"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Coulda; Shoulda; Woulda 

An important followup to yesterday's post about the use of white phosphorus in the November, 2004 assault on Fallujah. At Altercation, correspondent Mark Kraft notes that the military itself has confirmed the use of incendiary WP charges for antipersonnel purposes:
Here is the story on artillery use from the March/April edition of the US Army's "Field Artillery Magazine." [Warning: PDF -Ed.]

Here are the relevant mentions of WP in the article:

"The munitions we brought to this fight were . . . illumination and white phosphorous (WP, M110 and M825), with point-detonating (PD), delay, time and variable-time (VT) fuzes."

"WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE. We fired 'shake and bake' missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out."

What the article does not say, however, is that there is no way you can use white phosphorus like that without forming a deadly chemical cloud that kills everything within a tenth of a mile in all directions from where it hits. Obviously, the effect of such deadly clouds weren't just psychological in nature.

This claim of "shake and bake" is further confirmed in a news article by an embedded journalist at the time. See here.

"Bogert is a mortar team leader who directed his men to fire round after round of high explosives and white phosphorus charges into the city Friday and Saturday, never knowing what the targets were or what damage the resulting explosions caused. . . they ran through the drill again and again, sending a mixture of burning white phosphorus and high explosives they call "shake 'n' bake" into a cluster of buildings where insurgents have been spotted all week."

This directly contradicts a previous US State Department statement, located at this link, that WP was used "very sparingly in Fallujah, for illumination purposes."

Horrifying - but Kraft actually left out what I took to be the worst part from the Field Artillery Magazine article (emphasis supplied):
Hexachloroethane Zinc (HC) Smoke and Precision-Guided Munitions. We could have used these munitions. We used improved WP for screening missions when HC smoke would have been more effective and saved our WP for lethal missions.

As I read this, it appears that the author considers it a shame that white phosphorus was wasted by reserving it in part for approved (if still awful) purposes, when instead it could have been used to indiscriminately incinerate even more women and children. Question: If our government is unashamed about its use of incendiary devices in urban warfare, why does it lie about it and claim that such devices were used sparingly, only for illumination?

 

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