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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.

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... is based on the same kind of semantic contortions used by this administration both to promote its international war crimes (we're spreading "freedom and democracy") and to justify its contraventions of human rights ("we do not torture") everywhere in the world.

Trying to refute such verbal garbage is really not worth much effort. I think I prefer the approach taken in the commentary originally posted by "Hunter" at Daily Kos and since repeated in numerous articles, both on line and in print. Here's an excerpt:

I think we need to take a step back from the newest Fallujah revelations. There's been a lot of confusion over what is or isn't a "chemical weapon" vs. an "incendiary"; what aspects of the Geneva conventions the United States is or is not signatory to; and whether or not the United States is still bound by rules of warfare that they are not direct signatories to. Allow me to try to clear things up, if I can.

First, I think it should be a stated goal of United States policy to not melt the skin off of children. As a natural corollary to this goal, I think the United States should avoid dropping munitions on civilian neighborhoods which, as a side effect, melt the skin off of children.

You can call them "chemical weapons" if you must, or far more preferably by the more proper name of "incendiaries". The munitions may or may not precisely melt the skin off of children by setting them on fire; they do melt the skin off of children, however, through robust oxidation of said skin on said children, which is indeed colloquially known as "burning". But let's try to avoid, for now, the debate over the scientific phenomenon of exactly how the skin is melted, burned, or caramelized off of the aforementioned children. I feel quite confident that others have put more thought into the matter of how to melt the skin off of children than I have, and will trust their judgment on the matter.

Now, I know that we may be melting the skin off of children in order to give them freedom, or to prevent Saddam Hussein from possibly melting the skins off of those children at some future date. These are good and noble things to bring children, especially the ones who have not been killed by melting their skin.

I know, as well, that we do not drop "chemical weapons" on Iraq. We may, in the course of fighting insurgents in civilian neighborhoods, drop "incendiaries" or other airborne weaponry which may melt the skins off of children as an accidental side effect of illuminating their neighborhoods or melting the skins off their neighbors. In that this still can be classified as melting the skins off of children, I feel comfortable in stating that the United States should not condone the practice. (This may mean, when fighting in civilian neighborhoods, we take nuanced steps to avoid melting the skin off of children, such as not dropping munitions that melt the skin off of children.)

And I know it is true, there is some confusion over whether the United States was a signatory to the Do Not Melt The Skin Off Of Children part of the Geneva conventions, and whether or not that means we are permitted to melt the skin off of children, or merely are silent on the whole issue of melting the skin off of children.

But all that aside, there are very good reasons, even in a time of war, not to melt the skin off of children.

  • First, because the insurgency will inevitably be hardened by tales of American forces melting the skin off of children.
  • Second, because the civilian population will harbor considerable resentment towards Americans for melting the skin off of their children.

well said

Iraqui children: victims of US depleted uranium bombardment:

The Hidden Massacre in Fallujah~disturbing videos


I can attest that this is true, my best friend told me about the white phosporous before we even invaded Iraq and that they would be using it. He is a seargent in the Army, I figured he probably knew what he was saying, and wow, now the report is in that they did use it.

You can only attest that he told you about willy pete and that we would use it. Of course we use it. Next to smoke, not much is clearer for a pilot to make out in the event of a casuality.
As far as used against the ENEMY, I have not, nor anyone in my unit, used it for any reason. Not that I wouldn't, if I thought it had a small chance of helping us, bet your ass.

Cruel Legacy of George Oilwellian Bush

From street to street,
And house to house,
The US army struggled on,
Resistance was not withering,
The insurgency held strong,
As casualties began to rise,
The reality started setting in,
Fallujah would not easy fall,
American’s may not win.

Come my lad’s, the leader called,
Come, be of good cheer,
Fallujah is now within our grasp,
The insurgents we’ll soon clear,
Step aside, make safe your guns,
Withdraw from Fallujah’s street’s,
We’ll burn the hides off these Iraqi foes,
We’ll send in Willy Pete.

A voice was heard within the ranks,
“What of civilians sir?
Willy Pete does not discriminate,
The innocent will also sear

Excuse me, but is this 2005/2006 A.D.? or 20005 B.C? Are we a
civilized nation of rational and sane minds? Or have we slipped into
a time loop of ancient cave people where barbarism is the norm?
Why hasnt ANY SO CALLED LEADER IN US GOVERNMENT gotten up enraged at our militaristic barbaric tactics toward other citizens of the world and demanded that those responsible be "EXECUTED" immediately?????

Anyone (including the so called marine who spoke to bring our troops
home whose last name started with a "K") who remains silent about the
use of WP, the use of DU, and other undisclosed "secret weapons"
and "special forces--i.e. "spoon benders" is complicet in the crime?

I hope Congressman Conyers isn't planning on flying very much. He must know about Wellstone and the others.

I often wonder if I am the only one who heard president select bush say he wanted to be called dictator, when asked what he wanted to be called (concerning his name george w.)prior to the election of 2000. It was very important for the neo cons to win the 2000 election and this dimwit was the only possible hope they had. Cheney was never going to win votes. I think we are at the most dangerous point in our country's history of loosing the freedoms that made us a great country. The things this administration say made the evil doers jealous of us so they want to attack us. Well Bush is playing right into their hands by single handly taking away our freedoms. I guess that will protect us, they won't jealous anymore.

As a Vietnam combat veteran, we used "willy pete" to mark targets and call in coordinates for fighters to drop their bombs. I never saw it used directly against people. This "administration" should be impeached for war crimes and crimes against the American public. We deserve better than this. I remember real administrations since Eisenhower and this is the worst group of liars that I have ever seen. They have no conscience and just don't give a damn about the majority of Americans. How can you give tax breaks for the wealthy and cut Medicare, Medicaid, and other entitlements?

It is only illegal if its used against American Nazi troops. The American soldiers of fortunes are criminals. Wearing a uniform they murder, steal, abuse children and rape - crimes for what they face punishment in any civilized country.

The (U)ncivilized (S)taates of (A)merica

Heil their commander in thieve. Heil to their heroic coward troops, who start to complain if the face resistance.

An American general once said: a good Indian is a dead Indian. I like to say: a good American soldier is a dead American soldier.

dude go bitch in russia or somewhere else. thats fucked up, dont you ever talk shit about men and women who are dying on the front. It may be a false war, and it may be wrongful to you and many others. I dont agree with the war and i say screw bush. but dont ever talk shit about people who are giving you the god-damn right to say that. If you feel that way then go join al-quaeda and kill americans you sound like you hate this country so why not run for office and change it?? or make a damn attempt to at least reach out. but no youd rather bitch and make war with your own people than try to help them. we are all americans even if not by choice. but at the same time we are all human and thats not by choice either, so have some fucken humanity and show some compassion.

I take offense to you coming so harsh on our troops. Our soilders are a vital part of our nation. Many of our soilders are hardworking americans that are trying to feed a family or wernt cut out for college. The REAL Nazis are the paper pushing politicians who really fight these wars. Spoiled daddys boys who have never seen a days work in their life and turn their nose up to the average blue collar American. I support our troops, not the war. I beleive that war is stupid and i think that both sides (Terrorists and Americans) need to grow up and see that we are all one and the same. Again dont blame the average soilder, blame the government and the administration who really fight these wars. BRING OUR TROOPS HOME!

It's always surprising to me how the American people have let this pass for soooooooo long. Americans are an educated lot; the majority holds a college degree; everyone has an illustrated opinion about everything. How is it, then, that the public believes all those lies?
HOw come that only 53 percent of the population disagrees as to whatever they are doing in Washington? (and the rest of the country, for that matter). To me, there's only one rule of thumb: when they give a speech, say, Bush, Condi, and the rest of the pack, I only have to look at their eyes. What do you see? they NEVER look straight at the cameras, they never hold your stare, they are always avoiding eye contact. Because they are always lying! How can anybody believe anything, then, when Condi says on T.V. that 'WE DON'T DO TORTURE"?. By whose measure? Where do we get our information from? CNN, FOX, ABC, CBS AND NBC? The Times?
Do we know, REALLY, REALLY know whose side they're on? Certainly, not the American public; certainly, they are not working on our best interest, obviously, they have the politicians agenda's to protect; naturally, the money that is being exchanged controls the kind of news we are going to hear. This is not about us. Madison Ave. decides what we are going to hear. LISTEN, AMERICANS, find other sources for your news, find out what's going on in our country, impeach Busch and Cheney and Rice and Ashcroft, let's stand up for what's ours.
They are taking our freedom and liberties, our rights and our jobs, our medicare and even our right to suit Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, and Big Doc. They want to take our Artic wilderness for oil, and they are spying on us, control what books we read from the public
library, and are tapping our college kids' internet and phone use, and making the parents pay for it.
In the name of fighting terrorism, we get 'YELLOW ELEVATED' levels on Christmas day, and get abused at the airports by those arrogant clerks that think that they possess some kind of an almighty power over you and me.
Exporting jobs and buying cheap from China, supporting a war that only works for their interest, for this is not about "Freedom for the Iraqui people". It's about their pockets, and power, and control.
If that were so, the Iraqui people would be free by now, from Saddam, from American invaders, from the oppression and control of the American Conquistadors, that are doing in Iraq exactly what the Spaniards, and then the British and French and other European countries did in America and it's people: Strip them of their riches, thru invasion, rape, sodomy, power, and guns.
What surprises me the most is this: how is this country ruled by people, when some of them at least, does not possess a minus 0 I.Q.?

P.S. Pardon my English, it's not my mother language and it is very difficult for me to try to express myself in other than my native tongue.

It has been stated that George "The Dictator" Bush has admitted to the illegal wiretapping of at least 30 U.S. citizens and admitted the same.Who are these citizens and when can we expect to find this imformation out? By circumventing U.S. law with illegal wiretaps Bush has brought us full circle to the days of "McCarthyism".Are these folks Senators,Congressmen,Representives who have challenged Bush on his lies and deciet?Are they protesters,buisnessmen or just regular joes like you and me?Is the Freedom of Imformation Act useable in a case like this?These are all questions every patriotic American should be asking themselves right now.Is our government wiretapping illegally in order to silence those who use their freedom of speech to question the policies of our government.Where does Bush senior stand on this?Let's get cracking people.Write your tax paid representitives today,not tomorrow and find out some answers.

This is a complete outrage! No wonder we are the #1 most hated country in the world! With the government that we have in office today, it is obvious that that hatered has been warrented... How sad that the very laws that have been the lifeblood of a once great country, can be trampled upon by such a weak minded; yet far too powerful, power hungry, life hating (all but their own lives) leader. When as a child my teacher warned against such a breech of constitution, we were informed that action should immediately be taken against said government! What's going on? I LOVE my country, but I FEAR my government!! I even feel a great deal of shame these days to have to call myself American when this country can no longer proudly wear her stripes. I DID NOT vote that insane branch of government into office, and will voice my discust and displeasure to all who will hear my voice! IMPEACH BUSH AND THE REST OF HIS ESTABLISHMENT!! BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!!

is it possible to conclude we've gotten our vengeance for the 3,000 people whom were killed on 9/11, with the 100,000's of thousands who are being slain in iraq? i mean, its justifyable of course being a nation brought up on "morals", and growing up with the "eye for an eye" mentallity, but even so. i think even most children would say its even now. it makes me almost relieved to see that atleast those of you who have posted on here are human.. the saddest part, is i'm 16. i've been against this war since the beginning, which means i was what 12 or 13? i've done countless researching, and countless reading. and its really sad to see what world these kids are growing up in, including your children..

Okay, so we all know the evils of the Bush Administration, right? So let's actually do something about. Let's fight against this, instead of just talking about how much it sucks. We need to start a movement, somehow. It needs to be huge...lots of people need to be involved. The problem is people are so comfortable with their own lives, that they aren't willing to take some risks for an important cause. So come on, let's get to it. We've got a lot of convincing to do.

There is something you can do! Go to!

you'll see there

Are you people LISTENING to yourselves? Your self-delusions and hatred of Bush are completely clouding your minds to anything that could possibly be related to truth. Somebody above said the only good American soldier is a dead American soldier. Are you really thinking along the same lines as someone as stupid and psychopathic as this?

Really, wake up and get a brain, this is ridiculous.

I am an american, I am also a strong believer in anarchy but thats not the point.

The soldiers are not only fighting for a cause that will eventually lead up to a future 3rd world war but also giving in to the brainwash that our government is setting in theri minds. There does not have to be a war, there does not have to be all of this suffering but yet our government along with other governments decide "They wanna put people through this to gain more power, money, or land.

Fuck the soldiers, they are supporting a cuase that is based on pure hatered and destruction...they knew beforehand what they were getting themselves into.


so im just curious. its ok for the usa to use chemical warfare but yet we invade a country b/c they have WMD's that for some reason we couldnt find. one final question what countries going to invade the U.S. for use of chemical warfare and having weapons of mass destructions?

isnt white phosporus is present in pretty much every bomb ever made? i know what white phosphorus can do to the human body, but there are trace amounts of it in every missle that we use. because it is a burning agent that helps to penetrate a target, such as armor, or ballistic shielding of any sort. So there is a major difference between chemical weapons that iraq possesed (due to Regan) and incindary ammunition(s) that are used. They both kill, but the manner in which they kill is completley different and thats quite obvious.

I agree with some of the people below.
we need to stop critisizing the soldiers.
just because they are over there does not mean that they want to be.
even though i dont support the cause they are fighting for, no family deserves to loose a father mother or brother or sister.
especially to a cause such as this.

but on the topic. it doesnt suprise me at all.
bush has lied countless times.
and done countless things behind our backs.

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