16 November 2005

National CBC off base on Fallujah

This report from the CBC website is off base on a couple of points.

1. White phosphorus is not a chemical weapon, nor is any form of incendiary including napalm. There this statement is incorrect: "Venable's comments could expose the United States to allegations that it has been using chemical weapons in Iraq." Well, let's look carefully at the wording: the comments could expose the United States government to renewed allegations - that's true - but the accusations would be, in a word, wrong.

Don't believe me just because I said so. Check the website for the countries that are party to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Chemical weapons are things like phosgene, chlorene, and sarin.

I once had a prof at Memorial University argue that all explosives were technically chemical weapons because they depended on a chemical reaction for their effect. Heck, everything is made of chemicals, me and you included. How wide do we want to draw a definition until it gets to be unweildy to have any practical use for serious and effective arms control?

And hey, the mighty British Broadcasting Corporation actually changed the title of the original story on which the Ceeb based its piece. Anti-war websites reported the change extensively.

2. The admission that white phosphorus, also known as willy peter, willy pete and WP, is really nothing new. Pictures of it have been around for a while and the Americans have never denied using it.

Where the accusations have gone way wide of fact is in claiming that the United States and coalition military forces have used some sort of "mystery" weapons or have engaged in a deliberate plan to shoot innocent, unarmed civilians. The Italian TV doc is a second-rate piece of propaganda which deliberately misrepresents entire sections of interviews.

There is NO evidence that civilians have been used to attack civilians which would be a violation of of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, even though the United States has not signed the particular provisions related to incendiaries like napalm.

Make no mistake: the military operations in Iraq are violent and people get killed in lots of nasty, horrid ways.

Here's a BBC report that realistically describes white phosphorus.

Here's the Beeb's original story on the Italian p.o.s. report already discussed on the Bond Papers.

As for the reference to "shake and bake", here's where the term first appeared, according to a number of websites.

It refers to the practice of using WP to terrify insurgents who were in trenches or firing holes so that they would leave their cover. Once in the open, they would be killed with convention high explosive. Get past the raft of jargon and you'll tons of information about artillery operations by the Americans.

Again, just 'cause some reporters don't see certain information doesn't mean it has been a secret until they "discovered" it.