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White Phosphorous: The U.S. Used It; The U.S. Says It's Illegal
By David Swanson
The U.S. military used white phosphorous as a weapon in Fallujah, and the U.S. military says such use is illegal. That's one heck of a fog fact (Larry Beinhart's term for a fact that is neither secret nor known). This fact has appeared in an article in the Guardian (UK) and been circulated on the internet, but has just not interested the corporate media in the United States.
It interests Congressman John Conyers, however. Last week, Conyers released a 273-page report titled "The Constitution in Crisis; The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups in the Iraq War." This 273-page report covers many war-related crimes, including the use of white phosphorous.
On page 165, following discussion of other crimes against humanity, the report states: "Finally, there is evidence that the U.S. Military used an incendiary weapon in combat known as White Phosphorus, even though the U.S. Battle Book states, '[i]t is against the Law of Land Warfare to employ WP against personnel targets,' and which would be in contravention of the Geneva and Hague Conventions and the War Crimes Act."
That's an impressive criminal feat, violating multiple U.S. laws and international laws at one shot. But it may be a greater feat of hypocrisy and irony. After all, this war was supposedly launched in order to prevent the use of so-called weapons of mass destruction. While that lie has been exposed, we now know that WMDs have been wantonly employed in the course of this war by the so-called liberators. That fact is not yet widely known within the United States.
The Battle Book is published by the U.S. Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and does indeed contain this sentence: "It is against the law of land warfare to employ WP against personnel targets."
As George Monbiot makes clear in the Guardian, a chemical weapon is illegal, according to the Chemical Weapons Convention, regardless of whether the people targeted with it are civilians.
"The Pentagon argues that white phosphorus burns people," Monbiot wrote, "rather than poisoning them, and is therefore covered only by the protocol on incendiary weapons, which the U.S. has not signed. But white phosphorus is both incendiary and toxic. The gas it produces attacks the mucous membranes, the eyes and the lungs. As Peter Kaiser of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told the BBC, 'If ... the toxic properties of white phosphorus, the caustic properties, are specifically intended to be used as a weapon, that of course is prohibited, because ... any chemicals used against humans or animals that cause harm or death through the toxic properties of the chemical are considered chemical weapons.'"
Blogger Gabriele Zamparini found a declassified document from the U.S. Department of Defense, dated April 1991, and titled "Possible use of phosphorous chemical," which makes clear that the U.S. military understands white phosphorous to be a chemical weapon. "During the brutal crackdown that followed the Kurdish uprising," it alleges, "Iraqi forces loyal to President Saddam (Hussein) may have possibly used white phosphorous (WP) chemical weapons against Kurdish rebels and the populace in Erbil ... and Dohuk provinces, Iraq. The WP chemical was delivered by artillery rounds and helicopter gunships. ... These reports of possible WP chemical weapon attacks spread quickly ... hundreds of thousands of Kurds fled from these two areas."
Conyers' report, on page 102, cites evidence that the United States used white phosphorous in Fallujah:
"Recent reports coming out of Iraq verify the use of a weapon called white phosphorus (WP) in combat. An Italian state broadcaster, RAI, recently reported that American forces used WP in Fallujah last year against insurgents. According to a former American soldier who fought in Fallujah, 'I heard the order to pay attention because they were going to use white phosphorus on Fallujah. In military jargon it's known as Willy Pete. . . . Phosphorus burns bodies, in fact it melts the flesh all the way down to the bone . . . I saw the burned bodies of women and children. Phosphorus explodes and forms a cloud. Anyone within a radius of 150 metres is done for.'"
The RAI story reached British readers and perusers of the internet via a November 8th article in the Independent by Peter Popham titled "US Forces Used Chemical Weapons During Assault on City of Fallujah."
It remains unclear when that information will reach consumers of U.S. television news.