Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Oh, Bitter Irony...

Wouldn't it be ironic if it turned out that the only weapons of mass destruction that turned up in this war were launched by us? White phosphorous is the chemical used in flash grenades and flares. When it comes in contact with human flesh, it burns... and burns... and keeps on burning, until it hits something that doesn't burn as easily -- like bone. It has been banned by the Geneva Convention since 1980. It is worth noting that the United States has never put its signature to the ban.

An Italian documentary which aired this week charges that the US dropped white phosphorous bombs on Fallujah, in areas where civilians congregated. According to a man the documentary identifies as a former US soldier who served there, white phosphorous creates a cloud that destroys every living thing within 150 meters. The US denies the charges, though acknowledges that it did drop "fire bombs" (MK77s) on military targets in Fallujah only. MK77s are similar to the napalm that was dropped in Vietnam in the 70's, though the chemical composition is slightly different. Still, the results are designed to be the same -- to sear human flesh from the bones in as broad a pattern as possible. What the precise distinction is that the US military is making between white phosphorous and "fire bombs", I'm not sure.

In a document that the Italians claims supports their story, an informal memo was sent by British Armed Forces minister (Rumsfeld's UK counterpart) Adam Ingram, claiming that the US used 30 of the MK77s in the spring of '03, on military targets only. However, the memo goes on to say that, due to the unpredictable nature of the weapon, they are rarely "used in urban terrains or in areas where civilans are congregated." Fallujah is listed as having a population of 256,000 (presumably based on a pre-war census). I would call Fallujah an "area where civilians are congregated."

But then, I never went to West Point.

It's all very confusing and unconfirmed right now, admittedly. The documentary can be found here (there is an English version). I must warn you. The images in this documentary are extremely graphic and difficult to see. War -- any war -- sucks. But civilian casualties, particularly the children, are almost impossible to bear.

Like I said... wouldn't it be the supreme irony?


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