Thursday, November 10, 2005

Willy Pete and the Rest of the Gang

There is a lot of news today, but to be honest, I don't have much heart for opinion writing today after I found out that the US military did in fact use white phosphorus in Falluja as a chemical weapon. March-April Field Artillery Magazine ran an article recounting the offensive by a Army Captain, 1st Lt. and Sergeant 1st class.

"WP [i.e., white phosphorus rounds] 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."

I had seen the the video showing the use of white phosphorus, also know and Willy Pete by field techs, but I still wanted to believe that there was another explanation... I didn't believe the initial reports that was used as a weapon, passing it off as some far left wing conspiracy was just burn off from other munitions, or only being used for illumination. But once again, my hopes were dashed. White phosphorus is a banned chemical weapon by the Geneva Convention because it burns the skin off of people. And, once it mixes with water, it turns into a poisonous gas. The use of WP in civilian areas is un-excusable. I think this sums it up for me:

I think the United States should avoid dropping munitions on civilian neighborhoods which, as a side effect, melt the skin off of children. You can call them "chemical weapons" if you must, or far more preferably by the more proper name of "incendiaries". The munitions may or may not precisely melt the skin off of children by setting them on fire; they do melt the skin off of children, however, through robust oxidation of said skin on said children, which is indeed colloquially known as "burning". But let's try to avoid, for now, the debate over the scientific phenomenon of exactly how the skin is melted, burned, or caramelized off of the aforementioned children. I feel quite confident that others have put more thought into the matter of how to melt the skin off of children than I have, and will trust their judgment on the matter.

Now, I know that we may be melting the skin off of children in order to give them freedom, or to prevent Saddam Hussein from possibly melting the skins off of those children at some future date. These are good and noble things to bring children, especially the ones who have not been killed by melting their skin. - Hunter D

It is growing more and more difficult to support a war that I never agreed with in the first place. So, please, if you plan on leaving a comment that defends or condones the use of WP as a weapon in civilian areas - Don't. I just really don't need to hear any of that crap today.

In other news, Jack Abramoff is still making news - Lobbyist Sought $9 Million to Set Bush Meeting -

The lobbyist Jack Abramoff asked for $9 million in 2003 from the president of a West African nation to arrange a meeting with President Bush and directed his fees to a Maryland company now under federal scrutiny, according to newly disclosed documents. The African leader, President Omar Bongo of Gabon, met with President Bush in the Oval Office on May 26, 2004, 10 months after Mr. Abramoff made the offer.

WoPo also has a story about the Abramoff investigation - August in Libreville?

As I suspected in my post from yesterday, Senator Frist and Congressman Hastert may have opened up a can of whoopass on themselves - Senator Seeks to Defer Probe of CIA Prison Leak.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said he will "respectfully" request that Senate Frist back off a strongly worded demand that a bicameral investigation into the disclosure be convened immediately. This is after revelations that it may have been one of their own Republican Senators probably was the leaker. With seemingly half of the Republicans in Congress either indicted or under investigation, roasting one of their own is probably not on the top of their agenda. Curiously, both of the leaders are more concerned about the leak than about the fact that we do indeed have secret prisons - Frist Worried About Leak, Not Prisons - or that Frist is one of only 9 Senators to vote against a ban on torture. I guess he is more concerned about keeping torture secret than actually stopping from happening.

On the same note, Roll Call's Paul Kane has an angry Sen. Trent Lott saying the Vice President should no longer be allowed to discuss sensitive topics at weekly party luncheons. It doesn't seem that anyone can keep their mouths shut these days... So much for being strong on national security.

Of course, I would still like to know that if we don't commit torture as Bush says, why is he and Cheney so opposed to a ban on it. No one in my apartment building has ever intentionally tried to burn it down, but I still have no problem about there being a law against it... I guess I am just funny that way. And please stop with the "but what if there was a bomb timed to go off in 20 hours." I think if that extreme scenario were to present itself the president could easily stand up and take responsibility for it and no one would hold him adversely responsible. I highly doubt that the Congress would impeach on such an extreme situation. If Bush went on TV and said, "today, I authorized the use of torture on a terrorist who had information about a nuclear bomb set to detonate in the US in the next 24 hours" only the extreme of the extreme would have a problem with that. 99% of Americans would not only forgive him, but thank him. But, torturing a man who might know someone who might know someone who might have a list of other terrorist is too far removed to justify torture. Sorry, but it just is.

I also find it interesting that McCain, who spent seven years being tortured and knows the actual effects of torture is so oppsed by Cheney who received 5 deferments for Viet Nam.

On the Alito front, Democrats are looking at a 2002 case where there may have been a cause for Alito to recuse himself, but did not - Democrats Query Nominee On Ethics. Apparently, Alito had a lot of money invested with Vanguard and still decided a case where Vanguard was the defendant.

I am sure we have all seen the Republican bluff to look like they care about high gas prices in ways other than just getting re-elected - Senate grills Big Oil, but answers lie elsewhere. Just like with the tobacco CEO's the Republicans dragged the Oil CEOs in front of the Senate, but refused to swear them in. Basically, Senator Stevens of Alaska gave to the Oil companies an opportunity to lie in front of the American people while Republicans could look like they gave a rats ass. Testifying in front of congress without being sworn in is about as useless as you can get. But then again, so is Senator Stevens.

Update: Tommy has provided me with some links that are suspicious of the claims that the US military used WP as a weapon. I have read them all. Some of the claims might have some merit, but others are quite bunk. I am still not convinced one way or the other on this. If you would like to do your own further reading from the opposing view point, here are the links here, here, here, here and here


tommy said...

The willy pete story is misleading. I almost posted on it and decided not to feed the trolls.

It is nasty stuff, but it is not capable of doing what the article claims it did. Even if you want to use it that way, and I've seen nothing that looks like it was.

Drop me an email if you want more.

Anonymous said...

You are now my favorite Blog. Thank God for "STAND-UP AMERICANS" such as yourself

drcmja, sav

Anonymous said...

White phosphorus is a banned chemical weapon by the Geneva Convention because it burns the skin off of people.

Uh, no. It isn't banned by the Geneva Convention. It never has been. It is used widely by practically every military force in the world, and has been since WWII.

The use of WP in civilian areas is un-excusable.

Well, OK, but then I can only assume that you'd prefer indiscrimnate HE bombardment of civilian areas. WP is used as an obscurant, i.e., to hide your movements from the enemy, and, more importantly, as a target marker so that air and artillery can strike a target directly, rather than shelling and bombing an area indiscriminately. So, logically, if you think we shouldn't use WP in civilian areas, that means you think we should use more or less indiscrimate HE barrages in civilioan areas, since there is not really any other alternative.

Oh, by the way, WP has a much more limited antipersonnel rage than HE. That allows you to use it without widespread collateral damage against civilian structures.

What's truly sad is that your ignorance on the matter makes you think you're being compassionate.

I had seen the the video showing the use of white phosphorus, also know and Willy Pete by field techs, but I still wanted to believe that there was another explanation... I didn't believe the initial reports that was used as a weapon...

Yes, I can imagine your surprise. After all, we've only been using WP in that way for 62 years. If only you hadn't gotten your hands on the Ultra/Top Secret copy of "Field Artillery Magazine" you'd have never learned the horrific truth.

I think the United States should avoid dropping munitions on civilian neighborhoods which, as a side effect, melt the skin off of children.

Because it's you, know, far more humane to blow their limbs off and rip shrapnal holes in them from the use of HE.

Let me have absolutely no military experience, whatsoever, do you?

Here's a clue: military operations are dangerous, and they employ these things called "weapons" that actually hurt, or even--gasp!--kill people. In order to limit the collateral casualties caused by their use, we use things like White Phosphorus to mark targets, which allows us to deliver our DPICM ordnance more accurately, in order to limit the spread of damage; or we use it in the place of HE to limit the effects even more, while still killing the people who are shooting at us.

I can see why your friends needed a rest from your rants, if this is any example of the ignorance to which you subjected them.

Dale Franks

Dingo said...

Actually Dale, it is banned for use against humans by a protocol to the Geneva convention convention. The US just never signed that part of the protocol. Under international law, it is in fact a banned weapon.

Under U.S. guidelines (as in accord to the Geneva convention protocol), phosphorus is only excluded as a CW if used as smoke or against hard targets. It cannot be used as a weapon for the intended purpose of causing death to individuals.

So, no, I don't have military experience. That was why I was trying to give the benefit of the doubt to the army. But, what I do know very, very well is international law, which apparently you don't.

Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons
Protocol III
Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Incendiary Weapons.
Geneva, 10 October 1980

Incendiary weapon" means any weapon or munition which is primarily designed to set fire to objects or to cause burn injury to persons through the action of flame, heat, or combination thereof, produced by a chemical reaction of a substance delivered on the target. (a) Incendiary weapons can take the form of, for example, flame throwers, fougasses, shells, rockets, grenades, mines, bombs and other containers of incendiary substances.
(b) Incendiary weapons do not include:
(i) Munitions which may have incidental incendiary effects, such as illuminants, tracers, smoke or signalling systems;
(ii) Munitions designed to combine penetration, blast or fragmentation effects with an additional incendiary effect, such as armour-piercing projectiles, fragmentation shells, explosive bombs and similar combined-effects munitions in which the incendiary effect is not specifically designed to cause burn injury to persons, but to be used against military objectives, such as armoured vehicles, aircraft and installations or facilities.
Concentration of civilians" means any concentration of civilians, be it permanent or temporary, such as in inhabited parts of cities, or inhabited towns or villages, or as in camps or columns of refugees or evacuees, or groups of nomads.

Dingo said...


Article 2
Protection of civilians and civilian objects

1 - It is prohibited in all circumstances to make the civilian population as such, individual civilians or civilian objects the object of attack by incendiary weapons.
2 - It is prohibited in all circumstances to make any military objective located within a concentration of civilians the object of attack by air-delivered incendiary weapons.
3 - It is further prohibited to make any military objective located within a concentration of civilians the object of attack by means of incendiary weapons other than air-delivered incendiary weapons, except when such military objective is clearly separated from the concentration of civilians and all feasible precautions are taken with a view to limiting the incendiary effects to the military objective and to avoiding, and in any event to minimizing, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.