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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

How I stopped worrying and learned to love white phosphorus 
WP is a useful tool for the control of fires on the modern battlefield. Without it, we would have to use HE for spotting rounds. HE has a vastly greater lethal radius. HE fills the air with red hot metal. If it hits you, it will burn the crap out of you.

The guys who get hit with fragmentation from high explosive rounds will tell you. They’ll cuss up a storm and tell you “it burns, it f-cking burns!”

Yep. Just like white phosphorus.

The flash burns from a 155 shell explosion will also fry flesh brown, much like in a few of the pictures flying around.

The fragments from a 155 High Explosive shell will shatter or puncture the walls of schools, nurseries, orphanages, apartments, and hospitals alike. The fragmentation from a WP shell does not have anywhere near the velocity or penetrating power of an HE round.

I’ve seen the overpressure from an HE shell shatter windows more than 1000m away from the blast. Needless to say, it plays havoc with eardrums at closer ranges, and the concussion alone from a 155mm HE shell is known to whip soldier’s heads around so much that they get brain damage to go along with their shattered eardrums, even if they escape the fragmentary effects of such a shell.

But this is the shell that would have to replace the WP shell in the doctrinal marking role on the battlefield.

Further, the smoke given off by the HE round is dark grey and black, and is much less visible. Which means we would have to fire MORE HE shells as we walk our rounds to the target, since observers will have trouble observing the HE rounds, particularly at night.

The inevitable result is MORE collateral damage, and MORE noncombatants killed. Not fewer.

I’ve never seen anyone with a WP injury who would not have been dead had the WP round that injured him been a high explosive round.

Furthermore, WP rounds are vital to controlling close air support. Without WP marking, in many cases, we could not control the devastating fires of aircraft with anywhere near the precision we can now.

If we cannot control CAS fires from the ground using WP markers, we will have to use Mk-77 or high explosives on the first run over the target, and adjust fires from that point, rather than use the much less destructive WP marking round and adjust from there.

Again, the result will be the relegation of CAS to an area fires weapon. The collateral destruction in that case will again be vastly greater, since the observer on the ground has no other way to guide and control these fires.

In some cases, the CAS will accidentally fire on friendly positions, because the WP round will not have been available to mark the limit of fires in order to protect friendly troops.

There are end runs around that, such as the use of strobe lights. But those are extremely difficult to coordinate in practice, and are easily duplicated by the enemy.

Finally, without the use of WP, you deny friendly troops precious seconds in the event of an “immediate suppression” smoke mission. If an element comes under fire and calls for smoke to screen it’s maneuver, the observer calls for WP on the first salvo because it builds up much more rapidly than regular smoke rounds. Otherwise, you will have friendly units under fire for an additional 30 seconds to a minute while you wait for your smoke screen to build up.

That’s 30 seconds more for the enemy—who’s exact location may not yet be known—to take aimed shots at you.

The use of WP on the battlefield rather than HE preserves lives and reduces collateral damage. Death from a WP explosion is no more gruesome or horrid than death from an HE explosion, and is a great deal less likely.

Banning it will endanger more lives, restrict the utility of close air support – particularly fixed wing – have a deleterious effect on long developed AirLand doctrine (they don’t call it that any more, but you get the idea), particularly in the Marine Corps) and further encourage the insurgents to take shelter in the civilian population, where they can run photos of babies showing the terrible effects of American high explosive rounds as well.

Banning the use of WP will kill more civilians – the exact opposite of the effect the NYT editorial board desires. The exact opposite of what everyone desires, except, of course, the mujahedeen.

Splash, out

Jason

Comments:
Jason,

Remember, the 'O' in SOSR stands for 'obscure.' the US Army battle drill has been to fire smoke and then attack through it. I did it a hundred times at NTC live-fire as have most other soldiers.

Additionally, US forces possess thermal imaging sights that give us an advantage to see through the smoke.

This reminds me of the kerfuffle of when we bulldozed under the Iraqi trenches in '91. Machine-gunning them or blowing them to pieces with 'smart bombs' was okay, but burying them was beyond the pale...
 
Even anti-military pinko John Pike agrees WP is not a chemical weapon, and the Italian story is a crock.

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-pike30nov30,0,4456783.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions
The truth about WP
By John Pike

November 30, 2005

DESPITE EFFORTS to improve its image abroad, the United States has just suffered a damaging global propaganda defeat. And unfortunately, some of the wounds were self-inflicted.

Three weeks ago, the world's news media erupted into a feeding frenzy over new charges that the Americans were up to their evil old tricks. The story was all too familiar: Once again, it seemed, the United States had committed unspeakable atrocities, then lied about its illegal activities and been exposed. Every day there were fresh revelations and allegations. There is just one problem. It isn't true.

WP. Willy Pete. White phosphorus. For nearly a century, militaries around the world have used cascading showers of burning WP particles on the battlefield. It makes smoke to mark targets or hide friendly troops. It is also an incendiary weapon, used to burn enemy materiel and enemy combatants.

WP was used effectively by U.S. troops in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. It was used by the Russians in Chechnya and all sides in the former Yugoslavia. It has remained a standard part of the U.S. arsenal. The U.S. military used it in the retaking of Fallouja a year ago. It is nasty stuff, but war is nasty.

In early November, Italian state television aired a documentary about the use of white phosphorus in Fallouja. It showed video of mangled bodies said to be civilians killed by white phosphorus. The charges were sensational but, even on cursory examination, unconvincing. Nonetheless, in the days that followed, the story spread like wildfire as world news organizations gave credence to this absurdity.

The U.S. government only compounded the problem by denying that WP had been used in Fallouja for anything other than illuminating the battlefield. The government flatly rejected the charge that it had been used to burn enemy combatants. This claim, however, was untrue and easily disproved. An Army Field Artillery magazine article written earlier this year by soldiers who had fired the artillery in Fallouja described "shake and bake" missions — cannons firing WP incendiary rounds along with high-explosive shells to flush out insurgents from trenches and hiding places.

As usual, it is the coverup that gets you into trouble. The guilty flee where none pursueth, but the righteous are bold as a lion.

What are the facts? What is the law?

The corpses shown in the Italian documentary had blackened skin, consistent with putrefaction after death. Their decayed condition provided no indication of the cause of death — except that it was unlikely to have been white phosphorus. The bodies did not have the localized burns expected from WP particles, and their clothes were not burned as they would have been if they had been hit by a shower of WP particles. White phosphorus was indeed used to burn enemy combatants in Fallouja, but the unfortunates depicted in the Italian documentary probably died from some other cause.

Furthermore, the use of white phosphorus against military targets is not prohibited by any treaty. Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons prohibits the use of incendiary weapons against civilian targets, to prevent future Dresdens. It also restricts the use of incendiary weapons against military targets adjacent to concentrations of civilians, but it only applies to bombs dropped from airplanes, not shells fired by artillery as was done in Fallouja. In any case, the United States has not ratified and is not bound by this protocol.

Another argument being made is that white phosphorus is an illegal chemical weapon, a poison gas. Bloggers soon found a couple of U.S. government websites containing documents that seemed to assert that WP was a chemical weapon. Closer reading revealed nothing of the sort.

Widely ignored in all this is the ultimate source authority, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is the international agency supervising the global destruction of chemical weapons. It flatly states that "napalm and phosphorus are not considered to be [chemical weapons] agents."

So with no direct evidence of an atrocity, and the United States using lawful weapons, why does most of the world now believe just the contrary? And make no mistake: This slowly emerged as a story here, but it has been a big story around the world.

I was confronted with these disparate realities when I was interviewed both by CNN and CNN International a few days after the story broke. Domestic CNN, airing here in the United States, was skeptical of the scandal. CNN International, airing before an audience that had already accepted the Italian documentary as fact, took a far less skeptical approach. The two CNNs — one for the U.S. and one for everyone else — embodied the separate realities now occupied by the United States and the rest of the world. We see ourselves as well intentioned. Much of the rest of the world does not.

And where was the U.S. government while our reputation was dragged through more mud? Where was the State Department's uber-spinmeister, Karen Hughes, all this time? U.S. officials were exacerbating the problem, providing easily debunked denials that simply stoked the feeding frenzy.

The only scandal here is that our government allowed the nation to fall victim to clumsy, cheap anti-American propaganda. At least during the Cold War, we made the Soviets work to discredit us.

JOHN PIKE is director of globalsecurity.org.
 
Come on guys. All you are saying is true. But you know as well as I do that none of it matters to the folks writing these stories, or the folks sipping lattes at Starbucks in our cities tut-tutting about the brutality and evil of the current administration.

I only hope they never make the leap to accusing the police (and therefore, naturally, the President himself) of using chemical weapons on protestors. Come to think of it, someone should write exactly that story, about the French using WMD's on the protestors in Paris. It would be brilliant satire. . .as would this WP issue, if it weren't for some people taking it so seriously.
 
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Lighten Up : Often when couples have gone through or are going through some bumpy spots in their relationship, things tend to get serious.

Night of Passion : Intimacy and passion in relationships is not only important but also healthy.

Cuddle Time : When couples first start dating, cuddling is usually a part of their everyday existence.

Make the Women Feel Good : Just like men, woman love feeling good about themselves.

Showing Love : Although hearing the words, I love you is special and important.

Realistic Expectations : No matter how wonderful and flawless your mate seems, no one is perfect.

Go on a Date : Especially for married couples, but even for some dating couples, start dating.

Control Your Anger : Every relationship has difficulties, and sometimes, there can be some intense arguments.

I Forgive You : If something has happened in your relationship causing the trust to waiver, you will have many things to work through.

Day at the Movies : Have a movie marathon some rainy or cold Saturday.

Dinner by the Fire : Order in some of your favorite food, open a bottle of fine wine, light some candles.

A Day at the Spa : Show your appreciation for the hard work that takes.

Keep in Touch : It is important that you keep in touch with each other often.

Motivate Each Other : Find a mutual incentive that will motivate both of you.

Adore your Mate : Appreciate and love them for the person they are.

Make Eye Contact : Think back to the first time you saw your now mate.

Respect Privacy : When two people come together in a relationship, each person has their own set of history.

Be Flexible : There will be times when your mate is right and times when you are right.

Encourage Friendships : Men, unlike women, have a more difficult time in developing close friendships with other men.

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Start Over : When couples first get together, everything is new and exciting.

Lighten Up : Often when couples have gone through or are going through some bumpy spots in their relationship, things tend to get serious.

Night of Passion : Intimacy and passion in relationships is not only important but also healthy.

Cuddle Time : When couples first start dating, cuddling is usually a part of their everyday existence.

Make the Women Feel Good : Just like men, woman love feeling good about themselves.

Showing Love : Although hearing the words, I love you is special and important.

Realistic Expectations : No matter how wonderful and flawless your mate seems, no one is perfect.

Go on a Date : Especially for married couples, but even for some dating couples, start dating.

Control Your Anger : Every relationship has difficulties, and sometimes, there can be some intense arguments.

I Forgive You : If something has happened in your relationship causing the trust to waiver, you will have many things to work through.

Day at the Movies : Have a movie marathon some rainy or cold Saturday.

Dinner by the Fire : Order in some of your favorite food, open a bottle of fine wine, light some candles.

A Day at the Spa : Show your appreciation for the hard work that takes.

Keep in Touch : It is important that you keep in touch with each other often.

Motivate Each Other : Find a mutual incentive that will motivate both of you.

Adore your Mate : Appreciate and love them for the person they are.

Make Eye Contact : Think back to the first time you saw your now mate.

Respect Privacy : When two people come together in a relationship, each person has their own set of history.

Be Flexible : There will be times when your mate is right and times when you are right.

Encourage Friendships : Men, unlike women, have a more difficult time in developing close friendships with other men.

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Start Over : When couples first get together, everything is new and exciting.

Lighten Up : Often when couples have gone through or are going through some bumpy spots in their relationship, things tend to get serious.

Night of Passion : Intimacy and passion in relationships is not only important but also healthy.

Cuddle Time : When couples first start dating, cuddling is usually a part of their everyday existence.

Make the Women Feel Good : Just like men, woman love feeling good about themselves.

Showing Love : Although hearing the words, I love you is special and important.

Realistic Expectations : No matter how wonderful and flawless your mate seems, no one is perfect.

Go on a Date : Especially for married couples, but even for some dating couples, start dating.

Control Your Anger : Every relationship has difficulties, and sometimes, there can be some intense arguments.

I Forgive You : If something has happened in your relationship causing the trust to waiver, you will have many things to work through.

Day at the Movies : Have a movie marathon some rainy or cold Saturday.

Dinner by the Fire : Order in some of your favorite food, open a bottle of fine wine, light some candles.

A Day at the Spa : Show your appreciation for the hard work that takes.

Keep in Touch : It is important that you keep in touch with each other often.

Motivate Each Other : Find a mutual incentive that will motivate both of you.

Adore your Mate : Appreciate and love them for the person they are.

Make Eye Contact : Think back to the first time you saw your now mate.

Respect Privacy : When two people come together in a relationship, each person has their own set of history.

Be Flexible : There will be times when your mate is right and times when you are right.

Encourage Friendships : Men, unlike women, have a more difficult time in developing close friendships with other men.

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