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November 09, 2005

Comments

Since the U.S. did use WP in large quantities in Falloujah and it almost certainly caused the civilian burns observed, I think the MSM is doing the U.S. army a gigantic coverup favor just by remaining silent on the issue. Expecting a debunking is a little much.

Via DailyKos (which I'm sure will give CB fits), further corroboration of WP use in Iraq beyond spotting, smokescreen and illumination purposes. This time via the May-June issue of Infantry Magazine:

The 60mm mortars from Alpha Company, 1-508th Infantry, were tasked to provide immediate indirect fire support onto known and suspected targets. Upon reaching their planned mortar firing point, the section immediately dismounted their HMMWV (high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle) and conducted an emergency occupation. The section immediately received a call for fire from their forward observers. Within 60 seconds of occupation, the section was placing accurate high explosive (HE) and white phosphorus (WP) rounds onto and in the vicinity of the Iraqi observations posts....

....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.

even more (via KOS):

    Under the prodding of the generals, Sassaman took the concept of nonlethal force to its limits. His theory was that no progress would be possible without order first and that ultimately, even if his men were hard on the locals, they would come around. When his men came under fire from a wheat field, Sassaman routinely retaliated by firing phosphorous shells to burn the entire field down. The ambush site would be gone, and farmers might be persuaded not to allow insurgents to use their land again.

Hey, Achmed, who are you going to believe: CNN or your lying eyes?

A laughable update -- just more fact challenged assertions:

1. Charles -- do you dispute that the US used WP artillery shells during daytime in Fallujah as an anti-personnel device? The evidence seems pretty conclusive that it did. If you think otherwise, why not devote a few seconds to that point, before jumping to the conclusion that the press should have debunked a story that no one has yet debunked. Your commentary is fact-challenged.

2. People in other countries believe the use of WP in urban areas is akin to employing chemical weapons. So their news services call its use in Fallujah the use of a chemical weapon, which you say must be debunked as "false."

Except its a debateable value judgment, rather than something "false." Several countries have agreed not to use WP in this context, which protocol the US has not joined. In any event, US policy is to not use it in such a context because it so much resembles a chemical weapon in that context -- though that policy seems to have been violated in Fallujah.

A proper news story in the US would point out this underlying debate -- that the use of WP in urban areas ends up resembling the use of banned chemcial weapons, and would ask why the US has decided to proceed in this manner. It would point out that others think it is the use of an improper chemical weapon, which explains why overseas news services are reporting it in this manner. It would point out how it is not technically a banned chemical weapon -- that this is a value judgment that others have already made, but not the US. It would point out how this debate creates an issue for the US in our effort to win moral support for our causes.

It would not engage in the phony propoganda war you advocate.

3. Use of WP artillery shells in urban areas ends up looking a lot like deploying mustard gas. This is an indisputable fact. The military people justify its use in the battlefield context because the burning WP gas forces troops to flee concealed positions, enabling other weapons to wipe them out. But so would mustard gas. The utility of the weapon hardly justifies its automatic use.

Your inability to deal with these basic facts undermines all of your comment. The others you cite also gloss over this like it is irrelevant -- they suffer from the same blinders.

DaveC, I don't think you can know which faction has killed the largest number of civilians in Iraq. Right now it's possible the insurgents are killing most of the civilians, but that's based on news reports and by the very nature of this war (and probably most colonial wars, but especially this one), the western press can't go wandering around counting bodies on its own, assuming they were independent-minded enough to want to do so. I wouldn't expect any government (certainly not ours) to tell the truth about the civilians they've killed in a supposedly noble cause and so the media count is likely to be heavily biased towards the reporting of killings by the insurgents and also of killings of alleged insurgents by US forces. I wouldn't assume every insurgent we supposedly kill really was an insurgent.

Iraq Body Count published a study of their own data which concluded as of early 2005 that the US had caused 39 percent of the deaths, with violent crime coming in second and the insurgents far behind, though in recent months they're catching up. Or they might be, except for the fact that others also continue to kill. I think there are zero significant digits in the IBC estimate for the reasons already given.

There is the Lancet study, of course, and a couple of Iraqi groups which claim the death toll is much higher than the IBC number, and the UN survey for the first year of the war found 24,000 violent deaths and insurgents couldn't have caused more than a small fraction of those at that point. The problem with that number is some might have been insurgents, of course, but I think 12 percent were women and children, not too different from the IBC percentage for their civilian data.

A link you provided has already been rendered obsolete, so to speak, by the admission that the US did use WP as a weapon.
In general I take proclamations of American military virtue with a grain of salt. I don't doubt that US troops are no worse than average Americans. Look at the number of Americans who defend torture and tell me that's supposed to be a comfort. No doubt the majority are decent. That leaves plenty of scope for indecency and anyway, people in wartime sometimes don't behave the way they'd like to think they would in civilian life. And so when someone says "I'm a progressive" and then says US forces couldn't be committing war crimes because they're just our neighbors, I tend to remember the wifebeater who lived in the house next door when I was growing up. Besides, the ultimate responsibilty lies higher up and I'd guess very few people, when ordered to commit a war crime, actually refuse to carry out the order, especially when they don't have to see the results for themselves. Bombing and shelling villages came pretty easy for Americans in Vietnam.

What's In a Number, an update on the Lancet study, from This American Life, well worth a listen.

This week, Producer Alex Blumberg tells the remarkable story of what it took to find that number, why we should find it credible and why almost no one believed it.

this article is behind a subscription wall, so my link goes to a copy.


Les F. Roberts, a research associate at Hopkins and the lead author of the paper, was shocked by the muted or dismissive reception. He had expected the public response to his paper to be "moral outrage."

On its merits, the study should have received more prominent play. Public-health professionals have uniformly praised the paper for its correct methods and notable results.

"Les has used, and consistently uses, the best possible methodology," says Bradley A. Woodruff, a medical epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Indeed, the United Nations and the State Department have cited mortality numbers compiled by Mr. Roberts on previous conflicts as fact - and have acted on those results.
[...]
Mr. Roberts and his colleagues now believe that the speedy publication of that data created much of the public skepticism toward the study. He sent the manuscript to the medical journal on October 1, requesting that it be published that month. Mr. Roberts says the editors agreed to do so without asking him why.

Despite the sprint to publication, the paper did go through editing and peer review. In an accompanying editorial, Richard Horton, editor of the The Lancet, wrote that the paper "has been extensively peer-reviewed, revised, edited, and fast-tracked to publication because of its importance to the evolving security situation in Iraq."

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?

This is what I wrote, Lily: "The disinformation comes in pretty fast, but a good starting point today would be dispelling the lie that we used chemical weapons in Fallujah"

WP was used in Fallujah. No one, including me, denied that. WP is not a chemical weapon and it is not illegal; therefore, we used no chemical weapons in Fallujah, and no treaties or conventions were violated. It is an incendiary device used for illumination purposes, sometimes as an alternative to fuel air explosives. When people say that we used chemical weapons in Fallujah, they are lying. Words mean things.

Using the pictures of dead people--the ones that show the clothing intact--as evidence that they were killed by WP is a lie. WP burns right through clothing to the skin. We don't really know how those folks actually died, but it wasn't by WP.

When Englehart said that everyone dies within 150 meters, he is lying. GlobalSecurity.org:

Most smokes are not hazardous in concentrations which are useful for obscuring purposes. However, any smoke can be hazardous to health if the concentration is sufficient or if the exposure is long enough. Medical personnel should be prepared to treat potential reactions to military smokes once such smokes have been introduced to the battlefield. Exposure to heavy smoke concentrations for extended periods (particularly if near the source of emission) may cause illness or even death. Casualties from WP smoke have not occurred in combat operations.

White phosphorus fume can cause severe eye irritation with blepharospasm, photophobia, and lacrimation. Irritation of the eyes and irritation of the mucous membranes are the most commonly seen injuries. These complaints remit spontaneously with the soldier's removal from the exposure site. The WP smoke irritates the eyes and nose in moderate concentrations. With intense exposures, a very explosive cough may occur, which renders gas mask adjustment difficult. There are no reported deaths resulting from exposure to phosphorus smokes.

I know many of you are predisposed to think the worst, but the facts are not on your side. I can't believe so many of you are buying this crap.

"I know many of you are predisposed to think the worst"

Please award yourself a Karnak.

Charles: WP is not a chemical weapon and it is not illegal; therefore, we used no chemical weapons in Fallujah, and no treaties or conventions were violated.

How nice for the relatives and friends of the people in Fallujah who were horribly burned to death with WP to know that it was perfectly legal for the US to do so, because the US never signed up to any treaty or convention banning the use of WP.

This is your idea of successful propaganda - tell the families/friends of the victims that they've got no right to be upset because their friends/kin were horribly done to death in a perfectly legal way?

Or are you seeing this as an information war on people inside the US who do not support the war in Iraq?

Charles, I will try to make this very clear:

THE DEATHS WEREN'T A RESULT OF WP BEING USED AS SMOKE

This has been made evident throughout this thread. You know, the article in Field Artillery, the witnesses own testimony you are trying to debunk. Etc.

And I would be very very careful about throwing accusations of lying around. It might be something that could be fairly levelled at you, at this point.

"Use of WP artillery shells in urban areas ends up looking a lot like deploying mustard gas. This is an indisputable fact."

It's quite disputable, actually. It looks a lot more like other incendiaries, and particularly like WP, which has been used for various military purposes since at least WWII and particularly in Vietnam.

It's not particularly harmful as a gas.

In the air, white phosphorus reacts rapidly with oxygen to produce relatively harmless chemicals within minutes.
Anyone telling you otherwise is either ignorant, or has an agenda. Treatment is required for burns, not inhalation.

The military people justify its use in the battlefield context because the burning WP gas forces troops to flee concealed positions, enabling other weapons to wipe them out."
This is wrong. It's used as a direct weapon primarily because the burning per se drives people out. (This is as well as being used for other incendiary missions, as well as for smoke, of course.)

Is burning someone to death horrible? Of course. It's equally horrible to be burned to death with a flame thrower, and it's not extremely dissimilar to burning to death via napalm, or gasoline.

It's also entirely horrible to blow people's limbs off, to gut them, to blow their head to pieces, and to do that to babies and whole families.

There are no nice ways to do any of these things, and there are no nice ways to fight wars. This is why it's best to take getting into them rather seriously.

The oxidation product of WP is not harmless. The oxides are more chemically toxic than the WP itself. In high enough concentrations it is considered a poison gas in industrial use.

It is also no longer used for illumination. Magnesium works better.

It is also quite possible to burn skin through woven fabric if the agent is a vapor. Protection against hot gases requires an impermeable fabric, usually glass-based.

Whoops. Here's the link to the MSDS.

MSDS

Or, here:

814. Red and White Phosphorus. a. At ordinary temperatures, white phosphorus (WP) is a solid which can be handled safely under water. When dry, it burns fiercely in air, producing a dense white smoke. Fragments of melted particles of the burning substance may become embedded in the skin of persons close to a bursting projectile, producing burns which are multiple, deep and variable in size. The fragments continue to burn unless oxygen is excluded by flooding or smothering.

b. WP may be used to produce a hot dense white smoke composed of particles of phosphorus pentoxide which are converted by moist air to droplets of phosphoric acid. The smoke irritates the eyes and nose in moderate concentrations. Field concentrations of the smoke are usually harmless although they may cause temporary irritation to the eyes, nose or throat. The respirator provides adequate protection against white phosphorus smoke.

c. In an artillery projectile white phosphorus is contained in felt wedges which ignite immediately upon exposure to air and fall to the ground. Up to 15% of the white phosphorus remains within the charred wedge and can re-ignite if the felt is crushed and the unburned white phosphorus exposed to the atmosphere.

d. Red phosphorus (RP) is not nearly as reactive as white phosphorus. It reacts slowly with atmospheric moisture and the smoke does not produce thermal injury, hence the smoke is less toxic.

I guess, to summarize: pure phosphoric acid is probably not good for skin, eyes and lungs. In lower concentrations, though, it's perfectly fine when mixed with carmel coloring, artificial flavoring, aspartame, and carbonated water.

So, discussing the effects of exposure to the ignition by-products of phosphorus need to also include the amount of exposure. Small amounts: no big deal. Taking a bath in phosphoric acid: probably not good. The above seems to indicate that on the field, at least, exposure to phosphorus smoke doesn't cause lasting symptoms after the smoke goes away. I'm not sure what this has to do with the particular situation being discussed, but it is relevant to discussions of WP as a chemical weapon.

I've seen references, although not a link, to a treaty or part therof to which the US is not a party which defines WP as a chemical weapon. If this is accurate, can't we safely say (1) we did use WP (2) many countries, but not the US, legally define WP as a chemical weapon, and (3) WP kills through external burns, rather than usually through inhalation poisoning? (2) seems to make the initial article objected to accurate, although perhaps misleading in that it did not call attention to the US's failure to be a party to the relevant treaty and to the burning, rather than poisonous, nature of WP.

Yeah. Running thru a smoke grenade outside, no big deal. Sitting in a room full of hot oxide for minutes, a particularly slow and painful way to die.

Yeah. Running thru a smoke grenade outside, no big deal. Sitting in a room full of hot oxide for minutes, a particularly slow and painful way to die.

Tim, if you've got a cite for this, please provide. Opinion is easy to come by on this sort of issue; hard fact is usually less forthcoming. Personally, I think if you're close enough to the "hot oxide" for the heat to make a difference, you're going to be close enough to be burned to death by the phosphorus igniting any nearby flammables. This is the stuff of opinion.

Round 3 of fact-challenged Charles -- his 11/11 11:21 am post.

He selectively quotes from that portion of Global Security relting to WP smoke, but omits the reference to WP incendiary:

White phosphorus results in painful chemical burn injuries. The resultant burn typically appears as a necrotic area with a yellowish color and characteristic garliclike odor. White phosphorus is highly lipid soluble and as such, is believed to have rapid dermal penetration once particles are embedded under the skin. Because of its enhanced lipid solubility, many have believed that these injuries result in delayed wound healing. This has not been well studied; therefore, all that can be stated is that white phosphorus burns represent a small subsegment of chemical burns, all of which typically result in delayed wound healing.

Incandescent particles of WP may produce extensive burns. Phosphorus burns on the skin are deep and painful; a firm eschar is produced and is surrounded by vesiculation. 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. Contact with these particles can cause local burns. These weapons are particularly nasty because white phosphorus continues to burn until it disappears. If service members are hit by pieces of white phosphorus, it could burn right down to the bone. Burns usually are limited to areas of exposed skin (upper extremities, face). Burns frequently are second and third degree because of the rapid ignition and highly lipophilic properties of white phosphorus.

To summarize, WP used in concentrations as an incendiary (exactly what was used in Fallujah -- "shake and bake") is likely to cause very severe burning to those affected by the dispersal -- this includes inhalation. Is it 150 m? Numerous sources have indicated this is the effective range for artillery shells of the stuff. And it is much more readily attacks exposed skin rather than clothing.

Its worth noting that grenades and small mortar rounds of the stuff probably dose not create this effect -- its the incendiary artiellery rounds used in Fallujah that create this effect. That's why its US policy not to use it in urban areas, ewxept in Fallujah.

I know many of you are predisposed to think the worst, but the facts are not on your side. I can't believe so many of you are buying this crap.

I can't believe your willingness to skew facts.

The treaty is the Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Incendiary Weapons (Protocol III). Geneva, 10 October 1980..

eMedicine has this to say about White Phosphorus when used as incendiary agent.

Burns usually are limited to areas of exposed skin (upper extremities, face). Burns frequently are second and third degree because of the rapid ignition and highly lipophilic properties of white phosphorus.

I still await an alternate theory that would explain the type of wounds seen in the pictures on RAI website.

To summarize, WP used in concentrations as an incendiary (exactly what was used in Fallujah -- "shake and bake") is likely to cause very severe burning to those affected by the dispersal

It sounds as if you've got some idea just how much WP was used, and what type of WP rounds were used. Please share.

"Its worth noting that grenades and small mortar rounds of the stuff probably dose not create this effect -- its the incendiary artiellery rounds used in Fallujah that create this effect."

I can't figure out what you mean by "this effect," I'm afraid. (I'm also baffled by the notion that use of white phosphorous in battle is some sort of revelation; only someone who has never read any accounts of modern warfighting in the last fifty years would find it so; heck, I remember playing videogames of tank warfare twenty years ago where you had a choice of WP or HE shells; reading this stuff is like reading someone gasping about having just found out that Army soldiers use chemical reactions to blow civilians' bodies apart, or that lead is fired at high velocities (by a chemical reaction!; these are chemical weapons!) into innocent people's organs, shredding them to bits, killing them in seconds or leaving them to bleed for hours; it's all terrible, and it's all equally news.)

I'm also baffled by the notion that use of white phosphorous in battle is some sort of revelation;

I'm baffled by the notion that people aren't grasping the idea that the objection is the use of incendiary agents in an urban area where civilians are known to still reside, contrary to Army's own doctrine and international consensus.

Especially when the conflict is one, supposedly, of hearts and minds.

Slarti, it's just my opinion. If you were close to the round you'd be killed quickly; otherwise it would probably be death by suffocation as the hot gases filled up the space, like in building fire fatalities from smoke inhalation. The painful part would come from effectively being sprayed with a hot, fairly strong acid.

I imagine, then, that you'd be just as baffled if we were raining conventional explosives on the same area? I mean, I've heard plenty of outrage over the WP being used on the civilians, but little over the use of conventional HE weapons.

Slarti, it's just my opinion. If you were close to the round you'd be killed quickly; otherwise it would probably be death by suffocation as the hot gases filled up the space, like in building fire fatalities from smoke inhalation. The painful part would come from effectively being sprayed with a hot, fairly strong acid.

Let's see...what sort of WP rounds were used? Could it have been burster rounds? Rounds that are designed as incendiaries and are against the law of land warfare to employ ...against personnel targets? Or could they have been smoke rounds? Rounds consistent with:

We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents...

Hence my earlier questions. If we used the ground-burst type, then I'm guessing we violated some of our own rules in doing so. If not, then your room full of hot oxide theory is hogwash.

I'm baffled by:

1. The invasion in general.
2. That Fallujah was allowed to fester
3. The sledgehammer assault in light of 2.

Given that this is not total war, but a counterinsurgency is a country that been liberated, I am baffled by the self-defeating roughboy tactics of the U.S. Army, especially in light of the tactics and doctrines of other major armies that stress lower key approaches and which seemed to have, until recently, better results. Like say the British in Basra. And I say until recently because it seems the troubles in the American zone have spilled over.

The use of WP in Fallujah is just another chapter in this story.

It seems to me it would have been alot easier for the U.S. to simply fire up the B-52's and carpetbomb the place into oblivion. You would have likely had the same level of bewildered outrage, but with the bonus that Fallujah would have been dealt with once and for all, with little to no casulties.

If you're going to be an evil empire, don't do it half way.

Rounds consistent with:

We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents...

That doesn't follow. How do you get smoke rounds out of that sentence? Do you have some sort of special knowledge?

From the November 10, 2004 issue of the Washington Post:

"Usually we keep the gloves on," said Army Capt. Erik Krivda, of Gaithersburg, the senior officer in charge of the 1st Infantry Division's Task Force 2-2 tactical operations command center. "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. Insurgents reported being attacked with a substance that melted their skin, a reaction consistent with white phosphorous burns.

More smoke rounds?

We've got:

1. Photos of the corpses of noncombatants with wounds - in light of any other explantion - the most credible explanation of which is White Phosphorus.
2. Video of some sort of burst type shelling.
3. A witness who testifies he heard over the radio that Whiskey Pete was being used.
4. Corroborating articles in Field Artillery magazine, and the Washington Post.

Do you have some sort of special knowledge?

Aside from explicit mention of smoke rounds in Field Artillery? No. But information is normally more valuable (to me, at least) than opinion.

We've got

BTW, do you have a link to any of that?

You lost me on that one. The smoke is the oxide, and it's hot because it's the combustion product. From the blog link DaveC gave earlier in the thread, at least one barrage on the city looked like bursters.

In lower concentrations, though, it's perfectly fine when mixed with carmel coloring, artificial flavoring, aspartame, and carbonated water.

Like hell it is. That stuff will totally dissolve your teeth inside a week! [My sister's best friend's boyfriend's cousin did that experiment in 8th grade, I swear!] Well, either that, or it'll produce a tiny race of people and, eventually, Lutherans.

BTW, do you have a link to any of that?

All the links have been provided, often more than once, throughout the thread.

Rounds consistent with:

We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents...

That doesn't follow. How do you get smoke rounds out of that sentence? Do you have some sort of special knowledge?

I'm thinking you're not familiar with what
"screening missions" means. This knowledge is only "special" in the sense of having minimal familiarity with military usage and practice (although my own highest rank in uniform was Second Class Boy Scout).

Have I mentioned lately how unhealthy the huge split between civilian and military culture is?

I'm thinking you're not familiar with what
"screening missions" means.

And I'm thinking there are two references. One to screening missions, and one about "psychological warfare" and it doesn't follow the latter was conducted with "smoke rounds".

Hence the point about WP being a "flexible munition"

It's smoke. It's fire. It's two-two great tastes in one.

OTOH I would think that "psychological warfare" is not typically executed using incendiaries. Just a thought.

Slarti:

It sounds as if you've got some idea just how much WP was used, and what type of WP rounds were used.

From reading elsewhere, there is a type of artillery delivered WP that air bursts into smaller components and rains over an area. I speculate that this is the type of munition that creates the alleged "150m" effect talked about. I forget the numerical designation for this shell type -- the cites sprinkled throughout this thread link to the military journals that talk about its use. There has also been discussion about the total number of rounds of this type that were deployed to Iraq (500 or so), but no indication as to how many were used in Fallujah, but another cite has a reference to the supply having been exhausted by the end of the Fallujah activity. But its not very definite.

I wrote above about how its not WP itself that is the issue, but these air-burst artillery shells that create an issue in an urban environnment. Smaller weapons carrying WP (low caliber mortars and grenades) probably limit their effect to only minor incendiary or smoke because of the lesser amount of WP involved.

The rules of engagement prohibit large WP use in urban areas unless specifically authorized by senior command -- From GlobalSecurity.org which Charles linked to above.

The point is that WP has multiple uses, and can be employed in multiple ways. We are not talking about the smoke bombs for which WP is sometimes used, but the large incendiary shells of WP.

Charles is allegedly "debunking" the WP issue by citing to the smoke bomb's properties, while ignoring the large incendiary type of munition.

OTOH I would think that "psychological warfare" is not typically executed using incendiaries. Just a thought.

It's not? And smokescreens are?

The actual turn of phrase from Field Artillery magazine was "potent psychological weapon"

I speculate that this is the type of munition that creates the alleged "150m" effect talked about.

I speculate that this is a smoke round. Its effects are consistent with this picture of said smoke round going off.

Which is where speculation can take you, I guess.

Charles is allegedly "debunking" the WP issue by citing to the smoke bomb's properties, while ignoring the large incendiary type of munition.

Based on the munition's size, I estimate that the maximum amount of WP that it (in 155mm form) can contain is maybe 12 pounds. For comparison, the 155mm HE round carries 15 pounds of TNT. The WP round must also contain a burster charge for spreading the stuff around, which is why I'm thinking it's only about 12 pounds. If you can find anything on this that's more precise, please post it.

It's not? And smokescreens are?

Ok, maybe your words (paraphrased) will take a bit better:

it doesn't follow the latter was conducted with "incendiary rounds"

Given that this is not total war, but a counterinsurgency is a country that been liberated, I am baffled by the self-defeating roughboy tactics of the U.S. Army, ...

The use of WP in Fallujah is just another chapter in this story.

The Fallujah fight was a set-piece battle against entrenched bad guys, so it had to be fought on an ugly scale. It was allowed to fester for political reasons.

Incendiaries are incredibly useful in fighting an entrenched enemy -- think Iwo Jima, for example. I can understand why the marines would want to use it -- it saves the lives of their comrades.

But your point is correct -- its the political consequences of how you fight an insurgency that are paramount, and that's the core point regarding the WP issue. Otherwise, why not carpet bomb the place.

Ok, maybe your words (paraphrased) will take a bit better:

it doesn't follow the latter was conducted with "incendiary rounds"

Given use of the term "shake and bake" I think it's the more plausible scenario, don't you?

And I'm thinking there are two references. One to screening missions, and one about "psychological warfare" and it doesn't follow the latter was conducted with "smoke rounds".

Gary is also ignoring this account from Infantry Magazine. It's not specific to Fallujah, but notice this particular line:

"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."

WP used for screening is airburst, obviously, in order to spread the smoke. If they impacted a vehicle, they were being used primarily for destructive purposes.

Given use of the term "shake and bake" I think it's the more plausible scenario, don't you?

Ok, spartikus, please tell me exactly what you think that term means.

Slartibartfast, perhaps you could enlighten us? From your tone, it seems you know the answer. Am I wrong?

A cursory Google search reveals "shake n'bake" in Vietnam era military slang as meaning an "*1 officer straight out of OCS (Officer Candidate School) without any combat experience. or *2 the derogatory term applied to a graduate of an accelerated NCO academy who was then entitled to wear "buck" sergeant stripes.

But that doesn't really make any sense in the context of the quote from Field Artillery, does it?

Maybe, in the modern military lingo, it sounds exactly as it sounds: they "shaked" their targets with HE and "baked" them with WP.

But please, feel free to contribute knowledge.

"Gary is also ignoring this account from Infantry Magazine."

I'm reasonably sure I'm not. Perhaps you're confusing something someone else said with something I've said.

"If they impacted a vehicle, they were being used primarily for destructive purposes."

Assuming that was intentional, sure. Have I said anything to contradict this? Or to indicate that I have any doubt that WP is apt to have hit people, innocent people, maybe even, and burned them alive, horribly? Or to indicate that I think it's implausible that WP may have been used intentionally as an anti-personnel indendiary weapon, whether against policy or tacitly ignored? If so, where?

Slartibartfast, perhaps you could enlighten us? From your tone, it seems you know the answer. Am I wrong?

Yes, you are. But it was you that was drawing some conclusions from what shake and bake meant, not me. So I was kind of hoping for a tutorial.

Well, until someone offers up a credible theory that explains the evidence presented in the Italian documentary, the article in Field Artillery, and the article in the Washington Post, the most plausible explanation remains that U.S. forces fired WP incendiary shells during the assault on Fallujah, and that noncombatants died as a result of that.

As others have pointed out, war is ugly and incendiary weapons have their uses. But Iraq is not the tumult of conventional armies locked in a battle to the death on, say, the plains of Central Europe. It's a counterinsurgency campaign attempting to, at the very least, buy time for a credible successor state to step into the vacum of the Baathist regime, if such a thing is possible. And this very much depends on goodwill of the populace.

Besides the helicopter lifting off a Saigon rooftop, what is the most enduring image from the Vietnam War? I'd say it was probably this one...another image of the effects of incendiary weapons.

Slarti, this is a frequent and irritating tactic of yours in comments. It seems to me that most speakers of English would get the same impression from the term "shake and bake" that spartikus does. He is not claiming special knowledge, so please dispense with the "I was kind of hoping for a tutorial" bit. The burden is on you, as someone who apparently gets a different impression from the expression, to come up with a different interpretation.

Too spooky, considering the topic. DirecTV is playing 'The End' in the dead programming space left after the Sabres-Leafs game.

And this very much depends on goodwill of the populace.

Besides the helicopter lifting off a Saigon rooftop, what is the most enduring image from the Vietnam War? I'd say it was probably this one...another image of the effects of incendiary weapons.

Alternatively, this.

I could be wrong, but I'm fairly sure that if my husband/wife/daughter/son/grandfather/granddaughter's head is blown off by a handgun, or a carbine, or a machinegun, I'm going to harbor considerable ill will to the people who did that, and it's not apt to be significantly lessened because it was bullets that did the job, not fire. But maybe that's just me.

Slarti, this is a frequent and irritating tactic of yours in comments.

Yes, Nell, you're irritated by me, I'm irritated by you. Pretty much beside the point in this conversation, don't you think? In fact, I'm rather irritated by these side trips into what you imagine might be my tactics.

It seems to me that most speakers of English would get the same impression from the term "shake and bake" that spartikus does.

I'm not talking "impression", Nell. And "most speakers of English" don't speak this kind of jargon. Do you know what it means?

Point is, there seem to be a great many instant experts who are absolutely convinced of...something or other, with respect to this particular issue. Speak up, subject matter experts.

Maybe the use of incendiaries on targets where civilians are known to be in numbers and arbitrary executions on the street are, like, all fruit of the same poisoned tree.

But I'll go out on limb here and say that I would probably be just a little bit extra devastated if my one year old daughter was burned to death rather than shot. But maybe that's just me.

The Fallujah fight was a set-piece battle against entrenched bad guys, so it had to be fought on an ugly scale. It was allowed to fester for political reasons.

Incendiaries are incredibly useful in fighting an entrenched enemy -- think Iwo Jima, for example. I can understand why the marines would want to use it -- it saves the lives of their comrades.

But your point is correct -- its the political consequences of how you fight an insurgency that are paramount, and that's the core point regarding the WP issue. Otherwise, why not carpet bomb the place.

Pretty good analysis, dmbeaster. My 2 bits:

The coalition forces simply weren't ready to go in there in April, particularly the Iraqi Army or ING, who were needed to assess who were bad guys and who if anyboy weren't. It also took time to figure out how to get the civilians who wanted to leave out of town. That said, the battle was happened weeks, maybe 2 months, later than it could have because of the Presidential election.

The video that I saw showed the WP fired behind the buildings on the edge of town, and then the tanks firing at the illuminated buildings. This also presumably cut off any retreat.

Certainly it was the intention of our forces to kill people, a lot of people, who were well armed bad guys concentrated in one place. I rather doubt there was any specific intent to kill civilians, and yet I think everybody knew that there would be civialian casualties among those that stayed in town.

DaveC: I rather doubt there was any specific intent to kill civilians, and yet I think everybody knew that there would be civialian casualties among those that stayed in town.

People keep trying to explain to me how deliberately killing civilians isn't really deliberately killing civilians when you can say that your intent was something else, even though you knew perfectly well that your action would in fact kill civilians.

Sort of like a drunk driver claiming "I didn't MEAN to hurt anyone" in court, and having that accepted as a perfectly adequate defense, because having good intentions is all that matters.

So, the US military deliberately burned civilians to death, but that's okay, because along with the civilians, some heavily-armed insurgents probably also got killed, and even though the military knew they were killing civilians, it was the insurgents that they meant to kill.

Another comment on the WP issue in Michael Froomkin's comments. Froomkin's further comment here.

Hrmphf. While I have absolutely no special knowledge of any sort related to the topic, I find the suggestion in the linked comment that the phrase "take them out" to describe the intended effect of the WP rounds meant 'to frighten them away with smoke' awfully implausible.

I find the suggestion in the linked comment that the phrase "take them out" to describe the intended effect of the WP rounds meant 'to frighten them away with smoke' awfully implausible.
Um, I don't see that in the quote being commented on. The now famous quote says:
...using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out.
HE to take them out. Not WP.

Whoops, I got the WP and HE switched in the quote. Never mind.

Sort of like a drunk driver claiming "I didn't MEAN to hurt anyone"
Question-begging.

Look, when one consructs a dam or a major building or a linear accelerator, there's a clear correlation between work hours and fatalities (the figure I have in my head is 1 fatality/$10^9 spent). One has no intention of killing laborers, but it's a known consequence of large projects built under reasonable safety standards.

Fact: war inevitably kills innocent bystanders.

Axiom: therefore war is intentional killing of innocents.

Conclusion: therefore war is always inherently wrong.

It's fine to argue for pacifism. I've had days when I've felt like going for it, although I've never been able to keep myself convinced for more than a day at a time, and they were mostly in decades past, myself. But every so often the temptation looms very strongly.

However, it's perhaps useful to simply be upfront and clear about one's premise.

Rilkefan: One has no intention of killing laborers, but it's a known consequence of large projects built under reasonable safety standards.

Yes, and burning civilians to death is a known consequence of firing WP munitions at civilians.

How about:

Fact: war inevitably kills innocent bystanders, including by setting them on fire and causing them to be burned alive.

Conclusion: therefore war is only justified when the goals to be served by the war have an expected value sufficient to justify setting innocent people on fire.

Illustration: If you're thinking of starting a war, picture a schoolbus full of children in a puddle of gasoline. Imagine that the ends you seek would be gained if you tossed a lighted match into the puddle. If you wouldn't throw the match into the puddle, don't start the war.

Seriously, it's not pacifism to want to keep the costs of war front and center. We seem to have (possibly not, but seem to have) used WP rounds as an incendiary against people in Fallujah, burning them to death. This sort of thing happens in wars, it's not clear that it's necessarily worse than being shot or killed by an explosion -- all true. Nonetheless, when we're talking about whether the war should have been commenced, or should continue, it is good to report on this sort of thing, so that we remember that we are setting innocent people on fire, and for our actions to be justified they must serve a goal sufficiently important to warrant setting innocent people on fire.

"Conclusion: therefore war is only justified when the goals to be served by the war have an expected value sufficient to justify setting innocent people on fire."

Definitely.

Or alternatively:

Fact: war inevitably kills innocent bystanders.

Axiom: therefore war is intentional killing of innocents.

Conclusion: we must choose both ends that are likely to make the misery death worth it, and means that minimize the misery and death along the way. And we must be honest about the costs and gains along the way.

I wouldn't call observing the Hague conventions pacifism. There's a pratical reason you follow them; you don't want your troops exposed to the same shit. There's a good reason hollow-point bullets, poisoned shrapnel, and a host of other goodies aren't used by armies.

So Gary, as posited earlier, why not fire up the B-52's, or better yet, just drop a tactical nuke? I mean, it's war, innit? And innocent bystanders have a chance of getting killed, so why not bring your most effective, and cost-effective, weapons to the game?

"So Gary, as posited earlier, why not fire up the B-52's, or better yet, just drop a tactical nuke?"

See Bruce's conclusion.

White Phosphorus in urban areas crosses that line for me. And much of the world.

"White Phosphorus in urban areas crosses that line for me. And much of the world."

If you're looking for me to argue with you on this, you'll have to try down the hall, I'm afraid.

The final chapter:

The Pentagon has confirmed that US troops used white phosphorus during last year's offensive in the northern Iraqi city of Falluja.

"It was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants," spokesman Lt Col Barry Venable told the BBC - though not against civilians, he said.

The US earlier denied it had been used in Falluja at all.

Col Venable denied that the substance - which can cause burning of the flesh - constituted a banned chemical weapon.


White phosphorus is an incendiary weapon, not a chemical weapon
Col Barry Venable
Pentagon spokesman
US military interview

Washington is not a signatory of an international treaty restricting the use of white phosphorus devices.

Col Venable said a statement by the US state department that white phosphorus had not been used was based on "poor information".

The BBC's defence correspondent Paul Wood says having to retract its denial has been a public relations disaster for the US military.

This affair has reinforced a conclusion I've drawn from the Iraq War: U.S. Army spokethingy's are not to be believed.

See also here.

"U.S. Army spokethingy's are not to be believed."

You're saying that this shouldn't be believed?

"It was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants," spokesman Lt Col Barry Venable told the BBC....
I'm inclined to feel differently; I find that statement very plausible.

But, certainly I agree that nobody's words should be automatically believed.

But, certainly I agree that nobody's words should be automatically believed.

I'm not sure I buy that, Gary.

RE: the lie that we used chemical weapons in Fallujah

http://www.thewe.cc/weplanet/news/americas/us/war_crimes_fallujah.html#this_is_real

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