Sunday, November 13, 2005

If it quacks like a duck...

"If it walks like a duck,
and quacks like a duck...."

WASHINGTON'S denials that the US military used a deadly chemical against Iraqi forces during the march towards Baghdad in 2003 and against residents of the Iraqi town of Falluja in 2004 have been challenged by records kept by American soldiers and entries reproduced in military journals as well as a report filed by an "embedded" American journalist. If that was not enough, the Washington Post has carried a report affirming that the chemical was indeed used during the Falluja assault.
The charge that US forces used white phosphorus was levelled in a documentary made and broadcast by Italy's RAI television last week.
The documentary, "Falluja, La strage nascosta” (Falluja, The Concealed Massacre), showed what it said was white phosphorus shells being fired and "melted" bodies of dozens of Iraqis, including women and children. Such "melting," according to medical experts, is caused by white phosphorus. The documentary showed residents of Falluja, a former American solider who was part of the assault against that town and Italian journalist Giuliana Sgregna, who was kidnapped by Iraqis, then nearly killed by US troops following her release, as saying that they had irrefutable proof that white phosphorus was used in the assault.
Immediately after the documentary was broadcast, the US military denied that it used white phosphorus against civilians. It confirmed, however, that US forces had dropped MK 77 firebombs, which the RAI documentary compared with napalm, against "military" targets in Iraq. The US military also said that it used white phosphorus only for "illumination purposes" in military action.
Another US statement asserted that white phosphorus was not a chemical weapon.
All these arguments have been rejected by recorded evidence.
The use of white phosphorus in the assault against Falluja has been affirmed by several sources.
The March 2004 edition of Field Artillery Magazine carried an article entitled "The Fight for Falluja" containing a diary entry by Stephen D, an American soldier.
The entry says: "WP (white phosphorus rounds) proved to be an effective and versatile munitions. 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 explosives). We fired 'shake and bake' missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out."
The Infantry Magazine of the US military carried a blow-by-blow of a US military operation in Iraq:
"The Iraqis in one observation post attempted to flee but were fixed with white phosphorus fires. As they attempted to flee again, white phosphorus rounds impacted the vehicle and set it on fire. The section continued to fire a mix of high explosive and white phosphorus rounds into the objective area. The section fired more than 80 rounds in support of the mission."
Darrin Mortensen of the North County Times, an "embedded" journalist with the US forces involved in the assault against Falluja, reported in April 2004 that white phosphorus was indeed used. In a long report about the attack on the rebellious town, Mortenson refers to Corporal Nicholas Bogert, 22, of Morris, New York.
"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...., never knowing what the targets were or what damage the resulting explosions caused," said the report, which also had a graphic description attacks using white phosphorus.
The Washington Post reported the Falluja assault in late 2004.
It quoted an army captain as saying: "Usually we keep the gloves on. For this operation, we took the gloves off.
"Some artillery guns fired white phosphorous rounds that create a screen of fire that cannot be extinguished with water," said the Washington Post. "Insurgents reported being attacked with a substance that melted their skin, a reaction consistent with white phosphorous burns."
The Post quoted Kamal Hadeethi, a physician at a regional hospital, ass saying: "The corpses of the mujahedeen which we received were burned, and some corpses were melted."
"A rain of fire descended on the city," said Ahmad Tareq Al Deraji, a biologist and Falluja resident. "People who were exposed to those multicoloured substance began to burn. We found people with bizarre wounds — their bodies burned but their clothes intact."
Medical analysis says: "Exposure to white phosphorus may cause burns and irritation, liver, kidney, heart, lung, or bone damage, and death. Breathing white phosphorus for short periods may cause coughing and irritation of the throat and lungs. Breathing white phosphorus for long periods may cause a condition known as 'phossy jaw' which involves poor wound healing of the mouth and breakdown of the jaw bone. Eating or drinking small amounts of white phosphorus may cause liver, heart, or kidney damage, vomiting, stomach cramps, drowsiness, or death. We do not know what the effects are from eating or drinking very small amounts of white phosphorus-containing substances over long periods of time. Skin contact with burning white phosphorus may burn skin or cause liver, heart, and kidney damage."
Photographs of victims of attacks using white phosphorus clearly show how body parts could "melt" as a result of a white phosphorus attack.
The US State Department issued a denial late last year of what it called "widespread myths" about the use of illegal weapons in Falluja.
"Phosphorus shells are not outlawed. US forces have used them very sparingly in Falluja, for illumination purposes. They were fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions at night, not at enemy fighters," the US statement said.
The US Defence Department said in Nov.12, 2004 statement:
"The United States categorically denies the use of chemical weapons at anytime in Iraq, which includes the ongoing Falluja operation. Furthermore, the United States does not under any circumstance support or condone the development, production, acquisition, transfer or use of chemical weapons by any country. All chemical weapons currently possessed by the United States have been declared to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and are being destroyed in the United States in accordance with our obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention."
The American argument that white phosphorus is not banned and is not a chemical weapon is countered by scientific findings and simple logic.
The US is not a signatory of an international treaty restricting the use of white phosphorus devices.
Therefore, the United States is not technically in violation of any treaty obligations.
However, in practical terms, the use of white phosphorus could not be human or unlike the use of chemical weapons, given the deadly effect of the material. As the adage goes, "if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, you can reasonably be sure it is a duck."
The revelations become all the more ironic against the US accusation against Saddam Hussein that he used chemical weapons against his own people. While there cannot be any justification for Saddam's brutality, the US should be the last to level such accusations when seen in light of its own use of material like white phosphorus and depleted uranium shells in Iraq.
The affair also poses a challenge to American corporate media, which have been vying with each other in recent weeks to convince the public about how sorry they were they did not report the truth that Saddam did not have weapons of mass destruction.
Their proclamations are derided by many who point out that their claim that they were deceived along with everyone else contradicts the fact that pretty much everyone else knew what was going on.
Surely, the US military's alleged use of white phosphorus against Iraq and Washington's efforts to downplay its implications do pose an opportunity for the corporate media to investigate it and get to the truth.