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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Friday, November 11, 2005

Confirmation of White Phosphorus use as anti-personnel in Fallujah?

I've intentionally stayed out of the storyline regarding the use of "Chemical Weapons" in Fallujah. The Army officially denies using white phosphorus, but admits using the MK-77 firebombs (a newer cousin to napalm.) This admission is probably because the British Sunday Mirror already confirmed the use of MK-77 some time back(although that article is now curiously gone. Curious because with the current DoD admissions it was right.)

The RAI documentary showed some horrible images which it claimed were the result of white phosphorus burns, noting that the telling characteristic of this is that the skin has burned away, but the clothes remain intact.

Frankly, I don't know enough of the technical information about these weapons to discern the difference.

(There were some anecdotal reports from unembedded reporters of US Army Engineers coming in after Fallujah with heavy equipment to scrape off topsoil which was then trucked away, but, all of them were second hand and as we've heard no more of this, I find it hard to give it too much creedence.)

BUT. Today reading I was reading a piece by Mark Rothschild on Antiwar.com and he has come across this mention in the US Army publication Field Artillery magazine which describes artillery tactics used in Fallujah. ("The Fight for Fallujah" March-April 2005 edition)

"a. Range of Munitions. The munitions at our disposal gave us excellent flexibility. …

"b. White Phosphorus. 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."

(unfortunately, the link is to a PDF version of the article. this citation is on the fifth page of the article (page 26))

Again, not being an expert, I don't know the terminology of "'shake and bake' missions," but to me this sounds like the use white phosphorus directly on people. I certainly don't believe they were targeting civilians, but whether that use carried over and affected civilians I don't know. But this certainly stands in direct conflict with the DoD statement.

No answers, just information.

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