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November 09, 2005

Comments

If I understand your reasoning, the story is "false" because the bad media people called white phosphorus a "chemical weapon" - which it is, but it's not the illegal kind of chemical weapon. None of the "debunkers" you link to argued that the story of using white phos on Fallujah was untrue (apart from the fellow John Cole found, who didn't even argue that, but simply said that HE could likewise cause those types of corpses - of course, HE also tends to blow bodies up but that is neither here nor there).

So, to sum up your argument on this: bombarding civilians in Fallujah with white phos is perfectly legitimate because white phos isn't banned by the Geneva Conventions. By this yardstick, napalming civilians in Vietnam was perfectly kosher.

CB:

I agree that we should be trying to win the media war. The answer is not to browbeat the media into running press releases as news, or to stop running stories. The way to win a media war is to present a coherent and compelling narrative, that is not at odds with the facts on the ground. Step one has to be gearing our public diplomacy so that it is designed to appeal to people in the ME, not to people in Alabama. I don't think you can call Ms. Hughes' efforts a success so far by any measure.

Instead, the Admin's media strategy wrt the war is essentially the same as its strategy towards any other policy/political issue: play to the base. Of course, efforts to convince YOU that the war is a good idea, that our victory is inevitable, or that our cause (and our conduct fair) is just are a complete waste of time. You already believe these things. What can our gov't say to convince the ordinary fellow in Peshawar, Jidda, or Aden of these things?

WRT the media, you've got to stop being the party of no.

To most other countries, WP is a banned chemical weapon when used in large quantities against civilians. If you want to convince anyone outside of U.S. war supporters, you need something that shows it wasn't used in large quantities in fallujah.

(And tell the Army command not to reflexively lie, it makes any effective response impossible. WP is a smoke agent; magnesium is used in flares.)

Don't they understand that we only use the NICE kind of napalm?

It's too bad that the strategic geniuses in the Bush administration didn't realize this before starting the wrong war at the wrong time in Iraq. Afghanistan was the fight we had to fight. American troops beseiging the cities of Iraq is ceding the media war to the enemy.

The sooner mainstream media recognizes this and engages in this information war, the better for all of us.

Because telling lies to the people at home, when the truth is readily available to your allies and enemies abroad, always works as a media strategy.

It may make you feel better when the mainstream media lie to you, Charles, but it won't actually help the US win any wars.

Am I the only one who notes the irony in Charles citing with approval a quote calling an essential step in winning the war maintaining our freedoms, while at the same time calling for the press to become an organ of the state in an information war?

Charles, we often see comments from supporters of the war indicating the extreme care our forces use to distinguish enemy combatants from innocent civilians. This is difficult in a guerilla war, and enemy planners are well aware of the difficulty and exploit it.

Thinking back to the time of the attack on Fallujah, I recall reading many justifications for merciless action based on the notion that the whole population there amounted to terrorists. That was very unlikely to be true, of course.

Now, from one of your links, we see that attitude again:

And get THIS one:
The documentary, entitled Fallujah: the Hidden Massacre, also provides what it claims is clinching evidence that incendiary bombs known as Mark 77, a new, improved form of napalm, was used in the attack on Fallujah, in breach of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons of 1980, which only allows its use against military targets.
Ummm, you mean, like almost all of Fallujah?

I don't think this kind of argument will serve to swing any public opinion our way.

P.S., Dantheman, yeah, I thought of that too. Not to mention the other erosions of our freedoms (detention without recourse, increased surveillance, assertion of unchecked executive power, etc.)

Tim: If you want to convince anyone outside of U.S. war supporters, you need something that shows it wasn't used in large quantities in fallujah.

As well as being used against civilians.

However most media I've seen notes that the use of "chemical weapons indiscriminately against civilians" is an allegation and often puts the text into scare quotes as well. They additionally devote quite a bit of space to the US's position on the matter.

I am curious how Charles feels the media should handle this. Ignore it, only tell one side of the story, or what?

The sooner mainstream media recognizes this and engages in this information war, the better for all of us.

I'm not sure what you're proposing here, Charles. I mean, the thrust of the article is that the media is important in shaping public opinion. In other news, water is wet. But the phrase above seems to indicate, um, what? That various corporations that run the media and their employees need to somehow have all simultaneously have some kind of revelation and conciously modify their reporting to, to, ...

Help me out here.

Given fas.org's tendency to fall out of date, I wonder if we can conclude from:

The Marine Corps dropped all of the approximately 500 MK-77s used in the Gulf War.

that we've since made more? Or maybe they're just incorrect.

All other commentary reserved. The first few iterations on press coverage of military actions usually involves multiple corrections, clarifications, restatements, and multiple failures to do proper research, and so I tend not to give them all that much weight. It's something that definitely merits attention, though.

Yes, because saying "America used perfectly legal* white phosporus to burn women and children in Fallujah to the bone after eight one-ton bombs were precisely dropped on the town [*because we weren't a signatory to that article of the chemical weapons treaty]" is a big PR coup.

Remember: once the Pentagon puts out a press release on a subject, it's officially "old news" and should not be followed up in any material respect.

P.S. We don't do torture.

CB, I think that at a high level you're absolutely correct. A 'war of ideas' is being waged against western globalism by a small group of religious extremists who would like to re-establish an Islamic caliphate. Treating it as a purely military conflict will probably be disastrous: armies can surrender, ideologies can't.

I think what you're advocating, though, would make this war of ideas even MORE difficult to win. When we kills civilians in Iraq, it's not American media coverage of the event that hurts our 'war of ideas.' It's the fact that there are now N additional families with dead children, husbands, and fathers in the country we're attempting to befriend.

When a war of ideas is on, we must hold ourselves to even higher standards -- our actions will be scrutinized even closer by those who are 'on the fence' in regions like Iraq and the rest of the mideast. Polishing up the news that WE hear will not change the things that THEY see.

Am I the only one who notes the irony in Charles citing with approval a quote calling an essential step in winning the war maintaining our freedoms, while at the same time calling for the press to become an organ of the state in an information war?

i thought i noted it, but it was only for a brief second before i got to the assertion that burning phosphorus isn't a chemical weapon. at that point, i was blinded by the brilliant, searing, flesh-burning, white-hot light of WTF ???

I'm sorta doubtful we're going to have the truth about what happened in Fallujah in any length of time that matters, politically speaking. There's a time lag involved--you wait for all the relevant actors to die off or at least have one foot in the grave and then you can be fully honest about who did what to whom. For instance, it's been 50 years since the Korean War and while atrocity stories about the North Koreans and the Chinese are common knowledge, until the No Gun Ri account came out a few years ago, one had to read books by British authors or lefty American historians (Bruce Cumings, who is a bit too kind to the North Korean government for my taste, but still worth reading) to learn some of the unpleasant details about what the South Koreans and the Americans did. And then there are stories like this one--

http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/200511/kt2005110117132068040.htm

So just be patient and sometime around 2060 we'll know all we need to know.

I think the points made by
CharleyCarp and Jeff Eaton are the really critical ones. We can't just claim to have a better ideology or society. We can't just claim that our values and behavior are better. We have to show that we are better in our actions. The problem with using the "chemical weapons" isn't in the definition of chemical weapon or the details of internatinal law. The problem is that the use of those kinds of weapons by a superpower against a civilian target area while supposedly seeking the removal of WMD's from a dictator will inevitably be perceived as, at best, hypocritical. We have to think of how our actions will be seen by others and hold ourselves to a high standard.

Won't happen under this administration, of course.

From my point of view, being able to say truthfully "we didn't burn a lot of children to death" is more important than being able to say "we didn't use this particular category of weapon on that spot". Just as being able to say "we didn't grab random people and hurt them until they died without ever checking seriously if they were guilty of anything" is more important than being able to say "we didn't violate our favored readings of the particular obligations we happen to wish to keep".

The more we can be entirely true, and provably so, with really simple language, the more likely we are to win the war of ideas. The more we have to depend on technicalities and nitpicking, the less likely.

I'm sorta doubtful we're going to have the truth about what happened in Fallujah in any length of time that matters, politically speaking.

I'd suggest taking a look at Red Six for the info.

Dave, could you link to any specific posts on the blog about Fallujah?

I think that the January 2005 archive page has most of his Fallujah postings. Scroll down and look for November 9, November 10, November 11. He may have posted more in February.

How many people read CBFTW? He wrote from Mosul and has had 3 articles in Esquire excerpted from his book.

Charles:
You say we are at war with Militant Islam, and the way to win this war is to communicate to the larger population of moderate or undecided Muslims that we are not bad people, and would like to be their friends. Fine. Sounds good.

The thing I think you are missing is the idea that action is the sincerest form of communication.

It does not matter what nice things the government (or the media) might say. If our actions include torturing men to death, or incinerating civilians with white phosphorous, the words simply cannot be be believed.

Here is an explanation about the phosporus, etc


Slarti writes:

"that we've since made more?"

FAS doesn't say we only had 500 Mk77s. It says we used 500 in the Gulf War, and that most of those used in the Gulf War were dropped by the Marines.

It is not saying that the Marines dropped our entire stock of 500 Mk77s, which seems to be your reading.

Jes: (from DaveC link)

link

In preparation for the assault, artillery guns dropped white phosphorus or “Willy Pete” on the city. The FA guys later told us this was the newest WP in the way it deployed. Whatever it was, it was incredible. As the rounds came in, they burst in the air several hundred feet above the ground. They streaked towards the ground in little spider trails burning bright orange. The WP hit the ground creating a thick white smoke screen but it still burned bright orange on the ground. This lit up the battlefield for the main effort, and created a smoke screen. The thermal sights on tanks and bradleys could still see through it, even though with the naked eye, everything was obscured.

Looks like they did do a mass barrage of WP on Fallujah. Would have got a lot of civilians that way.

From DaveC's cite:

IT'S NOT CHEMICAL WARFARE. It's conventional warfare, period

I think the point being missed is:

A. The line b/w what constitutes a chemical weapon is a fine and artificial one.

B. Whatever type of munition WP is, it's an indiscriminate one when used in an urban area, whether the intent of it's deployment was, say, a smokescreen or not. And a deployment, in the opinion of most of the world, that is an illegal one. This is a battle that will be fought in the realm of international public opinion.

Third point. If you believe this crap, this propaganda (warning, graphic photos), that this news team got, that there are burned and "melted" bodies of women and children, without questioning the forensics data or motives of either the journalists or the Iraqi sympathizers, well, I can't help you there.

Fine. What's the Armchair General's forensic theory to explain the nature of those wounds, then? What is his evidence the Italian presenters of this documentary are lying and/or exaggerating?

This whole CB post can, as others have done, basically be distilled into "We must win the war of ideas if we suppress knowledge of our actions".

This is the early 21st century. This is the age of handheld digital video cameras and the internet. You can't do that anymore effectively. The best way to win the war of ideas is to...have good ideas. Using WP on Fallujah, no matter how U.S. Army leadership pontificates, is not a good idea.

I am prepared to wager the images of the melted women and children will Fallujah's legacy to history.

There's a curious meme that's come up -- the idea that because we didn't sign on to the portion of the international treaties that classify white phosphorus as a chemical weapon, we were not using chemical weapons.

Curiously enough, Iraq had not signed on with international treaties banning chemical weapons, either. Does that mean that it was acceptable for Iraq to stockpile and use Sarin, for example?

Okay, let me get this straight. C. Bird advocates the press becoming an arm of the government and he expects us to believe mere words can change the meaning of actions.

Man, the right is really scraping the bottom of the barrel now.

Okay, let me get this straight. C. Bird advocates the press becoming an arm of the government and he expects us to believe mere words can change the meaning of actions.

Pretty much. He's reached the Hindrocket level of wankocracy.

Every time I see a more conservative blogger start arguing that we need to win the war of words or that AI overstepped its bounds with the whole 'gulag' thing, or now "WP is not a 'chemical' weapon," I can't help but think how ironic it is. After all, when the more extreme end of the academic left started doing that, the right derided it as 'political correctness' and 'postmodern semantical wankery.' But then we have already seen how the current administration has adopted the 'Slick Willie' mode of definition to defend itself from the torture label.

"What do you mean by 'Pot,' Kettle?

Incidentally, here's an interesting bit from James Joyner:

The shells in question were delivered by indirect fire--mortars and/or artillery. The civilian population was not the principal target.

Regardless, though, Cole is right about this:

Of course, the difference between kinds of munitions can be exaggerated. It is no fun to have "conventional" arms rain down on your family from the sky.
Quite right. As military technology advances, the distinction between "conventional" and "unconventional" weapons becomes increasingly meaningless.
That's generally right, I think. The Army wasn't targeting civilians, but at the same time, these weapons can cause a lot of horrible damage, regardless of their intended target.

Was any serious thought devoted to writing this post? It reads like a phony back-handed post about the white phosphurus issue, dressed up as a media issue.

The disinformation comes in pretty fast, but a good starting point today would be dispelling the lie that...

Now, someone rational would complete that sentence by noting that the lies and disinformation that are most hurting our cause have streamed from the White House like a crap river. Instead, we get a poorly reasoned post about white phosphurus? In effect, that the media's duty is to repeat lies because they will allegedly make us look better.

As for white phosphorus, most of the world views it as a banned chemical weapon, although the US has not signed on to that view. So its borderline, and under US doctrine, its not supposed to be used in civilian areas like Falloujah. It certainly has many of the characteristics of a chemical weapon -- it creates a toxic cloud that kills by burning on skin contact.

Guess what mustard gas also does? -- the exact same thing, although its less effective than white phosphurus in atacking the skin.

White phosphurus allegedly has a use for night vision, for smoke screens and has a use in shaped charges against armored vehicles. So there is a logic to not banning it completely. Using it as an anti-personnel device looks exactly like a chemical weapon, and using it in civilian areas (as was done here) is horrible.

On top of that, the US army has denied that it did this, even though it now seems clear that it happened. Just another rivelet in the crap river.

So, Charles, if you actually care about a proper media strategy, rather than a false attack on the white phosphurus issue:

1. Don't use horrible weapons in civilian areas that the rest of the world views as a chemical weapon. It makes us look really bad.

2. Don't lie about its use.

3. Don't write phony posts about how the problem is the "lying" associated with the white phosphurus issue when you make no effort whatsoever to deal with these facts.


As others have noted, Charles, it's quite simple.

If you don't want people to think you're bad, it isn't sufficient to wipe the fingerprints off your misdeed.

If you don't want people to think you're bad, you just have to suck it up and not be bad.

The flipside of your argument is that the Bush administration could win the war on terror if the media would just stop reporting on all the terrorst attacks. That would be much, much easier.

In the area of actions speaking louder than words the US could do a great deal by developing weapons intended to limit civilian casualties. Israel has a missile designed to limit collateral damage in built up areas such as Gaza. The US has a vast military R&D capacity - surely we can come up with something less brutal than WP for generating smoke.

For instance, it's been 50 years since the Korean War and while atrocity stories about the North Koreans and the Chinese are common knowledge, until the No Gun Ri account came out a few years ago, one had to read books by British authors or lefty American historians (Bruce Cumings, who is a bit too kind to the North Korean government for my taste, but still worth reading) to learn some of the unpleasant details about what the South Koreans and the Americans did.
Just to note for the record that there's still considerable credible disagreement">http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2002/06/03/nogunri/">disagreement on the scale of what happened at No Gun Ri.
There is only one thing that the two books agree on: Some number of South Korean civilian refugees were killed by confused, exhausted and jittery American troops of the 7th Cavalry near the village of No Gun Ri, South Korea, between July 26 and July 29, 1950. But Bateman says the number of civilians killed at and near the bridge was probably somewhere around 35, while Hanley and his team reported witness estimates of a death toll exceeding 350. The refugees were fleeing advancing North Korean troops along a railway track toward the bridge, where American troops were dug in.
That's the quick summary for those unfamiliar. Read the article for the substance of the debate; it seems fair coverage from my limited knowledge of the controversy. For one side of the story, the recent Army investigation report is fairly exhaustive. The j'accuse is here.

Color me with DaveC on this one; there have been a number of fair minded (John Cole) and Dem-ish (Generalist) explanations on this. An inability to at least consider that sometimes there is an innocent explanation makes the theory that led to all of our correct predictions look suspect.

Here's an argument: We should have a policy not to melt the skin off of children. Not even with "legal" weapons. Because melting the skin off of children is BAD. It's even worse than the fact that the librul media does not want to participate in information warfare (umm, since when?). It's, like, majorly BAD and it's real, and no amount of legalistic wankery is going to make me accept that melting the skin off of children is acceptable or defensible.

And the fact that it's called "shake'n'bake" all down the chain of command tells me that there are people who think that it's acceptable to melt the skin off of children and some of them are in positions of responsibility.

And to think that there are people on these wild internets defending the practice of melting the skin off of children. Family values, baby!

Okay, let me get this straight. C. Bird advocates the press becoming an arm of the government

You know, I grew up next door to the Soviet Union. It is disturbing how much the "Conservative" language resembles Soviet propaganda. Freedom is on the march, liberation of peoples of the Middle East. Somehow, the authoritarian mindset generates convergent language. Anybody looking for a Ph.D subject?

"And the fact that it's called 'shake'n'bake' all down the chain of command tells me that there are people who think that it's acceptable to melt the skin off of children and some of them are in positions of responsibility."

Splattering their skulls with bullets is pretty bad, too.

And probably it's best you don't, in general, listen to combat soldiers talk amongst themselves. You might be surprised what seems "acceptable."

What CharleyCarp and Jon H said, and what I've been saying for almost 15 years now: the issue isn't one of propaganda failing to obscure our blunders, it's of living up to our ideals in the real world. Or, to be blunt: it's about not being bad and living with the consequences thereof. Trouble is, we in the US have grown so accustomed to thinking of ourselves as axiomatically being "the good guys", so secure in our presumed righteousness, that we've fallen under the delusion that it's only what we say or intend that matters, not what we actually do -- and that needs to change, and change fast, or more people are going to die.

[Plus, y'know, "not being bad" is difficult and arduous and so at odds with our burgeoning national mythos that I'm not sure we even know how to do it any more...]

There's an interesting tangent here about "salvation by faith" versus "salvation through works" as played out on the international stage that's becoming ever more suggestive to me as the Bush Administration careens on, but I'll hold back unless there's interest.

Trouble is, we in the US have grown so accustomed to thinking of ourselves as axiomatically being "the good guys", so secure in our presumed righteousness,

well, not everyone. but those who don't are called "America-haters".

saying "hey, don't do that in my name!" is happily called treason by many who vote for Republican candidates.

Gary: And probably it's best you don't, in general, listen to combat soldiers talk amongst themselves. You might be surprised what seems "acceptable."

Indeed. And remember, these boys have to come home again and reintegrate with a society composed of people who haven't seen and done some awful things.

Let's hope it works out better than the last time.

Gary, I'm not a church lady, I can take most language ;-) I have no objection to the guys and gals in the line of fire using what ever language to get through their day.

But I think there is a reason civilized people have created conventions of war banning certain kinds of weapons. Personally, I would rather take a bullet in the head than watch my flesh burn.

My mother was a war refugee at 5. My daughter is now 5. I do tend to take a dim view of endangering civilians and children in wars, especially when I'm paying for the damn war. And before anybody says, yes, I know it's always been so. But someday...

Spartikus - there are lots of ways to burn a body, surprise surprise. WP munitions are meant to be used for smoke - it certainly is not a chemical warfare agent. I trust the media far less than I trust the Pentagon. And to Jeff Eaton, Iraq did sign the Geneva Protocol, which says you're not allowed to use chemical weapons first. Second is okay though.

Athena is all over the Jordan bombings.

The Jordan PM may have been killed.

This is timely from the Jordan Times yesterday:

Regional police chief conference to be held in Amman

AMMAN (Petra) — Police chiefs from Arab countries will hold their 29th conference in Amman on Sunday to discuss means of promoting the concept of human rights in the region. Public Security Deputy Director Abdul Salam Jaafreh said the participants will focus on how to handle new forms of criminal activity stemming from social, economic and political developments. On the agenda also are topics such as terrorism, Internet-related crimes, protection of communication services and human rights.


From the March edition of Field Artillery magazine:

"WP [i.e., white phosphorus rounds] 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."

J: it certainly is not a chemical warfare agent.

Says the U.S. Army. Almost every modern weapon utilizes a chemical reaction somewhere along the line. That WP is classified as an "incendiary" rather "chemical" munition is a bookkeeping distinction, if you ask me.

Iraq did sign the Geneva Protocol, which says you're not allowed to use chemical weapons first. Second is okay though.

Thanks, J. The information I was looking at had a number of references to specific treaties that had or hadn't been signed by various nations, and I was trying to figure out what the implication was that Iraq was listed as 'no' on all of them...

That WP is classified as an "incendiary" rather "chemical" munition is a bookkeeping distinction, if you ask me.

I would disagree. Incendiary weapons are intended to maim, kill, or destroy through heat, while chemical weapons are intended to to the same through ingestion, respiration, or absorption of poisons. That's a pretty clear distinction.

Charles, perhaps it would clarify what you mean to give some examples of some press reports you see as good and bad examples?

To me it sounds like you're calling for voluntary propaganda, which strikes me as both wrong in itself and a hopeless strategy in the "war of ideas" for the reasons Charley & others have given. Perhaps that's not what you mean but if not you're not explaining yourself clearly.

ungood, DoD says using WP against personnel targets is against the law. Now, who ordered them to be used against a city?

(4) Burster Type White phosphorus (WP M110A2) rounds burn with intense heat and emit dense white smoke. They may be used as the initial rounds in the smokescreen to rapidly create smoke or against material targets, such as Class V sites or logistic sites. It is against the law of land warfare to employ WP against personnel targets.

You're right, DPU

To me it sounds like you're calling for voluntary propaganda

Chicago Tribune 11/04/2005 p 3
2 headlines 1 large, smaller one directly underneath

2 EIDS BUT 1 JOYFUL MOOD IN IRAQ

Group says it downed US Cobra

Very clever.
I think that would qualify as voluntary propoganda right there (but not for US).

The sad part about the Trib thing is that I wrote Liz Sly (writer of 1st article) and asked her to throw in a few positive articles on Iraq every now and then, and by golly, she did.

But the layout was out of her control.

double-plus writes: "through ingestion, respiration, or absorption of poisons"

"Poisons" is probably the wrong term.

A blistering agent is a chemical weapon, but it isn't really a 'poison' as such. I mean, technically, boiling water is a blistering agent, and does nasty things when ingested, but it's not a poison.

Steam would do just as well as mustard gas, if the steam behaved the same way in air as the gas does, and if it didn't lose effectiveness as it cooled.

I'm not sure there's a good distinction to be made between a chemical that causes burns through heat, and a chemical that causes chemical burns.

DaveC writes: "
I think that would qualify as voluntary propoganda right there (but not for US)."

So you don't think the loss of a Cobra is newsworthy? Or that the taxpayers who are paying for this mess don't have a right to know about it?

WP munitions are meant to be used for smoke - it certainly is not a chemical warfare agent

although it serves the latter purpose pretty well, apparently.

tell the parents of that broiled infant that WP is for smoke. see how far that gets you in the Propaganda War.

Charles, I am sure this has been touched on ad nauseum in the comments which I do not have time to read right now, but, this is not a war of "spin." Our actions have got to speak louder than our words. Invading countries on the flimiest fabrications, torturing, holding without charging, open-ended imprisonment, and so forth, are hardly going to win us hearts and minds in the Middle East. We have got to find a way to clean up the mess we have made in Iraq, and then get out. We need to try to demonstrate that we are what we say we are, rather than the "do as I say, not as I do" approach that this administration has been using. We need to find ways to reduce our demand for oil. We are seen as greedy, and are selling our souls (and our security) to get it, rather than look hard at conservation and alternative energy sources. This is all absurd. And once again, all Conservatives can do is try to somehow make it the media's fault? Tiresome.

So you don't think the loss of a Cobra is newsworthy? Or that the taxpayers who are paying for this mess don't have a right to know about it?

You dont get it. It poisoned a positive story and for headline readers made it look like the killing of US servicemen was the reason for joy.

Now I will pose a question. If a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a crowded football stadium, do you think that the public would have a right to know about it? I never saw anything in the papers about it.

The smoke is phosphorus pentoxide, toxic by itself and also highly hydrophilic. It behaves a lot like nitric oxide or sulfur trioxide; in high concentrations it can char skin just by a dehydration effect. It reacts with water in the lungs to form a medium strong acid, phosphoric acid. If you use large amounts on an area it makes a fair-to-middling chemical weapon, certainly better than chlorine. Nobody outside the U.S. is going to be receptive to the idea that it's not a chemical weapon.

Incidentally, because of the smoke, it's not too swift as an illuminating agent.

Hmmm...an Incendiary-Chemical or a Chemical-Incendiary munition? So much haze.

Nobody outside the U.S. is going to be receptive to the idea that it's not a chemical weapon.

and i imagine one little live demo of what it can do to flesh on 20/20 or 60 Minutes, for example, would dissuade most of the rest.

but, this is not a war of "spin."

Look, Zarqawi calls his group "Al Qaeda in Iraq" and communicates with Al Zawahiri, and yet it is asserted that Iraq is keeping us from fighting Al Qaeda because we don't have bin Laden.

It looks to me that the media, politicians, activists, whatever are saying we need to stop fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq to fight Al Qaeda elsewhere.

And page 5 of that same Trib has a satellite image of a covert prison near Kabul. Well, yes of course the captured Taliban guys are in prison in Afghanistan. What next to expose? Maybe a map and where you can get a set of keys?

I can't get on the soldiers' case too much, for battlefield slang like "shake-and-bake." They're in an impossible position, have been since the damn war started, and I can barely even imagine the stress they're under.

But it seems plain as day to me that WP isn't supposed to be used against civilians; and we're using WP against civilians; and I don't see how that isn't a war crime.

What is apparent to me is that continuing to support the war and the Bush Admin's handling of the war requires a steady, inexorable erosion of principle, ethics, and just plain decency.

And turning the MSM into a de jure arm of the government for propaganda purposes is an exercise in self-serving futility, much like dressing a pig in a silk dress and declaring it Homecoming Queen.

Look, Zarqawi calls his group "Al Qaeda in Iraq" and communicates with Al Zawahiri, and yet it is asserted that Iraq is keeping us from fighting Al Qaeda because we don't have bin Laden

the Zarqawi branch of alQ is a result of our occupation of Iraq. alQ is a franchise, these days, and Zarqawi opened an Iraq branch since the market for alQ Brand ™ killers in Iraq has been booming recently. before the invasion, he was nothing.

If a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a crowded football stadium, do you think that the public would have a right to know about it? I never saw anything in the papers about it.

Oh, brother.

If you're talking about this guy, it was all over the bloody news, and didn" href="http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/5104187/detail.html">this guy, it was all over the bloody news, and didn" rel="nofollow">anything to do with what you appear to be insinuating.

Grrrr . . . I don't know what the eff happened there, but the sentence should conclude: " . . . and didn't have anything to do with what you appear to be insinuating.

I have never seen more people who talk so tough about kicking ass around the world but are so scared of terrorists that they jump in the air and wet their pants everytime something goes "bang."

If you look back at what went on in battle of Fallujah, most or all of the civilians had got the hell out of town.

Perhaps the fact that most the Fallujans left the city proves that they have no intention to confront the Iraqi and multinational forces and it clearly means”go get the bad guys” and this discredits the media’s theory which claimed that “most of the Fallujans are willing to fight”.

From this source at the time

Look, 86 google hits is not "all over the news", and the first lines

In the past two weeks, some of the blogs have been astir with news of an alleged string of possible jihadist terrorist attacks (update: corrected link) on U.S. soil

pretty much prove that it was mainly blogs that covered it.

Now I speculated on ObWi that the FBI and/or the university wanted to shut this story down. What I am saying is that there are certain stories that newspapers and broadcast news run with, and some that they spike, for whatever reasons. I was citing this as an example of the news sometimes opting not to report something very broadly. Certainly everybody in OK knew about it, but it was not so much a national story. That tells me that editors and producers have a lot of influence about what kind of stories get the big coverage - hence the spin angle.

most or all of the civilians had got the hell out of town.

I guess that depends on what your definition of "most" and "all" is...

Although many of Falluja's 200,000 to 300,000 residents fled the city before the assault, between 30,000 and 50,000 are believed to have remained during the fighting.

"This is where the mainstream press needs to step in and challenge the "reporting" by The Independent and RAI."

No, this is where you Republicans need to stop trying to obfuscate the issue and demand that your government stop using hideous weapons like white phosphorus rounds against human targets.

This was a pitched battle less than 2 months before the January elections against the most heavily armed Baathist + AQ stronghold, which had been living under Taliban like conditions.

CaseyL, agreed. I do hope I didn't give the impression I was getting on the case of soldiers on the ground. That was not my intention.

DaveC, this might be difficyult for you to comprehend, but maybe the lack of national news coverage of the Hinrichs story was motivated largely by decency. From all appearances, a troubled young man took his own life. The family seems to have taken it that way, and may well have asked reporters pursuing the story to respect their privacy in the face of has to have been an awful tragedy for them.

For you and I though, it's no story at all. No impact on our lives, no public policy issues, no video, and no involvement of either Paris Hilton or Michael Jackson. No politicians involved, either before or after. Why's this any more worthy of national coverage than http://www.helenair.com/articles/2005/11/02/helena/c01110205_04.txt>this (just to pick a local story at random). Because the latter guy lived? Only the did-he-intend-to-harm-others angle matters, and once one concludes that it's absent, all you've got left is exploiting a tragedy.

And even then, why would anyone think the Hinrichs story would sell soap?

This was a pitched battle less than 2 months before the January elections against the most heavily armed Baathist + AQ stronghold, which had been living under Taliban like conditions.

Help me out here, which of these features make it better, from a propaganda perspective, to have used WP in a way that harmed civilians:

- that the battle was pitched

- that it was 2 months before the elections

- that the enemy was heavily armed

- that the town was a Baathist + AQ stronghold

- that religious discipline was imposed

This was an assault of choice. Our side had total control over timing, tactics, tempo, choice of weapons, everything.

Alopex, no, I didn't think you were. I was mostly forestalling any "Oh, you hate the troops!" responses to my comments.

This was an assault of choice. Our side had total control over timing, tactics, tempo, choice of weapons, everything.

OK, I'll look at this like a football fan. If I'm on our side, I don't want the game to be interesting or be in doubt. I want to win. Other people who are not fans don't care who wins.

which of these features make it better, from a propaganda perspective, to have used WP in a way that harmed civilians

I am not a lawsyer, but if I gave several reasons, all legitimate, and somebody challenged me to narrow it down to one reason, I would not do that.

The fact that the civilians knew that there was danger imminent and that they were allowed to leave if they chose to do so and that a huge majority did decide to leave makes it evident to me that our military did what they could to minimize civilian casualties.

The suicide bombers who have killed far more Iraqi civilians than our armed forces don't seem to do that.

If the MSM was such a dogpiling antiwar liberal juggernaut bent on spinning every negative report into front page news, then they certainly would have done so last December when I first read about the use of WP in Fallujah (along with the stories about our use of 'not-really-napalm'). But Zmag is not the most reliable source and there were lots of unsubstantiated and sensationalist rumors coming out of the city at the time.

Of course the WP rumors turn out now to have been true. And the fact that they have come out only after Iraq has ratified its constitution seems to argue more strongly for the media's cooperation in the controlled release of this information that against it.

I'll end my comment with an exerpt from Stephen Den Beste:

What I'm worried about is what I see as a concerted attempt to distract us all from the most important issue of the day: there's a war on. I'm bothered by press obsession with irrelevancies and details and distractions.

Much of it is being orchestrated by the Democrats. Odd as it might sound, I don't blame their strategists for that. It's their job.

I see the strategists on both sides as being akin to trial lawyers. I saw an interview one time with a criminal lawyer who had spent most of his career defending murderers and rapists and other such vile scum of the earth. Some of his clients probably had been wrongly accused, but most of them really belonged in jail. Even so, he always did his best to get them off, and was overall quite successful in doing so. The interviewer asked him if this troubled his conscience.

His response was quite revealing, and I think it was correct. He said, paraphrased, that he was an advocate. Justice was not his job; that was the responsibility of the judge and jury. The system was based on having attorneys for both sides to be actively biased in favor of their side, and to present the best case they could, and in turn to try to cast as much doubt as possible on the other side's case. Once that process was complete the jury would make a decision.

I'm bothered by press obsession with irrelevancies and details and distractions.

Well...the Italian press's obsession with irrelevancies, anyway.

DaveC quotes an ignoramus:

"What I'm worried about is what I see as a concerted attempt to distract us all from the most important issue of the day: there's a war on. I'm bothered by press obsession with irrelevancies and details and distractions."

There's a war on? How does Mr. DenBeste know this? Has the President called for national sacrifice? Have we imposed a war tax, or conscription? Have we marshalled the resources of this great Republic to fight this war? Have we subordinated greed and profit and war windfalls to the common good?

No, we have not.

Oh, and that war? When did Congress declare it?

This war, of which you speak: where is it? Who is fighting it?

DaveC: The fact that the civilians knew that there was danger imminent and that they were allowed to leave if they chose to do so and that a huge majority did decide to leave makes it evident to me that our military did what they could to minimize civilian casualties.

Well, it may make it evident to you, DaveC, but I don't see how. There were still civilians in Fallujah, and the US knew it, when WP was used against the people in Fallujah. Not that, frankly, using a chemical weapon would have been any better a choice if there had been no civilians left in Fallujah.

The suicide bombers who have killed far more Iraqi civilians than our armed forces don't seem to do that.

Well, if you measure US military behavior against terrorist behavior, and are satisfied that US soldiers usually behave better than terrorists, then you have appallingly low standards for the US military, which most soldiers I know would find very offensive.


I don't have a cite, but I thought it was a well established fact that the US wasn't letting men of military age leave Fallujah, and that as a result many families stayed. Anyone got more on that?

OK, I'll look at this like a football fan.

How revealing

Quote: "The sooner mainstream media recognizes this and engages in this information war, the better for all of us."

Man's got a point.
Everything started going to shit when they stopped lying to us.
Would it have killed em to say they found one WMD in Iraq FFS ??? Jesus the Navy could have donated one seing as they're not doing shit. Put a moustache on it and bury it in the sand... world happy... news happy... people happy... happy happy.

DaveC, I didn't mean for propaganda purposes with Americans. I meant with those in the Middle East we are trying to reach. You know, the people whose opinion actually matter in the media theatre of this war.

You don't think the assault on Falluja was improperly done. Many people do. Your message to them -- 'serves 'em right for getting in our way' -- doesn't seem likely to resonate with the people who's minds we are trying to change.

In the bigger WOT picture, it doesn't matter what you think, and it doesn't matter what I think. What matters are the thoughts of the guy we want to to decide that the Caliphate (or just religiously motivated anti-western violence) is a bad idea, just like we wanted people to decide that Communism is a bad idea. One big factor in accomplishing this is having those people not think we are overbearing *ssholes bent on imposing our values and humiliating them (by which I mean individual, family, clan, tribe, and nation [and by nation, I mean 'Arab nation,' in the sense expressed in the new Iraqi constitution]).

Now CB seems to think they're getting the wrong idea from the New York Times. Etc. There may be some little of that, but I'd bet their getting a whole lot more of it from their own contact with our conduct. There is, it seems to me, in inescapable tension between how the Base wants to see our war effort -- wrt changing values and humiliation of the foe -- and how we need for the undecided young men we are trying to reach to feel about it.

(Ms. Hughes seems to think that we should encourage them to reject the values of their ancestors and adopt ours. I would have thought that she is exactly the wrong person to send over to convince people that we are not overbearing *ssholes etc, but then maybe she can work some kind of magic . . .)

I know my last comment has been passed and forgotten by now, but just wanted to acknowledge: Jon H, on rereading the fas.org bit on Mk-77, my initial reading of that was incorrect. So, no, it doesn't look like it's saying they were all used up during GWI.

Stickler raises some good points.

1. To whom have we delivered a declaration of war?

2. From whom may we collect a surrender? (Or deliver a surrender, if we capitulate.)

It's the second point that really worries me, because a whole lot of recent executive claims amount to "we can do this for the duration of the war", except that the war has no victory condition. This is markedly unlike World War II, or Korea, or even the Vietnam war, where it was possible to establish a clear-cut end to hostilities.

Would an advocate of this war please point to an official statement as to what constitutes victory or defeat? I don't mean "when there's peace and bunnies everywhere" language, but something precise enough that it could be used to end all "for the duration" policies.

Well, the den Beste quote does show what the right is really worried about. Not a PR war for Muslim opinion, but trying to keep Americans on board. (And if they keep bailing on the war it's all the Democrats' fault, of course.} If any Republican in the government had been interested in an actual large positive change in opinion, they would have taken the opportunity afforded by the earthquake tragedy and dropped several billion on relief efforts.

Well, the den Beste quote does show what the right is really worried about.

Um, I'd submit that perhaps it shows what denBeste is really worried about. It's not as if we all got together and selected Stephen denBeste as our spokesman. Personally, I try to spend as much time away from this kind of thinking as possible, because once it takes hold, you cannot trust anyone to be authentic anymore. And so we become Shadar Logoth, if we haven't done so already.

Totally unrelated, I think SDB is mostly bang-on and highly insightful when discussing engineering.

It also bears pointing out that "Republican" and "The Right" aren't entirely synonymous, just as "Democrat" and "The Left" aren't.

Den Beste's comments on cell phone stuff are very interesting except that they never seem to grapple with an important fact: approaches other than the one his employer and he (and George Gilder) favor were providing superior service for a long time while his crew were years away from rolling things out.

I tend to think of this as the essence of a lot of his stances: elaborate, dense, often interesting exposition that happens to founder on the most rudimentary fact checking.

Man, with the exception of DaveC, you folks are doing a terrible job so far at fighting this media war. Didn't you read the post at all? You're all going to have to work a lot harder at your disinformation-fighting efforts in the future. You know, blog commenters are not just on the sidelines in this War Against Militant Islamism, you are made part of the fight by our enemies

Possibly, Bruce. I know my observation that GPS was spread-spectrum (and, in fact, is CDMA) was at least initially met with resistance, probably due to the fact that QualComm has (as far as I can tell) some sort of trademark on various CDMA implementations, and also possibly because GPS and cellphones are so very different in purpose as to make spread-spectrum comparisons between them rather silly.

In any case, I am not nearly familiar enough with the various cellular communications technologies to be a decent judge of which is better, but I am engineer enough to observe that (as an example) land-line voice communications were implemented well in advance of VOIP, but probably can't be considered to be superior to VOIP simply because they were there first. So, first isn't necessarily (I'd say rarely, but that kind of demands a huge amount of substantiation) best.

Probably not your point, though.

Oh, sure, I agree that later introductions get real benefits. What I meant was that Den Beste was touting as vastly superior features yet to come things that my friends in London and Helsinki had been using for years.

CharleyCarp: Now CB seems to think they're getting the wrong idea from the New York Times. Etc. There may be some little of that, but I'd bet their getting a whole lot more of it from their own contact with our conduct.

So true. Here is an example from the time of the release of the Abu Ghraib photographs:

The crouching man is naked, his hands tied and his head covered with a hood.

The alabaster sculpture on display at a Baghdad gallery bears a striking resemblance to some of the shocking photographs that emerged last week of Iraqi prisoners abused by their American guards at the Abu Ghraib prison.

But the 15-inch sculpture, with the words ``We are living in American democracy'' inscribed on its base was fashioned two months ago.

"Our dignity cannot endure this humiliation", The Hindu, May 10, 2004

Ah, I hadn't noticed when he did that. "Features" are less interesting to me than the underlying technology, unless I'm buying something. I do agree with him on his touting of CDMA as superior to most other bandwidth-sharing technologies of the time, but as I've said, I'm not a communications expert. I am familiar with most of the basics of modulation schemes, but I'm not up to date on their applications.

And now I leave this alone, because it's turning into a threadjack.

Er, yeah, I didn't mean to launch an extended digression either.

(Would you be willing sometime to start up a separate thread on the tech versus features thing? I tend to vacillate in my preferences on it, and there are what amount to aesthetic and moral judgments involved as well as technical ones.)

There's more than one way to play into the hands of the enemy. For example, the "Countercolumn" post that Charles cites as proving his point. This column quotes a particularly gory paragraph from the Independent's article in which the effects of white phospohorus on the human body are described. Countercolumn's response: "Hey, maybe they can make more money as a porn site!" So here we have an example of a western, probably US writer mocking the deaths of Iraqis and saying that the description of their burned bodies would do better on a porn site. This is beyond disgusting. How would people have reacted if a columnist for al Jazeera had said that descriptions of the destruction of the WTC would make good porn? It demonstrates disrespect for the lives of those who died--and those still alive.

If I were an agent of al Qaeda, I'd translate that column into Arabic, Farsi, etc, highlighting this and other particularly appalling statements, and distribute them widely as an example of the western world's attitude towards Islamic people. And watch the volunteers roll in.

So, to sum up your argument on this: bombarding civilians in Fallujah with white phos is perfectly legitimate because white phos isn't banned by the Geneva Conventions.

Words means things, chdb. WP contains nasty chemicals but it is not a chemical weapon as defined by the appropriate bodies. Bombarding civilians is not a legitimate act, and there is no evidence taht civilians were targeted in Fallujah. Most of the civilians had already fled, and coalition soldiers followed the rules of engagement. The pictures of "caramelized" bodies of dead civilians (assuming the fighting-age men in the pictures are civilians) are highly suspect because WP burns clothing as well as skin. The clothes in the pictures were intact.

It may make you feel better when the mainstream media lie to you, Charles, but it won't actually help the US win any wars.

It may make you feel better when The Independent spreads lies and half-truths to you, Jes, but it won't help you persuade anyone to your side.

BTW, I wrote an update and I'm working slowly through the comments.

Now I'm confused. Charles, are you saying that it's a lie that our soldiers used WP, or are you saying that it is a lie to claim they used chemical weapons because WP isn't a chemical weapon?

It may make you feel better when The Independent spreads lies and half-truths to you

Has this been displayed? I must have missed something.

Re: "Witness" Jeff Englehart. You "debunking" claims he couldn't have seen anything because he was in "a non-combat" role for the last two days. Actually watching the documentary, the Englehart says he heard about WP being deployed over the radio. As for being an "antiwar activist", I don't see how that is central other than for poisoning the war purposes (did you stop to think that maybe he's an antiwar activist because of what he saw and heard in Fallujah?). Either his testimony is false, and can be displayed as false, or it is testimony made in good faith. Meanwhile, this claim:

...the Stockholm Spectator casts further doubts on the credibility of Jeff Englehart, the only military source for the RAI documentary's "phosphorus as weapon" claims

Can clearly be dismissed, in light of the March issue of Field Artillery magazine quoted on this thread more than once.

Re: The Independent's weapons expert contradicting the effects of WP. Um, after having to search for this particular claim, it turns out that the owner of the blog "Daily Ablution", called John Pike and asked him whether he was referring to WP or napalm. Well here:

Daily Ablution: "Are burns caused by white phosphorus consistent with 'bodies burned but clothes intact'?"

John Pike: "No."

I've never heard of Daily Ablution. I'm sure it's testimony passed along in good faith. I would still like to hear, though, a credible alternative explanation for the wounds show in the pictures. For example, has the clothing been added post-mortem, and if yes, then why would it be added if it was not consistent with the "actual" effects of WP?

Many grammatical errors. Ugh.

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