From probably the most respected news organization on the planet, the BBC.
The Pentagon’s admission – despite earlier denials – that US troops used white phosphorus as a weapon in Falluja last year is more than a public relations issue – it has opened up a debate about the use of this weapon in modern warfare.
The admission contradicted a statement this week from the new and clearly under-briefed US ambassador in London Robert Holmes Tuttle that US forces "do not use napalm or white phosphorus as weapons".
This line however crumbled when bloggers (whose influence must not be under-estimated these days) ferreted out an article published by the US Army’s Field Artillery Magazine in its issue of March/April this year.
The article, written by a captain, a first lieutenant and a sergeant, was a review of the attack on Falluja in November 2004 and in particular of the use of indirect fire, mainly mortars.
It makes quite clear that WP was used as a weapon not just as illumination or camouflage.
The article continues, explaining the various treaties involved and the fierce debate as to whether or not the US committed war crimes by using WP.
How damaged is the US by the row over its use of white phosphorus in Fallujah last year? On the facts available now, it is within the letter of the law, even though it has not signed the most relevant protocol on the use of the weapon.
Even if the US is right on the legality, there is no question that it has inflicted a serious propaganda blow on itself. In using a weapon notorious in Vietnam, with effects on the human body straight from a science fiction film, it has given a gift to its enemies. It is now loudly accused of hypocrisy: justifying the war partly by Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons, but then using particularly nasty ones itself.
Of course, the US military made the same mistakes in Vietnam. And they lost that war too. Just like they will lose this one.
Tag: White phosphorus