Saturday, November 19, 2005

Letter to a Liberal Continues

White phosphorus use on enemy combatants was not kept a secret, unless you consider it being reported in the SF Chronicle keeping it a secret because hardly anyone reads it (circulation down 16%, the biggest drop in a major newspaper in years). However, the Washington Post ran the same article a year ago. U.S. drives into heart of Fallujah - Army, Marines face rockets and bombs in battle to take insurgents' stronghold (SF Chronicle, 10 Nov. 2004)
U.S. Marines said American forces had taken control today of 70 percent of Fallujah in the third day of a major offensive to retake the insurgent stronghold.
Some of the heaviest damage apparently was incurred Monday night by air and artillery attacks that coincided with the entry of ground troops into the city. U.S. warplanes dropped eight 2,000-pound bombs on the city overnight, and artillery boomed throughout the night and into the morning. "Usually we keep the gloves on," said Army Capt. Erik Krivda, of Gaithersburg, Md., the senior officer in charge of the 1st Infantry Division's Task Force 2-2 tactical operations command center. "For this operation, we took the gloves off."

Some artillery guns fired white phosphorous rounds that create a screen of fire that cannot be extinguished with water. Insurgents reported being attacked with a substance that melted their skin, a reaction consistent with white phosphorous burns. Kamal Hadeethi, a physician at a regional hospital, said, "The corpses of the mujahedeen which we received were burned, and some corpses were melted." [emphasis added]

This comment was not part of the Chronicle article, but was added to point out that the use of white phosphorus against enemy combatants is legal

"Secondly, while white phosphorous is a chemical it isn't considered a "chemical weapon." Indeed, despite the very long history of its use it is not banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention or any other treaty ."

"White phosphorus is not banned by any treaty. The United States retains its ability to employ incendiaries to hold high-priority military targets at risk in a manner consistent with the principle of proportionality that governs the use of all weapons under existing law. The use of white phosphorus or fuel air explosives are not prohibited or restricted by Protocol II of the Certain Conventional Weapons Convention (CCWC), the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which may be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to have Indiscriminate Effects."

Enemy combatants can be killed by many means. Bullets. Bombs. Burning. Asphyxiation. Crushing. The whole idea of having a military you unleash on an enemy is to kill the enemy and to break his things. If the enemy is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions, certain protocols apply, but usually don't much effect the enemy combatant who has been killed. It does apply to civilians to an extent, although the bombings of London, Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, etc. may cause some civilians to feel a bit threatened. Of course, they would have been in a slightly happier position if their armies had been less brutal (check out Nanking, the Bataan Death March, the Holocaust, siege of Leningrad, the slaughter of Soviet POW's during Operation Barbarossa, etc). If the enemy is not a signatory to the Geneva Conventions, we still pretty much kill him in the same way, (he is probably beyond caring, except now he can look forward to 72 virgins) but it is harder to tell who the enemy is -- no uniforms, no government allegiances and leadership, no borders or country -- so in these instances, a propagandist or apologist for such enemy combatants can call just about any terrorist killed a "civilian." And can film whatever they think useful, such as dead bodies in unburnt clothing, and make up a story about the mystical (and mythical) effects of WP.

Now your question: "As for the white phosphorus reports the next thing you will say the pictures of dead women and kids were made up."

No, I won't say that the pictures of dead women and kids were made up. But it is obvious they were not killed by WP!

WP burns, not preserves. The Iraqis themselves who examined mujahadeen killed by WP described their flesh as having been burn and melted (see the Chronicle story above, written over a year ago)

A military expert viewed the Italian film and wrote:
"The pictures of dead bodies while hideous provide no analytical value. Contrast the opening from Vietnam, with the burned little girl, running from a napalmed village. That is conclusive evidence. Nothing about these dead bodies looked any different to the many dead bodies I have seen analyzing other videos (of dead bodies) that were all made that way (dead) by Saddam’s regime and then by Jihadists. There is no way to determine what killed these people by looking at pictures, except maybe by a forensics expert."

To continue:
WP is legal to use on combatants. There is no credible evidence that it was used on civilians. The garbage about civilians having caramelized skin, but unburnt clothing, being used as proof of WP use is laughable. WP burns the Hell out of clothing! And flesh too! It does the opposite of what the Italian documentary said was found.

The US did not lie about its use. The US Ambassador to London, Robert Tuttle, mistakenly said that the WP ammunition was not used in the TWO ROLES it's specifically designed for: Screening and marking. He said it was used only for illumination. Since its main role is to obscure the enemy by producing smoke, that means it is not worth a damn for illumination. The ambassador must have been thinking of star shells.

"A recent documentary by the Italian state broadcaster, RAI, claimed that Iraqi civilians, including women and children, had died of burns caused by white phosphorus during the assault on Falluja. The report has been strenuously denied by the US. But Col Venable said it had been used to dislodge enemy fighters from entrenched positions in the city."White phosphorus is a conventional munition. It is not a chemical weapon. They are not outlawed or illegal," he told the BBC. "We use them primarily as obscurants, for smokescreens or target marking in some cases. However, it is an incendiary weapon, and may be used against enemy combatants."Asked if it was used as an offensive weapon during the siege of Falluja, he replied: "Yes, it was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants. When you have enemy forces that are in covered positions that your high explosive artillery rounds are not having an impact on, and you wish to get them out of those positions, one technique is to fire a white phosphorus round into the position: the combined effects of the fire and smoke - and in some case the terror brought about by the explosion on the ground - will drive them out of the holes so you can kill them with high explosives.'"

Another writer adds:

"So we have "insurgents" and "mujahadeen" being killed by white phosphorus which is being reported to have been used to "hide the movement" of Marines. WP is doctrinally used to cause casualties among the enemy (insurgents, mujahadeen) and as an obscurant (hide movement). If these are the uses being referenced in the story, then I have no problem with them. Said another way, if this is the incident, this is a non-story".

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