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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

More on white phosphorus used in Iraq

There is more on this story of the use of white phosphorus in the attack on Falluja here, includingan admission of use and its potential definition as a chemical weapon if used against civilians. Here's a bit of the Guardian report:

US forces yesterday made their clearest admission yet that white phosphorus was used as a weapon against insurgents in Iraq. A Pentagon spokesman told the BBC last night that it had been used as "an incendiary weapon" during the assault last year on Falluja in 2004.

Lieutenant Colonel Barry Venable said the substance, which can be used to lay smokescreens but burns down to the bone in contact with skin, was not covered by international conventions on chemical weapons.

But Paul Rodgers of the University of Bradford's Department of Peace Studies said the substance would probably fall into the category of chemical weapons if used directly against people.

The Pentagon spokesman's comments also appeared to contradict the US ambassador to London, Robert Tuttle, who denied in a letter to the Independent that white phosphorus was deployed as a weapon. Mr Tuttle said: "US forces participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom continue to use appropriate lawful conventional weapons against legitimate targets. US forces do not use napalm or white phosphorus as weapons."

6 Comments:

Blogger Layman said...

The use of white phosphorus is covered by 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons. Which treaties or conventions label it a chemical weapon? And did the US sign up for said treaties or conventions?

November 16, 2005

 
Anonymous Noelinho said...

Of course they didn't, just like George Galloway would never sign a truth treaty.

November 17, 2005

 
Blogger Matthew J.M. Coomber said...

To answer Layman's question, the use of white phosphorus munitions as a weapon was made illegal by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which the US is a part of. The statement put out by the CWC states that any chemicals used against humans or animals with the intent of killing is a chemical weapon. According to the CWC it is only legal to use white phosphorus munitions as a flare, or to provide smoke cover to hide troop movements.

November 17, 2005

 
Anonymous Noelinho said...

Which really begs the question: why can't you use a massive, non-skin burning smoke bomb?

November 18, 2005

 
Blogger Matthew J.M. Coomber said...

Indeed Noelinho!
Since they can only be used as flares and smoke bombs...why not use flares and smoke bombs? And, not to be too graphic, but not only skin burning chemicals, the result is that it melts your flesh while leaving your clothes intact.

November 18, 2005

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm always rather surprised at these outbursts over the use of weapon type x. Would one of you please define for me what type of weapon is humane at maiming and killing people?
So, on to the terrible, inhumane, prohibited by the international community, etc, WP (or Willie Peter) rounds as they're known in the trade (or were 35 or so years ago). You do understand that if you're standing within the immediate vacinity of a "marking" or "smoke" round when it detonates that for all the difference it will make to you, it might have been HE (high explosive), right? And we all do understand that deliberately targeting a civilian population in a combat operation (regardless of the weapon-type) is prohibited by international convention, US DoD policy, the US UCMJ and so on?

And for the comment that WP is a "skin burning" munition, WP fragments do indeed burn your skin, and continue burning right through it and keep burning through tissue until they come out the other side of the body (if they do). Not pretty but bullets, suicide bombers, land mines, booby traps, aerial bombs, napalm, etc, aren't very pretty either.

Reminds me of the reply of a veteran who'd lost his legs to a land mine when asked if he thought land mines were inhumane, "Sure, it's much more humane to shoot people with bullets, stab them with knives or blow them up with bombs."
War is an obscenity -- the weapons used cannot change that basic fact. If you want to have a meaningful debate, let's talk about what the international response should have been to the pre-war obscenity that was Saddam's Iraq -- unless you think that the Iraqi people were better off then.

November 19, 2005

 

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