08 November 2005

Italian bullshit bombs

An Italian video on Fallujah is making the rounds on the Internet alleging that American forces used napalm and white phosphorus bombs in fighting there. There is a suggestion of mysterious weapons, possibly chemical weapons being used.

In a nutshell, the piece is crap.

Most of the front end is fabricated or has no evidence to support it. There is plenty of accusation, but precious little evidence.

One example: - the claim that gun-camera footage from Vietnam was suppressed so as to prevent an anti-war backlash. It is absolute nonsense. Tons of footage of napalming from Vietnam has been broadcast for 40 years. This piece of nonsense from the boot just adds California Dreamin' as a soundtrack and then claims that American pilots listened to such music. Maybe they did; maybe they didn't. But the footage is old news dolled up with some not-so-clever theatrics to make it appear new.

Then there's the interview with someone claiming to be a former American soldier. Maybe he is; maybe he isn't. The problem comes in that the questions are not the ones originally asked - they are rehashed for effect in a way reminiscent of The Daily Show. Unfortunately, this piece purports to be hard news, not parody.

And oh yeah, for the record: a 10 year-old boy carrying an AK-47 counts as a combatant if he points the weapon at me and pulls the trigger. The clever fake question doesn't mask the truth: American soldiers were not engaged in some campaign of wholesale slaughter of innocent civilians, as this piece of Italian garbage suggests.

The dead bodies presented in the video as evidence of some atrocity have a variety of characteristics, none either mysterious or apparently related to chemical weapons: some have evidently been dead for some time and are blackened and bloated consistent with leaving a corpse in the heat for long periods. Given the use of high explosives, it would also be expected to see some bodies "without a mark on them" or in which the "clothes are mysteriously intact". Overpressures from the explosives would cause internal injuries seen only on autopsy.

Other bodies, photos of which were presented by an anti-American Iraqi group to left-wing European parliament deputies also appear to have been re-dressed in immaculate clothing to create the illusion of mystery. Some of the pictures appear to be the burned corpses of American service personnel, and would be consistent with bodies burned inside armoured vehicles following a hit by anti-armour weapons. These apparent military casualties are presented as being Iraqis.

Much of the story is told by innuendo and rumour - like the stories about mosques being vandalized. The witness knew of nothing personally but heard lots of "stories".

Other parts of the piece are deliberately misrepresented for political purposes, such as the claim by an individual claiming to be a former soldier that chemical weapons were used and that white phosphorous is a chemical weapon. This is simply untrue - white phosphorous explosives are fundamentally different from chemical weapons which are weapons such as nerve gas. WP is a hideous weapon but it is fundamentally different from the terror weapons of the First World War.

In a portion of the film in which a letter from the Ministry of Defence (UK) is presented, the camera jumps around so much one cannot read the letter at all to confirm that what is translated is actually what is said. Since the letter corrected information from a previous letter, it is presented as an admission of guilt, but the context of the letter is deliberately omitted by the reporters.

This sort of stuff has been circulating for some time on the Internet. Like this piece from the UK.

Here is the official statement from the United States Department of State, including references to some sites where the chem weapons stories have been carried.

Here is some background information on the Mark 77 incendiary weapon. Here is some information on one type of white phosphorous weapons.