U.S. Used “Chemical Weapons” in Falluja

The blogosphere is abuzz with a report in The Independent that there is “new evidence” that U.S. military used “chemical weapons” during its assault on Falluja last year. The problem is that the weapons in question are not “chemical weapons” in the usual sense of the word and that we knew about this contemporaneously.

US forces ‘used chemical weapons’ during assault on city of Fallujah

Powerful new evidence emerged yesterday that the United States dropped massive quantities of white phosphorus on the Iraqi city of Fallujah during the attack on the city in November 2004, killing insurgents and civilians with the appalling burns that are the signature of this weapon.

Ever since the assault, which went unreported by any Western journalists, rumours have swirled that the Americans used chemical weapons on the city.

On 10 November last year, the Islam Online website wrote: “US troops are reportedly using chemical weapons and poisonous gas in its large-scale offensive on the Iraqi resistance bastion of Fallujah, a grim reminder of Saddam Hussein’s alleged gassing of the Kurds in 1988.”

The website quoted insurgent sources as saying: “The US occupation troops are gassing resistance fighters and confronting them with internationally banned chemical weapons.”

In December the US government formally denied the reports, describing them as “widespread myths”. “Some news accounts have claimed that US forces have used ‘outlawed’ phosphorus shells in Fallujah,” the USinfo website said. “Phosphorus shells are not outlawed. US forces have used them very sparingly in Fallujah, for illumination purposes.

“They were fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions at night, not at enemy fighters.”

But now new information has surfaced, including hideous photographs and videos and interviews with American soldiers who took part in the Fallujah attack, which provides graphic proof that phosphorus shells were widely deployed in the city as a weapon.

First, this ain’t news:

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.

[…]

Photo: White Phosporous used in Fallujah 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]

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.

From WikiPedia:

White phosphorus is a common allotrope of the chemical element phosphorus which has found extensive military application as a smoke-screening agent and secondarily as an incendiary weapon. It is commonly referred to in military jargon as “WP” or “white phos”. The Vietnam War era slang Willie Pete, Whiskey Pete or Wiley P is still occasionally heard.

In its role as an incendiary weapon:

It is commonly believed that white phosphorus ignites spontaneously on contact with air at room temperature. This is not quite true; the autoignition temperature is actually about 30°C in humid air, and slightly higher in dry air. However at slightly lower temperatures WP will slowly surface oxidise, effectively smouldering, and will often warm up to the point where it will ignite. At any rate, the slightest degree of friction will easily ignite it, and it is practically guaranteed to be ignited by a burster charge, so for all intents and purposes it is pyrophoric.

Because of this, WP has long had a secondary role as an incendiary, either directly or more usually as a “first fire” material. Contrary to another popular myth, it does not burn particularly fiercely, especially in comparison to other incendiaries like thermite. As an incendiary, it is most effective against highly flammable targets like very dry vegetation or petrol, oils and lubricants. However a WP fire does have the special difficulty that if extinguished with water, even to the point of being quite cold, it may reignite later when it dries out and exposes the WP to the air again.

The shell in question:

M825 white phosphorus. The M825 WP projectile is an FA-delivered 155-mm base-ejection projectile designed to produce a smoke screen on the ground for a duration of 5 to 15 minutes. It consists of two major components–the projectile carrier and the payload. The projectile carrier delivers the payload to the target. The payload consists of 116 WP-saturated felt wedges. The smoke screen is produced when a predetermined fuze action causes ejection of the payload from the projectile. After ejection, the WP-saturated felt wedges in the payload fall to the ground in an elliptical pattern. Each wedge then becomes a point or source of smoke. The M825 is ballistically similar to the M483A1 (DPICM) family of projectiles.

Willie Pete is a militarily useful weapon in its capacity as a smoke-screening agent. Its secondary application as an incendiary weapon is more questionable; it certainly blurs the line with traditional chemical weapons such as mustard gas and other blister agents, which are banned. Further, aside from any moral qualms, their use in a counter-insurgency operation is debatable from a tactical standpoint. But let’s not pretend this is some secret plot by the U.S. that has just been uncovered. The U.S. openly maintains an arsenal of WP shells and reported that they had used them in Falluja at the time; this isn’t a conspiracy.

Update: Juan Cole more or less agrees. He does note, however,

The use of incendiary bombs against civilian targets or concentrations of civilians with no military function is forbidden by Protocol III of the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. Although the US ratified Protocols I and II of the Convention, it does not appear to have adopted Protocol III into US law.

Even looking at Protocol III, though, one gathers the use of WP in Fallujah would be permissible.

I. 1. (b) Incendiary weapons do not include:

    (i) Munitions which may have incidental incendiary effects, such as illuminants, tracers, smoke or signalling systems;

One could argue that WP would be excluded by that provision.

II.
1. It is prohibited in all circumstances to make the civilian population as such, individual civilians or civilian objects the object of attack by incendiary weapons.
2. It is prohibited in all circumstances to make any military objective located within a concentration of civilians the object of attack by air-delivered incendiary weapons.
3. It is further prohibited to make any military objective located within a concentration of civilians the object of attack by means of incendiary weapons other than air-delivered incendiary weapons, except when such military objective is clearly separated from the concentration of civilians and all feasible precautions are taken with a view to limiting the incendiary effects to the military objective and to avoiding, and in any event to minimizing, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.

The shells in question were delivered by indirect fire–mortars and/or artillery. The civilian population was not the principal target.

Regardless, though, Cole is right about this:

Of course, the difference between kinds of munitions can be exaggerated. It is no fun to have “conventional” arms rain down on your family from the sky.

Quite right. As military technology advances, the distinction between “conventional” and “unconventional” weapons becomes increasingly meaningless.

Fallajuh operation coverage from 2004:

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Chris says:

    Read any history of the U.S. Army in Normandy and you will see extensive reference to white phosphorous. To attack a bocage field, it was necessary to hit the opposite corners with WP to supress German machine gun and motar fire. But think of the headline:

    “U.S. troops gas Germans in Normandy”

  2. M. Murcek says:

    There’s an old t-shirt with the slogan “Willie Peter Will Make You a Believer!”

  3. LJD says:

    If you play with Terrorists, like the ones in Fallujah, sooner or later you’re bound to get burned…

  4. Andy Vance says:

    I watched the video, and the most disturbing part to me was U.S. helicopters raining large amounts of WP in a wide dispersal pattern over the city, feeding a large cloud of smoke and gas on the ground. I’d like to know what purposes that would serve other than anti-personnel (it’s obvious from the video that the intent was not illumination).

  5. DR says:

    LJD:

    Are you trying to imply that everyone in Fallujah was a terrorist? Including 2 year olds? That is precisely the mentality which has led to countless atrocities, including those perpetrated by Saddam himself.

    If you meant something else, I think you should be more careful how you express yourself; one could think that you, like Ann Coulter, advocate ethnic cleansing as a “final” solution to the “muslim problem”.

  6. Jonk says:

    War is hell…WP helps illustrate the point…directly.

    I see no problem with using full military might…if we have to cut corners, you better order more body bags for our troops.

    Either let us fight it the way we need to, or get us the hell out…but don’t do this half-assed crap…do this, not that…not again.

    It’s not chem warfare…get over it.

  7. LJD says:

    Ease up on the Kool-Aid DR. And don’t dare to put words in my mouth, ever.

    If you research soldier accounts of Operation Phantom Fury, there WERE children there toting AKs. We DID give the civilian opportunity EVERY opportunity to leave.

    Aside from left-wing conspiracy theories, I belive in our troops, their command, their training, to do the right thing. Unlike the enemy, who would feign death and/or take shots at U.S. soldiers after being wounded. You would likely be the first in line to criticize our guys for “executing” “wounded” combatants.

    Your argument, on the other hand, is based on “website quoted insurgent sources as saying” and the “Islam Online website”. I’ll keep my belief the words of our troops, thanks.

  8. anjin-san says:

    LDJ…

    Do you mean like when we “did the right thing” at Abu Ghraib”?

    Unfourtunatly, war often brings out the worst in people.

    And are you saying we are killing no innocents in Iraq?

    Actually I am a bit confused as to why we are still in Iraq at all. We were told our forces “broke the back” of the insurgency at Fallujah. We we lied to?? Guess so.

  9. Andy Vance says:

    We DID give the civilian opportunity EVERY opportunity to leave.

    Bullshit. All “battle-age” males were prohibited from leaving, and many families refused to leave them.

  10. McGehee says:

    All “battle-age” males were prohibited from leaving

    Link, please?

  11. Kent says:

    I watched the video, and the most disturbing part to me was U.S. helicopters raining large amounts of WP in a wide dispersal pattern over the city, feeding a large cloud of smoke and gas on the ground. I’d like to know what purposes that would serve other than anti-personnel (it’s obvious from the video that the intent was not illumination).

    Andy,

    WP is widely used to generate smoke screens to cover the movement of one’s own troops. What you are describing sounds like a perfect example.

  12. anjin-san says:

    McGehee,

    Can you produce proof that noncombatants were indeed given ample opporutnity to leave? And by proof, I do not mean Rush said it is so…

  13. Andy Vance says:

    link please

    Oh, come on. That’s common knowledge. It was even on Fox.

    WP is widely used to generate smoke screens to cover the movement of one’s own troops.

    That’s possible. But I would hope that American troops weren’t anywhere near the conflaguration in the video. Watch it if you can; fast forward to 18 minutes in if you want to skip past the interview with “commie journalist” Giuliana Sgrena and gruesome scenes of the dead.

  14. anjin-san says:

    McGhee & LJD have gone silent, perhaps waiting for Rush to tell them what they think…

  15. LJD says:

    If you choose to get your news from the “Commie Journalist” Giuliana Sgrena, the Muslim Daily News, and the accounts of the insurgents themselves, and you prefer to believe THAT, over the morality of our troops, your fellow countrymen, then why stay here?

    Go over there, strap on some explosives, and martyr yourself for your cause. Commenting on blogs just seems like a coward’s way out…

  16. Andy Vance says:

    Are you dyslexic, LJD? I said skip past the commie journalist, watch the video of the helicopters, and give your impression of what they’re doing.

    Or, if you prefer, continue to pout like a whiny two-year-old and say “I don’t wanna!” It’s a free country, after all.

  17. Mark Buehner says:

    U.S. officials say they don’t know exactly how much of Fallujah’s civilian population — estimated to be somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 — remains in the city after weeks of pounding air strikes and falling leaflets urging them to flee. Military planners estimate that 50 to 70 percent of the city’s population has fled, which could leave as few as 60,000 or as many as 150,000 civilians still in Fallujah

    [LINK]

    Turns out the US/Iraqi government was dropping leaflets for about a month warning civilians to flee. San Fran Gate an ok source?

    As far as the WP, its used to mark/illuminate artillery targets. So while i admit being burned up by WP would be horrific, the incoming HE shells that follow tend to ruin your day as well. This whole argument hinges on the strange argument that having your skin burned is unnacceptable but having an arm blown off or a belly full of shrapnel is perfectly reasonable.

  18. Andy Vance says:

    I don’t know if that comment was directed at me, Mark, but I never disputed that civilians were warned. I disputed whether they were given “every opportunity” to leave.

    And the question – and I say question because it’s by no means conclusive – is whether WP was sprayed indiscriminately over the city (which, as the article you link to shows, the military knew still contained thousands of civilians). The video makes it look like it was.

    And yes, I would say there is a distinction between dying from HE and having your skin slowly melted to the bone, from inside and out. That’s why we remember Halabja more than the countless other atrocities committed in Iraq.

  19. anjin-san says:

    So LDJ you are saying Abu Ghraib did not happen? Guess living in a comic book world has its advantages.

    One of my causes is trying to prevent the US from being a nation that employs torture and invades nations that have not attacked us, killing scores of women, children and seniors in the process. Guess that makes me a bad guy in your book.

  20. LJD says:

    Andy-
    A typical left wing punk playing semantics over the character of our troops- absolutely shameless any time, let alone Veteran’s Awareness Week.

    So here’s your take on the story: The U.S. Military, ordered by ChimpyMcBushitler, prevented by force, civilians including women and children, from leaving Fallujah, so that we could make an example of them by deploying chemical weapons, inflicting excruciating pain and horror, just for kicks (it could not have been for effect, since we’re keeping such a “Secret” about it).

    Now how f-ing stupid does that sound? Did you ever once consider the source of your information? The sad arabic tune playing in the background? The Nam footage, leading up to the ultimate conclusion that the U.S. is evil and must be stopped?

    So way to fan the flames. You remind me of this t-shirt I once saw. You have become so open minded that your brain has fallen out.

  21. LJD says:

    Anjin- you’re a broken record. Fallujah has nothing to do with Abu Ghraib and you know it. I choose to believe the latter was an unfortunate and isolated event, where the perpetrators have been punished. I choose not to believe unsubtantiated claims of systemic abuse, across the board, by our service members. It’s hardly a comic book. It’s about duty and the principles MY country was founded upon. If you had ever contributed to something larger than yourself, you might understand that.

    Your feeling is that the U.S. tortures people, invades them unprovoked, and intentionally kills civilians. That is absolute freaking fantasy land. I’ll say again, if you believe it so strongly, fight the power! You are morally obligated to blow yourself up to protect all those innocent women, children, and seniors.

  22. Andy Vance says:

    Ah, so you finally watched the damn video. Now let’s put aside all the other crap and focus on the original question. What is that helicopter doing? If you have an explanation, let’s hear it.

  23. LJD says:

    Helicopters? You truly are a moron. Looks like air-burst artillery to me.

    Any proof that this footage was shot in Fallujah, or Iraq for that matter?
    Any proof that the rounds were fired by the U.S.?
    Any autopsies performed on the supposed victims?

    I imagine they are in the same place as Srgena’s shot-up car…

    Oh and BTW. Why is the Egelhart listed as an EX-Marine? I can’t find any retired Marines that would refer to themselves as being an ex- anything.

  24. KWR says:

    I agree with the airburst artillery assessment of the WP rounds “supposedly” in Iraq. However, I must refute the belief that the U.S. military would kill innocent civilians for fun or sport. I know soldiers who have fought in Iraq and have talked to some that have just gotten back from tours and they 1.) all agree that we are doing the right thing and 2.) all agree that the good things never get said on the news. We don’t hear of the countless kids who now have food because of the U.S. or the kids who can learn normal school subjects and not “I love Saddam 101.”

    As is obvious with the so-called body count, our soldiers do everything possible to minimize the harm that comes to civilians; it would be easy for the U.S. to corrdon off Fallujah and then use real incindiaries to burn it–and everything–to the ground, BUT we don’t do that. Our soldiers instead go house to house to fight only the bad guys putting themselves in harms way and not the civilians.

  25. Andy Vance says:

    Now we’re getting somewhere. And thanks for the gratuitous insult, you fascist putznasher.

    I think you’re right. It’s probably artillery. That led me to this after-action review (pdf) from Field Artillery:

    White Phosphorous. WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE. We fired “shake and bake” missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out.

    Also came across this photo with the caption:

    U.S. marines scurried for cover Tuesday, Nov. 9, to avoid being burned by “white phosphorus,” which was fired as a smoke screen for U.S. tanks but landed on their own positions.

    Curiouser and curiouser.

  26. LJD says:

    Who are you to ask me any questions, when up until a few minutes ago you couldn’t tell the difference between a helicopter and a piece of artillery weighing dozens of tons?

    Until you can slop together some explanation for the questions I posted above, there’s no point interacting further. You may also want to refrain from your troop-slamming.

  27. Andy Vance says:

    Yeah, you’re right. I thought you might have some insight because you implied you have some relevant military background. But you’re just another Cliff Claven sitting at the end of the bar, spouting off nonsense to no one in particular. My mistake.

  28. Ralph says:

    The suffering was aggrivated by having to go at it twice. In a related discusion, The Arm of Decision, Stephen Green writes:

    Noted author, intellectual, and former Army intelligence officer Ralph Peters described the First Battle of Fallujah as

    … an example of how to get it as wrong as you possibly can. We bragged that we were going to “clean up Dodge.” And the Marines went in, tough and capable as ever. Then, just when the Marines were on the cusp of victory, they were called off, thanks to a brilliant, insidious and unscrupulous disinformation campaign waged by al-Jazeera. I was in Iraq at the time, and the lies about American “atrocities” were stunning. But the lies worked and the Bush administration, to my shock and dismay, backed down.

    Let’s be honest: The terrorists won First Fallujah. And for six months thereafter Fallujah was the world capital of terror – a terrorist city-state.

    That’s the power of the media, the arm of decision in action. Using little more than video cameras, terrorists convinced The Most Powerful Man on Earth™ to back down and grant them a victory they hadn’t earned on the battlefield.

  29. Is it LJD or LSD?

    “I choose not to believe unsubtantiated claims of systemic abuse, across the board, by our service members.”

    Is it the Human Rights Watch, the Red Crescent and the Red Cross you are not believing?

    May 13, 2004 – Mistreatment of prisoners by U.S. military and intelligence personnel in Afghanistan is a systemic problem and not limited to a few isolated cases, Human Rights Watch said today.

    May 10, 2004 Red Cross Report Describes Systemic Abuse in Iraq

    May 20, 2004 This report also describes the `systemic and illegal abuse of detainees’.
    … issued by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies…

    This news is only 18 months old, maybe it still hasn’t filtered through that Faux News, Hannity, Rush reality filter you live in.

  30. Ray Robison says:

    You may want to share this with your readers. This is not a professional work, but just an informal analysis.

    I had this conversation yesterday regarding this news story about WP being used as a chemical weapon.

    I am a former fire support officer, who was trained to travel with infantry and armor units and be the eyes of the artillery to call for fire.
    I read the article from the Italian news source, and let me state unequivocally that what it claims is physically impossible. A white phosphorous round used for illumination is a base ejecting projectile that “opens” in the air and floats down under a parachute. The projectile casing does continue down range, but fire direction officers and fire support officers along with the maneuver commanders clear this impact area as part of the calculations. The projectile casing itself could kill a person, as any bullet would, but it is not possible to use it as a chemical warfare attack.

    The flare itself floats down and you would pretty much have to chase after it and position yourself under where you project it will land to even get burned. It is possible although very unlikely that this flare could hit a building and could cause a fire, but the injury wouldn’t be a chemical burn, but a burn from the building fire. I have never seen anything close to this happen.

    The flares come down slowly and usually burn out first, but since they are the brightest thing in the sky, it would be easy to avoid one if it landed while burning. I have seen a few flares land on the ground while burning, but this is much different than a chemical attack.

    The only way you could purposely harm anyone with this is if you direct fired at a short range. The projectile most likely wouldn’t eject the flare (it has a timed fuse) and it really wouldn’t matter if you fired Cheetohs at someone at that range, the concussion would kill them.

    An artillery unit wouldn’t use direct fire unless it was being attacked. And even then it would use their organic direct fire weapons and if necessary, another type of projectile. To use a WP for direct fire would be entirely counterproductive to the security of the battery even in self defense.

    This Italian news story is nothing but a lie.

    After being asked repeatedly to analyze the “Italian News Story” (gag), I analyzed the video, here are my thoughts

    I analyzed the video and am pleased to announce that it is junk. There are many things I could point out, but here is what sticks out.

    1. The fire raining down from the helicopter was the part that concerned me. I had to watch it repeatedly to figure it out. It is the back blast from a missile being fired the other direction. Those are harmless, tiny incendiary particles that looked like balls of fire. They are basically burning propellant. This is because it is night and it is hard to get perspective at night, with or without night vision equipment. Taken out of context, it is easy to make it look like fire raining down on the city.

    2. The voice over states “contrary to the claim by the state department that WP was used in open fields, this was not true because tracer rounds were used to illuminate the enemy” Nothing could have spelled out liar any bigger than that one statement. Tracy rounds are never used to illuminate the enemy. The glow from a tracer round lasts tenths of a second and travels hundreds of miles an hour; it could not possibly be used for this function, again a claim that defies all practicality. Tracer rounds are used to see where your bullets are going so your fire can be adjusted, flat out. And quoting the State Department about a military function?

    3. 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.

    4. The soldiers, this is more complicated:

    I find the taller guy, I think his name was Garret, credible. His story rang true and is tragically repeated. But this is not a war crime or a chemical attack, but bad target identification and a complete human tragedy, assuming the “civilians” were indeed non combatants, it is very hard for the soldiers to tell. Although I do question his motives that is irrelevant to this analysis since he provides no “evidence” of chemical weapons.

    The other guy Jeff was a liar, to the point I would need to see his orders to believe he was in Iraq. He states, (paraphrasing) “the orders unequivocally came from the pentagon to wait until after the election”.
    How does he know this? Was he CENTCOM commander at the time? Did the CENTCOM commander call him up and tell him that? Even if it was true, that fact in itself is not nefarious.

    The re-election of Bush would be a crushing blow to the Jihadists in Fallujah, and let me tell you, I have seen their own videos recovered from there and the place was crawling with them. It would make tactical sense to wait, if you were pretty confident that Bush would win. They call this tactical patience.

    Also, the timing of the attack was heavily influenced by the Iraqi Provisional Authority. The U.S. had just helped them form and wanted to get them involved with running their country as soon as possible. That is why the first battle of Fallujah was ended, because the new Iraqi government wanted more time to talk with the Jihadists. That is until the new Iraqi government officials figured out that they were now the primary target of the Jihadists and told the U.S. effectively, go get them (the Jihadists in Fallujah) as soon as you can.

    Jeff states (paraphrasing), that the U.S. was using chemical weapons because we used WP. Hogwash. The video itself showed the flares floating slowly to the ground and the ground itself gave perspective. Now I am not saying I would want WP on my skin, but I wouldn’t want Drano on my skin either and I am not declaring chemical warfare on my home. Now a person could make the argument that you could take that Drano and throw it on your neighbor and that would be a chemical attack. True, but, you can not spew WP from a deployed flare because if it is burning, it is burning the WP. You wouldn’t want to put your mouth over it, of course, and you wouldn’t want to purposely hold it to your skin, but you would have to go out of the way to hurt yourself with a flare.

    (Note: I can not stream this video right now, but after thinking about it, I think he was asked by the voice over:

    “Did the Americans use chemicals?”

    and he replied

    “Yes, they used WP.”

    Did he even actually say we used chemical weapons?)

    c. He states (paraphrasing) when they used the stuff (WP) they would come over the net and say the WP is coming or “bombs away” or something.
    Bombs away? Who was on the net giving this sitrep, Clark Gable? That’s about the last time anybody used this term. This guy is a clown. And notice he makes claims and then says, oh, I didn’t see it, but I heard about it. Come on….dude.

    5. The real tip off about the credibility of this “news story” is the pictures of dead animals.

    The voice over said, paraphrasing: that several animals were found dead with no visible sign of trauma.

    First off, did they examine the animals? If so, they didn’t show it. Sure something is not visible, if you don’t look! Animals die everyday from natural causes, hunger, disease, or even getting hit by cars or possibly by conventional weapons.

    And get this, they show people who appear burned and claim this to be a sign of a chemical weapon, then they show animals with no injuries in the context of this discussion to imply they died of a mysterious chemical weapon. Their “facts” not only fail to support each other, but they directly conflict with each other. Yet they choose to throw them at the viewer with full understanding of the emotional impact of these images.

    6. A human rights group based in Fallujah? For crying out loud, that was Saddam’s power base. That is were the people burned four contractors and hung them from a bridge.

    By introducing these “facts” in the context of a chemical weapons discussion, yet not having any supporting evidence, I can only conclude that not only are these charges false, but this was done with the documentary creator’s full knowledge that they were baseless charges. In other words, they purposely lied, which goes to their credibility.

    After I wrote this, I was informed of more “supporting evidence” linked on the http://www.Dailykos.com:

    “”WP [i.e., white phosphorus rounds] proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE. We fired ‘shake and bake’ missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out.”

    — Field Artillery Magazine, via Steven D

    My analysis:

    I don’t mean to speak for the author, but this is evident

    “”WP [i.e., white phosphorus rounds] proved to be an effective and versatile munition.”

    Very true and widely known among redlegs (artillerymen). Nothing interesting here.

    “We used it for screening missions at two breeches …”

    The kind of projectile they are speaking about here creates smoke. It is widely, commonly, and legally used by every army to conceal their men. Usually, if an obstacle needs to be breeched, the smoke is delivered by artillery in between the obstacle and the enemy observer. It can also be placed on the enemy to confuse and scare them. The smoke itself is uncomfortable, but not dangerous, unless you want to sit on top of the projectile and breathe it. I know because I have experienced it.

    “and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE.”

    Notice he said psychological weapon and not chemical weapon. This is because the smoke would confuse the enemy and conceal our movements and would indeed, scare them.

    “We fired ‘shake and bake’ missions at the insurgents”

    A poor choice of phrasing because it is not technically accurate and does give the wrong impression, but this is a soldier and not a politician or a marketing strategist. (After further consideration, I think if the reference is to the projectile itself and not to the effect on flesh, it could be accurate. The HE would shake the ground and the material that creates smoke does so by burning (baking) but you would pretty much have to try to set yourself on fire by rolling around in it.)

    “using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out.”

    This takes a little bit of imagination. Imagine you are in a fighting position and the enemy is dropping smoke near your position. You ask yourself “why are they dropping smoke here?” the answer “because they are coming right through here.” So, you haul butt out of your defensive position and expose yourself to HE.

    This statement has absolutely nothing to do with the “dual use” of smoke (WP) as a chemical weapon. It is stating that WP can have a psychological effect as well as a tactical use. That is the only “dual use” here.

    -Ray Robison is a Sr. Military Operations Research Analyst with Scientific Applications International Corporation at the Aviation and Missile, Research, Development, Engineering Command in Huntsville Alabama. His background includes over ten years of military service as an officer and enlisted soldier in the Medical Branch, Field Artillery and Signal Corp including the Gulf War and Kosovo operations. Most recently he worked as a contractor for DIA with the Iraqi Survey Group.

  31. Omar says:

    If you want to see video …(english version):
    http://www.rainews24.rai.it/ran24/inchiesta/video.asp
    Hi

  32. andy w says:

    Explaining the significance of the US using wp shells in Fallujah can be difficult. People don’t understand what the problem is. As I read above, one person wrote that it would also be bad to be hit by high explosive shells. So, if the point in war is to kill the enemy, why does it matter how it is done? This is the basic question of having the Geneva Convention, and its a good question. The difference between killing with HE versus WP or small arms fire versus Mustard gas for that matter, is when you use a poison gas you have no specific military target. You are irradicating every living thing within a radius with no attempt to differentiate between combatants and civilians. The effects of white phosphorous are hideous; it reacts with the fat and water in the victims’ flesh, dissolving it like they are being dipped in acid. With exposure to a concentrated cloud, the remains are a skeletalized, mummied corspe. To add to the macabre effect, WP doesn’t react to clothing, so the vestiges of untouched sneakers, shirts and pants are left on the skeleton. Perhaps this is why it is considered so effective psychologically on the enemy. If, for example, a group of US troops went into a village and slit the throats of every man, woman and child, there would be alot of
    outrage in the average American citizen, because it is not what we think of our troops doing. It’s not supposed to be our way. But, shooting WP shells into a town for “illumination” purposes sounds so much more acceptable. Really, it would be far better to die quickly than by WP. Bush’s case for war was that Saddam is a bad guy, he tortures people, he uses chemical weapons on people, he has WMDs. Well, there were no WMDs, and now its out that we torture people and we use chemical weapons on civilians. Cheney is trying to strike down McCain’s anti-torture measure. That is what the significance of the US using WP shells is.

  33. Nancy McNally says:

    WP is not considered a chemical weapon when it is used for the abovementioned purposes, i.e. illuminating battle scenes. But in the source documentary by RAI, the viewer can clearly see that WP is being shot downward over the city, clearly making no distinction between civilians and soldiers. When it is used directly against people, then in fact it is considered a chemical weapon (whether those people are soldiers or not doesn’t matter, if I recall correctly).

  34. War is over says:

    1. The US troops were not using that as a smoke screen since it was in the middle of the night.
    2. They did not use it to illuminate since it was shot out from low altitude chopper directly onto ground in a wide spread. If it was to illluminate you want a high-altitude drop that stays in air as long as possible.
    3. It was shot in a rain over what looked like a residential area, not a military base.

    Saying that it is not a chemical weapon, used in this way, is just bullcrap. Even using it as a smoke screen is questionable since it generates acid that burns your skin off your bones…
    So if you can make mustard gas thick enough to be used as a smoke screen it is not a chem weapon???
    Come on, stop the bullshit and lies!

  35. db says:

    Ray Robison, what a long post you made. I’ll just pick up this bit:
    “The fire raining down from the helicopter was the part that concerned me. I had to watch it repeatedly to figure it out. It is the back blast from a missile being fired the other direction. Those are harmless, tiny incendiary particles that looked like balls of fire. They are basically burning propellant”

    In this link you can see a picture of the USS Alabama being gently coated by ‘harmless back blast from a missile’
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_phosphorus_incendiary