Pentagon Reverses Position and Admits U.S. Troops Used White Phosphorus Against Iraqis in Fallujah

August 6, 2013 11:34 am 1 comment Views: 794

The U.S. government has now admitted its troops used white phosphorus as an incendiary weapon against Iraqis during the assault on Fallujah a year ago. Chemical weapons experts say such attacks are in violation of international law banning the use of chemical weapons. We speak with columnist George Monbiot and the news director of RAI TV, the Italian TV network that produced the film “Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre.” [includes rush transcript]

The U.S. government has now admitted its troops used white phosphorus as an incendiary weapon against Iraqis during the assault on Fallujah a year ago.

Chemical weapons experts say such attacks are in violation of international law banning the use of chemical weapons.

Peter Kaiser, of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said, “Chemicals used against humans or animals that cause harm or death through the toxic properties of the chemical are considered chemical weapons.”

White phosphorus is often compared to napalm because it combusts spontaneously when exposed to oxygen and can burn right through skin to the bone.

The Pentagon”s admission comes after a week of denials that it used white phosphorus as a weapon in Fallujah. While reporters have noted the use of white phosphorus since the war began, it only became a major story last Tuesday when Italian state broadcaster RAI TV aired the documentary “Fallujuah: The Hidden Massacre.”

On that same day Democracy Now aired an excerpt of the documentary and interviewed Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, the director of the Pentagon’s Combined Press Information Center in Baghdad. During our show Boylan denied the claims made in the documentary that white phosphorus was used as a weapon to target Iraqis.

  • Lt. Col. Steve Boylan interviewed on Democracy Now, Nov. 8, 2005..

But the Pentagon was caught in a lie after it was revealed that an official Army publication called Field Artillery magazine had disclosed that the Army had in fact used white phosphorus as a weapon.

The magazine, in its March-April issue, reported “[White Phosphorus] proved to be an effective and versatile munition… [and] as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes.”

The magazine went on to report “We fired “shake and bake” missions at the insurgents, using WP [White Phosphorus] to flush them out and HE [high explosives] to take them out.”

On Tuesday, Lt. Col. Barry Venable, another Pentagon spokesperson, admitted on the BBC that white phosphorus was used as an offensive weapon to target insurgents.

  • Lt. Col. Barry Venable interviewed on BBC.

The Pentagon has defended its use of white phosphorus by claiming it is a not chemical weapon and that it was only used against Iraqi insurgents, not civilians. However even this would have been illegall according to the Army’s own rules of combat. In 1999 the Army published a handbook that read, “It is against the law of land warfare to employ WP against personnel targets.”

An Iraqi human rights team has reportedly gone into Fallujah to investigate the use of white phosphorus as a weapon by U.S. forces.

AMY GOODMAN: While reporters have noted the use of white phosphorus since the war began, it only became a major story last Tuesday when Italian state broadcaster, RAI TV, aired the documentary, Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre. On that same day, Democracy Now! aired an excerpt of the documentary here in the United States and interviewed Lieutenant Colonel Steve Boylan, the director of the Pentagon’s Combined Press Information Center in Baghdad. During our broadcast, Boylan denied the claims made in the documentary that white phosphorus was used as a weapon to target Iraqis.

LT. COL. STEVE BOYLAN: I know of no cases where people were deliberately targeted by the use of white phosphorus. Again, I did not say white phosphorus was used for illumination. White phosphorus is used for obscuration, which white phosphorus produces a heavy thick smoke to shield us or them from view so that they cannot see what we are doing. It is used to destroy equipment, to destroy buildings. That is what white phosphorus shells are used for.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Lieutenant Colonel Steve Boylan, speaking on Democracy Now! last Tuesday. But the Pentagon was caught in a lie after it was revealed that an official Army publication called Field Artillery magazine had disclosed the Army had, in fact, used white phosphorus as a weapon. The magazine in its March/April issue reported, quote, “White phosphorus proved to be an effective and versatile munition and a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes.” The magazine went on to report, quote, “We fired ‘shake and bake’ missions at the insurgents using W.P. [white phosphorus] to flush them out and H.E. [high explosives] to take them out.” On Tuesday, Lieutenant Colonel Barry Venable, another Pentagon spokesperson, admitted on the BBC that white phosphorus was used as an offensive weapon to target insurgents.

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  • Meeme

    This report is from Nov. 2005.