U.S. Denies Using White Phosphorus on Civilians
The U.S. military has denied charges that it used white phosphorus against civilian targets in Falluja last November.
The U.S. military in Iraq denied a report shown on Italian state television on Tuesday saying U.S. forces used incendiary white phosphorus against civilians in a November 2004 offensive on the Iraqi town of Falluja. It confirmed, however, that U.S. forces had dropped MK 77 firebombs — which a documentary on Italian state-run broadcaster RAI compared to napalm — against military targets in Iraq in March and April 2003.
The documentary showed images of bodies recovered after a November 2004 offensive by U.S. troops on the town of Falluja, which it said proved the use of white phosphorus against men, women and children who were burnt to the bone. “I do know that white phosphorus was used,” said Jeff Englehart in the RAI documentary, which identified him as a former soldier in the U.S. 1st Infantry Division in Iraq. “Burnt bodies. Burnt children and burnt women,” said Englehart, who RAI said had taken part in the Falluja offensive. “White phosphorus kills indiscriminately.”
The U.S. Marines in Baghdad described white phosphorus as a “conventional munition” used primarily for smoke screens and target marking. It denied using it against civilians. “Suggestions that U.S. forces targeted civilians with these weapons are simply wrong,” U.S. Marine Major Tim Keefe said in an e-mail to Reuters. “Had the producers of the documentary bothered to ask us for comment, we would have certainly told them that the premise of the programme was erroneous.” He said U.S. forces do not use any chemical weapons in Iraq. A U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad said earlier on Tuesday he did not recall white phosphorus being used in Falluja.
An incendiary device, white phosphorus is also used to light up combat areas. The use of incendiary weapons against civilians has been banned by the Geneva Convention since 1980. The United States did not sign the relevant protocol to the convention, a U.N. official in New York said.
“The only instance of MK 77 use during (Operation Iraqi Freedom) occurred in March/April 2003 when U.S. Marines employed several bombs against legitimate military targets,” Keefe said. He said the chemical composition of the MK 77 firebomb is different from that of napalm.
RAI posted a copy of the document [online].
Let’s hope this one is resolved quickly. Given that the use of WP against military personnel is not a violation of international law, one presumes that the denial of any such use is a good sign that they were not used against civilians.
Fallajuh operation coverage from 2004:
Fallujah, the Morning After
Mass Offensive Launched South of Baghdad
U.S. Finds Ã¢€˜Atrocity SitesÃ¢€™ in Fallujah
Zarqawi Headquarters Captured
U.S. Marines in Fallujah Finding InsurgentsÃ¢€™ Tools of the Trade
Sarin Gas Found in Fallujah?
U.S. Helicopters Shot Down Near Fallujah
Iraqi Hostage Freed by Marines in Fallujah
Ã¢€˜Hostage SlaughterhousesÃ¢€™ Found in Fallujah
Finishing Fallujah: War, Politics, and the Media
Battle of Fallujah Underway: Operation Phantom Fury
Battle for Fallujah: Risks and Rewards
U.S. Jets Strike Fallujah With Five Raids
Assault in Falluja Is Likely, U.S. Officers Say
U.S. Warplanes Pound Insurgent Stronghold in Fallujah
U.S. Forces Retake Samarra, Fallujah Next