White Phosphorus used as Weapon in Fallujah
27 Nov 2005 12:08 GMT
RAI24 News from Italy did a video report on the use of white phosphorous in the Second Battle of Fallujah. "The First Battle of Fallujah, [was fought] in the spring of 2004", and then "It was evident to all of us who had served that we'd have to go back into Fallujah, but the administration...made the further error of waiting until after the presidential election to avoid casualties or embarrassments during the campaign". Unembedded reporters were kept out of the city during the Second Battle of Fallujah and the embeded ones were watched closely. Even so, the summary shooting of an unarmed Iraqi near the public end of the battle made headlines. A year later, the battle continues though at a much lower level. It has taken until now to confirm that white phosphorous was used, not just as illumination, but as a weapon.
The film shows the effects of WP on corpses quite effectively. The "effects are chemical as well as merely thermal. The choking white smoke it produces is highly toxic, and causes severe burns internally and externally to anyone caught in its path." "Phosphorus burns on the skin are deep and painful... These weapons are particularly nasty because white phosphorus continues to burn until it disappears... it could burn right down to the bone." What's really eerie about the effect of WP on people is that it burns flesh while leaving clothing intact.
Normally, white phosphorous shells are mixed in with regular munitions so that gunners can see the shells landing and thereby correct their aim. However, there is evidence that WP or "Whiskey Pete" shells were used as munitions on targets in Fallujah. After the Italian TV station RAI reported that, confirmation was found in an "article in the Army’s own artillery journal" and as to the legality of using it, a flat statement was found that said "It is against the law of land warfare to employ WP against personnel targets." A post in the blog Intel Dump concludes that not only was the use of WP illegal under the circumstances, but artillery should not have been used in an urban area filled with civilians in the first place.
"It is NEVER legal under international laws of land warfare to deliberately target civilians. You can not use WP - or any other weapon of any kind - against civilians. We don't "carpet-bomb" like in WWII, when civilian populations were viewed by some as legitimate targets. We do not fire WP or any other weapon at civilians.
"Any weapon that is "legal" under the laws of land warfare can be used against enemy forces in civilian areas, as long as the use of that weapon fits the "proportionality" test - you don't kill 500 civilians to get one bad guy, etc."
Speaking of morality:
"Given that the US and UK went into Iraq on the ground that Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons against his own people, we need to make sure that we are not violating the laws that we have subscribed to."