Wednesday, November 16, 2005

US military admits using white phosphorous as a weapon in Iraq

So, faced by published accounts which contradicted its earlier denials, the US military has admitted that it uses white phosphorous (WP) as a weapon:

The admission contradicted a statement this week from the new and clearly under-briefed US ambassador in London Robert Holmes Tuttle that US forces "do not use napalm or white phosphorus as weapons".

The official line to that point had been that WP, or Willie Pete to use its old name from Vietnam, was used only to illuminate the battlefield and to provide smoke for camouflage.

This line however crumbled when bloggers (whose influence must not be under-estimated these days) ferreted out an article published by the US Army's Field Artillery Magazine in its issue of March/April this year.

The article, written by a captain, a first lieutenant and a sergeant, was a review of the attack on Falluja in November 2004 and in particular of the use of indirect fire, mainly mortars.

It makes quite clear that WP was used as a weapon not just as illumination or camouflage.

That story was cited here and s well as generally across the progressive blogosphere last week, and let us permit ourselves a brief pat on the back for forcing the military to fess up.

Now, in typical damage control mode the DoD is parsing its words carefully:
'It's part of our conventional weapons inventory. We use it like we use any other conventional weapon,' said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman.

Whitman said he had no knowledge of any civilian victims of attacks with white phosphorus.

'We don't target any civilians with any of our weapons, and to suggest US forces were targeting civilians with these weapons would be wrong,' he said. [Emphasis mine-CK]

Oh goody, our military doesn't intentionally target civilians, wow how evolved is that?

Note the misdirection involved in this statement. To my knowledge no-one ever accused our troops of "targeting" civilians, our complaint that when such an insidious chemical used used in a weaponized manner, any civilian bystanders suffer even more horribly than usual.

So the denial fails to actually address the complaint.

Don't you love watching BushCorp™ spin in action?

For those of you keeping score at home here's the timeline:
1) Military flatly denies the use of WP as a weapon.
2) This lie is exposed on the blogoshphere as are photos of children who've been [Warning graphic image] melted by its use.
3) Military issues non-denial admitting the use of weaponized WP, but fails to address the question of incidental civilian deaths and injuries.

So what's next in the DoD spin cycle? I can't be sure sure, but I anticipate the phrase "unavoidable and unfortunate collateral damage" will be involved.

[UPDATE- The BBC has published a handy white phosphorous fact sheet available here.]


Anonymous said...

Iraqi Civilians Shelled by White Phosphorus in Baquba,

On June 22, 2007 New York Times correspondent Michael Gordon was interviewed on National Public Radio in a story called “Baquba Residents Displaced by Insurgents” by Melissa Block and Michele Norris. In this interview, Gordon was asked about civilian casualties in Baquba, Iraq. He responded by saying “Yeah, there have been civilian casualties. I was just talking to our photographer and he had seen people who are hurt by phosphorus shells.”

See NPR Story:

NPR Story:

Citizen Kang said...

Thanks for the heads up on this incredibly shameful and under-reported story.