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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The US Used Chemical Weapons in Iraq - And Then Lied About It

Now we know napalm and phosphorus bombs have been dropped on Iraqis, why have the hawks failed to speak out?
by George Monbiot

Did US troops use chemical weapons in Falluja? The answer is yes. The proof is not to be found in the documentary broadcast on Italian TV last week, which has generated gigabytes of hype on the internet. It's a turkey, whose evidence that white phosphorus was fired at Iraqi troops is flimsy and circumstantial. But the bloggers debating it found the smoking gun.

The first account they unearthed in a magazine published by the US army. In the March 2005 edition of Field Artillery, officers from the 2nd Infantry's fire support element boast about their role in the attack on Falluja in November last year: "White Phosphorous. 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 [high explosive]. We fired 'shake and bake' missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out."

The second, in California's North County Times, was by a reporter embedded with the marines in the April 2004 siege of Falluja. "'Gun up!' Millikin yelled ... grabbing a white phosphorus round from a nearby ammo can and holding it over the tube. 'Fire!' Bogert yelled, as Millikin dropped it. The boom kicked dust around the pit as they ran through the drill again and again, sending a mixture of burning white phosphorus and high explosives they call 'shake'n'bake' into... buildings where insurgents have been spotted all week."

White phosphorus is not listed in the schedules of the Chemical Weapons Convention. It can be legally used as a flare to illuminate the battlefield, or to produce smoke to hide troop movements from the enemy. Like other unlisted substances, it may be deployed for "Military purposes... not dependent on the use of the toxic properties of chemicals as a method of warfare". But it becomes a chemical weapon as soon as it is used directly against people. A chemical weapon can be "any chemical which through its chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm".

White phosphorus is fat-soluble and burns spontaneously on contact with the air. According to globalsecurity.org: "The burns usually are multiple, deep, and variable in size. The solid in the eye produces severe injury. The particles continue to burn unless deprived of atmospheric oxygen... If service members are hit by pieces of white phosphorus, it could burn right down to the bone." As it oxidizes, it produces smoke composed of phosphorus pentoxide. According to the standard US industrial safety sheet, the smoke "releases heat on contact with moisture and will burn mucous surfaces... Contact... can cause severe eye burns and permanent damage."

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The US Used Chemical Weapons in Iraq - And Then Lied About It

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