Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Willie Pete!!!! 
Oh, give me a freakin' break.

Now the UK Independent is trying to call White Phosphorous shells "chemical weapons."

These ignorant slimesuckers even use the term "chemical weapons" in the headline.

And watch the outrageously slanted way they set up the lede:

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.

I don't doubt it. I would, too. It's a pretty good marking round - easier to spot through binos than HE, and useful for immediate suppression smoke missions, thanks to the rapid smoke buildup.

It is perfectly legal to fire WP at any target you can fire HE at. There is no international agreement banning its use, despite the obvious attempt by The Independent and reporter Peter Popham to distort the facts.

Photographs on the website of RaiTG24, the broadcaster's 24-hours news channel, www.rainews24.it, show exactly what the former soldier means. Provided by the Studies Centre of Human Rights in Fallujah, dozens of high-quality, colour close-ups show bodies of Fallujah residents, some still in their beds, whose clothes remain largely intact but whose skin has been dissolved or caramelised or turned the consistency of leather by the shells.

Hey, maybe they can make more money as a porn site! Well, maybe not. They don't have enough respect for their subject matter.

And get THIS one:

The documentary, entitled Fallujah: the Hidden Massacre, also provides what it claims is clinching evidence that incendiary bombs known as Mark 77, a new, improved form of napalm, was used in the attack on Fallujah, in breach of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons of 1980, which only allows its use against military targets.

Ummm, you mean, like almost all of Fallujah?

Peter Popham is no journalist. He's become a stenographer for the other side, and a paid liar.

This isn't "inconvenient coverage." This is a deliberate distortion of the facts in the service of a story template.

This is a slander and an outrage. Popham needs to be cut off from whatever access he currently enjoys, and decredentialed. Let the Independent send a reporter in. Not a PR agent for Zarqawi.

I'd love to meet this guy in a bar. So we can meet shortly thereafter outside the bar.


Splash, out


P.S. Don't think I'm letting the Army off the hook. It was stupid to claim we only used it in the illumination role. DUH! We have illum rounds for that!

Almost any spotter is going to call for WP for the marking rounds, especially at night.

I think its time for Army Public Affairs to put down the crack pipe and pick up the phone.
im curious if you watched the video and to hear your comments on the interviews and pictures of the dead, are they rigged? Or, if a chemical substance isnt listed as illegal does it not matter whether or not it melts human bodies?
Obviously your angry. Ever think about trying to inform the public about what these rounds are, how they are used, or disputing the claims that Peter Popham is making?

you are listed on memeorandum btw, so be careful how you answer, there will be alot of new listeners?
White phosphorus rounds are artillery shells filled with a white phosphorus chemical compound that burns at high heat; they generate dense columns of very white smoke. As Jason says, they're very distinct, and very visible. There are a couple of types in use: the "conventional" white phosphorus round is detonated by a bursting charge, but there's also a version called "improved smoke" that uses felt wedges impregnated with phosphorus to achieve a flat, dense smoke cloud without the characteristic columns.

It's sort of silly, as Jason says, to present their use in action as some kind of a dangerous innovation. WP rounds are NATO-standard (which means they're in the inventory of every army in Western Europe, including the British), and have been standard issue for the US Army since WWII. They've been used in every conflict since then, and are not covered by the chemical warfare convention.

WP is nasty stuff: burns very hot, so you can't use it near friendly troops. We (the 82nd Divarty, which I once belonged to) used to train on what we called "shake and bake" missions: one volley of high explosive, followed by one volley of WP. It was supposed to be used on targets like fuel convoys.

If it was used at night, it was probably, as Jason notes, a marking round for an airstrike. The almost pure white color of a WP cloud column reflects ambient light/moonlight very well, and the heat it generates shows up under infrared light, but it's not as dazzling as a groundburst illumination round.
Per my previous comment, the CW convention covers weapons that kill through toxic action (rather than explosive action, incendiary action, blunt trauma, etc). The CW convention (link below) does not list WP as a banned substance. There are a few phosphorus derivatives listed, but they are banned as chemical precursors to toxic substances, not as components of an incendiary weapon.

More ammo for Jason's arguments about the ignorance of the media, I'm afraid.

Some AF experience in this game too-
The A-10s in Afghanistan had a tactic of the lead jet marking the target with WP rockets and the wingman following up seconds later with a burst of 30mm based on a correction from the JTAC (ie "that's the target" or "50m further north" or "JESUS CHRIST! ABORT! ABORT!" etc) and later we'd get calls from the REMF lawyers that began with the phrase "war crime" until we explained again and again that we're not using the tiny, piss-ant smoke rockets for killing power. We have a few other tools for that.
In the race for the weaseliest lawyers, Centcom is taking a healthy lead. Perhaps they read too much British print.
Well, apart from the question of killing power, I think the meme that the "Geneva Convention prohibits firing WP at people" is as mistaken as the famous "you can't shoot .50 cals at troops but you can shoot at their equipment" line. Is it somehow less humane than a head shot or a direct hit with a high explosive shell? I'd take some convincing on that point.

The biggest problem with JAGs these days is that they're arrogating the right to make political/policy decisions to themselves, sometimes by putting a bogus LOW spin on the debate. There usually isn't anyone in a J-3 shop with the expertise to question them, which gives them excessive power. That's why Mullah Omar is a hunted man, rather than a dead one.

The whole "excessive force" claim, which sometimes gets dragged into these debates, is really a very difficult one to make the basis of a charge, because it's impossible to define.
Defending the use of WP is like defending our [actual, not stated] policy on torture.

If you're OK with "tactics" that have the result of burning alive unintended noncombatants, like women and children, then you have given up the moral high ground and are really no better than those soldiers who went into My Lai.

When it becomes OK to burn people alive, because we "can", or because we're trying to "save" them from the insurgents you know that your cause is lost.

It may not be illegal to burn the skin off children, but I wouldn't be so worked up about defending our "right" to do it.

That's what WP does, what it is intended to do -- burn people alive.

Personally, I don't believe WP is a "chemical weapon", but that's not the point. The point is one of perception. You can win the technical argument here, but you will lose the war of public opinion because photos of civilians who've been burned alive by "legal" WP will trump some legalistic rationale for their use every time.

War is ugly. Photos of people burned alive are uglier still. And they just make people stop and wonder whether it's all worth such carnage.
Anonymous from 82nd DivArty pretty much put the nail on the. That's where I did my time, and had some of the most fun training doing split battery shake-n-bakes. So I really can't add much to what he said.

But I will pick up the last anonymous' "mean to burn people" bit. Sure, it does that. It's a great tool to have on the ammo rack. But that is really not the point. The point is that you have "zero" control of who stays in a town that is clearly becoming a battlfield. At some point the citizens of that town need to make a decision to get the hell out of the way.

Civilian casualties suck. But to not engage the enemy because of the enemy choses to use the civilian population as a shield sucks to. It sucks Strategically, Operationally, and Tactically to allow the enemy to make sanctuary.

The fine citizens of Fallujah decided to stay (because they wanted to). So if they were hurt and killed because they made the decision to live in an urban battlfield...that is their decision.

Apparently not having to take personal responsibility for your actions is another aspect of our culture that we have exported.

Most of those photographs don't look like the work of WP to me.

They just looked for the most gruesome corpses they could find and used the bodies to score sensationalist points.

But WP doesn't behave like that. These guys are blooming idiots.
Here's three good blog entries on the story.




Here's a lengthy excerpt from the above link:

Given the considerable stress laid on the non-burning of clothes by both the Independent and the RAI film, it seems odd that this statement, from today's Indy article, is passed over without comment:

"John Pike, director of the Washington-based military studies group GlobalSecurity.Org, said the smoke caused by the bombs could confuse or blind the enemy or mark a target. 'If it hits your clothes it will burn your clothes and if it hits your skin it will just keep on burning,' he said."

"If it hits your clothes, it will burn your clothes". Well, that certainly seems to undermine the assertions about intact clothes - it seems unlikely that a victim's face could be completely "caramelised" by the heat, while clothing just inches away was unscathed. Unfortunately, it's (intentionally?) not clear from context in the article whether Mr. Pike is talking about phosphorus, napalm, or both. So I asked him:

Daily Ablution: "Were you referring to white phosphorus or napalm?"

John Pike: "White Phosphorus."

Referring to another quote from yesterday's Independent story, I asked:

Daily Ablution: "Are burns caused by white phosphorus consistent with 'bodies burned but clothes intact'?"

John Pike: "No."

Here's more, from the Emergency War Surgery NATO Handbook:

"Many antipersonnel weapons employed in modern warfare contain white phosphorus. Fragments of this metal, which ignite upon contact with the air, may be driven into the soft tissues; however, most of the cutaneous injury resulting from phosphorus burns is due to the ignition of clothing, and is treated as conventional thermal injury."

So ... most cutaneous injury caused by this commonly used weapon results from "the ignition of clothing". This, along with Mr. Pike's observation, casts grave doubt upon a key basis for the assertions that phosphorus was used.

It's not clear just what the images in the RAI video show, but, based on the intact clothing, this evidence suggests that it something other than charred phosphorus victims. While he hasn't seen the video, and so couldn't comment directly about it, Mr. Pike told me that the Indy's description of "clothes largely intact but skin dissolved, caramelised or turned the consistency of leather" sounded like "generic corpses" that had been exposed to the environment for a couple of weeks.

However, one doubts that this aspect of the story will get a great deal of coverage.
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