Wednesday, November 09, 2005

[politics] "...an effective and versatile munition."

White phosphorus. WP. Willy Pete. It's an incendiary round that produces massive clouds of white smoke - the rounds are supposed to be used for providing smoke cover, for illumination, or for target identification. Any other use is banned under international law. WP is a horrible anti-personnel round - it burns viciously, and cannot be extinguished with water. And we used it in an anti-personnel role when we razed Fallujah. This is a war crime. I don't write this lightly - I've defended the actions of the military against their detractors before - but to deliberately employ white phosphorus rounds in an anti-personnel role is nothing less than a war crime. This is not coming from al-Jazeera or another foreign news source that could be spun as having anti-American motives - this is the United States Army's own Field Artillery magazine (Adobe PDF) published by the Field Artillery school at Fort Sill, OK. Go to the fifth page of the linked PDF and read section 9. paragraphs b. and c. at the bottom of the first column:
b. White Phosphorous. WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE. We fired "shake and bake" missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out. c. Hexachloroethane Zinc (HC) Smoke and Precision-Guided Munitions.We could have used these munitions. We used improved WP for screening missions when HC smoke would have been more effective and saved our WP for lethal missions.
Think about that for a second. What are the implications of the phrases "shake and bake" and "lethal missions"? HE is 'high explosive', your traditional indirect-fire artillery round. So let's review that second paragraph, for I find it particularly damning. They wished they'd had more non-lethal smoke rounds (HC) so that they could have "saved [their] WP for lethal missions" (emphasis mine). I have no illusions about war or the military. Their job is to break things and kill people, period. Field artillery does that in short order, hence its nickname "King of Battle". But war, for all of its grotesqueries and horrors, does have rules. One of those rules states that you may not employ WP rounds in an anti-personnel capacity. It is a special-purpose round - you do not save it "for lethal missions". That's a crime. And the Army's complicity in it has been spelled out for you in black and white by the Army itself. This has been all over the 'net today - Atrios, AMERICABlog, Daily Kos, and I know there are others I'm forgetting. Mine is a small-time blog - I don't have the clout or cachet of any of those others - but much like the anti-torture message, news of this outrage must be spread far and wide by as many voices as possible. This is not just. This is not right. This can not stand.

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