people crawling with maggots may cause you to lose your lunch)


My impression is there would also a legal issue with the way it can act as an incendiary, if the US had only sign up to the relevant protocols.

Posted by Lyndon : 11/16/2005 10:15:00 AM

Therefore, should New Zealand press for its incorporation in
chemical weapons curtailment
treaties? Judging from your
description, I'd say there's an excellent case for that.

I/S, you may want to contact the
NZ Nuclear Free Peacemaking Assn
down in ChCh about this. Despite its name, it has a strong record
of also opposing other WMDs,
including chemical ones.

Craig Y.

Posted by Anonymous : 11/16/2005 10:37:00 AM

Lyndon: it is also toxic, with an LD/50 of 50 mg - though arguably as it is not intended to kill this way (instead, its intended to kill by burning people to the bone) it may not fall under the CWC.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 11/16/2005 11:22:00 AM

You negated to mention one of the more damning aspects of the documentary Idiot/Savant: the British document they dug up that confirms the use of MK77 firebombs (a.k.a. Napalm).

This has also been confirmed by Colonel James Alles, commander of Marine Air Group 11 back in 2003:

Where's GeniusNZ, Adriene & crew these days anyway? I thought they'd be around to give us the run down on why the use of white phosphorus and firebombs on Iraqi people is actually a morally defensible action on the part of the U.S. And more to the point, why it's just waaay different when the baddies do it.

Posted by Anonymous : 11/16/2005 12:57:00 PM

You know, I could manage to get through the photos of the dead men. Even the most gruesome ones were manageable for me.I do have a strong stomach. And given what things were around them, many seemed to be actual combatants.

But the little dead children were too much for me to view. This is the kind of stuff that Americans should be viewing to help them decide just what kind of government they have. Because it's only the most psycopathic of people who could shrug their shoulders and call this an acceptable casualty of war.

Posted by Muerk : 11/16/2005 07:47:00 PM

I'm here or about. If the reports are true, then those responsible - however high up - should be held to full account. I think it's appalling if true, and it's making the news here.

Posted by Anonymous : 11/17/2005 05:44:00 AM

Maybe someone should invade. That'll fix it.

Posted by Anonymous : 11/19/2005 10:06:00 AM

I posted a question about the MK77 issue (Pentagon denies, then confirms its use in Iraq to Britain's Defense Minister) on, a Website I think is very cool in its concept. You can vote for questions you think the mainstream media is improperly avoiding.


The woman behind the site has amazing credentials - PCMagazine co-founder and more. The site only gets a few hundred hits per day, and I'm assuming only a small percentage of those actually vote on questions, but I still think it's an idea worth supporting.

Posted by Anonymous : 11/24/2005 04:58:00 AM